Today is a public holiday in Thailand to mark Visakha Bucha Day, the most significant day in the Buddhist calendar, commemorating three defining events in the life of the Lord Buddha… his birth, attaining enlightenment at 35 years old, and then his death 45 years later, which all occurred on the full-moon day of the sixth lunar month. There is an alcohol ban today, not that that’s really relevant at this time!
Visakha Bucha Day is one of the most important Buddhist holidays in the Thai calendar and this year it takes place on May 26, 2021. It is important as it was the day of three important incidents that occurred during the life of Lord Buddha. They all happened on full moon of the sixth lunar month.
Traditionally, Buddhists gather at temples to perform the ‘wian tien’ ritual, walking in circles three times around the main temple building with lighted candles. But this year the government has urged Buddhists not to gather together for this ritual and, instead, celebrate the event at home with family.
Buddha was born in India some 2,500 years ago as a rich prince, but he left that life of luxury to seek out wisdom from the wise hermits who lived in woodlands scattered throughout the region at the time. He felt disappointed, however, and instead meditated under a Bodhi tree. There, he is believed to have attained enlightenment at the age of 35 and to have formulated the basic tenets of Buddhism.
Later, at age 80, he died. Buddhists believe he then entered the state of “nirvana” and escaped all suffering, death, and reincarnation.
In Thailand, Visakha Bucha Day is a time when the devout visit local temples to “make merit,” by giving donations and engaging in various rituals. While there, they also listen to sermons on Buddha’s teachings, meditate, recommit themselves to follow the precepts of Buddhism, and offer food to temple workers. Some also set birds or fish free as a means of eliminating “negative karma”.
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