Address by Prime Minister of Nepal Rt. Hon. K P Sharma Oli at the UN Day of Vesak
12 May 2019, Ha Nam, Viet Nam
“Buddhist Approach to Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Sustainable Societies”
Most Venerable Dr. Thich Thein Nhon, President, International Congress Day of Vesak
Most Venerable Prof. Dr. Phra Brahmapundit, President, International Council for Day of Vesak
Most Venerable Monks
His Excellency Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
His Excellency President of Myanmar
His Excellency Vice President of India
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have brought warm greetings to you all from the land of Buddha and Sagarmatha; from sisters and brothers of Nepal !
I want to chorus with you- Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam ! ( May All be blessed to Auspiciousness)
Nepal is a land of wonderful people. The only thing they cherish is friendship with all and enmity with none.
The only thing they wish is peace, not only at their home, but also in the entire world, entire universe.
This fits well into this grand ceremony whose very objective is to foster understanding and harmony in a world that is marred by conflicts, tensions, uncertainties and contradictions. We believe in universal fraternity and harmony to be the guiding norms to govern relationship between states and their peoples.
Truly, this is an unforgettable opportunity for me and my country to be represented in this august UN Vesak Day celebration in a country with which we share not only a strong political relationship but equally strong cultural relationship, that brings our peoples closer.
Thank you, Prime Minister Phuc, for the kind invitation and for the warm welcome and generous hospitality.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
No words would capture the essence and importance of this day. On this very full moon day some 2643 years ago, the immortal son of the world, whom we reverently call Buddha, descended to this world. On the same day 35 years later, he achieved enlightenment and finally at the age of 80, some 2563 years ago he assimilated in the eternal peace. Such is the solemnity of the day.
I come from the blessed land where Buddha was born. It was a little hamlet in the southern plains of Nepal, where the seed of Buddhism was sown and its early sapling was nurtured. That was why Siddhartha Gautam gave up his crown princeship, his palace, his lovely wife, a cute and innocent son. He had got something and was willing to get more. Lumbini is therefore not only the birthplace of Buddha, but also the fountain of Buddhism.
Today, this place is the centre of attraction for pilgrims, scholars, researchers and those in quest of the ultimate truth and salvation !
Lumbini is more than this. It was an integral part of Shakya Ganarajya (Shakya Republic) with its Capital in Kapilvastu. It was an advanced city state by all standards of that period. Organized in the principle of republican system of governance, it was a flourishing republic and with a kingship elected by the people and thus governed under the able leadership of Shakyas. The recent excavation establishes the cultural and architectural significance of the Shakya Ganarajya. It was in this very land, the famous philosopher Kapil invented the ‘Sankhya’, known as the philosophy of numbers.
As Buddhism spread to the rest of Asia and the world, transferred alongside was the vast collection of knowledge and wisdom, ideas about life and livelihood, messages about social harmony and universal fraternity.
Today, the shared asset of Buddhism connects countries in Asia and beyond, including Nepal and Vietnam. Many of our people follow Buddhism as their core faith and the rest respect it as a pool of enlightened ideas and source of inspiration.
I am impressed by the great efforts of the people and Government of Vietnam towards preserving and promoting the treasure of Buddhism. I deem this Conference as a landmark in the continuum of the same admirable endeavor.
Buddhism has served for generations as the fountain of humanity; as the belief system focused on the quest for betterment of human beings, society and the world.
Like other belief systems, Buddhism, too, talks about the distinction between the worldly and the eternal, the transient and the endless. Yet, the unique appeal of Buddhism lies in its care of life and nature. One does not have to wait for the next life or another world to find happiness. Ultimate joy can be attained by anyone, any time, in this very world, in this very life. For this, we should just discard the hatred, self-interest and violence, and should fill ourselves with the spirit of compassion, fraternity and benevolence.
Buddhism thus seeks to empower people. Buddhism is rediscovery of humanity; disciplining, organizing and transforming of oneself, and, by setting example, transforming the rest of society. Its ultimate aim is to attain harmonious organization of society and world order: order that is based on justice, universal fraternity, peaceful co-existence, and human dignity.
In recognition of Buddhism’s contribution to world peace and harmony, the United Nations, whose very Charter is based on the Buddhist values of cooperation and co-existence, recognized, in the year 1999, ‘the Day of Vesak’. Such recognition should be a matter of pride for us.
Most Venerable and Excellencies,
And this is why Buddhism is relevant when it comes to the question of larger global leadership today. In fact, Buddha’s entire life is the testimony of ‘lead by example’. Without second thought, we can say that Buddha was a great visionary leader, who inspired people to shun vices and embrace virtues. He was able to reach the people and communities with love and compassion and lead them on the path of patience and perseverance amidst adversities of all kinds.
Buddha set an example that modesty and humility are the true traits of leadership, not aggression and ego. He passed on to the succeeding leadership the cognizance of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. Right view, Right intention, Right action, Right effort, Right speech are as much the fundamental qualities of today’s leadership as they were in the past.
Leadership is about having right vision of destination for society and guiding people on right path. But it is certainly not about being swayed by popular whims and momentary delusions. It is about right intention to bring positive results and serving for larger public good, not self-gratification. It is about creating harmony in society, promoting fraternity and treating everyone with respect and dignity.
Generosity and moral integrity are on top of all attributes of leadership that we can draw from Buddha’s teachings. Speaking to his principal disciple Ananda, Buddha made it a point that leadership is self-making, self-driving and self-motivating process.
‘Live and let live’ is the core tenet of Buddhism that immensely contributed to the wider Asian values of caring, sharing and pursuing larger societal good.
These noble traits are antithesis to silo mentality and divisive mindset that are increasingly finding space, particularly in today’s political spectrum in several parts of the world.
Today, society is getting more individualistic, consumerism is overshadowing the human values of auspiciousness and countries are becoming more inward-looking. Rhetoric of exclusion is gaining more traction than the message of inclusion. Short-term transactions are being prioritized at the cost the long-term peace, stability and harmony in the world.
Further, global geopolitics is getting fluid and full of uncertainties. The order that was created and the institutions that were built as modus operandi for countries and communities to work together are losing their hold. Existing multilateral system is under attack. Sense of shared responsibilities is dissipating.
True that we live in a world today, which is more prosperous than ever; wealthier than ever. Yet, one fifth of its humanity still lives under abject poverty, deprived of even the most basic needs, while the world’s military expenditure is getting higher every year.
The idea of economic justice is sounding more alien to us. The objective to realize the Sustainable Development Goals is facing challenge in receiving adequate international support.
Environmental degradation goes unchecked and the very sustainability of the world is under threat, thus posing the very question of existentiality. Paris Agreement on climate change survives amidst an uncertain fate. Terrorism continues to threaten peace and order in societies.
Amidst such disruptions, the core Asian values of universal fraternity, “Basudhaibakutumbakam” (the world is one family), peaceful co-existence and sense of sharing become all the more relevant for today’s leadership. The faithful observance of Panchasheel will serve as an important guide to foster understanding and harmony.
The notion of balance and Middle Path gains even greater significance; notion that demands us to shun excesses, accommodate diversities, find the ground for compromises; a path that world help avoid conflicts and chaos.
In our quest for peace, stability and sustainable future, pathway shown by Buddha always remains pertinent. Buddha’s messages emphasize balance and equilibrium between man and nature, between material and spiritual, between the day-to-day affairs and the perpetual.
Buddhism is strong against the three vices, namely ignorance or delusion (Moha), greed (Raga) and hatred (Dvesha), which are, in one way or other, the main causes of the crises the world is facing even today.
Strong linkage between Buddhism and nature needs no emphasis as everything we understand by Buddhism was systematized and formulated under a Bodhi tree, within the nature. Buddhism is about eschewing excessive desires, including desire for material possession.
As it is often said, famines do not occur due to lack of food; it occurs when there is no justice in distribution; it occurs due to culture of amassing more than what we need. Kindness and compassion are the main virtues to make human beings happy. When the culture of giving, sharing and helping others is predominant, society becomes blissful. In genuine philanthropy, givers and receivers are happy together.
Happy individuals are the key constituents of a happy society. Happiness depends both on the external nature and the inner self and Buddhism has answer to both. One of the treasure troves Buddhism offers for happiness is the art of “Dhyana” (meditation), which is getting increasingly popular. “The Dhyana” (meditation) is the state of concentration of mind which brings mental peace, thus making our physical being healthy and ultimately contributes to the foundation of peaceful society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this conversation about transformation towards peaceful and sustainable society, I feel inspired to share with you some thoughts on the kind of historic transformation Nepal and Nepali society have been able to achieve in recent past.
The home-grown peace process that we accomplished is a rare case and hence a topic of interest for study and research worldwide. Our journey of transformation from bullet to ballot is exemplary one, which is a testimony of how peace prevails eventually. We have not only ended the ten year long armed conflict but also brought the conflicting parties into peaceful political process.
An inclusive democratic constitution has been promulgated by an inclusive body of directly elected people’s representative, replicating the egalitarian Sangha way of Buddhism. Through the Constitution, people’s agendas have been established and a country that once suffered the brunt of conflict and violence is now marching proudly and with high optimism on the path of peace, stability and prosperity. Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali is our national aspiration.
Such transformation has been possible in the land of Buddha, land of Peace!
Buddha, Buddhism and Lumbini are inseparable. Buddhism cannot be disassociated from Buddha; it also cannot be disassociated from Lumbini.
To understand Buddha it is important to understand Lumbini. Visit to Lumbini is, therefore, once in a lifetime experience for those who follow Buddhism and those who admire its grandeur.
The birthplace of Buddha welcomes you with boundless affection.
The Government of Nepal wish to host United Nations Vesak Day programme in Lumbini. We are also planning to organize an international conference on Buddhism next year.
I take this opportunity to extend a cordial invitation to you all in Nepal.
To ease your travel, we are going soon to complete the works for the Gautam Buddha International Airport, which is about 20 KM east from Lumbini, and bring it into operation.
Lumbini’s development is in our priority. We have a plan to develop Lumbini as an international Peace City and a revered place for all humanity, for all Buddhists across the world, and for those who have interest and belief in the principles laid by Buddha.
Finally, I wish to thank the organizers for inviting me to speak on such a solemn occasion and on such a pertinent theme. I am grateful to all of you for your presence and patience.
Thank you !