The Day of Vesak was celebrated at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 10th May 2017 in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution 54/115 recognizing the day of Vesak internationally as the most significant day for the Buddhists all over the world. The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York took the lead in organizing this year’s Day of Vesak at the United Nations along with the Permanent Mission of Thailand, and the Missions of the states that co-sponsored the resolution in 2000.
The celebrations commenced on the morning of 10th May with a mid-day dana offered to 53 Buddhist monks representing Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia and Japan, at the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Rohan Perera, his Thai counterpart Ambassador Virachai Plasai, and Permanent Representatives of Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Cambodia, and Laos along with senior diplomats from Buddhist countries attended the ceremony and offered dana to the Maha Sangha. A large number of lay persons, including the staff of the co-organizing Permanent Missions were also present. Ven. Hungampola Sirirathana Thero, Chief Incumbent of New Jersey Buddhist Vihara and Ven. Heenbunne Kondanna Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Staten Island Buddhist Vihara in New York conducted the religious ceremony.
Proclamations issued by the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on the Day of Vesak were read out by their representatives at the Dana ceremony.
A solemn event to mark the Day of Vesak, co-chaired by Ambassador Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and Ambassador Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations was held in the evening of 10th May from 6.30 to 8.45 p.m. at the United Nations General Assembly hall. Ambassador Perera conducted the meeting.
A large number of Buddhist monks representing many countries, Vice President of the General Assembly Ambassador Durga Prasad Bhattarai of Nepal, Permanent Representatives of Member States, senior diplomats, senior UN officials, staff of the Permanent Missions and the UN Secretariat, and Buddhists from various countries attended this solemn event.
The renowned American Buddhist monk Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, delivered a scholarly sermon, which was well received by those who were present.
As an interlude, a group of Sri Lankan students from the Tri-State area performed a musical recital of the famous song with a Buddhist theme Danno Budunge. This musical recital was much appreciated by the attendees.
Permanent Representatives of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Viet Nam addressed the General Assembly reflecting on the significance of the Day of Vesak. Bhutan, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore and the Russian Federation spoke at either Chargé d’Affaires or Deputy Permanent Representative level. Each statement was accompanied by a slide show of photographs depicting how the Day of Vesak is celebrated in their respective countries.
Addressing the General Assembly, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and co-chair of the event to mark the Vesak Day at the United Nations Headquarters, Ambassador Rohan Perera observed that that the message of peace and compassion, taught by the Lord Buddha is valid and relevant in the present day world, more than ever as the Buddha’s teachings provide an ideal framework to view and analyse the reality of the world, and to find solutions to problems by looking at that reality with a right view.
Stressing the importance of right view or Samma Ditti, he added that in dealings at the United Nations, and in politics among nations in the present day, right view is a must. Ambassador Perera concluded that if countries are to apply the Buddha’s teachings on the right view to their dealings, root causes of mutual distrust, hatred, and tensions could be eliminated, saving millions of lives and easing human suffering.
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations