Tel Aviv- Buddha’s birthday 2553 | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Tel Aviv- Buddha’s birthday 2553

Two monks, one Canadian, Ven. Rathanasiri and one Austrian, Ven. Seelawansa, came to lead the Sri Lanka Buddhist community in Israel – about 4000 people – on Buddha’s birthday 2553.

On Saturday 9th May, in the early morning, the faithful arrived at the Bet Dani sports ground, in the Tikva part of Tel Aviv, to attend this prayer meeting. Some friends from the Embassy of Sri Lanka also invited me.

As I went into the sports hall, I was impressed by the presence of the faithful, all dressed in white, seated on the ground and in prayer, attentive to the words of the two monks, also seated but on chairs placed on a stage. from where they led the prayer and meditation on the holy scriptures.

Although it was very early, the sports ground was crowded with people. During the day, their numbers continued to increase, reaching about 1000 from all over Israel. I was invited to have lunch with them, in a separate room. I shared their rice and vegetables, in a spicy sauce and using my right hand as cutlery, as they do. Exchanging a few words, we reached the conclusion that the essence of religions is love. However, this can depend on the criteria of evaluation of each one. Compassion for your neighbour, for the other must accompany this love. It is only in this way that love can be transformed into reality.

Some Biblical passages on this aspect then came to my mind, especially on the pity of Jesus for man.

I was invited to give a message to the Sri Lankan community gathered there. Barefooted, as a sign of respect for the place, which had become sacred for prayer, I presented the figure of St. Francis, the witness of the Absolute, the spirit of Assisi, the meetings of the representatives of different religions, which Pope John Paul II had wanted and I wished everyone Peace and Good. I stayed a little longer, trying to take part in spirit in their prayer in the holy Pali language, used to write the Buddhist canon, the “tipitaka”, and officially adopted by Sri Lankan Buddhism. This language is understood only by Buddhists, a bit like ecclesiastical Latin in the past.

Some Catholics also took part in this meeting. Besides, many Buddhists come to prayer in our church of St. Anthony. As a sign of deep respect, they gave me a chair to sit on.

Facing me, seated on the ground together with the other Sri Lankan faithful, in the front row was the Ambassador of Sri Lanka.

Fr. Arturo Vasaturo ofm
Headmaster of the Terra Sancta secondary school