CHIANGRAI TIMES – Makha Bucha Day Celebrations is one of the most significant religious celebrations which commemorate the spontaneous gathering of the 1,250 Sangha followers who assembled together and came to meet Lord Buddha 9 months after his first enlightenment.
Makha Bucha Day is a Buddhist religious event which honours the day on which the 1,250 Sangha followers without any prior announcement gather together to hear Lord Buddha delivering a Dhamma lecture and they got enlightenment.
Makha Bucha Day Celebrations are characterized by candle light processions three times clockwise around the temple and it is usually celebrated during the evening and on this auspicious day people usually give alms like canned foods and other necessities like robes and candles to the monks. The Makha Bucha Day Celebrations takes place on the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month, Makha, of the year but the date changes every year. Makha Bucha Day Celebrations are observed by Buddhist people with lots of faith and the following activities form an integral part of the Makha Bucha Day Celebrations.
Thai Buddhists celebrate three major holy days each year which commemorate events in the Buddha’s lifetime having to do with the formulation of his teachings, which are the basis of Theravada Buddhism. One of these, called Makha Bucha, is celebrated on night of the full moon of the third lunar month, which usually corresponds to February, and is an observance of two unexpected events in the Buddha’s forty-four years of teaching which occurred on the same day. In 2007, Makha Bucha day will be celebrated on February 16th.
The first event occurred nine months after the Buddha had been expounding his doctrine for seven months only. Of his 1,340 disciples, 1,250 of them the Buddha laid down the three main principles of his religion in the Patimokka, of the ‘monk way’, which crystallize the wisdom of all the Buddha’s that came before. These are
- Give up evil and refrain from sinning.
- Cultivate good — and make merit.
- Cleanse one’s mind.
He also admonished his disciples to be good teachers to the laity based on the following precepts:
- They should be patient
- They should teach the laity to be peaceful
- They should be optimistic and not offend others.
- They should reach goodness in correct ways.
- They should be disciplined
- They should be humble
- They should concentrate on doing useful things.
The second unusual event occurred on the same day forty-five years later. The Buddha foresaw that due to the state of his health his attainment of Nirvana, or escape from the cycle of rebirths, was approaching within three months. On that day he formulated and preached his Dhamma about the responsibility of an individual or organization. These are that a person should:
- enjoy work or responsibility,
- be diligent in work,
- concentrate on the job while working,
- Check all unfinished work thoroughly.
The Magha Puja Day of the second event is also known as the day of the Four Fold Assembly. This was a special assembly which took place at the Bamboo Grove (Veluvana Vihara in Rajgaha, the Capital of Magaha State, India) and contained four extraordinary features, namely:
- It was the full moon day of the month Magha
- 1,250 monk disciples assembled to see the Buddha, all by themselves, without an appointment.
- All these monks were Arahants (or enlightened) who had attained the sixfold super knowledge.
- All of them were the Buddha’s direct disciples having been ordained by the Lord Buddha himself.
On the three lunar holy days which include Makha Bucha Thai Buddhists gather at the temple at sunset to Wian Tian, or to circumambulate the Bhot, or the major religious structure in the temple complex where monks are ordained, while holding a lighted candle, temple building are people’s way of showing respect to what is called the “triple gem”, which is the Buddha himself, his teachings and doctrines, and the monkhood he founded.
Buddhism stems from a philosophy the was propounded more than 2,500 years ago in 543 B.C. by a crown prince in the Sakayas kingdom who was named Siddhartha Gautama. Oppressed by the suffering he saw among his people, he gave up his title and his family. He went into the forest to seek a solution meditate, on his thirty-sixth birthday he arrived at his vision that would free the world which let people to give him the title of Buddha, or the Enlightened one, the Awakened.
The Buddha propounded the doctrine of the four noble truths which had the power to liberate who could understand them from the endless cycle of rebirths. These are:
- The truth of suffering is that existence is suffering
- The truth of the cause of suffering is desire
- The truth that suffering will cease when it’s cause is removed
- The truth that if the cause of suffering is removed, then suffering will cease to exist.
He then preached the doctrine of the eightfold path as the way to eliminate suffering. The eightfold path described in the 4th truth is the way to eliminate desire/extinguish suffering which consists of:
- right understanding, right ideas
- right mindedness, right thought, right resolution
- right speech
- right bodily conduct, right action right behavior
- right livelihood, right vocation
- right effort
- right attentiveness, right mindfulness
- right concentration
The Buddha was the only contemporary teacher who endeavoured to alleviate the suffering of low caste individuals at the hands of their higher caste oppressors. He also elevated the status of women in India, treating them with consideration and civility. He promulgated the teaching that women could attain nirvana and preached the paths of peace, purity, and sanctity.
The Buddha never encouraged any animosity or strife. He once said while addressing his disciples, “I quarrel not with the world, monks, it is the world which quarrels with me. An exponent of the Dhamma quarrels not with anyone in the world.” A Buddhist inscription says that, “There was never an occasion when the Buddha flamed forth in anger, never an incident when an unkind word escaped his lips.”
Buddhist temples in Thailand have not only sustained monastic communities, but have also served as schools, village news centers, hospital dispensaries, employment information centers, hostel, and community centers. Thus temples play a vital role in Thai society.
The strength of Buddhism in Thailand is a result of many factors. At least one member of every family studies the Buddha’s teaching in monastic surroundings. Also, it is a tradition the all men over twenty should spend three to four months in holy orders as ‘temporary monks’, usually during the ‘rains retreat’, when monks are confined to their home temples to teach, meditate, and study.
The Buddha never said his was the only way, and strength of Thai religious practice is the essential freedom of religious practice granted to all. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs have all practiced their faiths without any form of religious harassment or discrimination in Thailand.
So if you happen to be anywhere nears a temple on the evening of a Buddhist holy day when the people are circling the Bhot for Wian Tian, you are welcome to join in as well.