Buddhists all over the country have been urged to practice Dhamma on Asalha Puja Day and the beginning of Buddhist Lent, as a tribute to His Majesty the King on the occasion of his 85th birthday, Her Majesty the Queen’s 80th birthday, and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s 60th birthday.
Also, temples across the country are joining hands with the Religious Affairs Department in organizing activities in observance of the two Buddhist holy days and in celebration of the 2,600th anniversary of the enlightenment of the Buddha, or Buddhajayanti, in 2012.
Asalha Puja falls on the full moon day of the eighth lunar month, coinciding with August 2 this year. It commemorates the day when the Buddha’s first sermon was delivered to his first five disciples, and also marks the coming into existence of the Triple Gem, comprising the Buddha, his teachings, or Dhamma, and his disciples, or the Sangha.
After the Buddha attained his enlightenment and realized that the five ascetics, his former friends in meditation, would attain Nirvana promptly up on hearing his teaching, he proceeded to preach on the Four Noble Truths.
The first Noble Truth is about suffering, the second one about the origin of suffering, the third one the extinction of suffering, and the fourth one the path leading to the extinction of suffering. According to the Four Noble Truths, our existence is bound up with suffering, which means birth, decay, death, sorrow, pain, grief, and despair. Desire, which includes selfishness and craving, is the main cause of suffering. To stop suffering, Buddhism advocates extinction of desire. The way to eliminate the cause of suffering is to follow the Eight-fold Path, which consists of right view or right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
The beginning of the three-month Buddhist Lent falls on the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month. This year, it falls on August 3, which is observed as Buddhist Lent Day, known among Thais as Khao Phansa. During the Buddhist Lent, which is in the rainy season in Thailand, Buddhist monks and novices stay in the temple to study and practice Dhamma and do not stay overnight at any other places.
The custom for monks to spend the three months of the rainy season in a fixed place has been observed since the time of the Buddha. In those days, unnecessary travel by monks during this period could damage young rice seedlings planted by villagers. So the Buddha decreed that his followers spend three months of the rainy season in a permanent place. In cases of necessity, such as taking care of sick monks or parents, or conducting religious functions, monks may travel and stay away from their temple during this period. However, they are required to return within seven days.
Both Asalha Puja and Buddhist Lent Day are important occasions for Buddhists to perform merit making and practice Dhamma for peace and happiness.