It’s the start of the annual Buddhist retreat (also known as Buddhist lent), and monks everywhere in Thailand get candles and flowers. In the past couple of days, in many places you could have seen people donating some money and getting a small piece of orange candle wax. They then walked to a giant wok with sizzling hot oil in it and put the candle wax inside with a kind of giant spoon till the wax melted. Then they took the liquid candle wax out and poured it into a form for a giant candle. Why so giant? Because they are meant to last for the three month retreat. This is a special way of making merit, because the candle is associated with light, and light is wisdom, or when we’re talking about Buddhism: enlightenment 🙂
The flower given takes place in some temples, and it’s a ceremony that is called tak bat dok mai.
This ceremony is especially big at the Wat Phra Phutthabat Ratchaworamaha Wihan temple, about one hour north of Bangkok. In Bangkok the tak bat dok mai ceremony takes place at Wat Thepsirin, Wat Ratchapradit, Wat Bowon Nivet, Wat Ratchabophit and Wat Phraram IX Kanchanaphisek.
In the following three months, monks are not allowed to sleep outside of a temple and will practice meditation and study the Dharma more intensely. This goes back to an old story about the Buddha – it is said that he retreated for the rainy season to meditate, in order not to harm animals or growing seeds.