(KPL) Buddhists in Vientiane and across the nation flocked to temples yesterday in order to give alms to monks on the occasion of Buddhist Lent B E 2556.

Buddhist Lent is a period of three lunar months during the rainy season when monks are required to remain in the Wat (temple). Monks and novices must swear themselves to remaining in the same place during Lent. They may not stay elsewhere overnight and during this period monks must strictly practice meditation.

Alms giving by Buddhists at Wat Khounta Tha, Sikhottabong district, Vientiane yesterday.
Alms giving by Buddhists at Wat Khounta Tha, Sikhottabong district, Vientiane yesterday.

Every full moon day, monks must gather in one temple to recite “Phadhimoka”or the 227 rules of monks. Khao Phansa Day is on the first day after the full moon of the eighth lunar month and marks the beginning of the three-month rainy season. The tradition of Buddhist Lent or the annual three-month rains retreat known in Lao as “Phansa”. Khao Phansa means to remain in one place during the rainy season. There are two words “Khao and Phansa” Khao denotes “enter” Phansa represents a time of renewed spiritual vigor and Khao Phansa festival is a major Buddhism merit-making festival.

The day before Khao Phansa Day is Asalha Puja Day. The day falls on the full moon of the eighth lun ar month. This day is also very important in Buddhism as the day of the Triple Gems happened such as: Buddha, Dhamma, and Shangha, which the day of the Lord Buddha preached his first sermon to the five disciples such as: Anyakondanya, Padhiya, Vabbha, Mahanama, and Atsasi. The Sermon is Dhammachakkabbhavattana sutta or (The wheels of life).

The main sermon is to refrain sexual pleasure (kammasuka), and mortification (Atta kilanuyoka), and practice in the middle way (Makkamakka padhipadha), the day is usually celebrated by merit making, listening to a monk’s sermon, and joining a candle light procession during the night.

During Khao Phansa, monks should not venture out or spend the night in any other places except in cases of extreme emergency and, even then, their time away must not exceed seven consecutive nights.

The Buddha prohibited monks to travel during this period because it is the rainy season and hard for monks to travel in wet season and it is period of plant fertilizing.

There is a story of monks travel in this period and damaged local’s plantation, so this event reached to the Buddha therefore, the Buddha didn’t allow monks to wander to other places during the rainy season.

They have to find a proper place or temple to stay and this is a the time for contemplation and meditation. The monks meditate more, study more and teach more. For Buddhists, Phansa is also customarily the season for temporary ordinations.

Young men enter the monkhood for spiritual training, to gain merit for themselves and their parents and it is believed that a man who has been a monk will lead his parents to the heavens because a monk is a sign of purity and happiness.

For this reason, most of them prefer to become a monk during this season. They have to spend most of their time learning, and practicing and train themselves under guidance a venerable.

Different places have different tradition and custom, according to my tradition, a boy should volunteer to stay at the temple to learn Dhamma, chant with the monks, and undertake various tasks at the temple such as: clean the monastery area, wash dishes, and serve the monks.

Mrs Medkeo Phommachanh, 35, a laywoman said, “I felt really happy after giving alms and giving merit to relatives who died and this is because Buddhist lent is an event for Buddhist people.

Source: KPL Lao News Agency
July 23, 2013