(As delivered)Venerable monks,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to speak on this occasion of the ceremony for the International Day of Vesak. I would like to thank Ambassador Perera of Sri Lanka and Ambassador Srivihok of Thailand for taking the lead in organizing this important event.
In Japan, Buddhist temples all over the country hold “Flower Festivals”, or “Hana-matsuri” in Japanese, on April 8 celebrating the birth of Buddha. At these festivals, we often see children parading with a model of a white elephant, which is a symbol of the birth of Buddha. Celebrants pour a sweet tea made from hydrangeas on small Buddha statues decorated with flowers, as if bathing a newborn baby.
Buddhism was first introduced to Japan in the mid-sixth century. After reaching Japan, it became deeply rooted in our society and culture. The influence of Buddhism is everywhere and it continues to influence many aspects of our daily life.
Buddhism itself is a faith that is characterized by a spirit of tolerance, harmony and interconnectedness of all phenomena. These ideas contribute to our collective efforts to ensuring the human security of all. These basic ideas are very old, but I believe that they are still fresh and relevant, giving us guidance on how people and States should act and react when facing global problems such as armed conflict, and climate change.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Unfortunately, the world today confronts the spread of violence and conflict, prevailing under the pretext of religion. These conflicts stem from differences of opinion and interpretation, intolerance and lack of mutual respect. To overcome these differences, interfaith and intercultural dialogues are as necessary as ever.
Japan is therefore willing to promote dialogues among different cultures, and actively participates in initiatives undertaken by the United Nations in this area, including the activities of UNESCO and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and supports other relevant UN resolutions.
To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, and co-chair, I sincerely believe that the teachings of Buddhism can inspire our efforts to sustain peace through its emphasis on generating peacefulness and mutual understanding in the hearts and minds of each and every one of us. After all, peace is not just the absence of war, but a state of mind that should be cultivated and practiced among individuals in our daily lives, as high venerable Henepola Gunaratana emphasized in his valuable sermon today.