April 4, 2015
In celebration of the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha
First printed 2014. Revised Feb 2017
When: Full moon of the month of Visākha. 10th May 2017
Where: Across Thailand
The Meaning of Visakha Bucha
Visakha Bucha (วันวิสาขบูชา), pronounced Wisakha Bucha in Thai, is the most important religious holiday in the Thai Buddhist calendar. Bucha means ‘Worship’. It is also known as Wesak or Vesak, Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day.
The day is to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha. According to the Theravada Buddhist traditions observed in Thailand (95% of the population is recognised as Theravada Buddhist), these three events all took place on the same day of the year, on the full moon day of the Indian lunar month of Vesakha.
The Buddha’s enlightenment took place on his thirty-fifth birthday and he passed away on his eightieth birthday. Wisaka, the sixth lunar month, usually falls in May.
In Thailand it is an official public holiday and is also designated as National Tree Day. Wisaka Bucha day is also recognised by UNESCO as a “World Heritage Day”.
The Celebrations – Visakha Bucha 2017
Devout Buddhists consider Visakha as an important event and crowds of devotees will before dawn participate in ceremonies at temples across the Kingdom, the monks will start the ceremonies with the honorable, hoisting of the Buddhist flag and chanting in praise of the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings), and The Sangha (his disciples).
Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their teacher. These symbolic offerings are to remind followers that just as the beautiful flowers would wither away after a short while and the candles and joss-sticks would soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction.
Lay people can then add to the making merit by bringing alms to monks and listening to sermons. Later in the evening devotees will continue assembling at temples to conduct the “Wien Tien” ceremony, by walking around the sacred temple grounds three times holding candles, joss sticks and flowers in doing so honouring the Buddha, the Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha, the Buddhist Monastic Order.
“National Tree Day” came into being in 1985. During the day public organizations, educational institutions and local people plant trees across the country as part of the Kingdom’s program to restore the forests and increase public awareness of the importance of preserving the natural environment in conjunction with observing Wisakha Bucha Day.
Please Note: As with all temples of worship anywhere in the world we respectively ask that you:
- Bow your head and pay respect to the temple and the Buddha statues.
- Do not point at Buddha statues, Monks, Nuns and/or elders especially with your feet
- Cover yourself from the shoulders down to at least below your knees.
- Keep your head below Buddha statues, images, honourable Monks and Nuns
- Do not touch (especially on the head) Buddha statues, images, Monks, Nuns and elders.
- Please refrain from public displays of affection
- Keep Quiet. There are those meditating or praying somewhere even though you may not see them
- It may be very fascinating to foreigners to see a reclining Buddha. However, do not get too close to a Buddha statue when taking a picture. Where possible kneel on the ground so that you head is below the statue.
Other things to note
Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or to be touched by a woman or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk or novice, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it.
Or in the case of a woman who wants to present it with her hand, the monk or novice will spread out a piece of saffron robe or handkerchief in front of him, and the woman will lay down the material on the robe which is being held at one end by the monk or novice.
All Buddha images, large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred objects. Therefore, do not climb up on one to take a photograph, or generally speaking, do anything that might show a lack of respect.
Failure to adhere to these simple rules will be viewed as offensive.
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