Sri Lanka Spearheads U.N. Celebration of Buddhism’s 2600th Anniversary

The Lion & Sword, May 19, 2011

New York, USA -- The gray skies above Manhattan could not dampen spirits below as Buddhist monks and nuns from all corners of the globe assembled before the United Nations midtown headquarters on Monday, their robes a brilliant patchwork of saffron and burgundy against the drab urban backdrop.

Early risers marveled at the sight of this colorful and serene procession heading up first Avenue and across 47th Street to Dag Hammarskjold Park, where throngs awaited to give alms, commencing the day’s program in honor of the 2600th Anniversary of The Buddha’s Enlightenment.

The United Nations in 2000 officially recognized Vesak, held on the full moon day each May to mark the birth, death and enlightenment of Gautama Buddha. This year, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the U. N. had the honor of coordinating the commemorative events for this special Sambuddhathva Jayanthi celebration and The International Day of Vesak.

Following the alms giving and a quick breakfast, 198 monks representing Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, the Republic of Korea, Philippines and Japan, convened in the majestic General Assembly hall. Here they blessed the room, chanting pirith—a first at the U.N.–and listened to the opening remarks of chairmen Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the U.N., who welcomed them along with the attending dignitaries, missions, members of the tri-state Buddhist community and general public.

“It is appropriate that the enlightenment of Gautama the Buddha 2600 years ago, a teacher who preached non-violence, tolerance, understanding and self realization, should be celebrated by the United Nations,” he said. “This organization was created on the smoldering embers of global war and the resulting death, destruction and massive displacement, to maintain international peace and security, to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems and to develop friendly relations among nations based on mutual respect. Against this background, the Buddha’s message remains ever relevant”.

To his right, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who mentioned that his own mother was Buddhist, echoed these thoughts saying, “The teachings of the Buddha may be twenty six centuries old but they are as relevant as ever today.” In addition, Ambassador Hasan Kleib of Indonesia, representing the UNGA president and 10 permanent representatives of participating missions addressed this full house returning again and again to an underlying theme of peace, tolerance and compassion–some of Buddhism’s central tenets. They also expressed their gratitude to the Mission of Sri Lanka for its supreme efforts in making the days’ events possible.

Buddhist clergymen The Khamba Lama of the Dashichoiling Monastery of Mongolia and The Venerable Dr. Ashin Nyanissara, a very senior scholar from Myanmar, joined the diplomatic speakers. The Honorable Wimal Weerawanse, the Sri Lankan Minister for Housing, also spoke on behalf of the President of Sri Lanka.

<< Lining up for the alms giving at Dag Hammarskjold Park in Manhattan

Following lunch, the afternoon session convened in the General Assembly Hall featuring an interfaith dialogue also chaired by Dr. Palitha Kohona. The underlying theme of peace and non-violence and Buddhism’s impact on the history, art, and culture of the vast Asian continent was central to these presentations. Speakers included the Rabbi Arthur Schneier, who echoed a very Buddhist sentiment when he said, “Hatred cannot cease by hatred but only love.” He was joined by the eminent Hindu priest, Swami Viditatmananda; Professor John Knitter, a Christian academic from Columbia University; and Dr John Guy, a senior curator from the Metropolitan Museum of NY, who gave a PowerPoint presentation on Buddhist art.

Sri Lanka was represented by three eminent voices, Buddhist scholar and writer, Dr Ananda Guruge; Professor Sudharshan Seneviratne, a visiting scholar at Swarthmore College’s Department of Religion, who called Buddhism a “doctrine of the intellect;” and senior monk The Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratane. “The peace that Buddhism talks about is that which is cultivated in the heart,” said the latter, speaking in a hall where international diplomacy is brokered. He added, “Buddha’s message of unconditional love and unconditional peace is not negotiated,” to rousing applause.

The Venerable Thich Tam Duc (Vietnam), the Venerable Ashin Nyanissara (Myanmar), Reverend Shogun Kumakura (Japan), Venerable Dr. Karunananda (Bangladesh), Reverend Dr. Dhammadeepa (China), Reverend Kodo Umezu, Reverend Kamiya, and The Khamba Lama of Mongolia also spoke on behalf of their communities reflecting on different facets of Buddhism.

The day’s formal events culminated with an exhibition of photographs and artifacts from Buddhist countries at the Buddhist Heritage Exhibition, which was officially opened by the Honourable Wimal Weerawansa at the entrance to the GA hall.  Later, in accordance with tradition, an impressive buffet of international dishes was served to the participants in the UN lobby. Evocative of the dansalas in Sri Lanka, hundreds lined up to be fed, capping off this historic and auspicious occasion.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: