Created: Wednesday, 21 August 2013
The UN Marks the occassion of Vesak at the ECOSOC Chamber on 21st May 2010.
Observance of Vesak at the United Nations
H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona
Ambassador & Permanent Representative
Most Venerable Members of Maha Sanga
Ladies & Gentlemen,
I would also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to His Excellency Mr. Libran N. Cabactulan and his colleagues at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations for organizing today’s event, marking this years’ day of observance of Vesak, at the United Nations.
As Ambassador Haroon reminded us Sri Lanka was the key member of the original group of co-sponsors of the resolution that determined to observe Vesak as a special day at the United Nations. In 1999, for the first time, the world organization recognized Vesak as an important day for the United Nations. The UN adopted the resolution by consensus and, consequently, we are gathered here in the ECOSOC Chamber today. We are gratified by the growing participation in this event. Millions of Buddhists around the world will be celebrating Vesak around the world and will be particularly heartened by the recognition accorded to it by the world body.
We note that the resolution was sponsored by countries with both Buddhist and non Buddhist majorities thus reflecting an interest in all to commemorate this day dedicated to a religious leader, some may even call him a philosopher, whose key message was self awareness, understanding, avoidance of attachment, compassion and loving kindness. Born to royalty, Gauthama, as he was named, was a man destined to be a king but who sacrificed his worldly comforts and ambitious in order to seek an answer to the vexing day to day problems of humanity. Eventually, after a search that spanned many years with numerous teachers, at the age of 35 he decided to proclaim to the world what later became known as the noble eight fold path or the middle path. Simply explained, it means avoiding extremes and keeping to the middle ground.
Today the world is confronted by many challenges. Uncertainty confronts us at every turn. Natural and man made challenges constantly make uncertainty the rule of our existence. Terrorism, conflict and violence, though not prevalent on a global scale, stare at us from different angles. Economic deprivation, scarcity, poverty, hunger and disease pose other serious challenges. As the Secretary General has often said, climate change and environment degradation are an ever present and growing threat. Perhaps many of our problems are the result of humanity’s greed for ever increasing material advantages and entrenched uncompromising attitudes. Against this background, it may be appropriate to reflect on the teachings of Buddha which advocated compassion, moderation and the middle path.
At one point a large part of Asia, stretching from Japan to the Middle East, embraced Buddhism because of its pragmatic approach to day-to-day challenges. It spread along the trade routes to the far corners of Asia and left behind a significant social, cultural and architectural imprint. Buddhism gave us a unique vehicle to understand and interact with each other in Asia. It still remains the dominant religion in many Asian countries. Buddhism has influenced our cultures deeply. Buddhists look upon the shortcomings and infractions of others with compassion and we tend to forgive readily. Understanding the causes of a problem with a view to addressing them is more important from a Buddhist perspective than penalizing a wrong-doer.
In Sri Lanka, the vast majority of the population is Buddhist. We are the inheritors of a civilization deeply influenced by Buddhism going back over 2500 years. Our historical monuments substantially reflect the worship of the Buddha. The Government of Sri Lanka has encouraged a return to the gentle tenets of Buddhism which emphasized Karuna, Metta, Muditha -kindness, loving compassion, thoughtfulness.
Excellencies, let me take this opportunity again to thank you, for being here to this afternoon.
May all beings be well.