Thai Buddhist monks promote activities to attract the faithful to temples

by Weena Kowitwanij, AsiaNews, July 9, 2009

94% of Thais are Buddhist but only a small percentage attend places of worship. For the feast of Asalhabucha, which recalls the first sermon of Buddha, the religious leaders call for prayer, meditation and living the monastic experience for one day

Bangkok, Thailand -- Encouraging the practice of Buddhism among the faithful, under the slogan "Going to temple every Sunday, will make you happy." It is the spirit that marked celebrations for the feast of Asalhabucha - the day of the full moon of the eighth month of the lunar calendar - held July 7th in Thailand.

In the land of the elephants, 94% of the over 62 million people are Buddhist but only a small part follows the precepts of faith. According to a recent survey conducted at the temple of Yannawa - in central Bangkok - just 57% make food offerings to monks, 8. 2% listen to sermons and 3.2% practice meditation. 42.7% attend religious services once a month, 30% said it "depended on the occasion", 11.2% once every three months, 8.8% every six months and 7.1% once a year.

The abandonment of religious practice concerns Buddhist leaders, who have launched a project to invite the faithful to attend the places of worship with greater diligence." Phraphromvajirayan, a member of the Association of Monks, confirms that people "go to the temple only on special occasions."

He explains the goal of "giving life to special activities in the temples" targeting "children and young people." Among these "encouraging the reading of the Dhamma (the teachings of Buddha, ed), living the monastic experience for one day and one night and promoting voluntary action for the good of the community."

On the occasion of the feast of Asalhabucha, the supreme patriarch Somdejphrayanasungvorn urged the Buddhist faithful to peace and mercy, to bring joy to the community, society and the entire nation. "I call on the faithful - said the Buddhist leader - to take the opportunity to observe the precepts of the faith, to gain merit, listen to sermons and pray more for a life of peace. Prayers calm the spirit, a life of peace begins with peace in the mind through meditation. "

The Asalhabucha is one of the most important festivals for the Buddhist calendar, it recalls the first sermon - the Dharmajuckkappawattanasutra - the Enlightened One held before his five faithful. The day also coincides with the revelation of the three basic elements: the Buddha, the Dharma (the law) and the Sangha (the assembly of monks), which together form the Triratna (the three buds).

The Buddhist day of celebration is followed by  a day of fasting, which marks the beginning of three months of abstinence and prayer, where the monks lock themselves in temples and leave only if necessary, returning to the temple before sunset.