Asalaha Bucha Day

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The second full moon day, or the 15th day of the waxing moon, of the eighth Thai lunar month, is the Asalaha Bucha Day, which is another most sacred Buddhist holy days. Buddhists celebrate this day because of its important historic events in the past, or actually of over 2,500 years ago. Asalaha Bucha means paying hommage to the Buddha. This particular day commemorates the first Dharma discourse given by the Buddha to his first Buddhist monk, and thus constituting the birth of the Triple Gem of Buddhism; namely, the Buddha, the Dharma or his teachings, and the Sangha or his disciples.

After the Buddha had attained his Enlightenment, he decided to disseminate or teach the Dharma to others. At a Deer Park (Sarnath), near Benares, in India, he delivered his first sermon on the “ Four Noble Truths ” to his five- disciple group. Kondanna, the group head, was the first to achieve the “Eye of Dharma” or the first level of enlightenment. He was then ordained, and therefore became the very first monk. So, Buddhism, characterized by the Triple Gem, came into existence. From that very day, known later as the Asalaha Bucha Day, the “Wheel of Dharma” has been set in motion, until these present days.

This year, Asalaha Bucha Day falls on the 16th of July, one day before the beginning of Khao Pansa, a 3-month period of the Buddhist Rains Retreat. The celebration of Asalaha Bucha involves many religious ceremonies, cultural and traditional events, taking place in Bangkok temples and in temples all over the country.

Buddhists participate in the ceremonies by performing a variety of Buddhist activities at the temples, mainly merit-making ceremonies. They present food and alms to monks, give donations, listen to sermon preachings, and observe the Five Precepts or the Eight Precepts. Some practice meditation for mental discipline. Some more devout ones also practice renunciation in addition to the earlier mentioned activities, including wearing white robes and staying in the temple for a number of days. They chant prayers, abstain from all kinds of immoral acts, and try to have their mind purified.

In the evening of the Asalaha Bucha Day the believers join the Candle Light Procession, the “Vian Tian”, by walking 3 rounds around the main sermon hall, the temple’s sacred grounds, thus ending the communal activities of the day.