The Asalha puja is the full moon observance day on which the Buddha gave his very first sermon at Deer Park. After the sermon, one of his friends, Kondañña, exclaimed his understanding of the Truth and asked to go forth. So by becoming the first monk, the day is also the beginning of the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha). During this month the Buddha’s son Rahula was also born which gives extra meaning to us.
Khao means to enter, and Pansa is the rains retreat. The Khao Pansa therefor is the celebration for entering the rains retreat. In Southeast Asia, there are three main seasons of the year: hot, cold, and wet. Consequently, each of these seasons lasts four months. Especially during the time of the Buddha, travel was both difficult and usually dangerous. To travel during this time also meant treading and killing many plants which upset people because of the Jain’s tradition of not killing a single living thing regardless of the intention. So the Buddha decided that it would be best for his disciples to not travel during this time. Especially the forest monks were traveling most of the time, sleeping in caves and under trees. But during three months of the wet season he wanted them to settle down somewhere, preferably in numbers where they could practice together. This became the rains retreat during which the monks had opportunities to learn from senior monks by listening to talks and having dialogue with them. It was a time to memorize and recite the Dhamma which back then was mostly an oral tradition, and also for more intensive meditation practice. If one could not find a suitable location to enter the retreat however, the Buddha made an allowance to start a month later and finish a month later. This is known as entering the second retreat and is still fully within the four months of the rainy season.
So the Khao Pansa celebration is a time for the lay and monastic communities to share blessings before this longer retreat period and our time spent together here was no exception. Everyone helped get things ready… A local man made the traditional asana or platform and one lay woman made sitting mats for the monks to sit on. Another one made an amazingly beautiful flower arrangement around the large candle that was offered to the monks. Traditionally the lay community would get together and make large candles for the monks to use to study and practice by. Today in Thailand there are huge celebrations with gigantic wax sculptures showcased. But the point is to offer the candle to the monastic community which also stands for wisdom and their presentation is therefore a kind of blessing for the entire retreat period. Another tradition is to offer bathing cloth which today is another beautiful opportunity for giving and receiving. This was all above and beyond the amazing food offering that was shared, and barely mentioning the amazing house which was offered for the shared practice here to last for at least an entire month.
Thank you to everyone who was part of this special day in one way or another. It was a success in that it brought so many of us together in the Dhamma to learn, find refuge in community, have the opportunity to give, chant together, and to just enjoy the serenity of this place.
Photos Here !!!