Asalha Puja Day: Important Holy Day for Buddhists
Asalha Puja Day, also called Dharma Day, is a very important holy day for the Theravada Buddhists. This religious festival day is celebrated in the 8th lunar month according to the old Indian calendar, on the day of the full moon. It is meant to celebrate the very first teachings from Buddha. In 2014 it was celebrated on July 13th, which is the 15th day of the waxing moon of the eight lunar month.
History of Asalha Puja Day
The history of Asalha Puja Day began more than 2,500 years ago before Buddha had begun his time as a great teacher. Since the Buddhist Lent begins in the 8th lunar month, it was the time that holy men spent the next three months in what was called a “rain retreat” since it was also the monsoon season.
They would not travel unless totally necessary and stayed in a permanent dwelling together. It is also a timeframe when it’s possible to be ordained as a monk. Plus, Buddah’s son Rahula’s birth and Buddha’s decision to relinquish all this royal and worldly pleasures to go on his quest to spiritual enlightenment both occurred during the month of Asalha.
On the original date, Buddha gave his first sermon to five disciples while at Deer Park in Benares, as well as being the first date for the worship of the Triple Gems, which consisted of Buddha, his lessons and his disciples. This sermon is sometimes known as the sermon that set the Wheel of Dharma into motion. The wheel consists of four noble truths: life means suffering or dukka, the origin of suffering is attachment or tanha, the cessation of suffering is attainable, and the way to that cessation is through the eightfold path.
Asalha Puja Day is also known as the day Buddha chose his first disciple, Kondanna; who is also the first Buddhist monk ordained by Buddha. He would be the first of many men to join in becoming a Buddhist monk over the next several centuries up until today.
Traditions on Asalha Puja Day
Some of the traditions that modern Buddhist monks practice on Asalha Puja Day include reciting the Eight Precepts, giving sermons and leading meditations, chanting in Sanskrit and leading a candle procession around their temple three times. Plus, the congregation will give offerings to the monks. Buddha’s first sermon contained the essence of all of his future lessons. A very common event is when the monks chant the discourse, which is called the Dharma Cakka Sutta or the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Truth.
It is tradition for Buddhists to worship Buddha by giving offerings to the monks and practicing Dharma on the Asalha Puja holy day. Therefore, this religious celebration is one of the most beloved and holy days of the year for those of the Buddhist faith.