TUESDAY, JULY 3: It’s the full moon of July, the beginning of the monsoon season and the anniversary of Buddha’s first teachings: Thus, for Buddhists, today is Asalha Puja Day.
One of the most significant festivals for Theravada Buddhists, Asalha Puja Day (also called Dhamma Day) marks the first preaching of Buddha at Deer Park in India; Buddha, in essence, “set into motion the wheel of the dhamma” and spoke of the four noble truths. All Buddhist schools of thought trace their roots back to the four noble truths: life means suffering; origin of suffering is attachment; cessation of suffering is attainable; the way to cessation is via the eightfold path.
After Enlightenment, Buddha began telling his friends what he had learned. Though he hadn’t planned to teach, his friends encouraged it and soon, Buddha was delivering his first public sermon. At Deer Park, Buddha preached the central teachings of Buddhism—teachings that he would elaborate upon in all future sermons. (Learn more about this and other Buddhist holidays at Buddhanet.) Upon hearing this sermon, one of Buddha’s friends asked to be made a disciple; Buddha’s order of monks had begun.
Today, Buddhists donate offerings at the temple on Asalha Puja, and listen to sermons—just as those first followers did at Deer Park. For those in monsoon regions, the three-month rainy season retreat begins tomorrow: Monks and nuns stay inside to reflect and meditate. Asalha Puja is a government holiday in Thailand.