The Buddhist Council of New York (BCNY) partnered with The Columbia University Buddhist Association (CUBA) to present a celebration of Vesak Day at Columbia University’s iconic Low Library on April 29, 2023. Vesak Day, typically celebrated in early May, marks both the birth and parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni and is a day of celebration for Buddhists worldwide. Approximately 150 people gathered for the festivities.
The Buddhist Council of New York, founded in 1985, is an association of Buddhist Temples and organizations whose mission is to foster dialogue, cooperation and unity within the Buddhist community in the New York City area, as well as to organize three events annually: Meditate NYC, Vesak Day and the Buddhist Forum. In the 1980s, BCNY collaborated extensively with the United Nations, resulting in the U.N. recognizing Vesak Day as an official holiday for its employees. BCNY has recently been invited to collaborate with the NYC Mayor’s office of faith-based communities, and met with the Mayor this Fall.
The celebration included a number of prayers and talks from Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions as well as presentations from the Rev. Doyeon Park, President of BCNY and Mohsen Mahdawi, President of CUBA. While there were many schools of Buddhism represented, there was a common message that our basic nature is fundamentally pure, and that the essence of the various buddhist paths involves allowing our basic nature to emerge and radiate for the benefit of all. Vesak Day also featured performances including “Give Love” and “Triple Gems” from Tzu Chi and Buddha’s Light International Association, and culminated in the bathing of the Buddha, a traditional way of paying homage to the Buddha.
In most years, the Vesak celebration includes a colorful outdoor procession of various sanghas wearing traditional robes and carrying colorful banners. While the spring rains made the procession impractical, the entire afternoon was nonetheless filled with a sense of joy and goodwill.
See more photos of BCNY and CUBA’s Vesak celebrations below: