Sunday, March 11, 2012

Making Merit

The Abbot at Wat Pa in Chandler collects food from temple goers during a Makha Bucha Day observances at the temple. 

Wat Pa, a Thai Buddhist temple in Chandler, marked Makha Bucha Day today with a special service and the Thai equivalent of a church pot luck. 

Makha Bucha Day is one of the most important holy days in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. It marks the day, more than 2,500 years ago, that 1,250 "Arhantas" or Enlightened Ones - all personally ordained by the Buddha - spontaneously came to hear the Lord Buddha preach. Temples (called "Wats" in Thailand), a beehive of activity in many communities, are packed with people who want to "make merit" on the holy day and participate in activities like a candle light procession or large community meal after the service. The day is a public holiday in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). In Asia, the holiday is celebrated on the full moon night of the third lunar month, which usually falls in February, but this year was in March. 

Wat Pa is a Thai temple, but it serves all members of the Theravada Buddhist community. People from Laos and Cambodia also attend the temple. Wat Pa's observance of Makha Bucha was today. A large crowd was at the temple to chant with the Abbot and present him with food and then partake in a picnic. 

Traditional church potlucks in the US are famous for their "covered hot dishes" and casserole dishes. If there is a Thai equivalent to that it would have to be curries, Phat Kraphao (an incredibly savory dish of minced chicken or pork stir fried with lots of chiles and basil), som tum (green papaya salad - also made with lots of chiles) and of course, rice. The temple may be in Arizona, but the scents coming out of it today were straight from a Bangkok street food market. 

There are more photos of Makha Bucha Day available from ZUMA Press or in my archive

I also photographed Makha Bucha Day in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, several years ago.