New York City Hall illuminated in Buddhist colors for Vesak

This week, New York City Hall and other municipal buildings were illuminated with the colors of the international Buddhist flag to celebrate Vesak. President of the Buddhist Council of New York Doyeon Park reflects on what this means to New York’s Buddhist community.

Doyeon Park
15 May 2024
New York City Hall lit up in blue, yellow, red, white, and orange — the colors of the Buddhist flag — for Vesak.
Photo via Mayor Eric Adams on Facebook.

In a remarkable display of acknowledgment and unity, New York City Hall and several municipal buildings lit up in the vibrant colors of the international Buddhist flag — blue, yellow, red, white, and orange — on the evening of May 13, 2024. This historic occasion marked the first time New York City celebrated Vesak, also known as Buddha Day, with such magnificent illumination.

Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana (final passing) of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, making it one of the most significant dates in the Buddhist calendar. The festival is traditionally celebrated worldwide, with particular reverence in Buddhist communities for its deep spiritual meaning.

Mayor Eric Adams expressed his warmest greetings to all those observing Vesak in New York, stating, “Vesak is a time of reflection, compassion, and unity. As we come together to celebrate, let us reaffirm our commitment to the timeless teachings of peace, understanding, and harmony among all peoples.” He added, “May this day inspire us to live with kindness and generosity, embodying the teachings of the Buddha in our daily lives.”

The illumination of New York City’s iconic buildings in the colors of the Buddhist flag not only honors this sacred day but also highlights the city’s dedication to cultural diversity and inclusivity.

As the President of the Buddhist Council of New York, this gesture of acknowledgment from the city is profoundly meaningful to me and the tens of thousands of Buddhist New Yorkers. It serves as a symbol of peace and unity. Our Buddhist community has expressed immense gratitude for this recognition, emphasizing the importance of spiritual diversity and the impact of Buddhist teachings on community welfare. Lighting the city in these peaceful colors of the Buddhist flag is a significant encouragement for all New Yorkers to embrace the values of compassion, generosity, and understanding.

As the lights shone brightly against the New York skyline, they symbolized hope and renewal, reflecting the core Buddhist principles of peace and enlightenment. The Buddhist Council of New York extends its heartfelt thanks to Mayor Adams and the city for this meaningful contribution to Vesak celebrations, marking a momentous day in New York City’s rich tapestry of cultural and spiritual life.

Doyeon Park

Doyeon Park

Rev. Doyeon Park is a Kyomunim, literally meaning one who devotes oneself to teach Buddha dharma in the Won Buddhist tradition. She has served as a minister of the Manhattan Won Buddhist temple and a representative of Won Buddhism at the United Nations since 2008. She is the Buddhist Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University and the Buddhist chaplain at New York University.