New York

15 May 2009

Secretary-General's remarks at commemoration of the Day of Vesak

Excellencies, Venerable Monks, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to address you on this very meaningful international recognition of Vesak Day, to mark the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha. I thank the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea for organizing today's ceremony, and other Permanent Missions who have co-organized this occasion.

Millions of people around the world have been inspired by the Buddha's life and teachings.

I am one of them. My own mother is a devout Buddhist. She has been praying for me and my family and for peace and prosperity in the world. Maybe that is why I was so moved last year when I visited Nepal and saw the stone at Lumbini marking the Buddha's birthplace.

I was impressed by the monuments and monasteries. I will always remember the kindness of the monks at the Mayadevi Temple.

As I walked through the sacred area, I thought about the life journey of this extraordinary individual, who transformed himself from a sheltered prince to the founder of one of the world's great religions.

He was rich. He could have lived a carefree existence. But he was troubled by the suffering of others, so much so that he left behind the comforts of his palace to help others overcome the painful realities of life.

All of us can learn from the Buddha's spirit of compassion. His timeless teachings can help us to navigate the many global problems we face today.

The financial crisis, climate change crisis, pandemics, terrorism and other international threats prove that the fates of all people are interlinked. A problem in one country can quickly turn into a worldwide threat. I constantly remind leaders that we must act together or we will fail individually. I tell them that we must join forces in solidarity. Not only is this the right thing to do; it is in our best interests.

The need for global solidarity may seem like a modern concept, but it is not. More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught that nothing exists in isolation, and that all phenomena are interdependent. Just as profoundly, he taught that we cannot be happy as long as others suffer, and that when we do reach out, we discover the best in ourselves.

These teachings offer wisdom for our times, too. Now it falls to each of us, wherever we are and whatever we do, to carry on this spirit. As we celebrate this Day of Vesak, let us resolve to help people who are suffering so that we may secure a better life for all.

Thank you.