As Buddhists around the world celebrated Vesak Day on May 5, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and Mahaparinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shared a message of greeting for practicing Buddhists everywhere.
Referring to the symbolic importance of Bodh Gaya, the site of Buddha's enlightenment, the Tibetan spiritual leader's message offered a timely reminder of the essential essence of Buddhadharma, emphasizing the practice of compassion and wisdom, and concern for the well-being of all sentient beings:
In this auspicious remembrance of the birth, enlightenment and mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha, I am happy to convey my greetings to fellow Buddhists all over the world.
Vajrasana, the Adamantine Seat, as Bodhgaya is known in our scriptures, is the holiest of Buddhist pilgrimage sites associated with Shakyamuni Buddha, our compassionate and founder-teacher of our spiritual tradition. It was here that the Buddha attained Enlightenment (Mahabodhi), after which he gave teachings on the Four Noble Truths, the Thirty-seven Factors of Enlightenment, and others. Key to his teachings are instructions for disciplining the mind for the benefit of sentient beings as infinite as space.
The heart of the Buddha's teaching is the combined practice of compassion and wisdom. The practice of bodhicitta, the altruistic mind of enlightenment, is the essence of all his teaching. The more we become familiar with concern for the well-being of others, the more we will consider others dearer than ourselves. We will recognize our dependence on each other and remember that all 8 billion people in the world today have the same drive to be happy and avoid suffering.
Therefore, on this special occasion, I urge my spiritual brothers and sisters to be warm and to lead a meaningful life, to devote themselves to the welfare of others. Warmth of the heart is the key to peace and harmony in the world.
With my prayers and best wishes,
(His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Vesak, also known as Buddha Purnima (or more informally Buddha's Birthday), commemorates three key events in the life of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, which also represent the birth of Buddhism: his birth, enlightenment (Skt : sopadhisesa-nirvana), and passing from this world (Skt: mahaparinirvana). The occasion, a public holiday in many countries in Asia, is celebrated by millions of Buddhists around the world. Although the date of the festival can vary from country to country and from one Buddhist tradition to another, it is most often marked on or around the date of the full moon in the month of May.
This day is generally observed as a time for reflection, meditation and sharing of the Buddhadharma, which has served as a source of spiritual guidance and compassionate wisdom for countless millions of people for some 2 years.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres also shared a brief Vesak message, calling for tolerance and compassion for a peaceful world, observing: "In this time of conflict, the Buddha's teachings on tolerance, compassion and service to humanity are a source of comfort and strength. . . . . Let us reach out to bridge differences, rise above narrow self-interest and work together in solidarity for a more peaceful world for all. (The United Nations)
In Washington, DC, the White House held its third annual Vesak ceremony, continuing a new tradition started in 2021 by US President Joe Biden.* While previous sightings of the occasion at the White House were small business in Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's attendees included ambassadors and embassies from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, as well as official representatives of the three main Buddhist traditions, Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also shared his own message for Vesak, which included: "The occasion offers us all an opportunity to reflect on (the Buddha's) teachings and renew our commitment to universal values such as as compassion, tolerance and human dignity. (US State Department)
* Making History: Vesak celebrated at the White House with candle offerings (BDG)