These photos are from the Boon Ok Phansa (บุญออกพรรษา) celebrations at Wat Pho Sri, Ban Sila village, Amphoe Mueang, Khon Kaen on October 23 to 25, 2018. Thanks to Phra Maha Rueangrit Patara Muni and many other people at the temple for helping me out. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Ok Phansa and an overview of heet sip-song, the twelve Isan merit-making traditions.
The Day Before Ok Phansa
The day before Ok Phansa is mostly a normal day at the temple, although the temple gets a big cleaning and the han nam-man frame for holding the candles is put together. It’s often made of bamboo, but the people at Wat Pho Sri are practical and just attach the palm and banana leaves to the corners of the same metal table year after year. At night, the monks lit some candles on the frame, but only a few lay people came to do so.
During the Day of Ok Phansa
Morning activities on the day of Ok Phansa are essentially the same as on all monk days at Wat Pho Sri. The monks do their pre-dawn chanting at 4.30am, though when finished on this day they have a quick meeting in which any monk who did something wrong during the Phansa period can confess and ask forgiveness. After this, Phansa is officially over for them. After sunrise, the lay community does chanting and a gruat nam ceremony (making merit for their ancestors by pouring holy water onto the ground next to a tree) and serves an extra big morning meal to the monks at the temple instead of them going out on an alms round. The main difference from the normal monk day morning routine is that a full set of robes and a blanket are given to each of the monks. Later, after the monks have left the hall, the people observing the eight precepts (no eating after noon, no entertainment, not sleeping in a comfortable bed, etc.) for the day walk three silent circuits around the temple. They do this for all monk days during the Phansa period.
In the Evening of Ok Phansa
Ok Phansa activities begin at 3pm with a sermon from one of the monks about Ok Phansa, with a focus on the importance of kindness (including the story of the Buddha going to heaven to teach dharma to his mother during one Phansa period), followed by two hours of chanting. When this is all finished, people light candles and place flowers on the han nam-man frame before heading home. Throughout the early evening people from the village who weren’t at the temple during the afternoon come to do the same. A few people this night brought bundles of rice and sugarcane, part of the old Ok Phansa tradition.
The Day After Ok Phansa
The day after Ok Phansa, there are no formal activities at the temple, but in the evening some people come for another round of lighting candles and giving flowers.