For successful hosting of the UN Day of Vesak 2014 Celebration, upon approval by the Government of Vietnam, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha had embarked on setting up the UN Day of Vesak 2014 International Organizing Committee, developing the master plan, and then conducting all necessary arrangements and preparations. The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha as well set up 19 sub-committees under the UN Day of Vesak 2014 International Organizing Committee to take care of different organizational aspects, including content, reception, culture, information and communication, decoration, protocols, dharma propagation, fund raising …
In addition to approving for the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha to host the 11th UN Day of Vesak, the Government of Vietnam had given its precious support by instructing the setting of an inter-ministerial joint working group, headed by the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs cum Chairman of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, and consisting of members from concerned miniseries, agencies and localities, with the purpose of providing supports to the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha in the preparation and organization of the UN Day of Vesak 2014.
Thanks to devotion, relentless efforts and precious contributions by many, including the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha and Vietnam Government, Buddhists and non-Buddhists, Vietnamese as well as foreign nationals, the 11th UN Vesak 2014 has achieved great outcomes and left deep impressions on those attending the events as well as those interested in the auspicious Buddhist event. These impressive outcomes can be summed up as the following:
1. Participants and guests
The UN Vesak 2014 Celebration has the attendance of more than 3000 delegates from 95 countries and territories worldwide, including about 1200 delegates being Buddhist dignitaries and scholars overseas, and tens of thousands of domestic and foreign Buddhist monks, nuns and followers.
Distinguished guests of the UN Day of Vesak 2014 included: the King and Queen of Tooro Kingdom; Prime Minister of Sri Lanka; Chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly Nguyễn Sinh Hùng; President of Vietnam Fatherland Front Nguyễn Thiện Nhân; Deputy Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand; Former Secretary General of Vietnam’s Communist Party Lê Khả Phiêu; Former Vietnam’s National Assembly Chairman Nguyễn Văn An; several Vietnamese ministers, deputy ministers and more than 20 ambassadors.
2. Messages to the UN Vesak 2014 Celebration
There are more than 130 congratulatory messages sent to 11th UN Vesak Celebration International Organizing Committee, including 10 messages from supreme patriarchies of international Buddhist sanghas; 21 from messages from heads of States, Embassy and Foreign Diplomatic Organizations in Vietnam; 5 messages from leaders of International Buddhist Organizations and 94 messages from leaders of Buddhist organizations and scholars in 43 countries and territories.
In particular, the congratulatory message by Most Venerable Thích Phổ Tuệ - Patriarch of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, delivered at the event by Most Venerable Thích Đức Nghiệp profoundly stated "Celebrating Vesak 2014 is a good opportunity for our country as well as the Vietnamese Buddhist community to work in collaboration with the international Buddhist community for spreading Buddhist dharma and promoting Buddhist studies for the sake of all human beings”.
Mentioning the theme of the UN Vesak 2014 Celebration, the UN General Secretary's message, delivered by UN Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam Pratibha Mehta, said: "I particularly welcome the theme of your celebrations in Viet Nam and your desire to explore the Buddhist perspective towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. While the Buddha's teachings are eternal, the Buddhist perspective is also valuable now as we accelerate our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and steer the world onto a more sustainable and equitable path of development”
In his message to the UN Vesak 2014 Celebration with the theme “Buddhists and Christians: Together Fostering Fraternity” the Chairman of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious dialogue called on Buddhists, Christians and all mankind to unite for universal values and said “Our world today is witnessing a growing sense of our common humanity and a global quest for a more just, peaceful and fraternal world. But the fulfillment of these hopes depends on recognition of universal values. We hope that interreligious dialogue will contribute, in the recognition of the fundamental principles of universal ethics, to fostering a renewed and deepened sense of unity and fraternity among all the members of the human family”.
3. Keynote speech
There are more than ten keynote speeches delivered at the plenary sessions of the international conference on the theme “Buddhist Perspective towards Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals”.
In these keynote speeches, profound Buddhist values, current world’s biggest challenges have been presented and clarified. Keynote speeches also highlighted Buddhist capacity and desire to apply Buddhist perspectives for achieving 8 UN Millennium Development Goals recorded in the UN Millennium Declaration at the 2000 Millennium Summit namely: 1) Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; 2) Achieving universal primary education; 3) Promoting gender equality and empower women status; 4) Reducing child mortality; 5) Improving maternal health; 6) Combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7) Ensuring environmental sustainability and 8) Global partnership for development.
In his keynote speech, Most Venerable Thích Đức Nghiệp - Deputy Patriarch of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha made a presentation on significant Buddhist contributions towards achieving the UN MDGs and detailed 6 key goals that international as well as Vietnam Buddhism would implement to achieve the UN MDGs, namely: 1) Eradicating poverty; 2) Eradicating diseases; 3) Eradicating illiteracy; 4) Eradicating wars; 5) Promoting gender equality and improving the status of the women in the society, and 6) Keeping a clean, green, civilized and beautiful eco-system.
3. Discussion workshops
For panel thematic discussions, 6 workshops have been organized. As scheduled, sub-themes in these workshops included: Buddhist Response to Sustainable Development and Social Change, Buddhist Response to Global Warming and Environmental Protection, Buddhist Contributions to Healthy Living, Peace-building and Post-Conflict Recovery, Buddhist Education and University Level Curriculum, and Buddhist Culture and Technology.
There are more than 200 topics presented by leading Buddhist academic scholars in the world and Vietnam in these workshops. These topic presentations put forward specific issues and recommendations for group discussions. In the end of workshop discussions, rapporteurs submitted workshop reports to the Secretariat of the International Council of Day of Vesak and drafting Committee of UN Vesak 2014 Declaration.
4. Ninh Binh Declaration
At the closing ceremony, the summary report was presented and delegates agreed on the UN Vesak 2014 Declaration towards Buddhist Perspective towards Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. Drafted based on results of workshop discussions the UN Vesak 2014 Declaration, or Ninh Binh Declaration, highlighted profound values of Buddhist compassion and wisdom in current world context, emphasized the desire to apply Buddha’s teaching as guidance for the overall well-being, development of human society, for solving current global issues, contributing to achieve eight UN Millennium Development Goals and beyond.
In regard to peace-building, Article 3 of the Ninh Binh Declaration stated: “To promote peaceful settlement of conflicts, respect for life, ending of violence and practice of loving kindness, nonviolence through dialogue and cooperation. To urge political leaders to settle the disputes related to sovereignty, territorial integrity and jurisdiction rights of economic zone and continental shelf through negotiation and other peaceful measures in conformity with UN Convention on the Law and Sea (1982) and international laws for the sake of maintaining world peace and stability”.
4. Praying for the world peace and prosperity
As scheduled, the praying ceremony with the theme “Praying for the world peace and prosperity” took place at Shakyamuni Square, Bai Dinh pagoda on May 8th. Preparation of stage for the praying ceremony profoundly figured Buddhist and Vietnamese culture towards: Platform used in the ritual was set up to three levels in accordance with round-shape Heaven worshipping stage (Dan Nam giao), designed in the concept of Buddhist five-color flag, Dong Son drum patterns and other traditional Vietnamese decorations. Included in the state were quart Buddha statues symbolizing the three historic events of the Buddha’s existence in this world: the Birth, the Enlightenment and the Passing Away.
The praying ceremony included 5 featured procedures that was performed by Buddhist groups in the North, the Middle and the South of Vietnam, including Six Offering Dance, Buddhist rituals for happiness and prosperity, wishing for the well-being of the deceased and the living,…
In the last activity of the ceremony, 95 delegates representing 95 countries and territories attending UN Day of Vesak Celebration stood up beside their national flag to ask for Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Dragon Gods and Dharma protectors blessing for fulfilling the UN Millennium Development Goals: “peaceful world, prosperous society; unshakable environment; developmental education; civilized culture”.
5. Other Buddhist and cultural activities
Besides the international conference on “Buddhist Perspective towards Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals” and the praying for the world peace and prosperity ceremony mentioned above, within the event of the UN Day of Vesak Celebration 2014, there are a wide range of indoor and outdoor Buddhist and cultural activities, including: The traditional Buddha bathing ceremony on May 8th; tree planting in Bai Dinh temple; International Chanting and prayer for world peace on 9th; Sight-seeing tour for all participants to Tran An ecological and historical sites, and a large Candlelight procession and chanting for peace on the 10th; Buddhist art shows in the opening and closing ceremonies; series of music performances named “Lotus Mind” in four days at the main gate in front yard of the main hall of Bai Dinh temple, cultural performances in a grand outdoor theater constructed in the heart of the temple complex, Dharma propagation sessions by senior monks during three days of the UN Day of Vesak Celebration 2014, and Buddhist films festival.
Acknowledging scales of activities within the UN Vesak 2014 Celebration, the Guinness Vietnam recognized 6 records, namely: 1) Largest praying ceremony for world peace and prosperity; 2) Largest Buddhist picture created; 3) Largest Buddhist art performance; 4) Largest candlelit offering to the Buddha; 5) Largest Buddhist film festival; 6) Biggest parallel sentences to welcome Delegates and Buddhists to the UN Vesak 2014 Celebration./.