Pattaya Buddhists mark Asalaha Bucha, start of Buddhist Lent

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It was a quieter Friday and Saturday in Pattaya as typical party nights were transformed into evenings for religious reverence for Asalaha Bucha Day and the start of Buddhist Lent.

From South Pattaya’s Chaimongkol Temple to Suttawas Temple and beyond, Thais queued to donate rice, dried food and robes to monks and recite prayers. Many took part in wien thien ceremonies, triple circumambulations of the Buddhist relics, an age-old tradition.

People listen intently to sermons inside the temple.People listen intently to sermons inside the temple.

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.

Vijit Thummasan, chief of the Banglamung monk’s committee and abbot of Suttawas Temple, preached July 10 for Buddhists to make merit in order to instill this value of giving in the hearts of their children.

Monks pray to bless Buddhists attending the ceremonies.Monks pray to bless Buddhists attending the ceremonies.

Thais are people with kind hearts, he said, and if children have been taught since an early age to make merit, they will grow up to be kind-hearted individuals.

Temples such as Nongyai, Phothisamphan, Bunsamphan and more saw merit-making, alms offerings, sermons and prayers. At night, there were candle-making activities, and “wien thien” processions and presentations of robes.

Families ask for blessings.Families ask for blessings.

The double holiday continued July 11 with Khao Phansa, as the start of Buddhist Lent is known. It marks the formal start of the traditional rainy season when monks are confined to temple grounds to avoid stepping on new rice crops as they go out to seek alms.

Donations of 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.

Phra Khru Vijit Thummasan, chief of Banglamung monk committee and abbot of Wat Suttawas, also makes merit on Asalaha Bucha Day.Phra Khru Vijit Thummasan, chief of Banglamung monk committee and abbot of Wat Suttawas, also makes merit on Asalaha Bucha Day.

Khao Phansa is one of the most important days on the Buddhist calendar. In recent years the holiday has taken a meaning similar to Lent in the Roman Catholic Church with believers giving up one or more vices for the summer.

As usual for revered religious holidays, Pattaya’s bars and nightclubs went dark and stores were prohibited from selling alcohol. With Thailand’s military in charge in Bangkok, police were even more vigilant in ensuring the city’s many entertainment establishments complied with the ban, leaving non-Buddhist tourists little to do on typical party nights.

Citizens present candles for the Lent Festival at Wat Suttawas.Citizens present candles for the Lent Festival at Wat Suttawas.

Citizens present items monks need for daily living at Wat Suttawas, showing the importance that citizens give to Buddhism.Citizens present items monks need for daily living at Wat Suttawas, showing the importance that citizens give to Buddhism.

Little Wha-Wha participates in the wien thien ceremony.Little Wha-Wha participates in the wien thien ceremony.

Children wake up early in the morning to offer alms at Wat Suttawas.Children wake up early in the morning to offer alms at Wat Suttawas.

Families with bright smiles offer alms early in the morning.Families with bright smiles offer alms early in the morning.

Somjeed and friend offer alms.Somjeed and friend offer alms.

Buddhists make merit on Khao Pansaa, the beginning of Buddhist Lent.Buddhists make merit on Khao Pansaa, the beginning of Buddhist Lent.

Little Phojai and her mother make their wishes before offering alms.Little Phojai and her mother make their wishes before offering alms.

Little Boom makes merit with his grandmother.Little Boom makes merit with his grandmother.

Makthayok (prayer leader) leads Asalaha Bucha Day prayers.Makthayok (prayer leader) leads Asalaha Bucha Day prayers.

Local people purchase food to donate to the monks at Wat Suttawas.Local people purchase food to donate to the monks at Wat Suttawas.

Buddhists donate a lot of food to the monks.Buddhists donate a lot of food to the monks.

Outside of Wat Bunsamphan, vendors sell birds for citizens to release back to nature for luck, which is a personal belief and a form of donation for the unfortunate.Outside of Wat Bunsamphan, vendors sell birds for citizens to release back to nature for luck, which is a personal belief and a form of donation for the unfortunate.

Father & son cast candles together to increase brightness in their lives and to instill the importance of Thai traditions in the next generation at Wat Bunsamphan.Father & son cast candles together to increase brightness in their lives and to instill the importance of Thai traditions in the next generation at Wat Bunsamphan.

Lamps are filled with oil according to the belief of prolonging one’s life at Wat Bunsamphan.Lamps are filled with oil according to the belief of prolonging one’s life at Wat Bunsamphan.

Believers take part in an ancient candle casting ceremony to increase brightness in their lives.Believers take part in an ancient candle casting ceremony to increase brightness in their lives.

Parents lead their children to the temple to make merit.Parents lead their children to the temple to make merit.

Pol. Col. Supathee Bungkhrong, deputy chief of Chonburi police and acting superintendent of Pattaya police, warns operators and shops from selling all types of alcoholic beverage during the 2 day religious holidays, Asalaha Bucha and Buddhist Lent.Pol. Col. Supathee Bungkhrong, deputy chief of Chonburi police and acting superintendent of Pattaya police, warns operators and shops from selling all types of alcoholic beverage during the 2 day religious holidays, Asalaha Bucha and Buddhist Lent.

Naphaphorn brings her expat husband to the wien thien ceremony.Naphaphorn brings her expat husband to the wien thien ceremony.

At Wat Phothisamphan, families came for the ‘wien thien’ ceremony on this important Buddhism day.At Wat Phothisamphan, families came for the ‘wien thien’ ceremony on this important Buddhism day.

Citizens present candles and flowers in hopes they and their families will prosper.Citizens present candles and flowers in hopes they and their families will prosper.

Buddhists perform a magical wien thien ceremony on Asalaha Bucha Day.Buddhists perform a magical wien thien ceremony on Asalaha Bucha Day.

Businesses on Beach Road are quiet after closing orders and the ban on alcohol distribution.Businesses on Beach Road are quiet after closing orders and the ban on alcohol distribution.