Clutching bowls of lotus flowers, hundreds of monks and nuns welcomed the misty dawn yesterday morning as they marched in a solemn procession toward Odong Mountain.
Along with 2,000 other Buddhists – comprising government officials and common folk – they made their way toward the mountain’s pagoda, where it is believed three bones of Buddha are buried.
At the mountain, they lit incense and performed rites to commemorate Meak Bochea, one of Buddhism’s holiest days.
Im Borin, an official at the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals, said yesterday’s ceremony was presided over by two supreme monks and the ministers of culture and fine arts, and cults and religions.
“Many laymen and women were also there to give food offerings to the monks.,” he said.
Although it is an official government holiday, Meak Bochea is not as widely celebrated as Visaka Bochea later in the year.
Still, for devout Buddhists, it retains a special significance.
“According to the mythology, Meak Bochea was the day Buddha predicted and announced the date he would attain enlightenment and enter into nirvana,” explains Ang Choulean, an ethnologist at the Royal University of Fine Arts.
Meak – which refers to the third full moon in the lunar calendar – was when Buddha announced to his followers that in three months he would “cease to exist”, said Choulean.
“It is not death,” he added. “Buddhists believe Buddha entered into nirvana.”
That period would take place during Visaka Bochea, when important ceremonies would be held throughout the region, Choulean said.
In addition to the ceremony at Odong, monks also gathered at pagodas around the Kingdom to pray and preach about Buddha’s teachings.
According to the Buddhist texts by former Supreme Patriarch Chuon Nat – one of the Kingdom’s foremost Buddhist authorities – Meak Bochea was the day Buddha met with 1,250 of his initiates, who had gathered spontaneously to hear him preach in India in 588 BCE.
It was then that Buddha gave them the “Ovadhapatimokha” – 11 principles telling his disciples to cease from all evil and cleanse their minds.
As devout Buddhists ponder his teachings on this day, they aim to do only meritorious deeds, Nat added.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Yuthana at [email protected]