The eighth lunar month of Buddhism is the time for the holy celebrations of Asalaha Bucha day. The term Asalaha signifies the eighth lunar month. This day is celebrated on the second full moon day of the month. Also known as the Sangha Day, this day is one of the most important religious landmarks in Buddhism as this was the day when the first Buddhist Order was born.
The story behind Asalaha Bucha day
Asalaha Bucha day has quite a history behind it. It is said that the day Buddha attained his enlightenment (in the sixth lunar month, on a full moon day); he made a decision to teach the lessons learnt by him, also known as Dharma, to others. But the lessons of Dharma were not so simple that it will be understood by any layman. So he decided to impart these teachings to five ascetics (a group known as pancavaggi) who used to live in Issipatanamarukatayawan, a forest. Presently, this forest is known as the Deer Park and is situated in Varanasi.
On this day the first discourse on Dharma was given to these five ascetics who thereby became disciples of Buddha. The first sermon was on the four noble truths. Among the five disciples, the first to achieve the first level of enlightenment was Kondana, who was the head of the group. Thereafter he became the first monk in Buddhism. This was, since then, regarded as the day the wheel of Dharma was set in motion. As a result Asalaha Bucha day came into being. This is the day when the Triple Gem came into existence – namely Buddha, Sangha (his disciples) and Dharma (his teachings).
Celebrations done on Asalaha Bucha day
Asalaha Bucha day is marked by a number of celebratory activities done by the followers of Buddhism. Being a sacred day, these activities are religiously observed by all and sundry.
First there is Tum Boon. This is all about listening to the lessons in Buddhism and offering prayers in the temples. The people spend their time in various donating activities, in order to gain good merit. The donations are mostly made to the monks. Apart from these, a number of other holy activities are done too.
Then there is the activity of abstinence, also known as Rub Sil. Here a complete abstinence is observed from anything that is immoral, like consuming alcohol, or any deed that is unethical like lying or acts of violence. This activity works on the principles of self discipline taught by Buddha.
Tuk Bard is the activity which celebrates the Buddhist monks. On this day, the monks are honored by the local people and are given food in bowls of alms. The feet of the monks are washed by these people and they are worshipped.
Towards the end of the Asalaha Bucha day, in the evening, a candle-lit procession is led by the Buddhists. This is known as the Vien Tien. Here three rounds are made around the holy sermon hall, on the temple’s grounds. This activity marks the end of this sacred Asalaha Bucha day.