Press Release

 

United Nations Commemorates Vesak

at a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall

 

The United Nations commemorated Vesak in accordance with resolution 54/115 on 7th May 2012 at a ceremony held at the General Assembly Hall.

This event attracted a large number of Permanent Representatives, Buddhist monks and members of the larger Buddhist community in the Tri-state area.

 

Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations chaired the event and messages from the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, who were away from New York, were read. The Secretary-General’s statement emphasized the relevance of the message of peace of the Buddha in today’s troubled world. Fifteen Permanent Representatives and Deputy Permanent Representatives including those from India, Pakistan, Laos, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia Republic of Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Philippines and Nepal and the Apostolic Nuncio addressed the gathering. (Please click here to read the address of Apostolic Nuncio)

 

Dr. Palitha Kohona spoke of the contribution of Buddhism to the underlying philosophy of non-violence and peace in the broader Asian region.

The day’s events were concluded with a "Dan Sal" (food festival) hosted by the countries supporting this event.

The following day an arms giving ceremony (heel daane) for the Buddhist monks of the Tri-state area was held at the new Sri Lanka chancery.

 

 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the Day of Vesak

 

We commemorate this year’s Day of Vesak as the international community enters the final preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro — a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set the world on a more equitable and sustainable path of development.

 

Buddhism has much to offer that process.  The Buddha’s assertion that, “The way to change the world is to change the nature of man,” offers a critical insight into how to improve conditions for our planet and its inhabitants.The spirit to care not just for ourselves but for others, based on an awareness of our interlinked fates, lies at the heart of Buddhism — and, indeed, all of the world’s great religions.

 

These teachings challenge families, communities and nations to act in concert for the advancement of our common well-being.  That is the best way to secure individual and collective progress in an interdependent world.We must also change longstanding assumptions and open our minds to new ideas and possible solutions if we are to address major global threats, from the proliferation of deadly weapons to intolerance and inequality.I invite Buddhists and people of all traditions to use the occasion of the Day of Vesak to reflect on how we can change our actions to pave the way for a more sustainable future.

 

 

Statement by Ambassador Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona

Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

 

Today the United Nations commemorates Vesak in accordance with the General Assembly Resolution 54/115.

Vesak is a special day for Buddhists around the world.  It also falls on the full moon day of the month of Vesak and commemorates the birth, the enlightenment and the Parinibhana (passing away) of Gauthama, the Buddha.

 

The Buddha who was born a prince, renounced worldly pleasures, and went on an arduous journey searching for the truth.  What he discovered, he preached to the world for 45 years. Today, what he preached is the core of the Buddhist doctrine.

 

Buddhism is essentially a non-violent religion, which embodies the principles of compassion, understanding and peace.

 

From the 5th century BC, Buddhism spread throughout the Indian sub-continent and, via trade routes, to distant lands such as Bactria, Mongolia, Tibet, China, Korea and Japan.  Buddhism was never propagated with the assistance of invading armies,  and it spread throughout the Asian continent at amazing speed. In fact, invaders often gave up violence when they came into contact with Buddhism.  The Great Emperor Asoka of India who led wars of conquest across the sub-continent, as he sought to subdue distant kingdoms, causing death and widespread destruction, became a man of non violence and peace after he became aware of the sublime teachings of the Buddha. Today, the Ashoka Chakra adorns the Indian National Flag.

 

Buddhism also gave us splendid institutions of learning in places such as Thakshila, in modern day Pakistan, Nalanda in Bengal and Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka.   Students from around the Asian continent came to study at these institutions, engaged in stimulating debates and produced learned theses. One of the preeminent discourses on Buddhism resulted from a conversation between Menander, the King of Bactria, and one Reverand Nagasena.  Even after invading armies had torched these institutions of learning, what remained is spectacular.

 

After Buddhism faded in the land of its birth, Sri Lanka became a centre for Buddhist learning.  The ancient capital of Anuradhapura was a magnet for  Buddhist scholars and pilgrims.  Sri Lanka continues to host the tooth relic of the Buddha in Kandy and attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world.  Over the centuries, Sri Lanka also despatched missionaries to distant lands such as Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Japan and records of their journeys provide a valuable historical insight to the times.

 

The links that were developed at the time among the learned and the devout in these countries continue to be relevant.  The culture that evolved from common influences across the Asian continent is a powerful factor in people’s thinking even today.

 

I hope that this event will assist in conveying to the larger world the intrinsic message of the Buddha - compassion, understanding and peace, and also in bringing the various nations of  our planet together. As the Buddha preached :

 

“Nahi Verena Verani Sammanthi dha Kudaccinan. Averanacha Sammanthi Esa Dhammo Sananthano”.

 

Hatred cease not hatred, it is love that conquers hatred.

 

I take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly for their support, the Permanent Representatives and their staff for their assistance and the staff of the Mission of Sri Lanka to make this event a success.

 

May all beings be well.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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