Magha Puja Day falls on the full moon day of the second or third lunar month(late February or early March). The date of all of the Cambodian festivals is based on the lunar calendar so the “Canadian” dates vary from year to year. We will be celebrating Magha Puja Day at Wat Bodhikaram, the Mondul Ottawa Khmer Buddhist Monastery, on February 19, 2011 start from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
This ceremony marks two important dates in the life of Buddha. The first event occurred two years after Buddha’s enlightenment and is referred to as the Fourfold assembly. These events were:
1-All 1,250 monks had achieved enlightenment.
2-These monks were ordained by Buddha himself
3-The monks assembled on their own without being called together.
4-It was a perfect full-moon day.
All of these occurred on full moon day of the third lunar month. As part of this gathering Buddha gave the basic principles of Buddhism to the monks, called the ‘Ovādapātimokha’ in the afternoon of Magha Puja day, at the grand temple Veluvana (Bamboo Grove) in the city of Rajgaha. These principles are:
1-Not to do any bad deeds
2-To do good deeds
3-To cleanse the mind of impurities.
If everyone followed these principles we would have a peaceful family, peaceful community, peaceful nation, and peaceful world. Or put another way, we would have peaceful and happy lives. The second event occurred in the second half of Buddha’s life on Magha Puja Day. The Buddha delivered a sermon called “Keys for success”. The second event was three months prior to his passing away and it’s also said that on the same day of giving sermon called “Keys for success”, the Buddha declared that he would pass away in three months time. During this ceremony lay people focus more intensely on Dhamma and meditation. Dhamma (or Dharma) as it is sometimes referred to is the teachings of Buddha. Lay people would typically take vows to refrain from bad habits and perform acts to benefit them spiritually. The Keys are as follows:
1- Good will and good intention (Chanda)
2- Effort (Viriya)
3- Thoughtfulness (Citta)
4- Investigation (Vimangsa)
On Magha Puja day, Cambodian people recognize this opportunity to perform merit-makings. In the morning, they prepare and offer food to monks. Elderly people take this opportunity to practice Dhama, paying, concentration and purifying minds. Some of them even stay at the temple overnight.
In the evening, every temple is readily prepared for candle procession to take place. Just after 6.00 or 7:00 p.m., monks and novices come to the major temple building, so called ‘Preah Vihear’. Chief monk lead the pray and, indeed, Ovada Patimokha is unavoidable. People readily assemble and prepare flowers, joss sticks and candles. They wait until the pray is completed. Monks then lead people to perform a triple candlelight circumambulating around the Preah Vihear. After the candlelight procession, monks and lay Buddhists go back into Preah Vihear to recite the Buddhist Dhamma songs or do the Dhamma talk about the Life of the Buddha until 12:00 am, some temples even do this until the morning. This is an important Buddhist activity to remind the Lord Buddha’s kindness that has taught everyone to avoid committing bad deed, to do only good and always purify one’s mind.
Magha Puja is an important day for all Cambodian. It is the day that Buddhists are to make merits, to perform candle processions to maintain religious commandment to practice Dhama and to Pay Respect to the Lord Buddha. These are main Buddhist doctrines.
May peace and happiness be upon to Cambodian and all beings in the universe!