BCWA President’s UNDV Perth Speech

Kevin DicksonSpeech given by our President Kevin Dickson on 7 May 2016 at the United Nations Day of Vesak event Perth:

Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the United Nations Day of Vesak – Perth, hosted by the Buddhist Council of WA  with the kind assistance of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
I will begin by acknowledging our invited guests, Eleni Evangel MLA Member for Perth (representing WA Premier Colin Barnett and Minister Mike Nahan), Margaret Quirk MLA Member for Girrawheen (representing Leader of the Opposition Mark McGowan), Ajahn Brahm Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery and  Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of WA, Rebecca Ball Executive Director of OMI Perth, Cliff Morris from MOT, Sangha and Members of all Member groups and temples, Representatives and members of all other Buddhist groups here today, Singers,  Performers, Volunteers, Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you all for being here today..
I would now like to recognise the original owners of this place, the Nyoongar people, and the Swan River Wagyl.
Group photo - 500pix wideMay all who know the traditional invocation to Buddha join me 3 times.
Tayata, Om Muni,  Muni Maha,  Muniya Soha x 3
Friends, Vesak, is the name of the most special day in the year for Buddhists worldwide. It is the day of celebration of Buddha Shakyamuni’s day of birth, his day of enlightenment at age 35 and his day of dying at age 80, all on the day of  full moon in May, some 2600 years ago.

Buddha’s teachings endure into the modern world, bringing a huge store of practical teachings to Buddhists and non-Buddhists, on bringing calm and peace into one’s life, and methods to develop mind into ever better functionality. Indeed Buddhism is the number two, and fastest growing religion in Australia. Although Buddhism is practiced as a religion by many adherents, it is not a faith based system as such, and is often practiced as a synthesis of religion, philosophy, psychology and science, and indeed, more scientific Buddhists are keen to point out that ever new discoveries in Quantum physics merely move beyond doubt what Buddha described about the nature of reality, and the true nature of our own minds.

Buddha was not a god, nor ever claimed divine status, but pointed always to the methods he developed to awaken to the peace and freedom he had discovered within. He showed with greatest compassion, that all happiness and unhappiness originates within our own minds, not from external circumstances and pointed always to what sees from behind our eyes and listens from inside our ears. That we create our own happiness.
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So, here in Perth today, we can see clearly Buddhism has cultural roots in the traditional Buddhist countries, and also increasingly draws people from other faiths who find significance and value in practicing practical Buddhist methods. The increasingly popular Mindfulness practices in particular are a rapidly spreading example of Buddha’s methods at work in the modern age, showing that one does not have be a paid up Buddhist to use some good advice.

However, all who are born to, or choose Buddhism as their guiding practice share the same value set, by turning away from suffering, and taking refuge in the three gems.   Buddhist refuge when whole heartedly embraced, has a remarkable ability to level out the ups and downs of human life, and bring determination to use one’s life well,  to help others when and where possible.
Buddhists also treasure good teachers who have understood and are able to impart Buddha’s teachings in a way they too can understand. To this end practicing Buddhists work very hard in their temples and communities to make them places where others can come and share these teachings.

This is probably the reason that Buddhism has such a low profile in the wider community, Buddhists are generally just getting on with life, and practicing in their own traditions.

Cambodian group and guets - DSC_4482 (Copy)
The Buddhist Council of WA represents the interests of some 13 Centers and Temples and is pro-active in taking concerns of its members to government and to generally keep the conversations going between member groups. At the National level, the BCWA is a member of the FABC, and the President of that umbrella group is our own Jake Mitra, for many years a past President and office holder of BCWA.
It is our belief that we as a Buddhist community can be of far greater value to society when we come out and share common days of celebration together. This year is a small beginning and we are determined to work together in the future to share with each other and the whole community the values and principles we hold in our hearts.

On behalf of all of us at the BCWA, we especially thank the Office of Multicultural Interests for their generous support in making this event possible, and we thank all our volunteers and friends who have helped set up and run today’s event.
Thank you all again for taking the time to be here today. We hope you will find something which you can take with you today, some information, some experience of meditation, some more knowledge which is helpful to you.

One last thing, you might be interested that the Buddhist scriptures tell that Buddhas birth, enlightenment and death occurred in the forests, under the shade of trees. In fact Buddha through his life gave most of his teachings in nature, where healthy trees grew. Trees and the connection to nature are very important to all of us and we Buddhists really understand this. We have our retreat places in natural settings, usually surrounded by trees. It is for this reason we invited the Men of the Trees to be here today, and recognise their great work in our community. I hope my old friend, Cliff Morris will elucidate on this later.

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