This Monday 26th July the Buddhist temples celebrate Asalah Puja, which marks the entering of the 3 month Vassa period often called ‘Buddhist Lent’, or Rains
In India ths was the time when farmers were planting, and they did not like wandering monks trampling the crops. The Buddha declared that for the three months the monks should stay in one place. This helps to form community in a tradition that was still largely based on wandering ascetics roaming the jungles. It helps to solidify the recitations of the monks rules and the teachings too. This is still followed today, with many temples running 3 month long courses in dhamma and/or vinaya (rules). In Thailand many men will ordain as monks, and many women will enter and stay in a temple for the period. Many just join the start, thinking the renunciation too stressful to do for the full 3 months.
Amongst monks it is a big deal. You form a bond with places where you have spent a Rains. For the period you are not permitted to stay overnight outside of your temple. If there is a very good reason you can stay away, but not for more than 6 nights.
This is one reason why our Little Bangkok Sangha has special activities over this period – because it is a special time, and because other monks/nuns will not be traveling through Bangkok.
In the temples there will be the obligatory circumambulation of the main ordination hall, and usually a recitation of the Dhammacakka Sutta – the famed first teaching of the Buddha.
Entering the Rains : Tue 27th
Actually, the official start to the monks 3 month period is the day after Asalha Puja. They will usually try and travel to see their own elders, especially those who gave them ordination. Lay people follow suit too, by going to pay respects to their teachers and elders, usually in their home villages.