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Statement of H.E. Kshenuka Senewiratne, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at the Buddhist Embassy Vesak Day Programme, 7th May 2020

Thursday, 07 May 2020

With the Permission of the Most Venerable Members of the Maha Sanga

Dear devotees

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I join all of you to celebrate this thrice-blessed day of Vesak. I wish to thank Mr. Visita Leelaratne for organizing this event on an international scale this year, despite the trying times we face today.

The world is currently facing an unprecedented crisis with that of the COVID -19 pandemic. People around the world are gripped with uncertainty, chaos, anxiety, depression and the looming fear of the disease and related death.

It is precisely in these times of darkness that the timeless teachings of the Buddha become a source of solace, just as it did for the people of the city of “Visala” when famine, pestilence and the fear of the spirits of those departed prevailed. Undoubtedly, the chanting of the “Ratana Sutta” today will help strengthen and make us all resilient to face the challenges posed by this virus, as happened when Lord Buddha chanted this sacred Sutta and dispelled disease and fear. Particularly since the pandemic has breached all international boundaries, I am grateful to the most venerable monks who will be reciting this Discourse on this hallowed day, in their bid to usher in good health and safety for people all over the world.

Venerable Maha Sanga,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Venerable Monks from the temples of the New York tri State area and beyond have played an important role in supporting the endeavours of the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in the celebration of the International Day of Vesak each year.  We are indebted to the untiring efforts of the late Most Venerable Kurunegoda Piyatissa thero of the New York Buddhist Vihara and fellow monks, who provided invaluable support to the successful initiative of the late Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Lakshman Kadirgamar, to obtain UN recognition for the International Day of Vesak in 1999.  Due to their Herculean efforts, the International Day of Vesak is now celebrated at the United Nations Headquarters and all its offices around the world. 

Following this initiative, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, together with that of Thailand, host an annual commemorative event at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. This occasion is open to all members of the United Nations, and particularly those with Buddhist communities, to mark the sanctity of the birth, enlightenment and parinirvana of Lord Buddha.

The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka also organizes an almsgiving to over 50 venerable Buddhist monks from different countries on Vesak Day, with the participation of Permanent Representatives and diplomats from countries with a Buddhist community. Regrettably, due to the prevailing pandemic conditions, the customary observation this year has been postponed to a later date, compelling its organization on a modest scale. I take this opportunity to thank the most venerable monks of the Buddhist temples of the tri-State area of New York for their support and guidance to make this annual event a success.

As we honour the sacred Day of Vesak this year, we are reminded of the relevance of the Dhammapada “arogya parama laba” – that health is the most precious wealth.” (Dhammapada 204) As we face these troubled times, let us find comfort in the Buddhas’ philosophy, by engaging in its practice and moving forward with hope for the future. This path should be guided by the tenet of impermanence embodied in this philosophy, and its adherence to the conduct of daily life, based on the Four Noble States of Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekka. During these troubled times, it is imperative to rise above all differences and join together in unity and service to overcome the dangers in pursing a life of normality.

I take this opportunity in wishing all of you by recalling the blessings ‘Sabbitiyo Vivanjantu- Sabbarogo Vinassatu’ - may all misfortune be averted and may all sickness be healed.


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