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Buddhists around the world celebrate Vesak

A screenshot of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakshe attending the online event hosted by International Buddhist Confederation on Wednesday.(IBC)
A screenshot of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakshe attending the online event hosted by International Buddhist Confederation on Wednesday.(IBC)

Global leaders touch on relevance of Buddha’s message amid COVID -19.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent his warmest greetings to Buddhists around the world on Wednesday in honor of Vesak, a holiday that honors the life and legacy of Buddha.

  “Today, we recognize the contributions Buddhism has made to human spirituality and culture for more than two and a half millennia. All of us, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, can find inspiration in the Buddha’s message of honesty, compassion and respect for all living things. As we face the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clearer than ever that humility and deep empathy are essential to our wellbeing and that of our planet,” he commended.

US President Joe Biden celebrated the contributions of Buddhists in the US and said the ceremonial lighting of a lamp, a symbol of the holiday that has been celebrated for over 2,500 years, reminds us of Buddhism’s teachings of compassion, humility, and selflessness that endure today.

“On this day, we also commemorate the many contributions of Buddhists in America who enrich our communities and our country as we all work together toward brighter days ahead” he added.

Candian Prime Minister urged Canadians to be inspired by Buddha‘s message, cultivate greater empathy and kindness, and continue to take care of each other.

“Today, I invite all Canadians to honor our Buddhist communities and their important contributions to our country. On behalf of our family, Sophie and I wish everyone celebrating a happy and peaceful Vesak,” he said.

As part of the Vesak celebration, Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India; Sacred Garden, Mayadevi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal; Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka; and other temples worldwide offered online prayers and chanting.

During an online event hosted by International Buddhist Confederation on Wednesday, Mongolian Culture Minister Nomin Chinbat reflected on the historical roots of Buddhism in Mongolia and its introduction to the country two thousand years ago.

Foreign Minister of Bhutan Tandi Dorji introduced Vesak as an important event recognized by the United Nations, acknowledging the importance of Buddhism throughout the world

Expressing the profound wisdom and values preached by Buddha some two and a half millennium ago, Dorji stressed that Buddhist teachings can guide humans to become responsible global citizens.

“Amid the surge in COVID-19 cases, compassion and kindness are necessary antidotes to the excoriating pains and traumas caused by the pandemic and the panacea to deal with the crisis and when global leaders embrace these values it will inspire the global community to work together for the common good.” Dorji added.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakshe said that the fear created by the current global pandemic gives people more reasons to reflect on the Buddha’s teachings.

“It is a fitting time for us to use the Buddha’s teaching to reconstruct the balance between creature and nature not simply to survive but to thrive in a global village that respects diversity, promotes harmony and safeguards the free gift of nature to assure peace and prosperity to worldwide humankind.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi cited the mantra of “appo Deepo Bhava,” which translates to “be an island unto yourself.” Modi echoed the Buddha’s teaching of respecting mother nature as paramount and described the path shown by Buddha as relevant to social justice working to achieve a global unifying force. 

The Straits Times reported that Singapore Buddhist Mission also held a mass online meditation session to mark Vesak organized by youth between 15 and 35 and included an online concert featuring more than 10 Buddhist musicians from Singapore and abroad.

By Sanjay Kumar (sanjaykumar@heradcorp.com)

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