Asahna Puja (known as Dharma Day), one of Buddhism’s most important festivals, commemorates the first sermon ever given by the Buddha. Under a full moon, the newly enlightened Buddha first taught his followers the four Noble Truths and explained the way to nirvana through the Noble Eightfold Path. Tomorrow’s full moon marks the anniversary of that world-changing sermon, an anniversary celebrated all over the world.
So why is Asahna Puja often called “Dharma Day”? The Buddha’s words that long-ago eveningare said to have set “the Wheel of Dharma” in motion. “Dharma” can be translated as “duty” or “doing the right thing,” or as “protection” from the sufferings of this life. Understanding “dharmachakra” is the Buddha’s gift to the world. On Dharma Day, we show our gratitude for this great gift.
For Buddhists—and for anyone inspired by the Buddha’s teachings—Dharma Day draws the faithful to the temples, the places where they have learned the Buddha’s teachings. In Thailand, whole communities gather at their local temple at dusk. Large wax candles are lit all over the temple grounds. The moon rises while monks chant inside the temple. Then the monks lead the gathering around the pagoda three times. Everyone carries incense, candles and chains of flowers. The observance ends with a gathering around the statue of the Buddha while the monks chant. It is a simple and powerful ceremony that concludes with friends and neighbors praying for good fortune, making offerings to the temple, chatting and taking photographs on the temple grounds.
So how can you join this worldwide celebration of the Buddha’s wisdom? Find a serene spot to watch the moon rise on a beautiful summer night. Light your space with tea lights, string lights or luminaries, and spend a moonlit moment reflecting or meditating upon a teaching of the Buddha that resonates with you!