An 11-foot-tall, 16,500 lb. statue of the Sakymuni Buddha that took six years to carve from B.C. jade was unveiled Sunday morning in Langley by the Hoa Nghiem Buddhist monastery on 248 Street that serves the local Vietnamese-Canadian community.
The statue stood outdoors under a temporary sheltering roof illuminated by floodlights that changed colour surrounded by greenery and smaller statuary located on either side.
A Canadian flag fluttered above, and after standing for the national anthem, speakers talked about the significance of the statue.
“The Jade Buddha represents compassion and wisdom,” said the abbot of the monastery, Rev. Thich Nguyen Thao, in remarks that were translated into English from Vietnamese.
“Those traits are the foundation of peace and happiness,” the abbot added.
“If we are to love and understand each other, peace and happiness are the shadows that will always follow us.”
The $2 million statue was carved in Thailand.
Another of the speakers, grand master Thich Chon Tri from the U.S., who also spoke through a translator, thanked Canada for welcoming Vietnamese people “with open arms” at the end of the Vietnamese war.
“Thanks for helping us during a hard time,” he said.
Among the dignitaries attending the event were other reverends from Buddhist communities across Canada and the United States, as well as Township of Langley councillor Blair Whitmarsh and Langley RCMP Supt. Murray Power.
The top police officer was applauded when he began his remarks with a brief statement in the Vietnamese language.
The rest of Powers remarks were translated by RCMP Sgt. Ly Loi, a Vietnamese-Canadian officer who happens to be a Buddhist.
“We, the Langley RCMP, are committed to serve you and protect your rights and freedoms to practice religion … anywhere in Canada,” Powers said.
Coun. Whitmarsh, speaking for the mayor, called the statue a “great symbol for our community … it is a symbol of good luck, its a symbol of happiness and its a symbol of peace.”
The Sakymuni Buddha statue represents the very first Buddha, prince Siddharta of the Shakya kingdom in the Himalayas, who is also known as the Gautama Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, or simply the Buddha.
He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in the eastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE (Before Common Era, equivalent to BC, Before Christ).
The Langley statue will be open to public viewing at the site of the unveiling, at 2013 248 Street, between 5 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. until the 26th.
Some time after that, it will embark on a lengthy tour of other Buddhist temples and monasteries in North America, said Langley monastery spokesperson and translator Tony Vuu.
Vuu said the statue unveiled on Sunday was not the same as the Australian-made Jade Buddha for Universal Peace that visited the Aldergrove monastery during a world tour in 2010.
“This one is ours,” Vuu said.
It is the second largest annual traditional festival of Vietnam, celebrated on the seventh full moon of the lunar calendar.
The Vu Lan day is considered a time to show gratitude to parents and to practice compassion and charitable giving, two of the most revered virtues in Buddhism.