MONDAY, APRIL 18: It’s time to take stock of one’s karma and begin anew for Buddhists of the Theravada tradition today, as many mark the New Year. Timing varies by region and by sightings of a full moon in April that is key to dating the festival. But, today, many of Buddha’s followers can be found ritually bathing Buddha images and sprinkling water on monks and elders. Following a morning tradition of visiting a temple, most Buddhists will spend the rest of New Year’s Day practicing meditation and giving food to the poor. (Buddhist Gateway has more on this and other festivals.)
As the New Year’s festival last three days, Buddhists spend a good deal of time wishing others well and meditating on life choices.
Theravada Buddhism is the oldest Buddhist school, and its traditions have remained virtually unchanged since the 3rd century BCE. Followers of Theravada strictly observe the Buddha’s teachings in a conservative manner. (Get the American perspective from the Theravada Buddhist Society of America.) Today, Theravada Buddhism has approximately 100 million followers; Thailand, Laos and Cambodia house large numbers of Theravada Buddhists. (Wikipedia has details.)
Although the Buddhist New Year doesn’t occur until the full moon of April, some Buddhists began celebrating early with a secular New Year’s festival: Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year, was observed last week. (Bangkok Post reported.)
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.