Many people in Thailand know of this most important time of the year for all Buddhists. It is the time when members of the Buddhist clergy confine themselves to their temples for a three month period of meditation and asceticism. Even Phra-Thu-Dong, monks who do not reside at any particular temple, stay inside temple walls.
This is not only a time of retreat for monks. The Sanskrit-derived Thai word, Khao Phansa, means ‘to enter the rainy season.’ The beginning of the rainy season is the time when lay people’s crops are beginning to sprout and grow.
In the Buddha’s time, life conditions were much different than now. There were no large networks of accessible roads. Woodland paths were not reliable as they could be washed out by rain in that long gone time when the seasons were not thrown out of order by modern technology.
The Buddha, with infinite wisdom, knew that the daily comings and goings of Buddhist clergy often caused hardship to the laity, as monks had no choice but to walk through fields to receive their morning alms. The people also did not have enough time to offer alms every morning. There was much work to do in the fields.
To solve the problem, Lord Buddha decided that during this time, monks should cloister themselves. This solved many problems and had positive effects. The people’s fields were protected from harm. They could give alms to monks in a more efficient manner as they were concentrated in one place. The laity had more of a chance to make merit, as they wanted to see their clergy well provided. Thus, the large festival of offering to the monks at Khao Phansa. This also benefited the monks as they had three full months for meditation and scripture study.
Today, every Buddhist parent wishes their sons enter the priesthood at this time. The reason is that their sons, confined to the temple, will devote themselves more reverently to the study of the scriptures and the Pali and Sanskrit languages.
Many people are interested in more arcane aspects of Buddhism. The real miracle of Lord Buddha’s wisdom is like other great avatars. Common sense which brings comfort and peace of mind to all beings.