The Buddhist Churches of America participated in the first official White House celebration of Vesak — the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing — in another milestone event for Buddhism in the United States.
BCA Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada took part in the May 25 special event, which included an official statement from President Joe Biden that was issued on May 26, as well as a tweet from Vice President Kamala Harris on Vesak. Representing President Biden at the ceremony was the Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Harris.
“It was indeed an honor to represent not only BCA, but to represent all of Mahayana Buddhism, at the historic Vesak ceremony at the White House,” Rev. Harada said in his opening remarks at the June 5 BCA National Board meeting.
“We both had a most memorable experience and it opened up our eyes to what other Buddhists are doing to promote Buddhism in the West,” Rev. Harada said, referring to himself and Rev. Kiyonobu Kuwahara, program director for the Jodo Shinshu International Office (JSIO) and Supervising Minister for the Berkeley Buddhist Temple and Buddhist Temple of Marin. Rev. Kuwahara accompanied Rev. Harada to Washington, D.C.
During the White House ceremony, Emhoff lit a candle and spent about 30 to 40 minutes with the Buddhists, who represented the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions.