A Day Worthy of Veneration

Luang Por Pasanno • June 2011

This evening is the night of our Lunar Observance. It’s an opportunity to recollect the refuges and precepts, and to reflect on the direction of our spiritual practice and whether or not we need this direction to change. In the Thai language, the Observance Day is called Wan Phra which is roughly translated as Holy Day, Monk Day, or perhaps Day Worthy of Veneration.

As Ajahn Chah used to say, the Buddha made these special days part of our training, and it’s not too much for the Buddha to have asked that we observe them—to have regular days worthy of veneration. We do it once a week. Over a month, we get four days worthy of veneration and twenty-six ordinary days, which is a good balance. The problem is we sometimes treat the days of veneration much like ordinary days, so we end up with lots of ordinary days and not so many days worthy of veneration.

The Wan Phra offers us a quiet time, a day for stepping back from the busyness of our ordinary activities. Here at Abhayagiri, we consistently encourage everyone to do that. For instance, we remind the community to refrain from turning on the computers or continuing with work projects. The Observance Day is a time to step back and keep the mind from being cluttered with these kinds of activities.

By truly observing the Wan Phra, we have a regular day set aside for reflection, a day to ask ourselves, What do I take as a refuge? What is worthy of veneration? How well do I interact with the world around me? How might I cultivate virtue and integrity? How do I want to live my life? Reflecting like this is not aimed at setting the highest possible standards for ourselves; it’s not for trying to achieve theoretical ideals. It’s simply to recognize what’s useful—what works to decrease the discontent and suffering in our lives. Discernment of that nature, cultivated on Observance Days, motivates us to turn toward relinquishment, giving up, and letting go of things. This is central to the Buddha’s teaching and to the very ethos of our practice.

Observance Days are an opportunity to step back from the busyness of ordinary activities, to reflect on our lives and practice, and to cultivate letting go. When used in these ways, they truly become days worthy of veneration.