My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.



Lately, it seems as if everytime I turn around there's another shut-down of this nation because of one holiday or another.  It makes it difficult to do things like getting our motorbike repaired (none of the Honda shops are open for four days or so this week because of the latest holiday) or picking up mail at the post office.  On the other hand, watching the organized celebrations for the various holidays on television (they air live coverage of ALL the observances) is fascinating.

Today, the holiday is Asanha Puja, a Theravada Buddhist festival which takes place on the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eighth lunar month and commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon in the Deer Park in Benares and the founding of the Buddhist sangha.

Tomorrow, the holiday is Wan Kao Pansa, the first day of vassa (พรรษา or pansa), the Theravada rains retreat.  According to Wikipedia, this

is the traditional retreat during the rainy season lasting for three lunar months from July to October.  During this time Buddhist monks remain in a single place, generally in their temples.  In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation practice.  During Vassa, many Buddhist lay people reinvigorate their spiritual training and adopt more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking (Vassa is sometimes known as "Buddhist Lent").  And in countries such as Thailand, the laity will often take monastic vows for the Vassa period and then return to lay life.  Commonly, the number of years a monk has spent in monastic life is expressed by counting up the number of Vassas he has observed.


The origins of the vassa tradition are ascribed to early Buddhist times.  Gautama Buddha ordered his disciples to observe a pre-existing practice whereby holy men avoided travelling for a three month period during the rainy season, in order to avoid damaging crops.

The period begins on the first day of the waning moon in the eighth lunar month; the preceding day is Asalha Puja.  The focus of celebration by the laity is the first day of vassa, Wan Kao Pansa, during which worshippers donate candles and other necessities to temples, a ceremony which has reached its most extravagant form in the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival.

Vassa is followed by two of the major festivals of the year among Theravada Buddhists, Wan Awk Pansa and Kathina.

The end of vassa is marked by joyous celebration.  The following month, the Kathina ceremony is held, during which the laity gathers to make formal offerings of robe cloth and other requisites to the Sangha.
(Sorry for the quick cut-and-paste of the meaning of "vassa"; Tim's ready to go watch some of the celebrations and I don't want to make her wait while I paraphrase the meaning...)