Thai Culture: Mahkha Bucha
Buddhist Holiday in Thailand
(Buddha gives Dharma talk to 1250 followers)
This was Makha Bucha Day in Thailand, a Buddhist holiday in Thai culture that we just got lucky enough to catch after we ate dinner.
It was Saturday evening and I was trying out the new Nokia e65 phone with 2mp camera and video and thought we should head by a temple since we saw a lot of people buying flowers and incense on the side of the road near the temples as we were looking for a restaurant to eat at.
I bought this phone so I could become more mobile with my blogging. As it is I take photos and videos with two different cameras that create huge file sizes that I need to render into an appropriate format before uploading to this or my other blogs. My hope is that this phone will enable me to take photos, take videos, and upload both to the blogs without having to turn on the computer. This was an experiment to see if that was possible.
After experimenting with the new camera during dinner I thought it would take decent videos at night with very little light too – so we went to the biggest temple that I know of in the area. It was about 8:30 pm maybe that this all started and we arrived at 8:25. Nice timing! There were maybe 1000 Buddhists there celebrating this special day.
Makha Bucha, as I understand it, is to commemorate the day that the Buddha gave his teaching to 1250 Buddhist disciples that spontaneously came to see him. The Buddha gave all of these Buddhist men the oath to become monks. On this day the Buddha gave them the teaching that he believed monks should follow. He told them how to go about being monks. What monks do. What they are. How they should act. What rules they should follow. He gave them Dharma talks.
The Thai-Buddhists that came to celebrate the holiday walk around the temple or stupas 3 times. As they do so they focus on something for each lap around.
- The first time around they focus on the Buddha.
- The second time, they focus on the Dharma. Dharma is the "truth" about Buddhism conveyed through words, actions, or sometimes with a gesture or smile.
- The third time they focus on all the people that took the vowels to be monks.
They also have 3 lighted incense sticks (symbolizing the trinity mentioned above) between their hands which are held in front of them resembling Christians praying. There is a candle usually between the hands also, and it signifies something, but if my girlfriend doesn't get out of the shower before I post this – it will remain a mystery.
Ah, ok, I interrupted her 3rd shower today (and it's 1:02pm!). She said the candle is to represent "lighting the way" and as a symbol of the person's life.
In the videos I've posted links to at youtube you can see everyone walking around the temple, stupa and other important monuments at this temple.
Everyone was very nice to the out-of-place farang holding the video phone in their face. One little girl about 4 came up to me and tried to tell me in English what Makha Bucha day was and what it meant to the Thai Buddhists. I didn't film it as I thought it'd be rude. But, it was quite a cool experience.
When you come to Thailand you should feel free to go see any event that you find at a temple or in the streets. People have ALWAYS been over-accomodating towards me and I've gone to take a look at funerals, cremations, Chinese new years, and Chinese vegetarian festival (like lent)… and though it might have seemed that I was out of place nobody really ever made me feel that way. They just accept virtually anything here with the mai pen rai attitude… it's so cool!
Makha Bucha Buddhist Holiday Video 1 > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEVqRD-Akwc
This is when we first arrived and I hadn't figured out what was happening and that this was the Buddhist holiday when everyone walked around the temple and stupa. I was trying to find a place to get the best video. If you look on the left a few seconds into the video you can see two foreigners standing with their incense lit and wondering what they are to do next also. There is a guy that stops with his baby to say hi to the camera, from this point I know I'm welcome and no worries…
If this following link doesn't work then the one below will… I'm testing the youtube embed video in my blog trick from email on my phone… see if this works…
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Makha Bucha Video 2 > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=353sW6s7gto
In this video you can see the group start to move. It's sort of chaotic and that's what's so cool about Thailand and Buddhism. Often times it isn't very regimented. There's no right and wrong for what you should be doing. Everyone just kind of follows along as a group. They've been doing this every year for many years and yet it's not formalized or standardized. THAT is cool.
I have another 14 mb video file download that I'll put up at my http://www.thaipulse.com site in the video section under Thai People or Thai Culture in the next few days. But if you don't have a fast connection or a lot of time, don't try it! This is the best overall video showing the masses of people, old and young walkng around the temple with their incense sticks and focusing on the Buddhist trinity: Buddha; Dharma; Monks. There is also a shot of the monks walking around. As they passed a particularly old monk maybe 70 years old looked at me and smiled, you can see him in the lower part of the video as he moves to the left he's smiling and I'm smiling at him.
Some of the Thai people put their incense and candle at the base of the bodhi tree and said prayers. A Bodhi tree is the type that the Buddha sat under when he became enlightened. They are held in high regard as a symbol of what the Buddha attained.
The monks, after walking around the temple 3 times kneel in formation. As I was taking a video of them I saw that one of the monks had a camera phone dangling from his left wrist. He was pointing it at me and taking a picture of me! At least that's what it looked like.
Ok, so that's all I have for it – go explore the temples if you see a lot of people, you'll be welcome, especially during the Thai Buddhist Holiday, "Makha Bucha day 2008" in Thailand…