|The opening ceremony of the United Nations Day of Vesak at Bai Dinh Pagoda in Ninh Binh Province yesterday. The event hosted by the National Viet Nam Buddhist Sangha attracted more than 10,000 Buddhists, dignitaries, scholars and guests from 95 countries and territories. — VNA/VNS Photo Lam Khanh
NINH BINH (VNS) — More than 10,000 Buddhists, dignitaries, scholars and guests from 95 countries and territories attended the opening of celebrations for the eleventh United Nations Day of Vesak at Bai Dinh Pagoda in Ninh Binh Province.
The festival, which marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, is being hosted by the National Viet Nam Buddhist Sangha.
In a message read out at the opening, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon said that "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".
The message, read by UN Resident Co-ordinator in Viet Nam, Pratibha Mehta, said that: "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."
Addressing the opening ceremony, Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung said: "Vesak 2014 is the 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 Viet Nam always respects fine religious values."
Viet Nam's Supreme Patriarch, Thich Pho Tue, said that celebrating Vesak was a good chance to work in collaboration with the international Buddhist community to spread Buddha dharma and promote research into Buddhist studies.
"I believe that 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."
The opening ceremony included a ritual bath for a Buddha statute, and the releasing of birds and pigeons.
Hans Fishcher, a Zen follower from the Netherlands, said it was exciting to see a country with 80 million people like Viet Nam where Buddhism had existed for more than 2,000 years.
He added that the development of the philosophy could influence the whole world.
Buddhist monk Yoshimizu Daichi from Nisshin Kustu Pagoda in Tokyo said: "Viet Nam's Buddhism has a lot of similarities with Japan's. We all enjoy the basic code of ethics. I stayed overnight in Bai Dinh Pagoda to witness the daily practice of Vietnamese Buddhists.
The celebrations will continue with an international Buddhist conference today focusing on Education and Global Citizenship: A Buddhist Perspective and other activities, such as chanting. There will also be prayers for world peace, candle-lit processions, cultural performances, art shows and an ecological tour.
A message read out from UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said that: "The teachings of the Buddha 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."
The celebrations are taking places from Wednesday to Sunday inside the Trang An tourism complex, 110km from Ha Noi. — VNS