March 7th 2012. Makha Bhucha Day. This is a day for ‘merit-making’ in the Buddhist calendar.
This third lunar month of March is known in Thai as Makha; Bucha is also a Thai word meaning “to venerate” or “to honor”. As such, Makha Bucha Day is for the veneration of Buddha and his teachings on the full moon day of the third lunar month.*
Since I live close to the royal temple, Wat Bowonniwet Vihara School, it’s hard not to notice an important Buddhist event. An early rise is necessary to witness the procession of ochre-robed monks making their daily alms rounds and record the event as unobtrusively as possible.
Precepts for the day include: giving alms to monks, refraining from alcohol consumption and immoral behaviour. I was hoping my intrusive flash photography wouldn’t count as an affray to the rules.
This year’s Makha Bhucha Day, auspicious due to the fact that it falls on a full moon Wednesday, commensurate with the day it commemorates, namely, reminding the community of the time Buddha received around 1250 ‘sanghas’ or enlightened monks around 2600 years ago.
As I photographed the proceedings, an elderly monk of obvious high distinction, called me over to speak with him – in English. His followers didn’t belie his status. A humble but very authorative monk had now become my friend.
He invited me for breakfast on condition I observed the walking practice ‘vien tien’ or candle procession. He showed me his living quarters and I bade him a quick good day.
I participated in the ritual thrice circumnavigation of the temple grounds with many devout Thais, all of us holding the trinity of a lotus flower, smoking incense sticks and a candle, arriving at the Bot or main gathering hall ten minutes later to place the sticks and light the candle.
I found the monk eating with a fellow resident and he introduced himself as Won. Lay people such as myself are not permitted to eat until the monks have finished so Won told me of his trips to Sydney and Auckland in the meantime, not withstanding a few Buddhist lessons for good measure reminding me that this fortuitous meeting was itself, not without merit.
The monks are waited on by fellow laymen and when my turn came to eat I received a platter of fruit: mango, watermelon and the aptly named, red-spiked dragon fruit. I was delighted to be offered a coffee, slightly bemused by the fact I was getting ‘normal’ food. I guess I expected something more traditional – sweetbreads or a spicy porridge or the like.
The monks receive a bounty of alms from the ‘Yom’ or lay people. Won’s table was a cornucopia of jams, tinned food, more fruit and personal effects. I was offered a medicinal honey to sweeten my coffee which made the morning.
Leaving the monk to his duties I signed his visitor’s book in block letters (as he had requested) and took my leave as graciously as I knew how. Since I wander the temple grounds regularly I’d be sure to renew my acquaintance with the honourable gent.
Taken on OLYMPUS E-System, E3 SLR, Zuiko Digital 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD Standard Wide Zoom lens.
*Sources: © Wikipedia
© Warren Field 2012