As UN marks Buddhist holiday, Ban says spiritual ideals can help tackle global challenges

Lumbini, a World Heritage site, is the birthplace of Buddha. Photo: UNESCO/Nipuna Shrestha

24 May 2013 – The teachings of Buddhism can offer significant insights on how to face today's most pressing challenges, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, in a message marking Vesak Day, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.

“Now more than ever, we need the spirit of non-violence to help inspire peace and quell conflict,” Mr. Ban said.

“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.”

Mr. Ban noted that confronting troubling problems is a big part of Buddhism as the Buddha himself – when he was 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,” he said.

Mr. Ban also recalled that King Ashoka, who presided over a brutal reign in India in from 268-232 B.C., ultimately converted to Buddhism, renouncing violence and embracing 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.”

Mr. Ban offered his best wishes to Buddhists and expressed his sincere hope that “we may all draw on spiritual ideals to strengthen our resolve to improve our world.”

By its resolution 54/115 of 1999, the General Assembly recognized internationally the Day of Vesak to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over two and a half millennia and continues to make to the spirituality of humanity. This day is commemorated annually at the UN Headquarters and other UN offices, in consultation with the relevant UN offices and with permanent missions.

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