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Buddhist flags, Vesak lanterns sent abroad
By Nilika Kasturisinghe
Large quantities of Buddhist flags and Vesak lanterns have been dispatched to Sri Lankan missions abroad in a bid to popularise Vesak overseas.
The Missions will fly the Buddhist flag and have on display Vesak lanterns and colourful bulbs.

Embassies are to launch a program to encourage the activists of Buddhist organisations and Sri Lankans resident in these respective countries to decorate their residences on the same lines. In some countries Vesak lantern competitions and art competitions too have been arranged.

The sermon by Ven. Bhikku Bodhi at the first official celebration of Vesak at the UN in 2000, on the topic "The Buddha and His Message" has been published by the Foreign Ministry and has already been dispatched to embassies for free distribution among participants. It has also issued a special greeting card of high quality targeting foreigners.

The card carries the theme "A journey into Sri Lanka is a journey into pure Buddhism" which has been printed with the patronage of the Ceylon Tourist Board. Arrangements have been made to sell this card among the Sri Lankan community abroad at a nominal price.

Sri Lanka Missions abroad have already made preparations to celebrate the Vesak festival this year on a grand scale. Several programs will be launched in various countries with the participation of Sri Lankan and Buddhist organisations in those countries to mark the Vesak Full Moon Poya Day on May 15.

A Foreign Ministry official said that apart from religious observations "Tea dansalas" would be held to promote Sri Lanka's tea. Minister Assisting Foreign Affairs Lal Dharmapriya Gamage said these arrangements have been designed on a new concept to convince foreigners that the Vesak Festival of Sri Lanka is a unique experience.

" Our missions abroad have been instructed to seek wide publicity for such programs through the media of those countries and ensure maximum participation" he said.

Meanwhile, the Buddha Sasana Ministry has prepared a programme to celebrate Vesak including bringing in legislation to standardise the production of the Buddhist flag and define at which occasions it can be used. The Ministry is to register with the Commissioner of Buddhist Affairs all manufacturers and traders selling ata pirikara. Steps are being taken to enable the priests to engage in pinda patha - visiting homes on foot seeking alms.

The All Island Vesak lantern competition will be held in front of the Colombo Town Hall with prizes amounting to Rs. 500,000 being on offer. The new ran weta (gold fence) around the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya will also be ceremonially commissioned while the foundation stone will be laid to build a hospice in Kandy for priests.

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