Today is Asalah Bucha Day in Thailand. Considered one of the most important Buddhism’s holy days, it honors the day the Buddha preached his first sermon 2,500 years ago at the Deer Park, teaching that the ills of our life come from the inability or desire to get something is the base of suffering; and that when stop the cycle of coveting, you become free from suffering. This is called the “middle way,” which leads you on a path between extremes of indulgence and asceticism, and moves you to the expelling of desire.
Ironically, Thailand’s expats celebrate the day by bitching that their favorite watering hole is not allowed to serve booze and spend the holiday searching out a place that will serve them their daily ration of gin. It’s an honored tradition among those who have decided to call Thailand their home.
And it’s good practice for tomorrow, Khao Phansa, also known as Buddhist Lent, a time devoted to study and meditation, the start of the ‘rains retreat’ period which traditionally lasts for three months during which Buddhist monks are expected to stay in their own temple to study the Buddha’s teaching as well as meditating. They are not allowed to travel anywhere or revert to being laymen.
Fortunately for the disgruntled and suddenly sober sexpat population the bars do not remain dry for the entire three months. Or the period would be known as ‘it’s raining flying farang’ instead of the rains retreat.
During this time the devout abstain from alcohol. They pray for assistance and guidance to encourage merit and happiness in their lives. It encourages them to follow the five major Buddhist precepts: don’t kill animals; don’t steal or engage in corrupt acts; don’t commit adultery; don’t lie; and avoid drinking alcohol. Many take time away from work to make merit for deceased relatives. They also offer robes to the monks.
Celebrations for the start of the Buddhist Lent take place all over Thailand. The most elaborate are Saraburi’s Tak Bat Dok Ma and – Ubon Ratchathani’s Candle Festival and parade. Both events draw devout Buddhists from all parts of Thailand.
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