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In Cambodia, Meak Bochea Day is an important public holiday and religious festival. It is observed on the full moon in the third month of the Khmer calendar, which generally lands it in later February or early March.
Meak Bochea Day commemorates the final sermon given by Buddha, in which he summarized the “heart of Buddhism” in three principles: ceasing from all evil, doing only what is good, and cleansing the mind. The group that assembled that day, around 2,500 years ago now, to hear him preach are sometimes called the “Fourfold Assembly” because of four factors that were in place: the 1,250 listeners were all “enlightened ones,” they were all ordained by Buddha himself, they came, according to the tradition, without being summoned, and it was a full moon in the month of Magha.
In Buddhism, a full moon day is considered a holy day and is considered the perfect time to repent of sins and “make merits.” The added historical significance of the full moon on Meak Bochea Day turns it into a day of penitence, of doing good deeds for merits, and of remembering the teachings of Buddha. To these ends, many attend local temples and pagodas on this day to perform merit-making acts. They also strive to purify their minds, avoid all sins, and to adhere to all of the Buddha’s commands. Those commands include avoidance of drinking alcoholic beverages, killing, stealing, and lying. Many who have broken these precepts will seek forgiveness on Meak Bochea Day
Visak Bochea Day is the most holiest day in Buddhism celebrations. God Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and passed away in the same full moon day of the 6th month of Lunar calendar (normally in May). So Visak Bochea is celebrated to mark these three events of Buddha.
In Cambodia, Visak Bochea Day is a national holiday, all public sectors are closed, though some private sectors might be working. Since Buddhism is the State religion, Visak Bochea is always presided by high ranking of officials in the royal government and hundred of Buddhists participated. Hundred of monks from pagodas over the country would be invited to the food-offering ceremony. Since it’s believed that food-offering is the way to gain merit for the present life and also next life of the person. And it’s also to praise the spirit of death relatives.
Since 2002, the celebration takes place in Oudong mountain (40km from Phnom Penh), where the stupa containing Buddha’s relic is located. As before, the event has always prepared in Phnom Penh city, in front of the Railway station. Because the Buddha’s relic was maintained in the stupa there.
On Visak Bochea Day, beside bringing foods to the monks in their village pagodas, Cambodian people would prepare some offering such as fruits, lotus flower or Jasmine for praying at home. People believe that, praying on Visak Bochea day with sincere mind, most praying would be answered.