Vesak at the UN

By Kim Behan

On May 10th, 2017, I had the privilege of joining Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi for the Vesak Celebration at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

UN General Assembly Hall
A panoramic view of the General Assembly Hall

Vesak Day is the full moon day in May when Buddhists around the world celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and final passing away of the Buddha. It is one of the most important events for followers of the Buddha, a time we honor the life and teachings of the wisest of humans. At a time when the world faces deep challenges, this sacred day offers us an opportunity to reflect on how the timeless and universal teachings of Buddha can help to guide each of us in our day to day lives.

part of the audience
A section of the audience

At this event, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi addressed a varied audience of Sangha members, distinguished UN members, and guests assembled to celebrate this special event. He spoke on the three poisons — greed, hatred and delusion, and their antidotes — generosity, loving kindness and wisdom — relating these ancient teachings to current dilemmas facing the world’s populations. In his own words, “even though the Buddha taught 2600 years ago, his teachings are so relevant to us in the present time as we struggle to create a world in which people can live together peacefully, in a sustainable environment, in societies which look after the needs of everyone, including the least and poorest amongst us.”

Following Ven. Bodhi’s talk, delegates from the major Buddhist countries, as well as formerly or partly Buddhist countries (such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.), spoke to express their appreciation for the Buddha and his message of compassion, tolerance, and peace.

A video of Ven. Bodhi’s address is available at

Kim Behan is the Director of Programs for Buddhist Global Relief.

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