The White House celebrated Vesak for the first time on Tuesday (25 May). The ceremony was attended by the Second Gentlemen, Mr. Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris.
The ceremony was conducted with the participation of three Venerable theros representing the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. The Most Venerable Katugasthota Uparathana Nayaka Thero, the Chief Incumbent of the Wheaton Buddhist Vihara represented the Theravada tradition. Officials representing the International Buddhist Association of America (IBAA) also attended the event.
Earlier in an official statement to mark Vesak President Joe Biden observed “Jill and I extend our warmest wishes to Buddhists in the United States and around the world as they celebrate Vesak, a day honoring the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha. The ceremonial lighting of a lamp, the symbol of this holiday that has been celebrated for over 2,500 years, reminds us of Buddhism’s teachings of compassion, humility, and selflessness that endure today. On this day, we also commemorate the many contributions of Buddhists in America who enrich our communities and our country as we all work together toward brighter days ahead.”
The representatives of the IBBA also participated in the Vesak Programme organized by the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington D.C. on Vesak Day, which included a ‘Buddha Pooja’, Dhamma Sermon and Pirith Chanting at the Embassy premises, followed by a Dhana (Alms Giving) for Maha Sanga at the Sri Lanka Residence. The Embassy staff and leaders of the Dayaka Sabba of the Greater Washington based Sri Lankan temples also attended these events.