4.106. The United Kingdom - Bath Spa University

Thứ sáu - 10/05/2019 22:50
Venerable Professor Dr Mahinda Deegalle

For UN Vesak Day 2019

Vesak has gradually become an international ecumenical Buddhist congress. In Buddhist societies, this ecumenical trend began with the recognition of Vesak as the “Buddha Dayby the United Nations General Assembly resolution no. A/RES/54/115 in 2000. This year (2563 B.E.) is the sixteenth congress of international Buddhist ecumenism. Last few years three Asian societies (Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka) have sponsored the congress.

On 25 May 1950, at the World Congress of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) Professor G.P. Malasekera (1899–1973) along with 129 Buddhist delegates from 27 countries adopted the resolution to accept the Buddhist flag as international flag. Vietnamese reformer Buddhist monk, Thích TLiên (1903–1977), who participated in the WFB Congress in Sri Lanka returned to Vietnam with the Buddhist flag. Ever since the Buddhist flag has been raised in Vietnam.

Declaring Vesak and raising the Buddhist flag led unfortunately to political crises. Thich Nhat Hanh noted that in 1957 the Vietnamese government abolished the annual official celebration of Vesak. As a result, the Buddhist population began to celebrate Vesak with greater enthusiasm. In May 1963, Buddhists in the city of Huế were denied the right of displaying the Buddhist flag during the Vesak. When flying the Buddhist flag banned, demonstrations began with defiance as the one led by Thích Trí Quang (b. 1924). Government suppressions led to death of nine unarmed civilians further worsening the crisis. On 3 June 1963, when protesters attempted to march towards the Chùa TĐàm, they were subjected to waves of tear gas, attacks by dogs and douses of brownish-red liquid resulting hospitalization of 67 for chemical injuries. These


hard measures on the public failed to contain protesters. Negative religious policies towards Buddhists led to further protests leading to the self-immolation of Thích Qung Đức (1897–1963) at a busy Saigon intersection on 11 June 1963. After the end of Vietnam War (1955–75) when Vietnam was unified recognition of Vesak ceased. In recent years, however, Vietnam has hosted two large- scale international Buddhist congresses (2008 and 2014). This year (2019), too, the Republic of Vietnam is sponsoring the United Nations Day of Vesak.” I want to congratulate Buddhists as well as non-Buddhist public and the officials of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for sponsoring the Vesak celebrations. Also congratulations for the growing Buddhist ecumenism!

Venerable Professor Dr Mahinda Deegalle
Professor of Religions,
Philosophies and Ethics
Bath Spa University

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