Pattaya marks Asalaha Bucha, start of Buddhist Lent

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The Pattaya area celebrated summer’s double Buddhist holiday, partaking in traditional ceremonies for Asalaha Bucha Day then lighting up candles for Buddhist Lent.

From Naklua’s Sanctuary of Truth to South Pattaya’s Chaimongkol Temple and beyond, people queued up to donate rice, dried food and robes to monks and recite prayers. Many took part in triple circumambulations of the Buddhist relics, an age-old tradition.

Asalaha Bucha falls on the 15th night of the full moon during the eighth month of the Buddhist lunar calendar. It’s deemed a holy day because of three important events occurring on the day: the first sermon given by the Buddha, called the “Dharmachakapavattama Sutta” concerning the “Four Noble Truths” presented to the Buddha’s first five disciples; the birth of Buddhism; and the Sangha, or the ordination of the first Buddhist monk.

Many people paste gold leaf on Buddha statues, asking for prosperity for their family and themselves.Many people paste gold leaf on Buddha statues, asking for prosperity for their family and themselves.

Abbot Pisan Jariyapiwat opened ceremonies at Chaimongkol Temple early July 23, opening the sermon hall for Buddhists to make merit, offer alms, pray, light incense, and listen to sermons. The evening saw a candle-making activity, a Wien Thien procession and presentation of robes. Such was the scene at other temples throughout Pattaya, Naklua and Banglamung.

At Wat Khao Phra Yai, citizens and tourists perform the Wien Thien ceremony around Luang Pho Yim.At Wat Khao Phra Yai, citizens and tourists perform the Wien Thien ceremony around Luang Pho Yim.

The devout even made the march to the top of Big Buddha Hill, where a Wien Thien procession marched around Khao Phra Yai Temple. Believers participated in evening prayers and meditated two hours before hearing the day’s sermon. Afterward, 20 Brahman nuns led the procession around the Luang Pho Yim statue.

Buddhists listen to sermons and make merit at Wat Suttawas in Nongprue.Buddhists listen to sermons and make merit at Wat Suttawas in Nongprue.

The next morning, the start of Buddhist Lent, dawned with worshippers dressing in white to attend the temple services. Starting at 5 a.m. they offered alms, meat and robes, while, in the evening, retiring inside the temple to mark the start of the priests three months of solitude.

For non-believers and tourists, the two days proved particularly quiet in Pattaya, with entertainment districts closed for the double holiday, with only a few restaurants officially open.

Monks perform the Wien Thien ceremony at Wat Khao Phra Yai, leading Buddhists on Asalaha Bucha Day.Monks perform the Wien Thien ceremony at Wat Khao Phra Yai, leading Buddhists on Asalaha Bucha Day.

Khao Phansa, as the start of lent is known, marks the formal start of the traditional rainy season where monks are confined to temple grounds to avoid stepping on new rice crops as they go out to seek alms.

Donations and food and rice are supplemented this time of year with candles, to help the monks reach enlightenment as they stay at the temple studying Dharma.

Thousands perform the Wien Thien ceremony at Bhodhisamphan temple.Thousands perform the Wien Thien ceremony at Bhodhisamphan temple.

Khao Phansa is one of the most important days on the Buddhist calendar. Traditionally it marks the period when monks stay inside during the rainy season to avoid trampling the village rice crop. It’s also a period in which Buddhist followers make merit by presenting gifts – particularly lanterns and candles – to monks to help with their enlightenment. In recent years the holiday has also taken a meaning similar to Lent in the Roman Catholic Church with believers giving up one or more vices for the summer.

Some citizens release fish from the bridge over Soi Nernplabwan canal, with the belief that this will bring them major merit as they are releasing animals back to their homes.Some citizens release fish from the bridge over Soi Nernplabwan canal, with the belief that this will bring them major merit as they are releasing animals back to their homes.

Citizens perform Tak Bat, offering alms to monks at Wat Nongyai. The temple was filled with the faithful from morning till night.Citizens perform Tak Bat, offering alms to monks at Wat Nongyai. The temple was filled with the faithful from morning till night.

The Walking Street entertainment district closes during major Buddhist holidays, due to a recently passed law forbidding alcohol sales on those dates.The Walking Street entertainment district closes during major Buddhist holidays, due to a recently passed law forbidding alcohol sales on those dates.