7 December marked the 89th birthday of the most Venerable Dr. Henepola Gunaratana Nayaka Thero, a highly-regarded speaker, meditation teacher, and senior prelate in North America. Nalandians and devotees took the opportunity to gather after the weekly meditation session to recite verses of blessing dedicated to him.
Nalanda founder Bro. Tan led the special chanting; he also gave a sharing on how Buddhists can celebrate our birthdays. Generally, Dhamma practitioners shun the worldly way of partying with lots of food, drinks, presents and meaningless babbling.
When we celebrate birthdays, it is essential to be grateful for our lives and livelihood throughout the years. Be thankful to our parents who gave us life, nurturing and protection. Be also appreciative towards our relatives, teachers, friends, employers, colleagues, and neighbours for their invaluable help and support. Besides, there are many more people who have contributed to our well-being, though they are unknown to us.
Birthday gatherings can consist of good wishes and blessings by family and friends. Lay practitioners can still enjoy a wholesome and modest get-together with token food for bonding. It would be greater still if the birthday boy or girl observe the precepts well, live the day with loving-kindness, and perform charitable acts. He or she should be humble, moderate and gracious in celebrating birthday, instead of being pompous, having an inflated sense of self-importance, and seeking attention from others.
It was just a brief sharing by Bro. Tan, but nonetheless illuminating. It presented an alternative way of celebrating birthdays without pomposity but with unpretentious humility and temperance. Sadhu anumodana!