Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
The Mid-Autumn Festival has become the second largest celebration after the Lunar New Year. On the first day of the eighth lunar month the country turns into a festive mood celebrating the clearest and fullest moon of year.
As well as joyful street parties, many would release lotus lanterns on streams and rivers both to make individual wishes and add to the celebratory atmosphere at night.
However, this year, the practice of using plastic lanterns will come to an end.
Joining the rest of the country in the fight against plastic waste, the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha sent a circular to its chapters nationwide asking Buddhist followers to help in reducing plastic waste. The letter asked each and every Buddhist community to persuade followers and citizens to avoid using plastic lanterns if they wish to release them during the Full Moon festival.
“If we don’t put forward solutions, the effects of plastic waste will become severe,” reads the letter signed by Most Venerable Thích Đức Thiện.
This is the first time the Buddhist Sangha has sent a letter calling on its congregation to act on reducing plastic waste, in accordance with earlier efforts by the public, then led by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
When Buddhists set lanterns alight, it is a philosophical yet religious act to remind oneself that he or she exists for the time being. You are enlightened, meaning your existence matters – it’s not buried in darkness.
“I set a light, meaning my mind lives in the moment,” said a Buddhist monk who declined to provide his name because he said it means the same for everyone, citing him would not make a difference.
He said he had been to several Vesaks, or World Buddhist Conference, where releasing the lanterns in the sky had taken place. But this year at the Vesak in Tam Chúc, in Hà Nam Province, the organisers decided not to do so. The participating Buddhists decided to light candles and release some lanterns into the lake.
“Enlighten the existence,” is both a form and a means for a person to be aware of his or her existence.
“Enlighten one’s existence is a prerequisite starting point for a path to ultimate relief.”
He further cited other writers and philosophers saying if you are not aware of your existence, it means you’re dead.
Lighting the lanterns is just a means. But if that means polluting the environment, then you can change to do something else that can send the same message.
First of all, you need to enlighten yourself from overthinking and forgetfulness.
Earlier this month, a student wrote to the President asking not to use balloons during the school opening day nationwide on September 5.
So no balloons were set free, and some schools even went farther by declaring this academic year to be the School Year for the Environment, with the school canteen stopping the use of plastic straws, bowls, cups, spoons and forks.
In the letter sent by the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha, it states clearly that you are advised not to release plastic lanterns to pollute the water resources.
So the Full Moon celebrations will be less sparkling by the lakes or the rivers, but our water resources day by day, little by little get less polluted, therefore, people get to “exist” in a cleaner environment, which is the direct result from their self-awareness.
“Act now, it depends on you, nobody else but you!” reads the lyrics from a popular song children sing during the Opening Day of this school year. VNS