Visaka Bucha Day วันวิสาขบูชา

Visaka Bucha Day วันวิสาขบูชา

Visaka Bucha Day celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha. It is said that all three events happened on the same day of the year – the full moon day of the sixth Indian lunar month of Visaka. This year it was celebrated on June 1.

Going to wian tian at Wat Chedi Luang

Going to wian tian at Wat Chedi Luang with my lotus flower, candle, and three sticks of incense.

If the idea of these three events happening on the same day sounds like a mythological mystery, try looking at it from a different point of view.

One of my students asked the monk Phra Ajarn Jiew why they were on the same day. His answer was enlightening. He explained that the Buddha was born as a man – Siddhartha. When he became a Buddha, it was like the birthday of the Buddha. When he reached enlightenment, it was like reaching nibbana, which is the ultimate state passing from one lifetime to the next. All three on the same day.

 

On the evening of Visaka Bucha I joined other Buddhists walking around the main shrine of Wat Chedi Luang three times, in honor of the triple gem of Buddhism: the Buddha, his teachings (dhamma), and the community of followers (sangha). This circumambulation is called wian tian.

Full moon and Wat Chedi Luang

Full moon and Wat Chedi Luang

Lighting the candles and incense and giving the flower offerings after wian tian.

Lighting the candles and incense and giving the flower offerings after wian tian.

The full moon and big tree at Wat Chedi Luang

The full moon and big tree at Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is significant to me because it’s where I celebrated my birthday 15 years ago by lighting off a komloy (paper lantern). It’s one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai and there is something definitively sacred about it.

Meanwhile, next door at Wat Phan Tao this magical scene unfolded.

Meanwhile, next door at Wat Phantao this magical scene unfolded.

At Wat Phantao a group of young monks sitting in meditation with candles lit on the water and all around them. (Sorry for the blurry pictures – they were taken with my iPod)

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

12 These pictures don’t really capture the magnificence…so let’s try a little video. So appreciative that I got to experience this celebration.

So appreciative that I got to experience this celebration. mo

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Ch Ch Ch Changes

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Yes, it’s true, things change all the time. As much as we like it or don’t like it, things change, places change, and people change.

I am back in an ancient city that has been modernized. Tourism is not new to Thailand, so as where many developing nations change dramatically from year to year, although Thailand changes, there are some things that stay more or less the same.

Wats (temples) are one of those things that stay more or less the same. Chiang Mai is a city full of ancient temples. It is somehow soothing to visit the wats and have them look just the same as they did years ago, regardless of how dramatically the city has changed around them.

I remember my first day in Chiang Mai back in 2000, stumbling across Wat Chiang Man, and thinking, “Wow, this is Thailand and this wat is a spiritual place.” I didn’t have my camera with me then and I forgot the name, forgot about that temple, and forgot all about that experience…until yesterday. Memories came flooding in like waves at high tide. There is something sacred about an ancient building with elephants and buddhas. I walked into the grounds of Wat Chiang Man and, like in so many temple grounds, suddenly I felt as if I’d been transported out of the city and into a holy place. It gets very quiet and serene.

Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man

At this temple if you come inappropriately dressed to enter, you can rent a sarong. That is something I appreciate so much about Thai culture: if you are about to make a fool of yourself by committing a cultural taboo, you will gently be shown the right way. This contrasts to Japan where I knew I must be making plenty of cultural mistakes, but no one would ever tell me as for me to ‘save face’. It seems to me the Thai way saves a lot more face in the long run.

In Chiang Mai the slogan is “The most splendid city of culture” The slogan fits. It also reminds me that I should use the word splendid more often because, well, it’s a splendid word.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang

On grounds of Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang holds a special place in my heart. In these ancient temple grounds, I celebrated my 30th birthday.

Monk in front of Wat Chedi Luang

For my 30th birthday my friend Andrew bought me a large (about 1 meter by half meter) paper lantern used for the loi krathong festival. I remember him standing near the wat, lighting the lantern at 2 am and then watching it float to the sky. We watched rise so high that it eventually was indistinguishable from the stars.

Example (not my picture) of the lantern

Again, not my picture. This is Loi Krathong, where the lanterns look like stars.

I stood in the exact place today, closed my eyes, gave some love to the memory, and then, like the lantern, let it go.

I am here again now, and so very grateful that I am.

It’s nice to know that despite all the changes, and no matter how old we get, that certain places still retain their magic. Chiang Mai is one of them.