by Mr. Samak Sundaravej,Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, at United Nations Conference Centre (18/5/2008)
Most Venerable Members of the Sangha,
Most Venerable Rector of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University,
Mr. Executive Secretary,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here on the United Nations Day of Vesak of the Buddhist Era 2551. The Visakha Puja or Vesak day is one of the most meaningful days for all Buddhists. It marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Lord Buddha. On this auspicious occasion and on behalf of the Thai people, may I first pay my respects and express my warmest welcome to all venerable members of the Sangha and participants from countries around the world.
It is most fitting that we gather here at Bangkok’s United Nations Conference Centre. The Buddha’s message on being mindful of oneself, one’s actions and the world, and his teachings of compassion and peace, are indeed close to that of the UN. Inspired by that message, the UN General Assembly at its 54th Session in December 1999 adopted a resolution recognising the Day of Vesak to be an important day for the UN. Since then, Vesak has been celebrated in May annually at the UN Headquarters in New York and at its offices around the world. It has been an honour for Thailand to host the Vesak Day celebrations and International Buddhist Conferences for four successive years. This year Vietnam hosted the UN Day of Vesak for the very first time during 13-17 May in the capital of Hanoi.
I have learnt that some of the most venerable delegates and participants present here in fact attended the Conference in Hanoi, which was reported to be successful at both physical and spiritual levels. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to express my admiration to the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for the success of the organisation of the UN Day of Vesak 2008.
For over 2,500 years, the Buddha’s timeless teachings remain as relevant as ever. In our every day life, the Five Precepts, which emphasize respect for life, property and family; responsible speech; and mindful consumption of food and drink are basic moral codes that help create social harmony. If one thinks it over, he will realise that the Five Precepts reveal the way any responsible member of society should behave towards others. As Buddhists celebrate the UN Day of Vesak, we need to examine both the theory and practice of Buddhism. As Buddhism’s power comes from the Buddha’s teachings, we need to see how we can make the Buddha’s messages more accessible, more widely known, and have universal application. This is why I very much value this ongoing dialogue and cooperation, and look forward to learning from the collective wisdom of the Buddhist leaders and scholars gathered here. Ladies and Gentlemen, Before this learned audience, let me make some humble observations.
According to Buddhism, change is inherent in nature. Everything is in a constant process of change. And yet the Buddha’s “Middle Path”, the principles for appropriate conduct based on moderation, reasonableness, self-awareness and knowledge, are applicable to all levels of society and all kinds of activity. As we search for an appropriate development strategy for our societies, the “Middle Path” helps us find the right balance at each level to build a firm foundation to face the challenges of the present and future. By promoting moral values, the approach also helps strengthen society’s moral fabric. Through such a holistic approach to human development, one inspired by Buddhist principles, we will attain our goal of a more just, more equitable and more sustainable society.
Finally, let me thank all of you for your contributions to this conference. I also would like to thank the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University and the Organising Committee, for their excellent preparations.
I wish the celebration of the United Nations Day of Vesak 2008 every success, and hope that your endeavors will serve to further spread the Buddha’s message of peace and compassion to all of mankind.
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