On Saturday 11 February Thailand is observing วันมาฆบูชา/MAKHA BUCHA DAY the Fourfold Assembly or Sangha Day. Since 1996, if a holiday falls on a weekend, the following working day is observed as a compensatory non-working day, subject to Thailand’s Cabinet declarations.
For a better understanding as to why this day is an observed Buddhist Ceremonial Day, please continue reading.
MAKHA BUCHA DAY
Fourfold Assembly or Sangha Day
Den Firefoldige Samlingsdag eller Ordenens Dag
Saturday 11 February 2017
Background of Makha Pucha
Makha Pucha commemorates a time when 1,250 enlightened monks, disciples of the historical Buddha, spontaneously came together to pay respect to the Buddha. This was auspicious as,
- All the monks were arahants. Arahant comes from the Pali (originally Sanskrit) word arahati meaning ‘worthy’ or ‘noble’ and is a title given to someone who has attained enlightenment as a result of practicing the teachings of a Buddha (Theravada Buddhism),
- All the monks had been ordained by the Buddha,
- The monks came together as if by chance, without any planning or prior appointment and
- It was the full moon day of Magha (the third lunar month).
When the monks were assembled, the Buddha delivered a sermon called the Ovada Patimokkha in which he asked the monks to do good, to abstain from bad action, and to purify the mind.
Makha Pucha Observations/Ceremonies
On this day laypeople gather at temples, usually in the morning, bringing with them offerings of food and other items for the monks or nuns. Monastics chant the Ovada-Patimokkha Gatha, which is a summary of the Buddha’s teachings. In the evening, often there will be solemn candlelight processions.
One of the most elaborate Makha Pucha observances is held at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. The observance begins with offerings to the 28 Buddhas, including Gautama Buddha, who Theravada Buddhists believe lived in prior ages. This is followed by a nonstop recital of the Pathana, Buddhist teachings on the twenty-four causes of worldly phenomena as taught in the Pali Abhidhamma. This recital takes ten days.
In 1851, King Rama IV of Thailand ordered that a Makha Pucha ceremony be held every year forever at Wat Phra Kaew, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, in Bangkok. To this day a special closed service is held every year in the main chapel for the Thai royal family, and tourists and the public are encouraged to go elsewhere. Fortunately there are several other beautiful temples in Bangkok in which one may observe Makha Pucha. For instance Wat Pho, temple of the Reclining Buddha, and the beautiful Marble Temple, Wat Benchamabophit.