Vesak celebrations and UN Day of Vesak 2017-STATEMENT BY THE NATIONAL JOINT COMMITTEE
Posted on May 3rd, 2017

Dr Anula Wijesundere ,Col. Anil Amerasekera Co – Chairpersons, National Joint Committee

Buddhism is the national religion of Sri Lanka ever since the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka 2300 years ago by Arahant Mahinda and ready acceptance and embracement of Buddhism by King Devanampiyatissa and his subjects. It has enjoyed full state patronage right up to the time that the country came under the occupation of three European countries (1505 – 1948).  The state patronage of Buddhism has been restored to some extent, since grant of independence in 1948.

Vesak is the most important Buddhist festival in the annual calendar as it  honours the three auspicious events (Themagula) i.e. birth, enlightenment, and Mahaparibbana of the Buddha. It is commemorated on a large scale as an exclusive Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka and the rest of the Buddhist world.

The United Nations General Assembly has accepted Buddhism as one of the oldest religions in the world contributing to the moral, ethical and spiritual development of humanity for a period in excess of  two and half millennia and acknowledged the importance of Vesak” in 1999 by its resolution 54/115 as worthy of commemoration annually at the United Nations Headquarters and UN Offices.

Sri Lanka has been tasked to host the United Nations International Day of Vesak in 2017, under the theme Buddhist Teachings for Social Justice and Sustainable World Peace”.  The programme includes an International Buddhist Symposium and the participation of a significant number of delegates from 100 countries.

Celebration of Vesak

The National Joint Committee (NJC) while acknowledging the significance of holding the UN International Day of Vesak 2017 in Sri Lanka and resulting boost to the image of the country internationally, has noted with despair several advertisements placed in the leading newspapers of the country recently.

Throughout Sri Lanka’s Buddhist History lasting for over 2300 years Vesak has been an exclusive Buddhist Festival with only Buddhist symbols and decorations been displayed to mark the most important occasion in the Buddhist calendar. Even at worst of times during colonial rule under three Christian powers, this festive day for Buddhists was never highlighted with symbols of other religions.

There appears to be a calculated effort to depart from this long established tradition in Sri Lanka if we are to take cue from these advertisements which have been running in the leading newspapers in the last seven weeks (Sunday Times 2, page 10 – April 9, 2017).

While the main focus of the advertisement is on celebration of Vesak the margins of the advertisement at both the top and bottom ends are lined with the symbols of four religions, namely, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

In addition, the advertisement attempts to dissuade the Buddhist public from constructing Dansals to feed the poor, engaging in celebration of Vesak in a fitting manner being a once a year occasion (Festival of Lights), and projecting Sri Lanka as a pre- dominant Buddhist country.

We have noted that while austerity is being advocated for Buddhists in celebration of Vesak this year, no such caution was sounded when Christmas was celebrated under State patronage last December, 2017. An exorbitant and unnecessary amount was misspent and squandered in decorating Colombo streets and public squares (with hardly any people on the Streets compared to Vesak) with fancy lighting and bulbs to show case Christianity including the erection of a massive artificial Christmas Tree on Galle Face Green, disregarding wide protests from the vast majority of Lanka’s citizenry.

The rationale for inserting non – Buddhist religious symbols in respect to celebration of Vesak, in a  newspaper advertisement, is inexplicable except in terms of an agenda with possible State backing towards  Multi –culturalising and downsizing Vesak as an exclusive Buddhist festival.

The NJC is deeply disappointed over this trend. There must be a limit to appeasement under the cover of a so called ‘ Peace and Reconciliation’. The irrepressible mandate of the State under the Constitution (Article 9) is to protect and foster Buddhism, and not  to downsize and multi -culturalise the celebration of Buddhist festivals.

UN Day of Vesak 2017

It would indeed be tragic if the forthcoming UN Day of Vesak 2017 Conference due to be held in Colombo ( May 12 – 14, 2017) was to be used for promoting an agenda to spread inter – faithism and multi-culturalism, which have been introduced to countries with deep roots in Buddhist civilizational history e.g. China, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, etc. with a view to marginalise and drive out Buddhism from public life in these countries.

The Buddhist World will be further disappointed if the opportunity that will arise at the forth coming UN Day of Vesak 2017 Conference  will not be used to discuss the problems and challenges facing Buddhists and Buddhist communities in many parts of the world.

       Dr Anula Wijesundere 

       Col. Anil Amerasekera
Co – Chairpersons

National Joint Committee

6 Responses to “Vesak celebrations and UN Day of Vesak 2017-STATEMENT BY THE NATIONAL JOINT COMMITTEE”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Dear Dr Anula Wijesundere & Col Anil Amarasekera,

    Thank you for the above article. We agree with you re all you say here.

    Yes, the UN Day of Vesak 2017 must be used to discuss the problems and challenges facing Buddhists & Buddhist communities all over the world.

    Suggestion :

    In fact, it is a good opportunity to bring up the need to arrange a permanent PEACE between INDIA & Sri Lanka, and stop INDIAN interference in Lanka’s internal matters, and remove the illegal 13-A. The UN Security Council can hold both countries responsible for a sustained MoU for PEACE, and MoU respecting the Security Needs of both countries. Such a MoU must iinclude, among other items, the deportation of all illegal migrants in Lanka from Tamil Nadu and other parts of
    INDIA.

    It is also pertinent to ask ourselves WHY so many hundreds of thousands migrate to Lanka from the Tamil Nadu area.
    It is mainly because CASTE is stated on the Tamil Nadu birth certificates, and INDIA does the Census on a CASTE base.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Contd.

    All the other smaller countries around INDIA could have simlar arrangements for a permanent PEACE with INDIA.

    The best arrangement would be for all the smaller countries around INDIA to get together and have a UNION for PEACE with INDIA, through the UN.

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    While the main focus of the advertisement is on celebration of Vesak the margins of the advertisement at both the top and bottom ends are lined with the symbols of four religions, namely, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

    THINK!

    Isn’t this what the YAMAPALANA govt. also wants to do – A MULTIFAITH VESAK???

    Now you know where this comes from – ENDIA.

    Look how MULTIFAITH our ports are.

    1. Colombo – large X-MAS tree, a smaller Buddhist temple
    2. Trinco – Shiva statute
    3. Galle – very large mosque
    4. H’tota – a Buddhist temple

    #2 and #3 must change.

    SL was NEVER a secular country. It was always a Buddhist country.

    1. Hindus have 3 Hindu countries with a total population of 1.3 BILLION

    2. Muslims have 50+ Muslim countries with a total population of 1 BILLION

    3. Christians have 50+ Christian countries with a total population of 1 BILLION

    4. All we ask is a few Buddhist countries including SL, Bhutan, Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia with a total population of 200 million.

    Isn’t it fair!

    TRIPITAKA was written in SL.
    BUDDHA’s ONLY FOREIGN TRAVEL was to SL.
    World’s tallest Buddhist temples in SL.

    There is NO reason why SL shouldn’t be a BUDDHIST COUNTRY.

    Have some reasonability HINDUS, MUSLIMS and CHRISTIANS. You have your own religious sanctuaries. Give SL to Buddhists.

  4. Charles Says:

    Sri Lanka should not have accepted to celebrate Wesak under the UN Theme ““Buddhist Teachings for Social Justice and Sustainable World Peace.”

    Wesak is a time for not celeberation but to understand the meaning of the teachings for breaking the bonds of Samsara by spending the day in meditation and understanding the meaninf of self discipline in terms of the teachings of the Buddha. One has to practice, generosity ( dansal etc for pilgrims), self discipline (sila) and meditation(bhavana). This is not an occation to have a big gathering to discuss using Buddhism for social Justice ans sustainable world peace.

    The Buddhist teaching is for an individual effort to seek emancipâtion, and should be an example for others to follow. It is the individuals capacity to understand using the Dhamma for social interaction that would end in creating a peaceful environment which would if taken as an example be extended as a means for world peace.

    Buddhism has no track with Christianity, Islamism or Hinduism.

    Buddhism is a teaching above all that and cannot be restricted to only a celeberation during Wesak but extended as a way of living following the five precepts by every one without religious distinction. This UN Celeberation as it is has a different Agenda and therefore it should be scrapped as a day for propagating the importance of living with other religions without high lighting the difference between other religions and the Buddha Dhamma. Buddha Dhamma is a unique human experience where the roots of the true Dhamma is in Sri Lanka.

    Therefore Buddhism should be Constitutionally protected in Sri Lanka as the heritage of Sri Lanka a Dhamma and a philosophy which is a World Heritage to be protected from being assailed by Christians, Muslims or Hindus. The Dhamma which should be burrowed by each and every other Nation and protected by each one of them and used for social justice,peace within each of the Nations which would ultimately assure a sustainable World Peace.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    I agree with Charles!

    This is a UN effort to divert Buddhists away from its practice to their global campaign to rendering them defenceless again encroachment by foreign faiths.

    That was an approach used by Westerners and Diaspora Tamils during the EELAM war years as well, preaching Buddhism to us to allow the Tamil Terrorists to conquer our country.

    They forgot that before we became Buddhist upasakayas, we were Sinhala warriors! If Buddhism is to drive in Mothe Lanka, we Sinhala as must defend their right to live and practive Buddhism in thus land graced thrice by the Lord Buddha himself.

    Leave our Wesak alone for us to practice; do not internationalize or commercialize it.

    Instead of erecting barriers against our protecting and fostering our faith within our own country, and assaulting us at every turn with attempts to convert our faith into an ACHCHARU internationlized global palliative.

    We don’t interfere in your Christian, Muslim and Hindu nations; don’t interfere in our Buddhist nation!

  6. Ananda-USA Says:

    Oops! I meant to say …..

    This is a UN effort to divert Sri Lankan Buddhists away from their traditional personal practice of Buddhism at Wesak into a globalized international peace effort designed to render them defenceless against encroachment of their country and the conversion of Buddhists to other faiths.

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