The Buddhist Churches of America participated in the first-ever celebration May 26 of Vesak — the Buddha’s birth, enlightening and passing — at the White House.
In honor of the occasion, President Biden issued the following official statement from the White House:
“Jill and I extend our warmest wishes to Buddhists in the United States and around the world as they celebrate Vesak, the day honoring the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha. The ceremonial lighting of a lamp, the symbol of this holiday that has been celebrated for over 2,500 years, reminds us of Buddhism’s teachings of compassion, humility, and selflessness that endure today. On this day, we also commemorate the many contributions of Buddhists in America who enrich our communities and our country as we all work together toward brighter days ahead.”
The White House celebrated Vesak with the Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff, lighting a candle in the White House in the presence of three Venerables representing Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. This occasion also marked the first time all of them came together under #peaceloveunity.
The event was coordinated by Wangmo Dixey, President of the International Buddhist Association of America through the offices of Shekar Narasimhan, President of the Dharma Into Action Foundation.
Lamps were lit and prayers offered by the Most Venerable Uparantan (representing Sri Lankan and Americans) on behalf of the Theravada tradition; BCA Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada (representing Japanese and Americans) on behalf of the Mahayana tradition; and Venerable Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche (representing Tibetan and Americans) on behalf of the Vajrayana tradition.
“It is wonderful that prayers were offered from all three great traditions of Buddhist practice here, at the heart of American democracy,” Dixey said. “It is so auspicious that this should happen on this day of celebration of the life and teachings of the Buddha.”