Pattaya Buddhists celebrate Buddha’s birth, death, enlightenment on Visakha Bucha Day

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Pattaya-area residents crowded temples to mark the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha on the most important of Buddhist holidays, Visakha Bucha Day.

Pattaya residents began the day early, taking children and relatives to make merit at local temples. Food and desserts were given as offerings to monks, who returned the favor by teaching the Dharma. Many elderly worshippers followed tradition in wearing white and eating only vegetarian meals on the holiest of Buddhist holidays.

Sutthawas, Chonglom and Boonsamphan temples held merit-making ceremonies, some of which went on for a week. To make merit, temple-goers offered food, released animals into the wild, and helped the poor.

People pray to the Lord Buddha at Wat Boonsamphan on the most holy day on the Buddhist calendar.People pray to the Lord Buddha at Wat Boonsamphan on the most holy day on the Buddhist calendar.

In Chonburi, deputy governors Chamnanwit Taerat and Chawalit Saeng-Uthai kicked off the Visakha Bucha Walk-Run for charity at the provincial hall.

Following the run, Chonburi deputy chief of monks Rajchasittiwimol, the abbot of Yaiintaram Temple, led participants in the traditional “wien thien” candle procession around the temple grounds before offering his holiday sermon.

The “mediation walk-run” was to encourage people who enjoy exercise to make merit, observe the five precepts, listen to Dharma and participate in the candle procession.

Chonburi residents offer alms to a procession of monks in the morning.Chonburi residents offer alms to a procession of monks in the morning.

In Sattahip District, more than 1,000 followers participated in another wien thien procession, led by Phra Tatsaneeyakunakorn, the Sattahip ecclesiastical chief at Sattahip Temple.

Visakha Bucha means the worship of the Buddha on the day of the full moon in the sixth lunar month, which usually falls in May. It marks the triple occasion of the birth of Buddha, the day of his enlightenment and his ascension to Nirvana.

Phra Khru Wijit Dhammasarn, Abbot of Wat Sutthawas and Banglamung Ecclesiastical Municipality, leads the Buddhism ceremonies in the morning at Wat Suttawas.Phra Khru Wijit Dhammasarn, Abbot of Wat Sutthawas and Banglamung Ecclesiastical Municipality, leads the Buddhism ceremonies in the morning at Wat Suttawas.

Visakha Bucha Day is one of the three holiest days on the Buddhist calendar and this year was designated by USESCO as “World Peace Day.” The educational, scientific and cultural organization’s proclamation cited Buddhism’s teaching of humanity, mercy and tolerance as the reasons for the designation.

Devout Buddhists gathered to gild the Buddha statue at Wat Sutthawas.Devout Buddhists gathered to gild the Buddha statue at Wat Sutthawas.

It was Sri Lanka that proposed to UNESCO on Dec. 15, 1999 that Visakha Bucha Day be recognized as the most important memorial day in Buddhism. Thailand, which is the permanent location of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, was chosen to always host and celebrate this day.

As is the custom on major Buddhist holidays, bars and entertainment venues throughout Thailand were closed and the selling of alcohol was prohibited.

Many people seek to find out their fortune when visiting their temple.  Shake the cup filled with numbered sticks, and after the first stick falls out, match its number to the corresponding number on the wall to read your fortune.

A young family makes merit by releasing a bird from its cage.

After making merit, people hope their good deeds will bring them luck, and look to strike it rich by buying lottery tickets at Wat Chaimongkol.

People strike the bell loudly to let the spirits know they are there making merit.

A pair of youngsters takes part in the candle light procession on Visakha Bucha Day at Wat Chaimongkol.

Folks from all over take part in the Wien-Thien ceremony at Wat Chaimongkol, Royal Monastery.

People wander around aimlessly on Walking Street, as, by law, all bars and entertainment venues must close on Buddhist holidays.

Grandma Chuan with Nong Aey and Nong Aum celebrate Visakha Bucha Day at Wat Chonglom – Naklua.

Luang Pu Buaket and group of monks lead the ceremonies Wat Chonglom – Naklua.

Monks pray for devout people participating in Visakha Bucha Day activities at Wat Boonsamphan.

Buddhists offer incense and candles to Buddha, which is considered a popular ceremony on important Buddhist Holidays.

The moment of release – Thai people believe this form of making merit releases suffering.

Revered monks lead the Wien Thien ceremony at Sattahip Temple.

People “die and are born again”, rising from the dead in the belief this will wash their souls from all bad things and enable them to start anew with a longer, happier life.

Temple fairs, like this one at Wat Boonsamphan, are a staple in the Thai community.