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President Joe Biden, others use holiday of Vesak to praise Buddhist Americans

President Joe Biden Thursday marked the Buddhist holiday of Vesak, recognizing the contributions of American Buddhists. He said Vesak is a time to reflect on values, including the need to work for peace and justice. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
President Joe Biden Thursday marked the Buddhist holiday of Vesak, recognizing the contributions of American Buddhists. He said Vesak is a time to reflect on values, including the need to work for peace and justice. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday recognized the contributions of American Buddhists as he marked the Buddhist holiday of Vesak.

In a White House statement, Biden said, "Jill and I extend warm wishes to Buddhists in the United States and around the world as they celebrate Vesak. As we honor the birth, passing, and enlightenment of Buddha, we recognize the American Buddhists who contribute so much to our communities and our country. For over 2,500 years, those who adhere to the Buddha's teachings have enriched and strengthened this world we share."

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Biden added that Vesak is a time to reflect on Buddha's teachings, including the need to work for peace and justice.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also recognized the holiday, noting that religious diversity has strengthened the United States.

"On this day, we recognize the contributions of Buddhist communities across the United States, exemplifying the religious diversity that has strengthened our nation for generations," Blinken said in a statement. "As we work to ensure freedom of religion or belief for all, the United States renews its commitment to ensuring Buddhists around the world are free to celebrate Vesak in accordance with their traditions and values."

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Blinken said the full moon marks the Vesak celebration, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha.

He wished Buddhists across the world "a Happy Buddha Purnima."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited Canadians to embrace the values of generosity, service and compassion at the heart of Vesak.

"As Buddhists take this time to reaffirm their commitment to generosity, compassion, and selfless service taught by the Buddha, may we all keep building a stronger, more inclusive country," Trudeau said in a statement.

Trudeau said Vesak is the most sacred Buddhist festival and is a time of reflection, meditation and spiritual renewal for Buddhists in Canada and around the world.

Vesak is usually observed during the first full moon of May, but different Buddhist traditions celebrate on different dates.

Vesak is celebrated by decorating temples, singing hymns and bringing simple offerings to Buddhist teachers.

Some temples allow people to pour water over a small statue of Buddha in a ritual known as the bathing of the Buddha.

Charity work and acts of kindness are also done to mark the occasion and Buddhists are expected to avoid killing of any kind and are encouraged to eat vegetarian food on the day Vesak is celebrated.

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