On Wednesday, May 16, the White House held its second-ever Vesak ceremony, celebrating the day that commemorates the Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment. Last year marked a historic first when representatives from the three major Buddhist traditions gathered for prayers and candle lighting. This year carried on the momentum in an important moment for Buddhists everywhere.

Once again, Wangmo Dixey, President of the The International Buddhist Association of America, organized the event, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff presided over the ceremony, attended by leaders of all three Buddhist traditions. Ajahn Thanat Inthisan of Washington D.C.’s Wat Thai represented the Theravada tradition. Venerable Dr. Jinwol Lee of Gosung Monastery in Livermore, California and Venerable Wol of the Bub Hwa Buddhist Temple in Annandale, Virginia represented the Mahayana school. Venerable Khenpo Tsultrim Tenzin of the Tibetan Meditation Center in Frederick, Maryland represented the Vajrayana tradition. Venerable Wol was the first Bhikkhuni to take part in this ceremony.

Vesak White House
Prayers at the White House Vesak Ceremony on May 16, 2022 | Photo courtesy The International Buddhist Association of America

On Twitter and Instagram, Emhoff shared photos from the occasion and acknowledged the role of faith in difficult times. 

President Biden also released a statement: 

Jill and I extend warm wishes to Buddhists in the United States and around the world as they celebrate Vesak. This sacred day is a time to reflect on the Buddha’s teachings, including the need to work for peace and justice, recognize our common humanity, respect and preserve the nature that surrounds us, and cultivate humility and compassion. The Buddha taught that we are but guests visiting this world, and for over 2,500 years, those who adhere to these teachings have enriched and strengthened this world we share. As we mark Vesak, we honor the American Buddhists who contribute so much to our country and advance our common values.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are more than 3.5 million Buddhists in the United States, which makes it the country’s third largest religion. In a press release, Wangmo Dixey said, “It is of great value to be able to gather in this way, not only on behalf of Buddhists in America, but on behalf of Buddhists world-wide and for all sentient beings.”

White House Vesak Ceremony
Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, IBAA President Wangmo Dixey, and leaders from all three Buddhist traditions | Photo courtesy International Buddhist Association of America
Vesak White House
The White House Vesak Ceremony on May 16, 2022 | Photo courtesy The International Buddhist Association of America

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