Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Buddhist Religious Days in Thailand

Stamp series 2000-2006 (Thailand Post Company Limited, TomBKK/Flickr.com)

Buddhist customs in Thailand have been influenced by many Hindu beliefs. The association of a color with each day, for example, is one such custom. It is illustrated by this series of stamps celebrating important Buddhist religious days. Thais attach particular significance to the color of the day on which they were born.
  • 2000: Asalha-puja Day, Red - Sunday
    2001: Visakha-puja Day, Yellow - Monday
    2002: Magha-puja Day, Pink - Tuesday
    2003: Asalha-puja Day, Green - Wednesday
    2004: Visakha-puja Day, Orange - Thursday
    2005: Magha-puja Day, Blue - Friday
    2006: Visakha-puja Day, Purple - Saturday

Asalhapuja Day is the full moon day of the 8th lunar month (the day following the full moon). This day commemorates the Buddha's first sermon following his enlightenment. The sermon was given to the five ascetics in the forest. The Buddha taught them to follow the "Middle Way" -- to avoid either extreme of sensual indulgence or mortifying asceticism, lust and penance. After this sermon the senior ascetic, Aññā-Kondañña, was ordained as the first Buddhist monk. He became the foundation of the Buddhist Monastic Order, the "Sangha."

photo (Flickr.com/Atomdocs)

Visakhapuja Day is the full moon day of the 6th lunar month. This day commemorates Vesak (the birth, enlightenment, and nirvana-ization of the Buddha, all of which occurred on the full moon day of the Indian month of Vesakha). All these events occurred years apart but on the same day: The Buddha was born on this day in 623 BC, attained enlightenment in 588 BC, and died in 543 BC (passed into final nirvana). Of course, the dates are disputed, most famously by Dr. Pal.

Maghapuja Day is the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month. This Sangha Day commemorates the spontaneous assembly of 1,250 disciples of the Buddha nine months after his enlightenment. Each of the disciples had been ordained directly by the Buddha. The meeting took place 44 years before the start of the Budddhist Era (587 BC). The Buddha gave a sermon at this meeting, expressing the principal ideas of his teaching and how they apply to everyday life.

On all of these days Thai Buddhists usually give alms to monastics, meditate, and otherwise make merit at temples around the country.

No comments: