This was a historic Vesak. For the first time ever, the White House sent a message for this holiday! From President Obama, “Michelle and I and our family extend our warmest wishes to Buddhists.…(on) Vesak, a day honoring the birth, enlightenment, and passing of Buddha. During this season, we reflect on Buddha’s universal teachings of peace, service, and recognition of common humanity — shared values that also bind us all as Americans…This occasion gives us an opportunity to recommit ourselves to building a brighter future for all communities, cultures, and religions…”
And Governor Jerry Brown, who studied Zen Buddhism seriously for many years, offered his salute to the diverse range of Buddhist citizens who have been part of California’s history, building railways, defending our country, cultivating the land… As he says, Buddhism celebrates “the practice of compassion, wisdom, and mindfulness, providing comfort, encouragement, and support for those facing life’s challenges.”
What exactly are we celebrating on Vesak? What does Vesak mean for people on the path of mindfulness quite separate from Buddhism? Why did we gather last week at InsightLA to observe this holiday — sitting together, enjoying refreshments, making offerings to those in need, and to our center? We do this to honor and remember the possibility of awakening. Awakening to a life of happiness, kindfulness, and freedom – this is truly a path to celebrate!