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Thais start Tipitaka marathon reading to honour king

by Pakamard Jaichalard and Mayuree Sukyingcharoenwong, The Nation, Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A marathon public reading of the Tripitaka, the earliest collection of Buddhist teachings, began yesterday at Sanam Luang, right in front of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, to commemorate His Majesty the King's 80th birthday this year.

More than 1,000 monks and members of the public from around the country will participate in the public reading of the Pali text of the Tripitaka. The public reading will run 24 hours a day for 57 days until all the 45 volumes and 84,000 doctrinal items are completed on December 10.

"We have organised this public reading of the Tripitaka to encourage the Thai people to take part in making merit to His Majesty the King, who will turn 80 years old this year. We would also like the Thai people to recognise the importance of the Tripitaka, which is the highest doctrine of Buddhism," said Veera Rojpajanarat, the permanent secretary of the Education Ministry.

At 9am yesterday, Sondej Phra Maha Theerajarn, the abbot of Wat Chana Songkhram, presided over the opening of the public reading of the Tripitaka by lighting a candle bestowed by His Majesty the King in front of the Tripitaka cabinet.

More than 100 Thai Buddhists were also present to witness the ceremony. They prayed for the speedy recovery of His Majesty, who is undergoing medical treatment at Siriraj Hospital.

The Pali text of the Tripitaka is the only text recognised as canonical by Theravada Buddhists. The Lord Buddha used Pali, now a dead language, to propagate his beliefs.

Tripitaka means "three baskets," consisting of the Vinaya, the Sutra and the Abhidarma. The text was written on long, narrow leaves, which were sewn at the edges then grouped into bunches and stored in baskets.

Monks and disciples of the Lord Buddha handed down the Buddhist teachings through oral tradition. Several hundred years later, the Buddha's teachings were written down as the Pali text, with several additions centuries later.

The first part of the Tripitaka - the Vinaya Pitaka (Discipline Basket) - deals with rules and regulations for the monastic community (the sangha), including 227 rules for monks, further regulations for nuns, and guidelines for the interaction between the sangha and the laity.

The Sutra Pitaka (Discourse Basket) contains the Buddha's teachings on doctrine and behaviour, focusing especially on meditation techniques.

The Abhidharma Pitaka (Higher Knowledge or Special Teachings Basket) is a collection of miscellaneous writings, including songs, poetry and stories of the Buddha and his past lives. Its primary subjects are Buddhist philosophy and psychology.

During the readings, the monks and the members of the public will read the Tripitaka aloud in unison. Most Thai Buddhists have no problem reading the Pali texts.

"I have taken part in reading the Tripitaka in order to pray for the Triple Gems to give a blessing to help His Majesty the King recover from his ill health. I shall try to come every day for the whole period of 57 days," said Tuenjit Sawangsaengsuk, a member of the public.

Since the monks will need to return to their temples to attend to their monastery activities between 4am and 6am, members of the public will continue reading the Tripitaka during those hours.

Between December 1 and 5, a similar public reading of the Tripitaka will take place in eight provinces to celebrate His Majesty's 80th birthday on December 5.

The participating provinces are Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, Kalasin, Nong Khai, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon, Mae Hong Son and Chon Buri. Last year, a public reading of the Tripitaka was also held to commemorate the occasion of His Majesty's 60 years on the throne. The public reading lasted seven days.

Sod Daeng-iat, director-general of the Department of Religious Affairs, said his department would publish a version of the Tripitaka for free distribution to the public and other organisations so that everyone can rely on Buddhist principles in the course of their lives and activities.

Today at 5pm, monks in Bangkok and around the country will hold a concerted prayer to give a blessing to His Majesty.

source: http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/10/16/headlines/headlines_30052584.php

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Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.