Last bit of wet season training
End of the rainy season, Buddhist Lent and final month of training before the Chiang Rai to Nong Khai Ride, near Vientiane Laos, in November.
The rainy season has paid havoc in the last few months of training and I’m starting to look like a dried prune from being out in it.
Many thanks to those who sent me birthday wishes the other day, it lifted the spirits.
Now Thais would say at this time of the year being splashed with water by a monk is for good luck, but I need to know what getting splashed by a passing truck with water and cow dung means??? It’s the norm at the moment as I try to squeeze those last 1,000 km of training in during October when the heavens open up and nature tries to dump as much water down from above before we come into the dry season next month.
It’s also Buddhist Lent and as I ride along I can hear the peaceful sounds of monks chanting and see Thai folks dressed in traditional garb on their way to their local temple (Wat) to offer food and new robes to the monks (Tumboon).
Vassa "rain" is the three-month annual retreat observed by Theravada practitioners. Taking place during the wet season, Vassa lasts for three lunar months, usually from July (the Burmese month of Waso), to October (the Burmese month of Thadingyut).
In English, Vassa is often glossed as Rains Retreat or Buddhist Lent, the latter by analogy to the Christian Lent (which Vassa predates by at least five centuries).
For the duration of Vassa, monastics remain in one place, typically a monasteries or temple grounds. In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation. Some Buddhist lay people choose to observe Vassa by adopting more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking. While Vassa is sometimes casually called "Buddhist Lent", others object to this terminology. Commonly, the number of years a monk has spent in monastic life is expressed by counting the number of vassas (or rains) since ordination.
Most Mahayana Buddhists do not observe Vassa, though Vietnamese Thiền and Korean Seon monastics observe an equivalent retreat of three months of intensive practice in one location, a practice also observed in Tibetan Buddhism.
Vassa begins on the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month, which is the day after Asalha Puja or Asalha Uposatha ("Dhamma day"). It ends on Pavarana, when all monastics come before the sangha and atone for any offense that might have been committed during Vassa.
Vassa is followed by Kathina, a festival in which the laity expresses gratitude to monks. Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks.
The Vassa tradition predates the time of Gautama Buddha. It was a long-standing custom for mendicant ascetics in India not to travel during the rainy season as they may unintentionally harm crops, insects or even themselves during their travels. Many Buddhist ascetics live in regions which lack a rainy season. Consequently, there are places where Vassa may not be typically observed.
In 2017, Vassa begins on July 9 and concludes on October 5
I’m back up in the district of Kanchanaburi and the roads have been pounded by the rainy season. Huge pot holes appear so I’ve opted to ride later in the day so as not to break the Trusty Trek. The solid rain hasn’t been as kind to some locals as there are some local flooding which has sadly destroyed local crops.
The Long Ride Home in Thailand