Meak Bochea – A Day to Repent your Sins in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand

An important aspect of Global Service Corps’ service-learning programs is to provide a genuine cultural immersion experience for our volunteer participants. This means that when participants are fortunate enough to be in Cambodia when an important holiday takes place, our volunteers will often be invited to join in the celebrations. An important Buddhist holiday, Meak Bochea, happened to take place when some of our volunteers were at a Buddhist wat (monastery) on our Buddhist Immersion/Teaching English Program.

Read on to learn about Meak Bochea, along with some photos of the celebration:

A Day to Repent your Sins in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand”

A monk meditates during the night portion of Meak Bochea. pc: Khin S.

A monk meditates during the night portion of Meak Bochea. pc: Khin S.

Meak Bochea is an important religious festival observed by Buddhists in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the third lunar month, which usually falls in late February or early March. [Meak Bochea was observed on January 31 this year] 

The crowd looks on as monks walk by during the nighttime portion of Meak Bochea. pc: Khin S.

The crowd looks on as monks walk by during the nighttime portion of Meak Bochea. pc: Khin S.

Meak Bochea is a public holiday and an occasion where followers of Buddhism are reminded of Buddha and his teachings. Many will go to a temple and perform merit making activities on this day. The spiritual aims of the day are not to commit any kinds of sins and to purify one’s mind.

Full moon days are a revered occasion in Buddhism and considered a holy day. On these days, people will make merits at their local temples. A good Buddhist will adhere to the precepts laid upon by Buddha, much like how followers of Christianity obey the Ten Commandments.  

Worshipers waiting to present their gifts.

Worshipers wearing white on the holiday waiting to present their gifts. pc: Rick and Marnie B.

Worshipers presenting their gifts to the monks.

Worshipers presenting their gifts to the monks. pc: Rick and Marnie B.

Some of these precepts include avoiding consumption of alcohol, killing, stealing, lying and cheating. Some of the less ‘severe’ precepts are broken regularly by many (such as alcohol consumption) and Meak Bochea is a chance for people to seek forgiveness. The festival also reinforces the idea of pure and sacred path to enlightenment.

Meak Bochea commemorates the ordainment of Buddha’s first 1,250 disciples who spontaneously came to see him and to listen to his sermon that day 2500 years ago. It is also said that on this day more than 2550 years ago, Buddha announced his passing away, which would happen three months later. He correctly predicted his death and it is now remembered as Visakha Bochea Day (which also happens to be his birthday and enlightenment day).

Parade procession.

Parade procession. pc: Rick and Marnie B.

Decorated car in the parade.

Decorated car in the parade. pc: Rick and Marnie B.

Cambodia, Laos and Thailand hold strong Theravada Buddhist traditions, making this holiday a very important one in each country’s calendars.” (www.destinationcambodia.com)

In the evening, most temples in Cambodia hosts a candle procession called Wien Tien (Wien meaning circle and Tien meaning candle). With a candle, incense sticks and lotus flower in hand, people walk around the temple three times, once each to venerate Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings), and the Sangha (monastic life).

In the evening, most temples in Cambodia hosts a candle procession called Wien Tien (Wien meaning circle and Tien meaning candle). With a candle, incense sticks and lotus flower in hand, people walk around the temple three times, once each to venerate Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings), and the Sangha (monastic life). pc: Rick and Marnie B.

 

GSC is developing additional Buddhist Immersion service-learning opportunities, so stay posted for further updates. Click on the Request Information Form to learn more about how you can experience this life-changing opportunity. Also make sure to like us on Facebook!

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