Monks, nuns and Buddhist followers attend a ceremony explaining the meaning of Buddha's birthday at Tam Chúc Pagoda, the northern province of Hà Nam, on Sunday afternoon at the opening of the UN Day of Vesak. — VNA/VNS Photo
HÀ NỘI — More than 1,650 international delegates from 112 countries and territories and more than 20,000 Vietnamese Buddhist dignitaries, monks, nuns and followers attended the opening ceremony of the 16th UN Day of Vesak on Sunday at Tam Chúc Pagoda in Kim Bảng District, northern Hà Nam Province.
Prominent attendees included Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Myanmar President Win Myint, Indian Vice President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) Venkaiah Naidu, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Chairman of the National Council (Upper House) of Bhutan Tashi Dorji and United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Most Venerable Thích Trí Quảng, First Deputy Supreme Patriarch of the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha (VBS), conveyed a message from Supreme Patriarch of the VBS Most Venerable Thích Phổ Tuệ on the occasion of Lord Buddha’s birthday.
In his message, the VBS Supreme Patriarch welcomed the presence of all international and local delegates, religious leaders, Buddhist dignitaries, monks and nuns to the UN Day of Vesak 2019, saying the event was a chance for all people to build their religious faith and uphold the Lord Buddha’s legacy and spiritual values.
He recalled the more than 2,000-year history of Vietnamese Buddhism, saying that it had supported national liberation revolutions in the past and has laid the spiritual foundation for all aspects of politics, economics, culture and tradition, shaping the national identity and culture.
Monks, nuns and Buddhist followers are set to perform the bathing of the Buddha ritual after the opening ceremony of VESAK at Tam Chúc Pagoda on Sunday. — VNA/VNS Photo Dương Giang
The VBS has preserved and upheld the essence of Vietnamese Buddhism by making proactive and responsible contributions to national development. Hosting the 16th UN Day of Vesak shows its contributions and affirms its role and status in international integration, Most Venerable Thích Phổ Tuệ wrote.
The UN Day of Vesak 2019 aims to contribute to realising the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he wrote, expressing his hope that delegates will reach measures to successfully implement the goals.
In his speech, Most Venerable Thích Thiện Nhơn, chairman of the VBS Executive Council and head of the Vesak 2019 organising committee, highlighted Buddhist philosophy's focus on building an equal and peaceful society without classes, wars or hatred.
“Lord Buddha has paved a path where the combination of compassion and knowledge makes for an effective solution to conflicts among people, nations, cultures and religions,” he said, noting that Buddhist philosophy continues today and is a beacon for millions of people around the world.
Most Venerable Thích Thiện Nhơn stressed the increasing need for upholding the core values of Buddhism in the current unsettled society, saying that Buddhist values encourage tolerance, selflessness and forgiveness while inspiring global peace and co-operation amid conflicts, terrorism, wars, inequality, environmental crises and challenges brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution worldwide.
“In order to solve current conflicts, global leadership is required to ensure equality, minimise conflicts among beliefs, economies, cultures, social classes, territories and the environment,” he said.
He also called on the global Buddhist community to unite and work on global issues, inspiring peace and easing the pain of all people worldwide.
Most Venerable Phra Brahmapundit, president of the International Council for Day of Vesak, said he was impressed with Việt Nam’s great efforts and dedication to hosting successful celebrations of the UN Day of Vesak.
He expressed his belief that Việt Nam would successfully host the event this year thanks to thorough preparations and its unique natural setting. He described the beautiful landscape as the best place to host such an event.
Highlighting the theme “Buddhism's Approach to Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Sustainable Societies”, Most Venerable Phra Brahmapundit said the festival was not only a chance for Buddhist followers around the world to celebrate, but also aims to serve all people by advocating for sustainable development and addressing global challenges such as environmental pollution, climate change, education and more.
“We gather here today to talk about global issues and how to address them, whether they are conflicts among people, culture, religions or territories," he said. "In the end, we want to send a message of preserving peace, traditional values and the environment for a better future."
According to Most Venerable Phra Brahmapundit, the theme of this year's Day of Vesak reflects the UN’s 17 SDGs. The results of the forums, seminars and discussions held at the event will be included in the Hà Nam Declaration.
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc (centre) and delegates pose for a photo at the opening ceremony of the United Nations Day of Vesak 2019 Celebration at Tam Chúc Pagoda in the northern province of Hà Nam on Sunday. — VNA/VNS Photo Thống Nhất
In his speech, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc welcomed the presence of international delegates, dignitaries, monks and nuns to the event, saying the UN Day of Vesak has meaning beyond a religious and cultural festival, sending the long-lasting message of the Lord Buddha on peace, harmony, tolerance and kindness to all people.
He said he believed Buddhist philosophy laid a solid foundation for building civilisation and ensuring prosperity and sustainable development.
“We are all here to honour the Lord Buddha and uphold Buddhist philosophy to reduce conflicts, pains and sorrows, establish peace, friendship, co-operation and development among nations for the peace and prosperity of all people around the world,” he said.
PM Phúc spoke highly of the theme of the event, saying it showed the responsibility of Buddhism for the present and future of society.
“The agenda of the celebration reflects the goals of the UN’s Agenda 2030 for sustainability, prosperity and ensuring that nobody will be left behind, which the Vietnamese Government has committed to realise,” PM Phúc said.
He highlighted Việt Nam’s religious diversity, saying Vietnamese Buddhism has a long history in the country, with Buddhist dignitaries, monks and nuns having stood by the nation through ups and downs. The VBS has continued to grow and prove its role in the nation's development.
“Hosting the 16th UN Day of Vesak once again confirmed Việt Nam’s focus and respect for cultural and ethical values of religions, including Buddhism, while showing its policy on international co-operation and integration,” he said.
This is the third time Việt Nam has hosted the UN Vesak celebrations, helping to improve Vietnamese Buddhism’s role in international integration and affirm Việt Nam's position and responsibility for UN activities in all fields. — VNS