The Australian Observance of the United Nations Day of Vesak 2010
The Great Hall, Parliament House, 26 May, 2010
Almost 100 Buddhist Monks and Nuns and many hundreds of Lay Buddhists from all over Australia came to Parliament House in Canberra for the Buddhist festival of Vesak, which is the most significant event in the Buddhist calendar. Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha, all of which occurred on the full moon in May, in different years. This year, for the first time, Vesak was celebrated in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra.
The colourful celebrations included chanting and blessings from Monks and Nuns of all Buddhist traditions around the globe.
Among the Members of Parliament who attended were the Hon Laurie Ferguson, the Hon Philip Ruddock, the Hon Harry Jenkins, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senator Scott Ludlam, to deliver their messages to the Buddhist communities. A message from our Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd, said ‘….Recent events have shown that we live in a world that is ever more closely connected and interdependent. As such, tolerance, non-violence and diligence – important values for Buddhists – must be central to our relationships with our neighbours, whether they are across the street or across the globe. With its plurality of cultures and traditions, commitment to interfaith harmony and dedication to service, the Australian Buddhist community is a living example to all of us….’
There were two highly significant events. The first was the gift of the Teachings of the Buddha in English, known as the Tipitika, which was accepted by the Hon. Harry Jenkins to be kept in the Parliamentary library. The second was the display of Buddha relics, gifted by Sri Lanka, for the people of Australia. Buddha relics are tiny pieces of bone from the cremation of the Buddha and are very rare.
These relics will be displayed at Belconnen Arts Centre in Canberra from 27 – 29 May, then at Phuoc Hue Temple, Sydney, Dhammakaya Temple, Berrilee, Sydney, and from there to many other temples around Australia so that many people may see them.
Vesak has always been celebrated by Buddhists around the world, and at the 45th meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations (13 December, 1999), Vesak Day was recognized as a United Nations Day of international observance to be celebrated by the UN and its member countries in May each year. The UN Day of Vesak was first internationally celebrated at the UN Headquarters in New York in 2000, and has continued to be celebrated each year in New York. The international observance has also been hosted by other countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.
In Australia, the Buddhist Federation of Australia, in collaboration with other Buddhist organizations and government agencies, started celebrating the Australian Observance of the UN Day of Vesak at the Sydney Town Hall in 2007 and has continued each year since.