UN marks International Day of Vesak | Sunday Observer

UN marks International Day of Vesak

International Vesak Day celebrations at the UN last year
International Vesak Day celebrations at the UN last year

The United Nations in New York belatedly commemorated the International Day of Vesak on July 2. The Covid-19 pandemic prevented Member States from gathering at the UN General Assembly Hall to celebrate the occasion.

The event, organised by the Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka and Thailand, featured a keynote message from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.  

Highlighting the value of Buddhism during unprecedented global insecurity created by the pandemic, the Minister said that the Buddha’s teachings could be a guide through this haze of uncertainty, towards light. He upheld that the practice of the four virtues of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity could ease the sufferings of mankind and generate trust and understanding.  

Minister Gunawardena outlined that the Dhamma is not only a religion but also a philosophy on the way of life, symbolised by a path of knowledge with its goal being the destruction of ignorance, characterised, among others, by the futility of the egoistic notion.  

The Minister emphasised that the teachings are still sought for its intrinsic wisdom and values, continue to provide solace, comfort and tranquility to ensure peace of mind to humankind in this troubled modern world even after 2600 years. He paid tribute to late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar for his leading role in obtaining recognition for the Day of Vesak at the United Nations in 1999.  

 Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in her referred to the teachings of the Buddha, being reflected in the objectives of the UN Charter, including the practising of tolerance and living as good neighbours, maintenance of global peace and security and achieving economic and social development.

Emphasizing the need to arrest the erosion of multilateralism, she stressed the relevance of the Buddhist doctrine based on the principle of equality for all, regardless of status or circumstances, which resonates in the UN tenets of sovereign equality and inclusivity of all nations.

Stressing that the consequences of the pandemic have further exacerbated the ceaseless suffering of mankind, she urged that countries must unite to build in a spirit of cooperation, compassion and equality, a peaceful and prosperous world.  

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the Buddha’s message of solidarity and service to others is more important than ever, as it reminds of the need for unity to combat the pandemic. He highlighted that international co-operation, especially through the combining of energies and expertise, could ease the economic and social consequence of the current crisis and build a healthier, more inclusive, sustainable, resilient and equitable world.