The Secretary-General of the United Nations 2002-2013

HE. Kofi Annan and HE. Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General’s Message on Buddhism's Day of Vesak

NEW YORK, 6 May 2002 (UN Headquarters)

It gives me great pleasure to send you my warmest greetings on this happy occasion, marking the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Guatama Buddha.

The Buddha's lofty ethical and humanitarian ideals have given birth to a vibrant spiritual tradition that continues, more than 2500 years later, to ennoble the lives of millions of people. Today, all over the world, Buddhists celebrate joyously the message of compassion, understanding and mutual respect that the Buddha brought to mankind.

In this time of global uncertainty, the Buddha's vision of peace and of humanity's highest potentials may be more relevant than ever before. Indeed, if we want to have a chance of overcoming the many challenges that face us today -- in the fields of peace and security, development, and the protection of our global environment -- we must think beyond our narrow, short-term self interests, and raise ourselves to a universal perspective from which the well-being of the broader human community appears as important as our own well-being. Each of us shares the hope of a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future. Our actions -- as individuals and as members of our communities -- must be guided by that common dream.

On this Day of Vesak, let us remember that whatever our origin, our race, our culture or our belief, we are not essentially different. Above all, we share the same home, a shrinking planet on which we are bound to live together. So, let us work together towards the common good and the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of all the world's people.

I wish you all happy Vesak.



Secretary-General's message on the Day of Vesak

New York, 15 May 2003


The Day of Vesak is both a joyous occasion, on which Buddhists throughout the world mark the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha some 2,500 years ago, and a moment to contemplate the lessons that the Buddha's life and teachings offer for our lives today.

The Buddha's message was one of peace and compassion, but also one of mindfulness – of being fully aware of oneself, one's actions and the world in which one lives. That message is one that should be taken seriously by all concerned about the direction and fate of humankind.

Unless we are more mindful of succeeding generations, our relentless degradation of the environment will compromise their ability to meet their needs.

If we fail to understand that our choices – as consumers, citizens and voters – have implications far beyond our immediate communities, our global village will remain a more dangerous place than it need be.

And if we do not recognize that poverty and conflict anywhere concern each of us, we will not succeed in our shared mission of building world of social harmony and universal well-being.

On this Day of Vesak, I join you in hoping for a world in which all people strive to be mindful -- to be aware of, and care for, their fellow human beings. In that spirit, I send you all my warmest greetings.


Secretary-General's message to the "International Recognition of the Day of Vesak Ceremony"

New York, 1 June 2004

It gives me great pleasure to send my warmest greetings to this international observance of the Day of Vesak.

Every year on this day, we mark the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha some 2,500 years ago, and pay tribute to the contributions that Buddhism has made to the world's search for peace.

This year, I would also like to use this observance to express my concern that many recent events -- including the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the war in Iraq, and the continuing tragic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians -- have aggravated tensions between followers of some of the world's major religions.

We must get away from stereotyping, generalizations and preconceptions, and take care not to tarnish an entire people, an entire region, or an entire religion for the sins of individuals. As Buddhism teaches, we must deal with all our fellow human beings fairly and objectively, while refraining from malice, aggression and harm. Tolerance is essential, but it is not enough. We must go further, and make a positive effort to learn more about each other, and to discover what is best in each other's beliefs and traditions.

On this Day of Vesak, let us pledge to do our part in what must be a sustained campaign to rebuild trust and confidence between people of different faiths and cultures. Let us recognize, as Buddhism does, our essential interdependence. And let us follow this path as partners. In that spirit, I wish you all happy Vesak.


UN Secretary-General ‘s Message on Day of Vesak

NEW YORK, 3 May 2006 (UN Headquarters)

It gives me pleasure to send you my warmest greetings on the Day of Vesak, when we commemorate the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.

The ideals celebrated on this day are close to those of the United Nations:  understanding among peoples, the pursuit of harmony, the promotion of peace.

This Day of Vesak falls as the United Nations continues its efforts to adapt the United Nations to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, and in particular to implement the commitments made by leaders at the 2005 World Summit last September.  Our success in advancing this agenda of renewal will depend not only on Government representatives and international officials.  It will rest on voters, consumers, civil society groups and concerned individuals of all ages, in rich and poor countries alike, thinking and acting as global citizens.

As we mark this year's Day of Vesak, let us recognize, as Buddhism does, our essential interdependence.  And let us resolve to work together towards the common good, and for the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of all the world's people.  I thank all of you for your commitment to those ideals, and wish you a wonderful celebration for the Day of Vesak.


Secretary-General's message on the Day of Vesak

New York, 29 May 2007

It gives me great pleasure to send you my greetings on this happy occasion, which celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing of Gautama Buddha.

More than 2,500 years on, the Buddha's teachings continued to guide and give meaning to the lives of millions of people across the world. This annual observance provides his followers with an opportunity to reaffirm their devotion to those ideals, and to highlight the principles of compassion, understanding and peace preached by the Buddha.

These values are timeless, but their celebration today is highly timely. Events of recent years have created a growing gulf between communities and nations. They have lead to a worrying rise in intolerance and cross-cultural tensions. Reversing these trends has become vital to long-term peace and stability in our world.

This requires every one of us look beyond our narrow short-term self-interests. As the Buddha teaches, we must be mindful of our words and actions, and their effects on people around us. We must recognize our essential interdependence, and we place the well-being of our communities and of all humanity on a par with our own.

On this Day of Vesak, let us all – Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike – resolve to deal with our fellow human beings graciously and objectively, without hatred or ill will. Let us strive every day to improve both ourselves and our world. In that spirit, I wish you all a most enriching Day of Vesak.


UN Secretary-General's message on the Vesak Day 2008

The Day of Vesak is a joyous occasion marking the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha. On this day millions of people, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, take time to reflect on the life and teachings of the Buddha, and to receive guidance from them.

This year, the observance of Vesak falls at a time of profound and painful loss. Cyclone Nargis has devastated Myanmar, while a massive earthquake has ripped through Southwest China. Both natural disasters have resulted in untold suffering -- tens of thousands have died; many more have lost their families, homes and livelihoods.

In the shadow of these enormous tragedies, the Buddha’s message of peace, compassion and love for all living beings brings added urgency. It tells us to open our hearts and embrace our fellow human beings, especially those in need. It asks us to recognize our essential oneness, and to place the well-being of our communities and of all humanity at par with our own.

These timeless teachings must guide the international community’s response to the situation in Myanmar. They should also inspire our efforts to address the broader challenges confronting our world -- in peace and security, in development and in the protection of our environment. In each of these areas, we have to rise above our perceived narrow self-interests, and think and act as members of one global community. This is the path to enlightenment, and it is the foundation of a better world for all.

On this Day of Vesak, let us affirm our essential interdependence. Let us pledge to work together for the common good, and for the betterment of all humankind. I thank you for your commitment to these ideals, and wish you all an enriching celebration.


United Nations Secretary-General’s Message on the Day of Vesak

9 May 2009

I am pleased to send greetings on Vesak Day, which marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.

Millions of people around the world have been inspired by the Buddha's life and teachings. I was personally very moved last year when I visited Nepal and saw the stone at Lumbini marking the Buddha's birthplace. I was impressed by the monuments and monasteries. I will always remember the kindness of the monks at the Mayadevi Temple.

As I walked through the sacred area, I thought about the life journey of this extraordinary individual, who transformed himself from a sheltered prince to the founder of one of the world's great religions.

He was rich. He could have lived a carefree existence. But he was troubled by the suffering of others, so much so that he left behind the comforts of his palace to help others overcome the painful realities of life.

All of us can learn from the Buddha's spirit of compassion. His timeless teachings can help us to navigate the many global problems we face today.

The financial crisis, climate change, pandemics, terrorism and other international threats prove that the fates of all people are linked. A problem in one country can quickly turn into a worldwide threat. I constantly remind leaders that we must act together or we will fail individually. I tell them that we must join forces in solidarity. Not only is this the right thing to do; it is in our best interests.

The need for global solidarity may seem like a modern concept, but it is not. More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught that nothing exists in isolation, and that all phenomena are interdependent. Just as profoundly, he taught that we cannot be happy as long as others suffer, and that when we do reach out, we discover the best in ourselves.

These teachings offer wisdom for our times, too. Now it falls to each of us, wherever we are and whatever we do, to carry on this spirit. On this Day of Vesak, let us resolve to help people who are suffering so that we may secure a better future for all.


Secretary-General's message on the Day of Vesak 2010

New York, 28 May 2010

I am pleased to send greetings on the Day of Vesak, which marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha. Vesak is a time for all Buddhists to reflect on the fundamental values of tolerance, compassion and service to humanity that are embodied in the Buddha's life and teachings. These values are echoed in the Charter of the United Nations, a promise by Member States to work in harmony for a world where women and men can thrive and prosper in peace and dignity.

The theme for this year, “Global Recovery: the Buddhist Perspective” speaks to the heart of global concerns at a time of multiple crises. When the economic and financial crisis hit, the poor suffered first and worst. They will take longest to recover. At the time, I urged world leaders to act in unison for the common good. Their synchronized response and the efforts of the United Nations helped to avoid a worse crisis. Valuable lessons were learned that are guiding our response as the fallout continues.

Such displays of solidarity are increasingly essential in today's interdependent world. They are reflected in the Day of Vesak itself, and the acts of compassion for the less fortunate that are part of its annual observance. Only by showing regard for others can we succeed in tackling the great challenges of our era: reducing poverty and hunger, reversing environmental decline, avoiding catastrophic climate change and creating a world of freedom, peace and justice for all. If we follow the true spirit of Buddhism -- or any of the other major religions of the world -- all these noble goals can be achieved.



6 May 2011

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the Day of Vesak:

The Lord Buddha, whose birth, enlightenment and passing we mark each year on Vesak Day, bequeathed to humanity profound teachings that can guide our efforts to resolve the severe problems facing today’s world.

His injunction against the three poisons of greed, anger and ignorance is especially relevant to multilateral efforts to overcome the hunger that needlessly affects nearly a billion people in a world of plenty, the brutal violence that takes millions of lives each year, and the senseless environmental damage that humans cause to our only home, the planet Earth.

This year’s theme of socio-economic development may sound modern, but its core is the very problem of human suffering that Siddhartha Gautama sought to address more than 2,500 years ago when he left his palace, relinquished his worldly possessions and went out into the world.

Numerous Buddhist organizations are putting these teachings into practice.  I am deeply grateful for their support for United Nations activities to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, our blueprint for enabling all people to enjoy lives of dignity and opportunity.

On this Day of Vesak, let us draw on the universal values of Buddhism to act in solidarity with those who are suffering, thereby contributing to a more compassionate and enlightened world for all.


Secretary-General's Message for the Day of Vesak 2012

5 May 2012

We commemorate this year’s Day of Vesak as the international community enters the final preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro — a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set the world on a more equitable and sustainable path of development.

Buddhism has much to offer that process. The Buddha’s assertion that, “The way to change the world is to change the nature of man” offers a critical insight into how to improve conditions for our planet and its inhabitants.

The spirit to care not just for ourselves but for others based on an awareness of our interlinked fates lies at the heart of Buddhism — and indeed all of the world’s great religions.

These teachings challenge families, communities and nations to act in concert for the advancement of our common well-being. That is the best way to secure individual and collective progress in an interdependent world.

We must also change longstanding assumptions and open our minds to new ideas and possible solutions if we are to address major global threats, from the proliferation of deadly weapons to intolerance and inequality.

I invite Buddhists and people of all traditions to use the occasion of the Day of Vesak to reflect on how we can change our actions to pave the way for a more sustainable future.


Secretary-General, in Message, Calls Vesak Day Occasion to Examine How Buddhist

Teachings ‘Can Inform Our Response to Prevailing Challenges’

17 May 2013

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for Vesak Day, to be observed on 24 May:

Vesak Day is a celebration for Buddhists worldwide and an opportunity for all members of the international community to benefit from their rich traditions.  This year’s observance, falling at a time of widespread strife and misery, is an occasion to examine how Buddhist teachings can inform our response to prevailing challenges.

Confronting the troubling problems facing our world is consonant with Buddhism.  The Buddha himself, as a young prince, left the safety of his palace to discover the four sufferings of birth, sickness, old age and death.  While such painful realities cannot be avoided, Buddhism offers insights into how to cope with them.  Its history is replete with inspiring examples of the transformative power of Buddhist philosophy.

The legendary King Ashoka, a conqueror who presided over a brutal reign in India some three centuries after the Buddha’s passing, ultimately converted to Buddhism, renounced violence and embraced peace.  The values that King Ashoka espoused, including human rights, democratic governance and respect for the dignity of life, are common to all great religions.  The fact that he was able to embrace them after years of brutal war offers proof that the goodwill of individuals can end widespread suffering.

Now more than ever, we need the spirit of non-violence to help inspire peace and quell conflict.  I offer my best wishes to believers celebrating Vesak Day, and my sincerest hopes that we may all draw on spiritual ideals to strengthen our resolve to improve our world.


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