The colorful lanterns adorning Jogyesa Temple welcomed thousands of people, including lawmakers, celebrities and Buddhist leaders Tuesday who came to celebrate Buddha's 2,558th birthday.
But the mood was subdued, as the hour-long ceremony was dedicated to the victims of the Sewol-ho ferry tragedy.
"The most venerable Ja-seung's message this year focused on condoling those affected by the sunken Sewol-ho ferry, urging that people cooperate and act with wisdom to create a safer society."
Venerable Ja-seung, the head of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist sect in the nation, called on everyone in attendance to spur change.
"Korea is in deep grief. The tragic accident of Sewol-ho ferry was caused by a lack of responsibility among adults and an absence of common sense. I urge all leaders in our society to serve and fully commit to serving society and I myself will also join in."
President Park Geun-hye gave her first speech as president at the temple Tuesday.
She expressed regret over the ferry tragedy and pledged to institute changes in society.
"People who were blinded by worldly desires did not abide by safety regulations. Overlooking these types of injustices caused these people to die. I ask for your support in correcting deep-rooted irregularities and establishing justice in our society that follow the teachings of Buddha."
The people who came out to the Buddhist temple for the ceremony also had the tragic Sewol-ferry disaster on their minds.
"As a mother of two children, one in elementary and the other in middle school, I came to pray that such a devastating accident never happens again to such young souls."
The 20-thousand Buddhist temples throughout South Korea conveyed similar messages on Buddha' Birthday, expressing condolences for those that lost their lives in the ferry sinking and reflecting on how to prevent another tragedy from occurring.
Connie Kim, Arirang News.