Visakha Bucha Day

By Kevin Cain

All the major Buddhist holidays are celebrated in Thailand and most of them are national holidays in respect. Living in Thailand it is impossible not to realise the impact that the Buddhist faith has on everyday life and the value placed of making merit.

Most Thais have a general belief in Karma and reincarnation, “If you do good you will receive good, if you do evil you will receive evil”. So how you live your life is highly important. The good and bad things in a Thai person’s current life will have an effect on their next life. Merit making helps ease the path of the current life as well as the future lives to come.

The most significant of these Buddhist religious days is Visakha Bucha Day. It is really a celebration of the three major events in the life of Buddha in one day. The events all happened at the same time which was on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month (known as Visakha month).

The Visakha full moon marks the day which Buddha was born, reached his enlightenment 35 years later and the day he died and entered Nirvana 45 years after that. The day also reminds Buddhists the importance of Lord Buddha's teachings, both spiritually and socially.

Visakha Bucha day is also known as Wan Pra Yai and the three events it celebrates are;

  1. The Buddha's Birth

  2. The Enlightenment of Buddha – While sitting under the Bodhi tree, he found his answers and attained the enlightenment at the age of 35 years.

  3. The Nibbana – The Buddha passed away on the full moon day of the year of the small snake, under the two Sal trees in the Sala Grove of the Mallas in Kusinara India.

Although many Thais simply offer Tam Boon on Visakha Bucha day there are certain activities that should be observed in respect.

  • Tam Boon – Making Merit by going to temples for special observances, making merit, listening to Dhamma preaching and giving donations and joining in with activities with the monks.

  • Rub Sil – Keeping the Five Precepts, including abstinence of alcohol and any immoral acts.

  • Tak Bard – Offering monks food

  • Renunciation – Observe the Eight Precepts, practice meditation and mental discipline and to stay in the temple wearing white robes for a number of days.

  • Vien Tien – Attending the Candlelight procession on the evening of Visakha.

It is common also for people to set birds and fish free to get rid of bad karma. Although some temples are discouraging this practice as it encourages poachers to catch and ensnare the animals. Trapping or hurting animals is against the Buddhist code and this practice is becoming less fashionable the more people's awareness of the animals plight is brought to light.

Visakha Bucha Day is widely celebrated and respected throughout Thailand by Buddhists and non Buddhists alike. If you are living in the kingdom or just visiting, then it is advisable that you show respect and not just complain that all the bars are closed.