Tarthang Rinpoche lights a candle during the first Vesak Celebration in The White House, as Wangmo Dixey, Marvin Harada, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff look on. | Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith

For the first time in U.S. History, the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinirvana was celebrated at The White House, with Tarthang Tulku lighting the Vesak lamps and offering prayers along with Rev. Marvin Harada and Venerable Uparatana. Through the esteemed colleagues, Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions were present together to share in this historic occasion.
The event was coordinated by Wangmo Dixey, President of the International Buddhist Association of America through the good offices of Mr. Shekar Narasimhan, President of the Dharma Into Action Foundation.Mrs. Dixey said; “it is wonderful that prayers were offered from all three great traditions of Buddhist practice here, at the heart of American democracy. It is so auspicious that this should happen on this day of celebration of the life and teachings of the Buddha. May the prayers we offer today bring peace and healing to all peoples, particularly to our brothers and sisters in India, the heartland of the Dharma, and may the light that radiates from here, the White House of America, bring wisdom and harmony to the whole world. We are lighting a million lamps today to honor this historical moment in our Buddhist history in America.”

In honor of Vesak, President Biden released an official statement from the White House:

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.”

We are pleased the White House has celebrated Vesak for the first time with the Second Gentleman, Mr. Douglas Emhoff, lighting a candle in the White House in the presence of three Venerables representing Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions.