Vesak celebrations in Vietnam draw representatives of 95 nations

Asia News Network, May 12, 2014

Hanoi, Vietnam -- More than 10,000 Buddhists, dignitaries, scholars and guests from 95 countries and territories attended the opening of celebrations for the 11th United Nations Day of Vesak (Vesakha) at Bai Dinh Pagoda in Vietnam's Ninh Binh province last Wednesday.

Vietnam has just finished hosting several days of celebrations for the
United Nations Day of Vesak

The VIP guests included the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, a Bhutanese princess, and Thailand's Princess ML Rajadarasri Jayankura.

The National Vietnam Buddhist Sangha is hosting the festival, which marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. Visakha Bucha Day is tomorrow.

United Nations resident coordinator Pratibha Mehta An read aloud a message from UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon at the opening. "While the Buddha's teachings are eternal, the Buddhist perspective is also valuable now as we accelerate our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and steer the world onto a more sustainable and equitable path of development," Ban said.

"In the shadow of enormous tragedies like Typhoon Haiyan, the Buddha's message of peace, compassion and love for all living beings resonates strongly. It tells us to open our hearts and embrace our fellow human beings, especially those in need.

"At a time of increased tensions in parts of Asia and elsewhere, these timeless teachings inspire our efforts to address many of the broader challenges confronting our world - from conflict to inequality to climate change."

National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung called Vesak 2014 "a chance for us all to look back at efforts by the international community that believes in the Buddha's teachings to develop a world of peace and friendship, and less pain and conflict. The festival shows that Vietnam always respects fine religious values."

Vietnam's Supreme Patriarch, Thich Pho Tue, said celebrating Vesak was a good chance to work in collaboration with the international Buddhist community to spread the dharma and promote Buddhist studies. "I believe all monastic members and Buddhist followers in our country, as well as from foreign countries, will have a good chance to share intellectual and spiritual experiences," he said.

The ceremony included a ritual bath for a Buddha statue and the releasing of birds and pigeons.

Hans Fishcher, a Zen practitioner from the Netherlands, said it was exciting to visit a country with 80 million people where Buddhism had existed for more than 2,000 years. The development of the philosophy could influence the whole world, he said.

Monk Yoshimizu Daichi from Tokyo's Nisshin Kustu Pagoda noted that Buddhism in Vietnam and Japan is quite similar. "We all enjoy the basic code of ethics. I stayed overnight at Bai Dinh Pagoda to witness the daily practice of Vietnamese Buddhists."

The celebrations continued with an international conference on Friday examining the Buddhist perspective "on Education and Global Citizenship" and other activities, such as chanting, prayers for world peace, candlelit processions, cultural performances, art shows and an ecological tour.

Unesco director-general Irina Bokova, in another message read out at the opening, said the Buddha's teachings on compassion and peace "resonated strongly with Unesco's mandate to strengthen moral and intellectual solidarity and our shared vision of a more just and peaceful life for every woman and man".