Virtual Visakha Bucha Day
Tomorrow is the first Visakha Bucha Day that there won't be activities at temples for lay people to engage in. Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Buddhist faithful are recommended to stay home instead and show their gratitude to Lord Buddha by observing the five precepts, practising meditation, chanting and listening to online sermons.
Of course, the monastic monks will still perform the rituals to mark the birth, enlightenment and passing (parinirvana) of Lord Buddha at their temples but they will have to follow the physical distancing rule.
As far as the Covid-19 situation is concerned, there are at least three activities Buddhists can participate to mark this holy day.
Probably the only event in Bangkok that allows public participation, the "Vesak Day 2020 Exhibition" is held by the Ministry of Culture's Department of Religious Affairs which displays Buddha's relics on loan from Wat Bowonniwet Vihara (aka Wat Bowon) at its exhibition hall for Buddhists to pay respect to. Leaves of the Bodhi tree in India are also given away as souvenirs.
The event is running until May 15 and all visitors must follow the social-distancing regulations while children and the elderly are not advised to come. Exclusively for tomorrow, however, the department will broadcast sermons live via its Facebook page at 9.30am and 5.30pm. The first session will be delivered by Wat Prayurawongsawas Waraviharn (Wat Prayoon) and the second by Wat Suthat Thepwararam. Visit facebook.com/Drathai.gov.
Visakha Bucha Live at Wat Bowon. photo courtesy of Wat Bowonniwet Vihara
For the first time in history, Wat Bowon also presents a live streaming of activities for all Buddhists to follow right at their homes via the temple's Facebook page. This is the first time we are encouraged to perform a wian tian ceremony virtually together with the monks (we at home, the monks at the temple) starting at 7pm. Then a series of sermons will be delivered live at the temple's ordination hall from 9pm until dawn on Thursday. Visit bit.ly/2WhiRK6.
For those wishing to give alms to monks without having to leave home, the Lumbinivana shop at the Young Buddhists Association of Thailand (YBAT) under Royal Patronage in Phasicharoen, Bangkok, offers two sets of medicine and dry food for them to choose from (70 baht per set). The shop will act as their representative to give the sets to monks at the association's meditation centre in Pathum Thani.
Offering sets from Lumbinivana shop. photo courtesy of facebook.com/Lumbiniybat
Alternatively, they can order exclusive sets with their chosen items to give to any temples located within the association's vicinity. The shop will directly deliver the sets to those temples. Proceeds will go to support YBAT's meditation project. The shop opens daily from 9am-5pm. Visit facebook.com/Lumbiniybat or call 02-455-2525 ext 1131.