Date 12/08/2015

ASALHA PUJA DAY



ASALHA PUJA DAY

Translated by Dr.Suttipong Srivichai and Dr.Suthira Duangsamosorn
Significance

Asalha Puja Day, one of the most sacred days in Buddhism, is observed on the 15th Day of the Waxing Moon in the Eight Lunar Month to commemorate the day on which Lord Buddha delivered his first Sermon, or Dhammachakkappavattanasutr, before the first five disciples in Buddhism. The day also marks the beginning of the worship of the Triple Gem, namely: the Lord Buddha, His Teachings and His Disciples.

In his First Sermon, Lord Buddha taught the Middle Way or, Majjimapatipada, and how to reach Nirvana, and as a result one of the five ascetics who was named Kondanya, attained enlightenment. In recognition Thailand was the first Buddhist country to recognise the importance of the day, as a sacred and national holiday.

Historical Background
When Lord Buddha attained enlightenment on the Fullmoon Day of the 6th Lunar Month, he remained near the Bodhi Three, where he had attained enlightenment, for seven weeks. During that time, he was thinking whether he should teach what he had discovered in his meditation, and who would be the right persons to receive his teaching. He immediately thought of his former teachers, Alaradabos and Uttakadabos, who had reached a high level of absorption, or Chana, and he regretted that both of them had already passed away. He then thought of the five ascetics, or Panjavaggi, with whom he had practised penance for many years: Kondanya, Vappa, Bhattiya, Mahanama, and Assaji. Lord Buddha reckoned that they were ascetics and of good innate character and able to absorb his doctrine. Therefore, Lord Buddha left Gaya, his place of enlightenment at Uruvelasenanigom, for the Deer Park near Benares.

On the Fullmoon Day of the Eighth Month (one day before Buddhist Lent), Lord Buddha expounded his first sermon, commonly known as the Great Discourse on the End of the Ultimate, to his five disciples at the Isipatanamaruegatayavan forest.

In this first sermon, Lord Buddha taught the Middle Way which means that an ordained person should not practise extreme self-indulgence on the one hand
(Kamasukkahallikanuyoga) or extreme self-mortification (Attakilamathanuyok) on the other.
He told his disciples that by following the Middle Way (Majjimapatipada) the person who practised this way could reach Nirvana, the enlightened state. Lord Buddha explained his theory of the Four Noble Truths, or Ariyasajja namely that there was Suffering (Dukkha), there were causes of Suffering (Samudaya), how the Suffering could be extinguished (Nirodha), and the path leading to cessation of Suffering (Nirvana).

The Eightfold Path or Magga could lead to the cessation of suffering, which Lord Buddha described as follows: Right View or Right Understanding (Sammaditthi), Right Thought (Samma Sangkappa), Right Speech (Samma Vaja), Right Action (Samma Kamanta), Right Livelihood (Samma Ajeeva), Right Effort (Samma Vayama), Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati), and Right Concentration (Samma Samadhi).

At the end of this sermon (Phradhammadesana), Kondanya gained insight into the real nature of things (or Dharma) and Lord Buddha acknowledged his new state of enlightenment by saying "Kondanya knows!”

Kondanya then requested to become Lord Buddha’s disciple and the Lord Buddha ordained him by saying "Ehibhikkhu-Upasampada”, bringing into existence the Third Gem.

Asalha Puja Day in Thailand

Before Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, he had practised many ways, but none of them led him to Nirvana, or Enlightenment. He sought a new path, the Noble Eightfold Path which comprises of the following details:

1. Right Understanding

2. Right Thought

3. Right Speech

4. Right Action

5. Right Livelihood

6. Right Effort

7.Right Mindfulness

8. Right Concentration

Which he practised and, as a result, gained enlightenment.

The Middle Way, which Lord Buddha discovered, started with the Right Understanding of the goal of life, and sought the way to that goal after his mind
had become peaceful. Neither excessively strict, nor lenient in practice, he first
concentrated on getting rid of evil, and to prevent himself from evil, then to cultivate goodness and to preserve that goodness. He found that if the mind has attained calmness, the behaviour, deeds and speech will also be calm, and if the deeds, speech and mind are perfectly calm, one can reach Nirvana.
 
The laymen’s way of life can also reach its goal successfully, depending on the intention of each person. Some set a goal to get rich, others want to attain a good reputation.
The word "sufficient” is the key word to understanding the Middle Way, which applies not only for the individual, but also for the group. If everybody is concerned with and follows the Middle Way, he will succeed, even though the going may not be smooth at first.

Suggestions of Activities on Asalha Puja Day

Activities in the family

1. Cleaning the house, hoisting the flag, and setting up an altar for religious ceremonies.
2. Conversing about the Dharma, and discussing important principles,such as the middle way.

3. Family members discuss problems in the family by taking the middleway as a guiding principle to abstain from sin, and reduce the path to ruin.

4. Taking the family to make merit, giving alms to the monks, and praying.

5. Practising the Dharma in the temple, observing the precepts praying to the triple gem, listening to sermons, joining a candle procession around the temple.

6. Any other suitable activities.

Activities in educational institutions :

1.Cleaning the area of the school, hoisting national and religious flags,setting up an altar.

2.Teachers and students mount exhibitions, prepare posters or picture notebooks on the religious holiday.

3.Teachers help students in organising essay contests and Dharma Quiz programs, so that they have an opportunity to describe the importance of the day and explain the Dharma.

4. Honouring the students whose conduct is outstanding to serve as good examples on this occasion.

5. The teachers lead the students to participate in community activities,such as going to the temple, offering alms to the monks, observing the precepts, listening to the Dharma, discussion about the Dharma and meditation.

6. Performing other suitable activities.

Activities in offices and companies :

1. Cleaning the area, decorating the office with the national and religious flags, and setting up an altar.
2. Giving information about the importance of the day, including the important principles and practice in the company.

3. Inviting monks to lecture on the Dharma.

4. Participation in activities for the public good.

5. The top executive of the company gives his colleagues and subordinates an opportunity to make merit on that day.

6. Setting up posters to inform everyone of the common goal to abstain from evil deeds on that day.
7. Performing any other suitable activities.

Activities in the society

1. Temples, social councils, foundations, organisations and mass media can spread information about the importance of the day.

2. Spreading information about the day and the Dharma in rural areas or public places, such as airports, railway stations, bus terminals, preaching halls, trade centres.

3. Persuading the people to participate in activities to practise the Dharma and Buddhist rites, giving alms to the monks, listening to the preaching, observing the precepts, and praying.

4. Campaign in the mass media to reduce, abstain from or quit harmful ways and stop taking intoxicants.

5. Announcing names to honour institutions or persons who have acted for to the benefit of the society.

6. Campaigns to preserve the environment, growing trees and cleaning public areas.

7. Dharma recitations, speech contests, mottoes, poetry as well as essay competition on Aslaha Puja Day.
8. Any other suitable activities.

Expected Results

1. Buddhists will understand the importance of Asalha Puja Day, and the principles of Dharma and Pavarana and the way to practise them.
2. Buddhists get a good preparation for Buddhist Lent to consider the value of the way of life along with the principles of Dharma and Pavarana.

3. Buddhists can practise their faith and get a good understanding on the importance of Buddhism.

4. Buddhists can be good religious people who understand the duties of the Buddhists in a right way.
 




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