Buddhist Monks Praise “Hospitality, Love, and Respect” from People of Pakistan During Vesak Observation
A Buddhist delegation from Sri Lanka visiting Pakistan this week praised the generosity and peaceful hospitality of the Pakistan people during an official visit to mark the Buddhist holiday of Vesak.
The 36-member delegation from Sri Lanka, comprising senior monastics, religious scholars, government officials, and pilgrims, was visiting Pakistan at the invitation of the government to attend the four-day Vesak celebration from 21–24 May. The event marks the second time that the Buddhist festival has been observed at an official level in Pakistan, following a similar celebration last year.* During their visit, the monks visited various historic sites of Buddhist significance, including Dharmarajika Stupa, dated to the 3rd century BCE, and the archeological site of the ancient city of Sirkap in Taxila, as well as Taxila Museum and the Takht-i-Bahi monastic complex (fl. 1st–7th century).
“The hospitality, love and respect shown by Pakistani people won our hearts,” the monks said at a ceremony organised by Pakistan’s National History and Literary Heritage (NH&LH) Division. “[The] preservation and maintenance of our sacred places by the officials is evident [sic] of the level of respect Pakistan has for our religious beliefs.” (Associated Press of Pakistan)
Vesak, also known as Buddha Purnima, or more informally Buddha’s Birthday, commemorates the birth, enlightenment (sopadhishesa-nirvana), and passing from this world (mahaparinirvana) of Shakyamuni Buddha. The occasion is a public holiday in many countries in Asia and is observed by millions of Buddhists all over the world.
The Sri Lankan delegation included a party of Buddhist nuns, who also praised their positive experience in Pakistan. “We came to Pakistan for the first time and received great respect and love from not only the officials, but also local people of the Buddhist sites,” they noted. “We are impressed with the arrangements of this festival in Pakistan, [the] warm welcome by the officials and hospitality of Pakistani people. It is just like we are at our second home.” (Associated Press of Pakistan)
Buddhism first took root in what is now Pakistan some 2,300 years ago, leaving a rich archaeological legacy of art and architecture. The Gandharan civilization, which flourished from the 6th century BCE–5th century CE, is credited with creating the first carved images of Shakyamuni Buddha in stone, stucco, terracotta, and bronze, most of which were enshrined in monasteries and stupas in the region.
The head of the Sri Lankan delegation, Ven. Prof. N. Gnanarathana, praised the strong ties shared by the two nations. “Pakistan is true friend of Sri Lanka and the common people also acknowledge this belief,” he said. “Whenever there is any debate or issue at international forums, Pakistan has always raised its voice in favour of Sri Lanka.” (The Nation)
Also acknowledging the significance of the occasion, Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Pakistan, Jayanath CP Lokuketagodage, observed: “Pakistan and Sri Lanka are tied in the bonds of mutual respect and love which are strengthening with each passing day.” He also expressed hope that Buddhists from other countries would participate in the Vesak celebrations next year. (Pakistan Today)
Data for 2010 from the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center indicates that 96.4 per cent of Pakistan’s population identifies as Muslim. According to Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority, an independent government agency, there were just 1,492 registered Buddhists in Pakistan as of 2012.
* Pakistan Hosts First Official Observation of Vesak Festival (Buddhistdoor Global)
Buddhist monks find Pakistan different from what int’l media projects (Associated Press of Pakistan)
‘Buddhist monks acknowledge Pakistani support’ (The Nation)
Sri Lankan Buddhist delegation leaves for Pakistan to attend 2nd Vesak Festival (Colombo Page)
Pakistan to host festival to mark Buddha’s anniversary (Pakistan Today)
Buddhist monks praise Pakistan govt’s support (Daily Times)
Related news from Buddhistdoor Global
7th Century Buddha Image in Pakistan Restored Nine Years After Islamist Desecration
Pakistani Press Attaché in Sri Lanka Known for Deploying “Buddhist Diplomacy” Leaves Post
Layers of Indo-Greek City Discovered in Swat Valley, Pakistan
Pakistan Sends Sacred Buddhist Relics to Sri Lanka for Vesak Festival
Related features from Buddhistdoor Global