Asala – Dharma Day

Asala-Dharma Day, also known as Asadha Puja or Asalha Puja, is a Buddhist festival in the Theravada tradition that takes place on the first full moon of the eighth lunar month of Asadha. This places it approximately sometime in July on the Gregorian calendar. The holiday is celebrated in Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, and also in Thailand, where it is known as Asanha Bucha. It is also observed in countries with large Theravada Buddhist populations. The word “Dharma” can be translated to mean “truth” and is one of the terms used when describing a path to enlightenment. This holiday celebrates Buddha’s first sermon, in which he laid out the doctrine that had come to him after he had reached enlightenment. Buddha’s first sermon was the “Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma” and is the teaching that encompasses all four Noble Truths for Buddhists. These four Noble Truths are that suffering exists in the world, that suffering is 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?

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 the walls of his palace. He also sought what he thought was ultimate wisdom and truth. So, he decided to become an ascetic, leaving behind his family name and wealth. However, he found the ascetic life somewhat disappointing, so he 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 share his experience with them. He taught them the Four Noble Truths and recommended the Eightfold Path. This is what is known as setting the Wheel of Dharma in motion. These truths proclaim that life entails much loss and 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 Buddhists all over the world head to their temples to practice Dharma. They also donate money to the monks and listen to sermons that tell 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 lives.

The main purpose of this holiday, however, is to express gratitude for the teachings 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.