ECONOMYNEXT - Student monks and nuns from Vietnam in Sri Lanka have built a stall abloom with floral decorations to showcase Buddhist traditions in their country, as part of UN International Vesak Day celebrations, which is drawing wide interest from visitors.
Set in an international Vesak zone near Sri Lanka's parliament, the stall aims to educate visitors on three Buddhist sects found in Vietnam; Mahayana, Theravada and the relatively recent Khất Sĩ mendicant school.
"This is an effort by Bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs from all three Bhuddist schools studying in Sri Lanka," says Venerable Thanh Au, a monk involved in building the exhibits.
Over 50 Vietnamese monks are studying in Sri Lanka, he said.
Some are reading for doctorates and others are following master's programs.
Visitors who come through the entrance facade pass a map of Vietnam set out in flowers.
Flowers for the stall was brought from Vietnam, Venerable Hue Phat said. Flowers are widely used in Vietnam to celebrate all occasions and are widely available.
A representation of Vietnam's One Pillar Pagoda set in a lotus pond, flanked by two florally decorated dragons greet visitors inside the stall.
Venerable Lien Vien, a nun studying at Peradeniya University, says the dragon's body was made with everlasting flowers (Hoa bất tử) found in Da Lat city in Vietnam.
In the Vietnamese tradition, dragons are powerful and beneficial beings, and are closely associated mythology involving the origins of the country and its people, much like the lion in Sri Lanka.
The One Pillar Pagoda is a historic temple in the Vietnamese capital of Ha Noi.
The temples had been built by Emperor Lý Thái Tông in 1049, out of gratitude for having been blessed with a son after being childless. He had dreamed of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara handing him a son while seated on a lotus flower.
Inside the stall visitors who queued to can read about the Buddhism in Vietnam and see more floral decorations.
Vietnam is a socialist republic, where a large majority of the people claim to follow no religion.
Along with Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, parts of Vietnam had been under Indianized Hindu-Bhuddist cultural influence.
The country's several Buddhists sects make up at least 16 percent of the population according to some estimates followed by Christians (mainly Catholics) and followers of Cao Dai.
But according to a 2009 government census about 81 percent the population had said they had no particular religious affiliation. Ancestor veneration is widespread as in several other parts of South East Asia.