Makha Bucha Day (วันมาฆบูชา) is a Buddhist holiday, which takes place annually on the night of the full moon during the third lunar month of the year.
“Makha” is the Pali word for the third Lunar month, while “bucha” means to honor or to venerate.
Since Makha Bucha is based on the lunar calendar, the date varies from year to year. This year Makha Bucha day is on 22 February 2016.
It was 9 full months after the Buddha got the Enlightenment, on the full moon day of 6th lunar month, 45 years before the Buddhist era. On the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month, Makha, of the year, four special events happened:
1. There were 1,250 Sangha followers decided to come back to see Lord Buddha at Weluwan Wannaram without prior appointment after traveling around and teaching Buddhism.
2. All of them were “อรหันต์ Arhantas’, the Enlightened One, and all of them were ordained by the Buddha himself.
3. Because it was the first assembly of the large group of the Buddhist monk gathering therefore the Buddha gave those Arhantas the three principles of the Buddhism, called “The Ovadhapatimokha” which is considered the first constitution for all the laws of Buddhist monks from then until now.
4. It was the full moon day.
The 3 cores principles (the Ovadhapatimokha) are;
1. Refrain from commiting all kind of wickeness (ไม่ทำความชั่ว)
2. Be good and do good (ทำความดีทั้งทางกาย วาจา และใจ)
3. Purify the mind (ทำจิตใจให้บริสุทธิ์)
Thailand started celebrating Makha Bucha Day during the reign of King Rama IV, around 150 years ago. King Rama IV felt that Buddhist teachings were very important, recognising that Makha Bucha was one of the most remarkable events in Buddhist history.
His Majesty therefore introduced the first celebration of Makha Bucha Day to his royal family members and courtiers. The celebration soon gained popularity among Siamese commoners.
(Photo Credit : Pantip.com)
Activities To Be Observed:
- ‘ทำบุญ/ tam-bun/’: Making merit by going to temples for special observances, making merit, listening to Dhamma preaching, giving some donations and the other activities of the day include acts of merit such as freeing fish and birds .
- ‘รับศีล /ráp sĕen/’: Keeping the Five Precepts*, including abstinence from alcoholic drinks and all kinds of immoral acts, including listening to teachings of Buddhism and the practice of meditation (nâng sà-maa-tí นั่งสมาธิ)
- ‘ตักบาตร /dtàk bàat/’: Offering food to the monks and novices (in the alm bowl (บาตร /bàat/).
- ‘เวียนเทียน /wain tain/: Monks and other believers of the Buddhist philosophy hold candlelit processions with monks who also hold a sacred thread in a procession around the temple.Buddhists from across the cities throughout the country flock to temples to participate in these processions.
Thai government announces this day a national holiday so people can participate in religious ritual and perform good merit for their good karma.
Many temples, religious and mediation centres welcome both Buddhist Thais and foreigners who would like to enter into mediation sessions provided countrywide, which include Paknam Phasicharoen Temple in Bangkok.
Alcohol is not served in observance of religious holidays in Thailand. On Makha Bucha Day, consumption of alcohol is not only considered a religious violation but also a civil offense. Bars, restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, retail and convenience stores and even some hotels are prohibited from selling or serving alcohol to customers and their guests. Violation of this alcohol ban may result to imprisonment of up to six months and a steep fine (10,000 Baht as of last decree).
Although that doesn’t mean that all entertainment venues adhere strictly to the regulations. Some bars and clubs in Thailand may choose to close for Buddhist holidays, but those that do decide to remain open often resort to pouring beer into coffee mugs before handing it to the customer.
*Keeping the Five Precepts
This is considered as the basic code of ethics for Buddhism, and many devotees try to follow them as much as they can. These five precepts are:
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from killing.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
- I undertake the training rule to avoid sensual misconduct.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.