FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18: Join Buddhists around the world who will be holding candlelit processions today, bringing to mind the admirable traits of Buddha for Magha Puja Day. This commemorates the day Buddha announced the main principles of Buddism: To cease from all evil; to do what is good; and to cleanse the mind. What makes this event so auspicious for devotees is that something very unusual led up to it: Without any prior notice, 1,250 ordained Sangha followers came to visit Buddha at the same time. Buddha’s ordained ones gathered on the full moon day of the third lunar month and heard these principles—known as the “Heart of Buddhism.”
Magha Puja Day is a public holiday in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia—although specific dates of celebration do vary by region. (Get the perspective of a Thai teenager at Thailand Life.) In the Thai language, “Puja” is a translation from “Bucha,” which means, “to honor.” (Wikipedia has details.) In most Buddhist countries, monks lead the Magha Puja candlelit procession and move clockwise three times—first for the Buddha, second for the Dharma and third for the Sangha.
This is a good opportunity for cross-cultural greetings. For example, one Hindu chaplain Rajan Zed, based in here in the U.S., made a point of publicly sending Magha Puja greetings to Buddhists, wishing all Buddhists a peace-filled and joyful day. (Read a brief article on it here.)