Thailand #1747 (1997)

Happy Asanha Bucha Day / สุขสันต์วันอาสาฬหบูชา

Thailand #1747 (1997)
Thailand #1747 (1997)

Today is an important Buddhist holiday in Thailand, where I’ve lived for more than a decade now. Asanha Bucha Day (วันอาสาฬหบูชา) is a Theravada Buddhist festival which typically takes place in July, on the full moon of the eighth lunar month.  Also known as Dharma Day, it’s one of Theravada Buddhism’s most important festivals, celebrating the Buddha’s first sermon in which he set out to his five former associates the doctrine that had come to him following his enlightenment.   This sermon contained the essence of all his subsequent future teachings.

At the end of the sermon, one of his five friends — Kondanna — recounted his understanding of what the Buddha had said and requested for permission to become Buddha’s disciple. This was followed by a simple ordination process, thus starting the first order of Buddhist monks.  The first sermon is referred to by Buddhists as “setting into motion the Wheel of Dharma” and is Buddha’s teaching summarized for his followers in the four noble truths — “dukkha” or suffering, “tanha” or craving, “nirvana” or the state beyond suffering and craving, and “the eightfold path” which leads to nirvana, which is a state beyond any suffering and craving.  All schools of Buddhist philosophy center around the principal doctrine of these “Four Noble Truths”.

Thai people are among the most religious people in the world, so like all Buddha days during the year, Asanha Bucha Day is taken very seriously. This particular Buddha Day is one of the more important ones regarding good fortune throughout the year and is observed by presenting offerings in temples and listening to sermons.  Large wax candles and flowers are typically offered to monks in place of food in the mornings. It has also become a popular time for young Thai men ordain as monks.

Scott #1747 was the low value in a set of four, plus a souvenir sheet, released by Thailand on July 19, 1997, to celebrate Asanha Bucha Day, picturing four Jataka tales — those of Mahosadha Jataka, Bhuridatta Jataka, Canda-Kumar Jataka, and Narada Jataka. Printed using offset lithography by Helio Courvoisier S.A. of Switzerland and perforated 11½, this 3 Thai baht stamp shows the “clever sage” Mahosadha Jataka in the Perfection of Wisdom. Mahosadha, representing the Kingdom of Mithila, is pictured talking to Kevatta, the Chief Emissary of the besieging army of several kings, while discussing the terms of their detailed meeting outside the city fortifications shortly afterwards. Also portrayed on this stamp are images of the standards of the two armies and soldiers on both sides of the wall keeping guard.

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