Ambassadors Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanka, Kaman Singh Lama of Nepal and Elizabeth Bertagnoli of Austria and Lody Embrechts of the Netherlands, and some 20 other senior diplomats in Korea attended the rare ‘Water and Land Non-discriminatory Grand Prayer Service’ held at the Headquarters Temple of Jogye-sa in Seoul on May 17, 2015 sitting with Vice Minister Kim Chong of Culture, Sports and Tourism and other Korean and international dignitaries, including the famed Buddhist leaders from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and other Buddhist counties.
The largest Buddhist rite of Korea this year was for consoling the souls of the victims of the Korean War regardless of difference in nationality, the Sewol ferry boat and the earthquakes in Nepal.
In the opening address, the Most Venerable Jaseung, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, said, “This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Korea and also the separation of the country into two parts and on the occasion of the Birthday of Buddha this year we attach special significance to the offering of prayers for the peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula and promotion of peace in the world. And for this purpose, we host the Water and Land Non-discriminatory Prayer Service together with the noted Buddhist leaders from around the world and the ambassadors from various countries as well as the countries participating in the Korean War.”
The opening speech was followed by a Dharma Talk delivered by Supreme Patriarch Jinje Beobwon of the Jogye Order. He read:
“To all the souls of those who sacrificed their lives during the Korean War (including those of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, the United Nations Forces, the North Korean Army, the Chinese Army, and many civilians), to all the souls of those who lost their lives in the Sewol Ferry disaster, to all the souls of those who have died on land, in the sea and river, who whom their descendants have offered a memorial ceremony or not, my earnest wish for you is to let go of all your clinging love, attachment, resentment, and lingering remorse and instead to celebrate forever the joy the of Truth in the blissfulsphere of the Buddha’s Land. I offer this lofty and noble Dharma Talk to you hoping that you will accept and embrace them well.”
Then there was a speech by Ambassador Lody Embrechts of the Netherlands, one of the 16 countries participating as members of the United Nations Force fighting on the side of theRepublic of Korea Armed Forces. Ambassador Embrechts noted that a total of 3,972 soldiers fought in Korea and of over one hundred of them died in Korea. In fact, the total number of militarypersonnel of the Netherlands was 5,322, including the Navy personnel of one destroyer dispatched to Korea by the Netherlands.
It was followed by offering of a memorial flower (white chrysanthemum) by Buddhist leaders, the vice minister of culture, sports and tourism, the ambassadors and other diplomats and the civic leaders.
Then came a memorial song presented by noted Korean classic singer, Mrs. Park Ae-ri.
The morning ceremony was followed by a formal Buddhist luncheon for the ambassadors and other senior diplomats at a fine Buddhist restaurant operated by the Jogye Order. At the luncheon, Ambassador Wijeratne of Sri Lanka presented President Jaseung of the Jogye Order with a Plaque of Appreciation in appreciation of the invitation which, he said, contributed to the foreign diplomats’ understanding of Korean culture and friendship between Korea and their countries. Ambassador Wijeratne presented another Plaque of Appreciation to Director Hye-il of the Culture Department of the Jogye Order who took charge of the operation of the three-day celebration meeting of the Buddha’s Birthday on May 16-18, 2015. The actual Birthday of Buddha fell on May 25, 2015 which corresponds to the Eighth Day of the Fourth Month of the Lunar Calendar.
The Buddhist foods were all made with vegetables with no meat or fish or any other living animal.
Incidentally the day coincided with the birthday of First Secretary Elias Champemba of the Republic of Zambia. As Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post announced this, there was a wild applause from the guests which was instantly followed with the birthday song, “Happy birth day to you, happy birthday to Mr. Champemba!” Then came another surprise. The proprietor of the Buddhist restaurant quickly prepared a nice birthday cake with candles lit, which attracted another round of the song, “Happy birthday to you!”
Following the Buddhist luncheon, the ambassadors went to the booths of their countries located among hundreds of tenth booths lining up both sides of the entire Ujeonggukro(Ancient Post Office) Street from Anguk-dong to the Bosin-gak Belfry on the Jongno Intersection.
No motor traffic was allowed on the Ujeonggukro Street during the memorial rite and there were booths of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bhutan and various other countries that attracted many Koreans and expatriates.
At some of these booths, they had small tidbits such as their traditional cookies, biscuits, candies, tea and other beverages for the visitors to sample. They mostly met the Korean palate and some of them were very tasty while others had exotic tastes. They also had their handicraft items on display in the tent, which were mostly related with Buddha and Buddhism.
Ambassador Tissa Wijeratne visited the Sri Lankan booths and met with the famed Buddhist leader of his country.