Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.
Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.
Photo:UN Website/Pengfei Mi
Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. © UN Website/Pengfei Mi

This timeless message of unity and service to others is more important than ever. It is only together that we will stop the spread of the coronavirus and recover.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

"Vesak", the Day of the Full Moon in the month of May, is the most sacred day to millions of Buddhists around the world. It was on the Day of Vesak two and a half millennia ago, in the year 623 B.C., that the Buddha was born. It was also on the Day of Vesak that the Buddha attained enlightenment, and it was on the Day of Vesak that the Buddha in his eightieth year passed away.

The General Assembly, by its resolution 54/115 of 1999, 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, which also wish to be consulted.

Background

The teachings of the Buddha, and his message of compassion and peace and goodwill have moved millions. Millions around the world follow the teachings of the Buddha and on the Day of Vesak commemorate the birth, the attainment of enlightenment and the passing away of the Buddha.

A Message from the former Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, to Buddhists on the Day of Vesak in May 1986 reads:

"For Buddhists everywhere it is indeed a felicitous opportunity, while commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Guatama Buddha, to celebrate his message of compassion and devotion to the service of humanity. This message is today perhaps more relevant than ever before."

Peace, understanding and a vision of humanity that supersedes national and other international differences are essential if we are to cope with the complexities of the nuclear age.

This philosophy lies at the heart of the Charter of the United Nations and should be prominent in all our thinking, especially during this International Year of Peace"--Javier Perez de Cuellar.

Message of the UN Secretary-General

I send warm wishes to all celebrating the Day of Vesak, a sacred occasion to millions of Buddhists around the world.

As we honour the birth, enlightenment and passing of Lord Buddha, we can all be inspired by his teachings.

And as the human family suffers the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded of the sutra: “Because all living beings are subject to illness, I am ill as well.”

This timeless message of unity and service to others is more important than ever. It is only together that we will stop the spread of the coronavirus and recover.

On the Day of Vesak, let us celebrate Lord Buddha’s wisdom by taking action for others with compassion and solidarity, and by renewing our commitment to build a peaceful world.

António Guterres

A monk pilgrim meditating under the Bodhi tree in the sacred garden of Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha

UNESCO is currently implementing a project to develop a unique Buddhist Heritage Route for Sustainable Tourism Development in South Asia with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). South Asia is host to a rich Buddhist heritage that is exemplified by the World Heritage properties across the region.

Borobudur Temple Compounds (Indonesia)

Religious movements and religions have had an important role in the history of the Silk Roads. It is notably the case of Buddhism, which had a considerable influence on the early trade routes. Within these growing trade route networks, Buddhism started its development from the Indian Subcontinent, and reached other regions along the Silk Roads. Buddhism dogma was to a great extent in favour of trade, and encouraged commerce and investment.

Geometric illustration with the Secretariat building at UNHQ, New York.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.