The Monday Photo
You may not have seen this room before. It’s the main shrine room of the Buddhist temple at Willen in Milton Keynes. The monks and nuns of the temple look after the Peace Pagoda and hold their ceremonies there.
Yesterday I was there for a celebration of the birth of the Buddha. The legend tells us that he was born in a park, when all the trees were in bloom, so the day is marked by the Flower Festival.
‘Buddha’ means ‘Enlightened One’. Underneath that mass of flowers close to the camera is a statue of the Buddha as a baby. Four slender columns support the flowers. Of course, this year lockdown restrictions meant only a few worshippers could attend this very minimal event, all carefully spaced apart.
The ceremony began at three o'clock with two minutes silence in honour of Prince Phillip. Then the drum was beaten and chanting began. You can see the great temple drum on the far left of the picture.
As part of the ceremony, everyone present is invited to bathe the Buddha. The statue stands in water and there is a small ceremonial ladle. When it was my turn I knew what to do. I bowed to the Buddhist nun, then to the statue, three times. I filled the ladle and poured the water over the baby Buddha’s head three times. One last bow, and I was done.
Usually this part of the ceremony takes a long time. The shrine room is full to bursting and nearly everyone wants to bathe the Buddha. If I’m their official photographer as I was yesterday, it’s a challenge to try and take photos of scores of people bathing the Buddha that aren’t all exactly the same.
But this year’s ceremony was extremely minimal and just a few invited people attended; instead of lasting well over two hours, the ceremony ended just forty minutes after it began. I could hardly believe it was over so soon.