Monday 22nd May 2017 

Dhammic diplomacy at UN Vesak Day celebrations                                                                                                                                            

A Dhammic diplomacy was displayed at the 14th United Nations Vesak Day celebrations, which were held in Sri Lanka from 11 to 14 May. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and the Nepalese President, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, joined the Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, on the theme: "Buddhism, sustainable development and world peace”. Special representatives from 72 countries participated in the celebrations.

Welcoming participants, President Sirisena said that the Buddhistphilosophy has provided solutions for conflicts and poverty. He said: “As Buddhists, we know that the solutions for the social, economic, political and cultural issues arisen both nationally and internationally are in the Buddhist philosophy.”

Addressing the debilitating caste system, which is still prevalent in some SouthAsian countries, the Sri Lankan President highlighted two messages from Buddhism: “Dhammo Bhave Rakkhathi Dhamma Chari” One who lives with Dhamma isprotected by the Dhamma and “Najachcha Vasalo Hothi – Najachcha Hothi Brahmano” -- Not by birth is one an outcast, not by birth is one a Brahmana. By deed is one an outcast, by deed is one a Brahmana”.

He said: “The importance of this message given in the Buddhist philosophy to find solutions to most conflicts, to make the society calm and to make humans meritorious is immeasurable. Today, the western philosophers promote the Buddhist Philosophy to heal all theagitated minds, with a clear understanding of this philosophy.”

(photo below: President Sirisena, Prime Minister Mody and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe)

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi said that the Buddha's teaching is the best solution for the biggest challenge to sustainable world peace today, He went on: "The biggest challenge to sustainable world peace today is not necessarily from conflict between the nation states.”

(photo below: Prime Minister Mody and President Sirisena and the famous Temple of the Tooth at Kandy, central Sri Lanka)

"It is from the mindsets, thought streams, entities and instruments rooted in the idea of hate and violence. The Menace of terrorism in our region is a clear manifestation of this destructive emotion.”

The Indian Prime Minister said it was a matter to be sad that those ideologies of hate and their proponents in the region were not open to dialogue and open only to causing death and destruction.

"I believe that Buddhism's message of peace is the answer to the growing arc of violence all over the world," Indian Premier said.

Pointing out that Buddha's teaching was relevant even for today and Buddhapreached about tanha or greed, he said the same greed had driven the mankind todominate and degrade their habitats. The universality of the Buddha's teaching; the middle path, is striking.

The Indian Prime Minister said: "The world also owes a debt of gratitude to SriLanka for preserving some of the most important elements of the Buddhist heritage. Vesak is an occasion for us to celebrate the unbroken shared heritage of Buddhism. A heritage that connects our societies across generations and through centuries.”

(photo below: President Bhandari and President Sirisena)

The President of Nepal, Bidya Devi Bhandari participated as the Chief Guest at the closing ceremony. Former Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal, she highlighted the teachings of the Buddha and its relevance in the present day context for the world peace and social harmony. She also conveyed the message of peace, tolerance and fraternity to the world from Nepal, the land of Gautam Buddha.

President Bhandari said: “Buddha is the light of the world. We should practicehis teachings to create a better world”. The Nepalese President outlined plans the continued development of Lumbini, which is a World Heritage Site.

At the closing of the celebrations, the UN Vesak Day Council agreed to initiative programmes to: establish an international platform to enable Buddhists to coordinate their activities; promote the links between Buddhism and sustainable development; tackle the dangers of materialism; ward of the production and distribution of weapons of mass destruction; promote inter-religious harmony; and promote and disseminate the message of Buddhism and counter drug addiction and abuse. 

Photo credits: courtesy Government of Sri Lanka

Don de Silva is a Buddhist Chaplain, environmentalist and formerly with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).