Vietnam UN Vesak story published in The Seoul
Getting Ready for Buddha's Big Day in Hanoi
By Dr. Manpreet Singh
Group photo of International Organizing Committee members
at Vietnam Buddhist University in Ho Chi Ming City. Over 30 members from
more than 20 countries gathered to plan the grand celebrations at Hanoi.
Buddhist Monk Su Giac Hoang travelled
hundreds of miles away from his remote monastery to Ho Chi Minh City to
be part of the preparations under way for the United Nations Day of
Vesak 2008. He finds it hard to believe that Vietnam is hosting one of
the world's most important and biggest Buddhist events in Hanoi next
"All my monk friends and nuns are excited
about it. It is a day of great significance for the Buddhist clergy and
lay people. I came to serve and assist in making this event a great one
for Vietnam," a cheerful Hoang said.
The two-day preparatory meeting of the
International Organising Committee (IOC) for the United Nations Day of
Vesak (UNDV) 2008 was held last month at the Vietnam Buddhist University
in Ho Chi Minh City.
Over 30 IOC members from more than 20
countries including the USA, Australia, Italy, Russia, Japan, China,
Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri
Lanka and India chalked out grand plans for the UNDV celebrations to be
held in Hanoi from May 13 to 17 next year. About 4000 Buddhists from all
over the world would gather for the celebrations.
The scene at the meeting's venue was marked
by religious fervour and meticulous planning. The meeting started with
homage to the Triple Gem ? the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha? with
all the IOC members standing up for prayers in deep reverence. The
enthusiasm amongst the participants was palpable.
Monk Su Giac Hoang
coming to serve the Dhamma.
Nations in a resolution in 1999 decided to celebrate the thrice-sacred
day of Vesak in the month of May. The first celebrations were held way
back in the year 2000 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Subsequently, these celebrations have successfully been held in Bangkok
The celebrations will commemorate the
2252nd Year of the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away of the Buddha
Gautama. The event is seen as an opportunity to spread worldwide the
Buddha's message of peace, love and harmony for the welfare of humanity.
IOC chairman for UNDV 2008, Most Venerable Professor Le Manh That, said
the event was getting immense support from all quarters, including the
government. "The government is warming up to the needs of the people.
And spirituality is never far from the hearts of the people. The
celebration is a sign of growing spirituality in the Vietnamese
Briefing media about the large-scale
preparations underway, IOC secretary, Venerable Dr. Thich Nhat Tu
informed the celebrations would include spiritual retreats by the
world-famous Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and academic conferences
consisting of six workshops.
"World Buddhist leaders would deliberate
over the problems faced by the humanity today. The problems like war,
conflict, poverty and violence will be discussed, while seeking a
Buddhist perspective and contribution towards building a just,
democratic, and civil society," he said.
IOC members standing in deep reverence to the Triple Gem,
before starting the two-day preparatory meeting.
Venerable Nhat Tu added: "Things are moving
smoothly. Every one is working very hard. After all it is a moment of
rare honour for the Vietnamese people."
The celebrations would emphasise Buddhist
and cultural values of Vietnam. Vietnamese traditional cultural shows
and Buddhist cultural exhibitions will be organised at the conference
venue as well in the Temples' premises in Hanoi. There will be religious
chanting from different Buddhist traditions. Special activities like
cultural fairs, food fairs and cultural activities will also be held for
the local people's participation.
The world's distinguished Buddhist scholar
and master Venerable Dr. Bhikkhu Bodhi from the USA would deliver an
opening keynote speech on the main theme of the celebrations. The UN
Vesak Day ceremonies will be opened by the President of Vietnam.
A special speech will be delivered by the
Prime Minister of Vietnam during the closing ceremony and he would host
a dinner for the 150 distinguished Buddhist leaders and scholars.
An excited Tu Y, a librarian, says everyone is waiting
for the big celebrations.
Noble Laureate Professor Amartya Sen is
expected to speak on Buddhist perspective on economics and welfare
development. While a candle-lit procession for world peace and progress
will be organized after the closing ceremony, joined by all the
delegates and local people.
The awareness about the Vesak 2008
celebrations is catching up with the young and old alike in Ho Chi Minh
City and around the country, following large media coverage of the
Bhikkhuni Lien Viet says she has been
reading about celebrations in newspapers and along with her friends is
looking forward to the celebrations. "We look forward to meeting and
benefiting from interaction with the Buddhists from across the world. We
all are excited," she said.
A 58-year-old library assistant, Tu Y,
finds her emotions too strong to hide: "People not only in Ho Chi Minh
City , but throughout the provinces are getting ready for it. They think
about it and are waiting for it."
IOC members visiting the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha,
after the preparatory meeting to inform them of the grand plans decided
during the meeting.
This big event being held in vietnam for
the first time offers both an opportunity and challenge to the
Vietnamese Buddhists. Professor Elise De Vido, an IOC member from
Taiwan, said: "It is a great honour and challenge for Vietnam's Buddhist
circles to plan such a large and important international event. I'm sure
that the distinguished and hard-working members of IOC and those in
Vietnamese Buddhist circles will succeed in bringing real breakthroughs
for Vietnamese society, to communicate to Vietnam and the world how
Buddhism can contribute towards a civil society."
Every Buddhist and particularly the
Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha is putting all its resources and efforts
behind the event it a big success, said Venerable Thich Nhat Tu.
In a rush of activity, contributing his own
little but important part towards the success of Vesak 2008
celebrations, is busy monk Su Giac Hoang. He sums up the feeling among
Vietnam's Buddhists and the Sangha: "Everyone realises the significance
of this big day. So everyone is busy working towards the success of the
Buddha's big day. I just can't wait to be there in Hanoi for the
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Dr. Manpreet Singh, who
serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times, is a freelance
journalist and photographer in India. He has published a number of
articles and photos in Indian and international newspapers and