End of Buddhist Lent Day is a celebration that typically falls on a full moon day in October. This year, the day will be observed on October 18. In Laos, locals call it ‘Boun Awk Phansa’ where they perform traditional rituals and engage in festivities. The ceremony marks the end of a three-month hiatus for Buddhist monks who return from meditation retreats. During this time, monks aren’t allowed to leave the pagoda under which they meditate. As they are bound to be indoors, locals bring them food in the morning along with daily necessities such as toothbrushes, towels, soap, and slippers.
History of Lao: End of Buddhist Lent Day
The origin of Buddhist Lent dates back to the fifth century. On the first day of the waning moon in the eighth month, monks take a vow to stay in a particular place for three months. This is as per a norm established by Lord Buddha. As it rains heavily in Laos from July to September, traveling monks take shelter from storms in pagodas and monasteries. During this period, monks are meant to study the Buddhist doctrines and in turn, preach them to commoners. They are forbidden to leave the premises or spend the night at a different location.
The rules not only apply to monks, as Buddhist followers are expected to refrain from drinking alcohol or taking drugs over these three months. Locals gather at monasteries to listen to sermons from the monks and practice meditation. The last day of Buddhist Lent usually falls in October, marking the end of the annual retreat for monks. Various festivities take place on the day, from candlelight processions to boat races. People from Laos gather along the Mekong river to set banana leaves decorated with flowers and candles afloat. There’s a local belief that mythical water dragons, called Nagas, live in the Mekong and they shoot fireballs on the last night of Buddhist Lent. Visitors from all over Laos crowd the river banks to watch this spectacle.
By listening to sermons and abiding by the precepts, commoners are supposed to garner knowledge about Buddhism and understand its principles better. In a way, the tradition is meant to spread awareness about the religion among followers so they can practice it correctly.
Lao: End of Buddhist Lent Day timeline
Gautama attains salvation and becomes Buddha.
The Mahayana school for Buddhism emerges.
Nalanda University, a Buddhist monastic university, and the world’s first residential university is established in Magadha, India.
The first Zen (Ch'an) patriarch, Bodhidharma arrives in China from India.
Lao: End of Buddhist Lent Day FAQs
What is the last day of Buddhist Lent called in Laos?
The End of Buddhist Lent is called ‘Boun Awk Phansa’ in Laos.
How long does Buddhist Lent last?
Buddhist Lent is a three-month-long ceremony that will last from July 25 to October 21 in 2022. During this period, Buddhist monks settle in one place and focus on meditating and learning the teachings of Gautama Buddha.
Is Buddhist Lent Day the biggest festival for Buddhists?
Buddhist Lent Day is one of the major festivals for Buddhists across the globe. But the holiest event for them is Vesak, Buddha’s birthday, which falls on the full moon day in May every year.
Lao: End of Buddhist Lent Day Activities
Donate alms to monks
Visit a nearby monastery and donate food, clothing, or money to the monks living there. While you’re there, why not stay for a meditation session?
Attend the boat racing festival
Every year, the Luang Prabang province in Laos hosts a boat race during Buddhist Lent. If you happen to be there at the time, join in the fun and cheerlead the participating teams.
Witness a candlelight procession
If you can’t join in a procession, you can always observe the traditions of Laotians. On the last day of Lent, Buddhists in Laos float water dragons, candles, and flower boats down the Mekong River. The sight is nothing less than magical.
5 Interesting Facts About Buddhist Lent
Call for alms
During Buddhist Lent, monks hold a ceremony where they beat drums, inviting locals to bring them food.
It is believed that Naga, a mythical water dragon shoots pink and red fireballs from beneath the water during Buddhist Lent.
Festival of light
Laotians set lit candles placed over banana stems or leaves afloat rivers to pay respect to the Buddha and thank the river spirits.
Rules to follow
Buddhist monks must abide by 227 moral rules while observing Lent.
Popular among couples
The light floating ceremony is popular among romantic couples who believe it’ll enable good luck to flow into their relationship.
Why We Love Lao: End of Buddhist Lent Day
It celebrates tradition
Buddhist Lent Day has a cultural meaning in Laos and the people there celebrate by honoring traditional customs such as visiting temples, paying respect to the Mekong river, and preparing food for monks. This helps Laotians stay close to their roots.
It is a time of sharing
During Lent, people wholeheartedly provide alms to monks and tend to their needs which fosters the philosophy—‘sharing is caring.’ Do your bit today to honor this philosophy.
Buddhist Lent is observed through a series of events and festivities. People come together to share food and take part in fun activities like the boat race in Luang Prabang.
Lao: End of Buddhist Lent Day dates