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Making Merit: End of Buddhist Lent Day in Thailand

Considering the prominence of Buddhism in Thailand, it should come as no surprise that Buddhist holidays take the spotlight in this culturally rich country. 

At the end of Thailand’s rainy season, just before the country’s most bountiful harvest, the Buddhist population celebrates วันออกพรรษา (wan-àawk-phan-sǎa), or “End of Buddhist Lent Day.” If you’ve been keeping up with our blog recently, you may have read about the start of Buddhist Lent; today, we’ll talk about its conclusion. 

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

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1. What is End of Buddhist Lent Day?

A Golden Buddha Statue

In a previous article, we discussed the beginning of Buddhist Lent in Thailand. Today, we’ll focus mainly on the End of Buddhist Lent Day, but we first want to touch on a few key facts about the Lent itself. 

History of the End of Buddhist Lent Day

You may be surprised to find out that Buddhist Lent hasn’t always been observed in Buddhism

Buddhist monks used to travel and teach about Buddhism year-round, according to their availability. But this caused problems during the rainy season, with people complaining that the monks ruined their fields and crops by walking through them in the rain. Buddha heard of this and decided to implement the Buddhist Lent as a way of keeping monks away from the crops during this season.

Monks are encouraged to จำพรรษา (jam phan-săa), or “stay in the Buddhist temple during the Buddhist Lent” and รักษาศีล (rák-săa sǐin), or “observe the precepts,” during this time. Also, during Buddhist Lent, no alcohol is permitted for drinking among monks, and the general population is discouraged from drinking. Those who do so are richly rewarded (keep reading to find out how!). 

    → You know what? This is a great time to brush up on your Religion vocabulary. 😉

The End of Buddhist Lent Day in Thailand

Now, onto today’s topic. 

On End of Buddhist Lent Day, monks are finally able to leave the temple and spread the teachings of Buddha freely. This is a day of celebration, and the perfect occasion to ทำบุญ (tham bun), or “make merit,” for the rest of the Buddhist population. The End of Buddhist Lent also marks the traditional end of the rainy season. 

This day calls for an array of religious traditions, which we’ll talk about in a minute. First…

2. When is the End of Buddhist Lent This Year?

Because the date of Buddhist Lent Day varies each year, so does its end date. For your convenience, here’s a list of the dates for End of Buddhist Lent Day for the next few years.

  • 2020: October 1
  • 2021: October 20
  • 2022: October 10
  • 2023: October 28
  • 2024: October 17

3. Buddhist Lent Day Activities & Traditions

Listening to a sermon in the Buddhist Temple for End of Buddhist Lent Day

The most important religious event for this holiday is a traditional Buddhist Lent ceremony called Pavarana. During this ceremony, monks have the opportunity to both atone for their own wrongdoings and gently call out other monks for their wrongdoings. A unique fact about this tradition is that young monks are allowed to criticize older monks, just as the older monks may criticize the younger ones. Humility is an essential component of Buddhism, meaning that older monks are not to be so prideful that they can’t take criticism. 

For the rest of the Buddhist population, it’s common to ตักบาตร (dtàk bàat), or “give food offerings to a Buddhist monk.” However, these food offerings are different from the offerings given year-round. It’s called the “Thevo food offering event,” during which the Buddha statue (which is normally standing in the shrine) is put onto a cart and pulled through the streets. A bowl is put in front of the statue, and monks walk behind the statue holding their own bowls. Buddhists in the area will prepare both sweet and savory foods, and offer them to the statue and the monks as they walk by. 

About a month after the End of Buddhist Lent, the monks will เทศนา (thêet-sà-năa), or “give a sermon.” Because there’s normally an abundance of food during this time, people who come to listen will offer the monks food. In this special sermon about the final incarnation of the Buddha, there are thirteen “episodes,” and the sermon normally begins in the morning and ends that night. This sermon is intended to teach the general Buddhist population about sins, virtues, giving, and other important aspects of Buddhism. 

    → Learn how to talk about popular Thai Foods with our dedicated vocabulary list. 

4. Now…About That Reward?

Buddhist Monks with Palms Together

Okay, how are monks rewarded for perfectly observing the Buddhist Lent?

In short, they’re exempted from certain regulations that would normally apply to them. For example, they’re allowed to leave the temple without informing the abbot, and without bringing all of their robes. 

These exemptions make it easier for the monks to leave the temple and spread Buddha’s teachings.

5. Essential Vocabulary for End of Buddhist Lent Day

A Buddhist Monk

Let’s review some of the Thai vocabulary from this lesson! 

  • วันออกพรรษา (wan-àawk-phan-sǎa) – “End of Buddhist Lent Day”
  • พระพุทธเจ้า (phrá-phút-thá-jâao) – “Buddha”
  • พุทธศาสนิกชน (phút-thá-săa-sà-ník-gà-chon) – “Buddhist”
  • จำพรรษา (jam phan-săa) – “stay in the Buddhist temple during the Buddhist Lent”
  • เทศนา (thêet-sà-năa) – “give a sermon”
  • พระสงฆ์ (phrá sŏng) – “Buddhist monk”
  • ตักเตือน (dtàk dtuuean) – “advise”
  • ตักบาตร (dtàk bàat) – “give food offerings to a Buddhist monk”
  • ความสามัคคี (khwaam săa-mák-khii) – “unity”
  • รักษาศีล (rák-săa sǐin) – “observe the precepts”
  • ฟังธรรม (fang tham) – “listen to sermon”
  • ทำบุญ (tham bun) – “make merit”

Don’t forget that you can find each of these words and phrases on our Thai End of Buddist Lent Day vocabulary list, along with audio recordings of their pronunciation. 

Final Thoughts

Now you know how Thai monks observe the Buddhist Lent, and how they officially end their Lent season. Are there similar holidays in your country or religion? If so, we would love to hear about them! 

If you want to learn more about Thai culture and society, we recommend the following pages on ThaiPod101.com:

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