East marks double Buddhist holiday

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Buddhists throughout the east spent two days making merit, giving alms, studying Dharma and making charitable donations for the double holiday of Asalaha Bucha Day and Khao Phansaa.

Temples were buzzing even as Walking Street and other nightlife areas fell silent, as alcohol was outlawed for the July 30-31 holy days.

From early morning, believers dressed in white made merit by going to temples for special ceremonies, offering dried food and rice to monks and novices, listening to Dharma sermons and offering donations to charities.

Beautifully decorated candles dominate the annual candle parade in Sattahip.Beautifully decorated candles dominate the annual candle parade in Sattahip.

In the evening of Asalaha Bucha Day Thursday, July 30, followers participated in the candlelight procession known as “Wien Thien”

For Khao Phansaa, the start of Buddhist Lent, on Friday July 31, a large number of people also engaged in “rub sin,” the keeping of the five Buddhist precepts by giving up alcohol or other vices for the next three months.

While Pattaya City organized no formal observances, Nongprue Sub-district did, with Mayor Mai Chaiyanit chairing the “Hae Thien” candle parade with representatives from 44 communities, students from nine schools and local residents. The hae tine ceremony in Nongprue differed to others, as it followed a large candle parade from Sawang Boriboon Wittaya School to Suttawas temple, a distance of approximately two kilometers.

After adding her gold foil to the Buddha Statue at Luang Poh Tho, Wat Suttawas, she prays for the benefit of everyone in the world.After adding her gold foil to the Buddha Statue at Luang Poh Tho, Wat Suttawas, she prays for the benefit of everyone in the world.

At Pattaya School No. 9, students and teachers organized their own candle parade at Phothisamphan Temple with a group of city officials and council members in attendance.

Previously the temple’s school, No. 9 still has close ties to the institution and offered two large candles to monks there amid cheering from students and teachers.

Pattaya School No. 9 still has close ties to Phothisamphan Temple and offered two large candles to monks there.Pattaya School No. 9 still has close ties to Phothisamphan Temple and offered two large candles to monks there.

They paraded slowly, clockwise, around the main Buddhist hall and offered the candles to monks, accompanied by dancing and music.

Also that day, Sanphet Suphabuansathien, president of the Thai Hotels Association Eastern Region, led management and staff of the Long Beach Garden Hotel and Spa in offering candles to the monks at the same temple. Moreover, the group made merit by offering lunch to the monks at Dinning Sala at Wat Phothisamphan.

Sacred history

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.

Best friends June and Joy take part in the Wien Thien ceremony together at Wat Pa Suthipawan in Naklua.Best friends June and Joy take part in the Wien Thien ceremony together at Wat Pa Suthipawan in Naklua.

The double holiday continued Friday with Khao Phansaa, as the start of lent is known. It 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.

Khao Phansaa 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.

Sattahip celebrations

In Sattahip District, major celebrations were held on the grounds of Luang Poh Eee Temple. Many residents and foreign tourists were seen on both days making merit and participating in other Buddhist activities. A candlelight procession was held in the evening as well.

During the candle parade in Chonburi, Deputy Gov. Chawalit Saeng-Uthai said, “All candles are beautiful and made with heart, which all leads to charity and to respect our traditional religion in a Thai way.”During the candle parade in Chonburi, Deputy Gov. Chawalit Saeng-Uthai said, “All candles are beautiful and made with heart, which all leads to charity and to respect our traditional religion in a Thai way.”

District Chief Prinya Phothisut led the area’s candle parade with Narong Bunbancherdsri, Sattahip’s mayor, council members, community organizations and schools.

The procession began at Sattahip Temple where participants brought beautifully decorated candles. It then moved through the Sattahip Market area, after which the candles were offered to various temples in the area.

Nong Nooch Tropical Garden commemorated the holy days with a candle parade featuring giant candles carved with sacred symbols resembling the ancient traditional followings of Buddhism.Nong Nooch Tropical Garden commemorated the holy days with a candle parade featuring giant candles carved with sacred symbols resembling the ancient traditional followings of Buddhism.

This year, the winner of the candle contest was Lertpanya School with a carved Buddha sitting on a lotus plant with “Dharmachakra”, the wheel of Dharma, representing the cycle of birth and death, as well as the heads of Naga surrounding four directions of the candle.

Nong Nooch Tropical Garden held its own Lent commemoration, with 30 elephants participating in a candle parade at the tourist attraction in Sattahip’s Najomtien Sub-district.

Park Director Kampol Tansajja said that this year’s candle parade featured giant candles approximately two meters long that were carved with sacred symbols resembling the ancient traditional followings of Buddhism.

Some were decorated with waxed “payanak” carved candles, the ancient serpent and beautiful young women to go with the candles. Many other activities were held including traditional Phuthai dancing, Muay Thai boxing and more. The celebration attracted thousands of residents and tourists.

Chonburi

In Chonburi, Deputy Gov. Chawalit Saeng-Uthai presided over the city’s Khao Phansaa Candle Parade at Chonburi City Hall.

Thousands of local residents, civil servants and local residents attended the July 28 celebration.

Samart Tiengpoonwong of the Chonburi Culture Department, said that this year the Young Buddhists Association and private organizations helped organize the 59th annual parade.

Activities included 12 floats from government agencies, education institutes and private groups. Six of candle floats participated in a contest.

However, “The contest was not about who wins or loses. All candles are beautiful and made with heart, which all leads to charity and to respect our traditional religion in a Thai way,” Chawalit said.

A scholarship donation also took place during the celebration, giving out 150 stipends to deserving elementary and high school students. Later, more than 400 candles were given out to various temples, handed to all district chiefs.

Over 1,000 residents took part in the Hae Thien activities, heading towards Wat Suttawas.Over 1,000 residents took part in the Hae Thien activities, heading towards Wat Suttawas.