Being an almost entirely Theravada Buddhist country you can imagine that the Buddhist religious holidays are a pretty big deal in Thailand and not many are bigger or more beloved than that which is Asalha Puja Day, also referred to by the people of Thailand as Asanha Bucha or, more commonly, Dhamma Day.
Asalha Puja is a July religious festival which takes place on the first full moon of the eighth lunar month (measured by the Thai lunar calendar), this changes every year and can be difficult to keep track of if you’re not of the Buddhist religion. Our sources (and Google) tell’s us this year the holy day takes place today, 30th July 2015.
The occasion is recognised by Theravada Buddhist’s as the day Buddha first passed on his teachings to holy men. The entire month of Asalha is important for more reasons than only this one day. For many, many years, since before the times of Buddha’s teachings, the month of Asalha – the eighth lunar month – had been and still is the time for Buddhist Lent. It was when holy men would spend the next three months living together, not travelling unless entirely unavoidable and taking shelter from the rain during the monsoon season. During this time it was possible to be ordained as a monk, who still practice the ways of Buddha – and his teachings – and are still considered highly respected and held in high regard in the Thai culture.
Additionally this was the period Buddha’s decision to relinquish all his worldly possessions in his quest for enlightenment.
It is said that on the original Asalha Puja day Buddha gave his first sermon to five disciples and started what is referred to as The Wheel of Dhamma which represents the four noble truths;
‘life means suffering or dukka, the origin of suffering is attachment or tanha, the cessation of suffering is attainable, and the way to that cessation is through the eightfold path.’ – World Religion News.
Some of the traditions held today and over the Asalha month by modern day monks will include reciting the Eight Precepts, leading meditations, chanting in Sanskrit, giving sermons and leading a candle procession around their temple. Additionally congregations will give offerings to the monks and practice Dhamma (the teaching in regards to the The Wheel of Dhamma.) on the Asalha Puja holy day.
The celebration of Buddha’s teaching is very important to the Theravada Buddhist’s of Thailand and the holiday is considered one of the most beloved and holy days of the year and I’m sure none of our readers need to be reminded to be respectful of this time not only for the good of those celebrating, but for your own good as well. For those that don’t know, most places will be refusing to sell alcohol on Buddhist holidays so plan your nights out with that in mind. For more information on being respectful towards the people of Thailand, their religion and culture, check out our etiquette tips.
So to all our friends and loved ones, and all the Theravada Buddhist’s celebrating in Thailand and beyond, we wish you an excellent Asalha Puja Day!
For more information on Asalha Puja Day, the history and traditions, check out some of the links below: