Buddhists throughout Thailand will make merit this month during the morning alms rounds of Buddhist monks
and the faithful will attend candle-lit processions at nearby temples in the evening to mark Asanha Bucha.
Wan Asanha Bucha and Wan Khao Phansa are very important Thai Buddhist holidays in July. This year Wan Asanha Bucha is on Tuesday 19th July 2016 and Wan Khao Phansa on Wednesday, 20th July 2016. Many businesses, government offices, schools and the like will be closed. There will be restrictions on alcohol sales as well. There will be many activities around the temples, predominantly listening to sermons, making merit and feeding of monks. Wan Asanha Bucha Wan Asanha Bucha commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon in the Deer Park at Benares (Varanasi) in India.
In this sermon, known as Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion, the Buddha first spelled out the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. This day is also regarded as the founding day of the Buddhist sangha (monkhood). Many Thai people will return to their ancestral homes to worship in their local temple and to bring offerings for the monks. In the evening they will often perform a wian tian, where they walk clockwise around the main shrine of the temple carrying a candle, three incense sticks and a lotus bed. During the day, monks chant mantras or repeat the first sermon of the Buddha. Wan Khao Phansa Wan Khao Phansa means the day of entering the rains retreat.
This is a threemonth annual retreat usually undertaken from July to October, during which monks must stay at the same temple, and refrain from wandering around the countryside. In India, it is known as Vassa. It begins on the day after Asanha Bucha. The tradition dates from the time of the Buddha, when he forbade monks to travel during the rainy season for fear that they might unintentionally harm crops or insects in the places where they walked.
The Rains Retreat in Thailand In Thailand, monks use the retreat to meditate more intensively. Lay people will often use this period to adopt more ascetic practices, abstaining from meat, alcohol or cigarettes, for example. Wan Khao Phansa is often referred to as Buddhist Lent, with an emphasis on reflection and self-denial.It is also a time when many young Thai men ordain and join the monkhood for part or all of the period of the rains retreat.