A Buddhism week is being held nationwide to mark Magha Puja, the first major Buddhist anniversary of the year. People have been invited to join the week, scheduled for 3 to 7 March 2012, with various religious activities, especially Dhamma practice.
In Bangkok, the focal point of this event takes place at the Sanam Luang ceremonial ground and in the provinces at major temples. Magha Puja falls on the full-moon day of the third lunar month, coinciding with March 7 this year.
Magha Puja is among the four Buddhist holy days recognized by the Government as national holidays. Three others include Visakha Puja, Asalha Puja, and Khao Phansa, or the beginning of the Buddhist Lent.
Buddhism began 25 centuries ago in northern India. Magha Puja commemorates a great event that took place once during the Buddha’s lifetime. According to Buddhist scriptures, nine months after his enlightenment, the Buddha traveled to Rajgaha, a center of religious activities in India, and stayed there for several months.
On the full-moon day of the third lunar month, a total of 1,250 monks from different places gathered to pay homage to the Buddha, each on his own initiative, without prior notification. All of them were enlightened monks, and they had been individually ordained by the Buddha himself. Such a unique gathering had never occurred anywhere else. On the evening of that day, the Buddha gave them the Ovadha Patimokha discourse, laying down the principles of his teachings. The principles can be condensed into three major guidelines: to do good, to abstain from bad, and to purify the mind.
For Buddhists, to do good and to abstain from bad means, first of all, to follow the five precepts of refraining from destroying life, from taking what is not given, from immoral sexual behavior, from false speech, and from taking intoxicating drinks.
Buddhism and Thailand have a close relationship. The roots of the Thai nation are evident as far back as 2,000 years ago. In the same period, Buddhism came to the region and it has played an important part in Thai history ever since. The Thai nation became firmly established in present-day Thailand 700 years ago. Also seven centuries ago, it adopted the present form of Buddhism.
Out of the population of 63 million, more than 90 percent of Thais are Buddhists. So Buddhism has had a deep influence in Thai arts, traditions, learning, and the character of the people. The charm that has earned Thailand the reputation as the ‘Land of Smiles’ undoubtedly comes from the influence of Buddhism over the people. Being interdependent, Buddhism and the Thai nation are bound together by mutual responsibility to contribute to the well-being of all people.
Realizing this fact, the Government, through the Ministry of Culture, has taken the responsibility of promoting Buddhism, and the organizing of the Buddhism week is an example.