Thursday, June 13, 2024

Vesak to be celebrated with renewed vigour

by damith
May 19, 2024 1:13 am 0 comment 1.5K views

By Chamikara Weerasinghe

Millions of Buddhists the world over are getting ready to celebrate Vesak, which falls on the Full Moon Poya Day on May 23. This day commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment, and Passing Away of the Buddha.

Vesak is celebrated for three days in the country -the Full Moon Poya Day and the two days following, to mark these significant events. The country observes two public holidays for the Vesak festival, this year on May 23 and the following day.

Vesak has now become a recognised United Nations holiday and an international event. Washington, DC on Friday issued a proclamation declaring May 23, 2024 as Vesak Festival Day. The proclamation was handed over on May 17 to Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S. Mahinda Samarasinghe. The Mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser had issued the proclamation.

She has stated in her proclamation: “…our nation and our city are greatly enriched by the more than three million Buddhists in the U.S., and the District embraces the Buddhist vision of humanity that focuses on peace and understanding.”

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), through its resolution 54/115 of 1999, recognised the Day of Vesak internationally to honour the contribution of Buddha’s teachings to human spirituality over two and a half millennia. Vesak is observed globally, with the United Nations celebrating Vesak at its headquarters and other offices in coordination with the relevant UN bodies and permanent missions.

The push for international recognition of Vesak Day began at the International Buddhist Conference in Sri Lanka in 1998, with the participation of ten countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. These countries unanimously supported the idea. Sri Lanka’s then Foreign Minister, the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, presented the proposal at the UNGA on behalf of these nations.

In December 1999, the UNGA adopted resolution 54/115, granting international recognition to Vesak. Since then, Vesak has been celebrated at the United Nations.

Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the economic crisis of 2022, the people of Sri Lanka continued to celebrate Vesak. They made lanterns, pandols, organised Vesak dansalas, and held Buddhist sila programs in temples. They also conducted Vesak Peraheras (processions) and impressed tourists with their decorations and lanterns, ensuring that they were lit even during power cuts caused by an energy crisis.

This year, Sri Lankans will celebrate Vesak amid economic challenges on multiple fronts. However, there is hope as the country is emerging from the economic crisis, with the Government’s ongoing economic reforms to address its causes and support vulnerable sections of society.

The people of Sri Lanka are now set to celebrate Vesak with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.

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