Thursday, July 2, 2009

Asarnha Bucha Day

Asarnha Bucha means paying homage and worshiping on the day identified according to the Lunar calendar during the eighth month. In the Pali language, ‘Asanha’ is the name of the eighth month.

In Thailand, Asarnha Bucha Day (Asanha Puja Day) is public holiday. This day is particularly one of the most sacred days in Buddhism. It is a Buddhist festival which typically takes place in July, on the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eighth lunar month. It commemorates the day on which Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon called “the Dhammachakapavattana Sutta” to his first five chief disciples at the Deer Park in Benares more than two thousand five hundred years ago.
In the Buddha’s first sermon, there are mainly four great truths which lead to Nirvana
and are the foundation doctrines of Buddhism:
  1. Sorrow- All things are a source of suffering from the constant cycle of birth, disease, old age and death.
  2. Cause of sorrow- Desire or the inability to obtain what one desires is the cause of suffering resulting from cause and effect.
  3. Cessation of sorrow- Freedom from suffering can be obtained after the complete cessation of desire.
  4. Paths to the cessation of sorrow- The last of the Four Noble Truths is the Middle Way or the path between extremes of asceticism and indulgence leading to the eliminating of desire. The Eight-Fold Path consists of possessing the correct: Views, Resolve, Speech, Conduct, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Meditation (or Concentration).
One of the Buddha’s first five disciples asked for being a monk. Therefore, the day also marks the beginning of the worship of the Triple Gems. That is, this day is sacred because it deals with the Lord Buddha (Buddha), His Teachings (Dharma), and His Disciples (Sangha). Normally, Asarnha Bucha Day happens one day just before the Buddhist Lent Day; that is, the day following Asarnha Bucha Day is the Buddhist Lent Day, which is known in Thailand as Wan Khao Pansa.

In this holy day, Buddhists all over the country observe the day by presenting offerings to the monks (to make merit), listening to the sermons, and performing ritual prayers. In addition, there are many activities in the family during this holiday such as cleaning the house and setting up an altar for religious ceremonies. Family members sometimes discuss problems in the family by taking the middle way as a guiding principle to abstain from sin and reduce the way of ruin. Also, they practice the Dharma in the temple, observe the precepts, pray to the triple gem, listen to the sermons and join a candle procession around the temple. For the candle procession, several institutions like schools and universities, including public and private organizations organize a colorful candle procession leading to a temple where the offering of the candles will be made. In the evening, the Wientian ritual ceremony takes place in Buddhist temples around the country. Many people go to nearby temples bringing candles, flowers, and joss sticks completing three trips walking around the temple area sacred grounds.

Thailand is considered to be the first country of all the Buddhist countries which establishes the observance of Asarnha Bucha Day. The religious day is declared to be a Buddhist public holiday in Thailand up to the present time.

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