THE BUDDHA’s message of solidarity and service to others is more important than ever, believes UN chief Antonio Guterres, noting that nations can deal with the consequences of the pandemic that only through global cooperation.
The UN secretary general’s remarks came during a belated commemoration of the International Day of Vesak, which celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.
The event, usually observed on the full-moon day in every May, had been postponed to Thursday (2) due to the pandemic.
The Buddha’s teachings can also help remind nations and people of the unity that is needed to meet the Covid-19 challenge, Gueterres said.
“Because all living beings are subject to illness, I am ill as well”, he said, citing a Buddhist sutra.
“It is only by combining our energies and expertise that we can address the tremendous fragilities in our world today. Only through international cooperation will we ease the economic and social consequences of the crisis, which are pervasive, but place particular burden on the world’s most vulnerable people and countries.”
The UN chief said strengthening bonds across barriers was vital to “recover better and build a healthier, more inclusive, sustainable, resilient and equitable world”.
Guterres also underscored that the sense of shared fate and collective compassion was both the spirit of the Buddha and the animating force of the Charter of the United Nations, which recently marked its 75th year.
President of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande said “faith can be a significant source of comfort and community resilience” in these “times of great anxiety”.
Buddhist teachings — such as “give, even if you have a little” — can be a balm for those grappling with the pandemic today, he added.
“May this commemoration serves as occasion to remind ourselves of the importance of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding – that are enshrined in the Buddhist teachings,” Muhammad-Bande concluded.
India’s permanent representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti, said during the virtual commemoration by Sri Lanka and Thailand that the Covid-19 pandemic had brought untold suffering into people’s lives.
“We now, more than anytime else, should remember the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, which teach us to bring the cycle of Dukka or Suffering to an end,” he said.
“As the Buddha said, ‘No one saves us but ourselves’.”
The ambassador stressed on the importance of embracing the Buddhist values of compassion, service to humanity, peace and non-violence, equality and equanimity and the middle-way practised for 2,600 years.
“These values, one way or another, find or should find resonance in the charter and work of the UN in a world where forces dividing us are numerous,” he added. “As the Buddha said ‘In the sky, there is no distinction of East and West’.”
Tirumurti highlighted India’s gifting of the replica of the Buddha of Sarnath to Sri Lanka, assistance in erecting the replica of the 1st century Torana Gate of the Sanchi Stupa in Malaysia, and role in renovation of global Buddhist heritage sites.
Vesak, the full-moon day in May, is the most sacred day to Buddhists across the world. The Buddha was born on this day in the year 623 BC.
The Buddha’s enlightenment and passing away also occurred on the same day years later.
In 1999, the UN adopted a resolution to mark International Day of Vesak to acknowledge Buddhism’s contribution over two and a half millennia to spirituality of humanity.