Makha Bucha Day

Today was a religious holiday for everyone in Thailand. Like other Buddhist holidays, Makha Bucha Day doesn’t happen on the same date every year. It is all to do with the phases of the moon. This holiday is held on the full moon of the third lunar month (usually end of February or early March).

This day marks four events that took place during Lord Buddha’s lifetime, namely:

* 1250 Buddhist monks from different places came to pay homage to Lord Buddha, each of his own initiative and without prior notification or appointment.
* all of them were enlightened monks
* all of them had been individually ordained by Lord Buddha himself
* they assembled on the full moon day of the third lunar month.

On this day, Thai people go to their local temple in the morning to make merit, listen to sermons and also to take part in a candle-lit procession around the chapel. However, judging by the number of people in the shopping malls I don’t think going to the local temple is as important as it was in the past. A recent survey suggested 60-70 per cent of Thai families do not visit temples. Thai young people, for instance, are far more interested in St Valentine’s Day than Makha Bucha Day. To try and counteract that, The Ministry of Culture have decided, in their wisdom, that what is needed here is some “Dhamma Rap”!

INTERESTING FACTS: According to the Kasikorn Research Centre, Thai people spend about 3.3 billion baht annually on making merit and giving donations to Buddhist monks. Surprisingly, 1.1 billion baht was spent each year in the north-east, 760 million in the greater Bangkok area, 750 million in the central plains, 550 million in the north and 160 million in the south.

4 responses to “Makha Bucha Day

  1. Ive never seen those ‘making-merit’ financial statistics before . Interesting to note that the poor of the north-east are much more inclined to give donations to the temple than the much well-offer Bangkokian.

    With a basic calculator at hand here with ‘population v income received’it is easy to recognise. Mmmmmm.

  2. Very interesting post, and great to know the figures. These merit-making figures I speculate come from bank account information of temples. The amount raised would be directly related to how closely tied the people are to their temple of choice (a traditional community institution). The temples’ monks are usually relatives and family members. These temples are where your son would be ordained by the time he is 21 and where your family members would be cremated.

    In the city, that kind of community life has been severed. Migrant workers (who mostly come from the northeast) from the provinces most often return to make merit in their hometown. It is a way to show their prestige.

    As for the young, as long as their parents go to the temple, when they grow older they’ll more of less follow their parent’s example. I certainly did not enjoy being dragged by my mom to go to the temple when I was a teenager. However, I now remember all those toture sessions with gratitude and try to drag my own teenage son with me once a while.

  3. Yes, info. from Khun NuI T.
    is right. My observation is that local tempples esp. in North-eastern provinces often get large sum of donation made by BKK people and companies e.g. through Katin and Pha Pa as they like to travel and do donate to those temples than the ones in BKK.

  4. I’ve been to the ceremony in Chiang Mai, and to me it seemed there was a small crowd there, eager to make their donations at six in the morning. However, I’ve only seen what’s happening at one temple, so I can’t really compare it to large-scale observations like the above.

    I’m not surprised about rural folks giving more to temples than city folks. Besides the above reasons, I think that the Western influence, which emphasizes secular views, is more prevalent in cities, decreasing the extent to which city laypeople believe in the religious institution.

    It also could be that because city folks have greater access to news, they are more exposed to high-profile cases of mishandling of funds by a few miscerant monks, therefore increasing their scepticism towards the system.