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Asalha Bucha Day

By Kevin Cain

Asalha Bucha Day also known as Asahna Bucha Day is another highly important date in the Buddhist calendar and one that is respected and celebrated throughout Thailand.This special day normally takes place on the second full moon day, of the eighth lunar month. In 2016 it will take place on Tuesday 19th July and is a celebration of events that happened around 2,500 years ago. Asalha Bucha meaning to pay homage to the Buddha.

Asalha Bucha commemorates the first Dharma (teaching) given by the Buddha to his first monk. This act gave birth to the Triple Gem of Buddhism; namely the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha (disciple).

After the lord Buddha attained Enlightenment he spent seven weeks by the Bodhi Tree. Afterwards he decided to teach Dharma to others, in fact it was to five disciples. Kondanna, the group head was the first to achieve the Eye Of Dharma or the first level of enlightenment. He was then ordained and became the very first monk. From that very day the Wheel of Dharma had been set in motion.

The Lord Buddha's first sermon was about two things that Buddhist monks should not practice;

  1. Being involved in any form of sensual pleasure as this lowly nature belongs to commoners and not holy individuals.

  2. Self-mortification (the inflicting of pain on oneself. as this is not the practice of holy individuals, it has no benefit.

As a result of the first sermon, celestial beings in every realm from earth sprites to the Brahma beings all sang the Lord Buddha's praises. The sound resonated through thousands of universes and an incomparable brightness pervaded everywhere as a result of the celestial powers.

The Buddha preached his first sermon at a deer park and the Dharma (doctrine) of the Buddha was symbolised as a wheel. The Dharmachakra is also known as the Wheel of Life, Wheel of Law or the Wheel of Doctrine. This symbol can be seen on flags in temples and buildings all over Thailand. Also, pictures or symbols of deer can often be seen in all holy places depicting Buddha.

Thai people are amongst the most religious in the world, so just as with all the other holy days Asalha Bucha is taken seriously and in fact is particularly revered. Also it is said that if you pay reverence on Asalha Bucha day you will receive good fortune throughout the year. One quirky feature of the celebration is that monks will be offered large candles instead of food in the morning of the actual day. Many young Thai men also choose this day to enter the monkhood.

The day after Asalha day is another significant day with Wan Khao Phansa marking the start of the three month Phansa period which is sometimes known as the Buddhist Lent. During this period elaborate wax candles are kept burning. In the city of Ubon, there is a Candle Festival and a Candle Parade, prizes are given for the best candle designs. To mark the day across the country, ceremonies are held in all the temples. Many Thai people return to their ancestral family homes to donate offerings to temples and listen to sermons. In the evenings they will often perform Wian Tian where they walk clockwise around the main shrine of the temple carrying a candle, incense sticks and lotus flowers.