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Buddhists appeal for Vesak national holiday in India
The Buddhist Channel, April 12, 2006
Kandy, Sri Lanka -- A call has been made to India to declare Vesak as a public holiday. In a letter to the country's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ken and Visakha Kawasaki said that it was shocking that India does not celebrate Vesak.
<< India's National Flag: In the centre of the white band, there is a wheel in navy blue to indicate the Dharma Chakra, the wheel of law in the Sarnath Lion Capital. This center symbol or the 'CHAKRA', is a Buddhist symbol dating back to 200th century BC.
The letter further elucidated that "since Buddha walked and taught his Dhamma throughout north central India, and sent his venerable monks to every corner of the country, how is it that India does not officially recognize Vesak?"
It was also pointed out that the national flag of India bears the Dhammacakka, the Wheel of the Law, representing the Buddha’s teaching. "Even neighboring Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country with a relatively small population of Buddhists, celebrates Vesak, as a national holiday," said Vishaka.
The full text of the letter of appeal is given below:
The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Manmohan Singh
In December of 1999, the United Nations unanimously voted to declare Vesak, which marks the Birth, Enlightenment and Parinibbana of Lord Buddha, an official international holiday.
On 15th May 2000, the American scholar monk, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, spoke on behalf of all Buddhists and those others who respect and appreciate the Teacher’s wise and gentle message. He addressed the United Nations on that first official U.N. celebration of Vesak, saying:
“Ever since the fifth century B.C., the Buddha has been the Light of Asia, a spiritual teacher whose teaching has shed its radiance over an area that once extended from the Kabul Valley in the west to Japan in the east, from Sri Lanka in the south to Siberia in the north. The Buddha's sublime personality has given birth to a whole civilization guided by lofty ethical and humanitarian ideals, to a vibrant spiritual tradition that has ennobled the lives of millions with a vision of man's highest potentials. His graceful figure is the centerpiece of magnificent achievements in all the arts -in literature, painting, sculpture, and architecture.
“His gentle, inscrutable smile has blossomed into vast libraries of scriptures and treatises attempting to fathom his profound wisdom. Today, as Buddhism becomes better known all over the globe, it is attracting an ever-expanding circle of followers and has already started to make an impact on Western culture. Hence it is most fitting that the United Nations should reserve one day each year to pay tribute to this man of mighty intellect and boundless heart, whom millions of people in many countries look upon as their master and guide.”
Imagine our shock to learn that India, of all countries, still does not celebrate Vesak!
Since Buddha walked and taught his Dhamma throughout north central India, and sent his venerable monks to every corner of the country, how is it that India does not officially recognize Vesak?
Given that India still contains splendid monuments that bear testimony to Buddhism’s once all-pervasive presence, how can it be that the government of India has not yet set aside one day to remember and to respect Buddha?
India’s own flag bears the Dhammacakka, the Wheel of the Law, reresenting the Buddha’s teaching, so how it be that India does not celebrate Vesak?
Given that Indian Buddhists once again number in the millions, how can India hesitate or delay in commemorating this day most sacred to all Buddhists? Even neighboring Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country with a relatively small population of Buddhists, celebrates Vesak, as a national holiday. Isn’t it shameful that India does not properly commemorate Vesak, the day set aside by the U.N. and celebrated by the world’s Buddhists to remember and commemorate her greatest son!
We urge that Vesak be officially recognized as a national holiday in India, paying respects to the great Dispeller of Darkness, Gotama Buddha.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.
Ken and Visakha Kawasaki
Buddhist Relief Mission
75 Anniwatte, Kandy 20000