Asala-Dharma Day, also known as Asadha Puja, Asalha Puja is a Buddhist festival in the tradition of Theravada that takes place on the first full moon of the 8th lunar month of Asadha. This places it approximately sometime in July on the Gregorian calendar. This holiday is celebrated in Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, and also in Thailand where it’s known as Asanha Bucha. It’s also a holiday that’s observed in countries that have large Theravada Buddhist populations. The word Dharma can be translated as meaning truth and is one of the terms used when describing a path to enlightenment. This holiday celebrates Buddha’s first sermon to which he lays out the doctrine that had come to him after he had reached enlightenment. Buddha’s first sermon was “Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma” and is the teacher that encompasses all of the four noble truths for Buddhists. These four noble truths are that suffering exists in the world, that suffering is actually caused by craving, that there is a state beyond suffering or cravings, and that the way to Nirvana is through the eightfold path.
Who Was Buddha?
In his life, before he achieved enlightenment, Buddha was a wealthy prince named Siddhartha Gautama. He became dissatisfied with his material existence and wanted to experience life outside of the walls of his palace. He also wanted to obtain what he thought was ultimate wisdom and truth. So he decided to become an ascetic and leave behind his family name and wealth. However, he found the ascetic life to be somewhat disappointing, so her left it and went to meditate under a tree. It was there that he finally achieved enlightenment, after many trials and tribulations. He found that his heart was filled with a deep peace—a bliss that he wanted to share with all beings.
Buddha would return to the ascetic order and shared his experience with them. He taught them the 4 Noble Truths and recommended to them the Eight-Fold Path. This is what is known as setting the Wheel of Dharma in motion. These truths proclaim that life entails much loss & difficulty, or what is known as dukkha. However, a person may free themselves from dukkha by focusing on dharma—or ultimate truth.
Celebrating Asala-Dharma Day (Asalha Puja)
On this day, many Buddhist all over the world head to their temples to practice Dharma. They also tithe money to the monks and listen to sermons that tell them of the great beginning. Often, candles and incense are lit before or during the sermons. The sermons allow people to reflect on the teachings of Buddha so that they may better their life.
The main purpose of this holiday, however, is to express gratitude for the teaching of Buddha—teachings that are believed to free people from the cycle of suffering and rebirth. This is done mainly by donating offerings to temples and offering up prayers as well.