Now that you have all completed your cirumambulations of the local temples, you might notice that there are some further traditions to complete. As with any holiday, most Thais ‘Glap Bahn’, go home for a visit, but this time there is a further reason. As the Vassa Rains Retreat starts, there is the tradition of visiting ones elders, to pay respects. Monks lead the way – they will mostly travel to pay respects to their preceptor, the Bhikkhu who gave them ordination. Abbots and senior monks will travel to pay respects to the head monks of their district and province. It is not specific to a particular day, but should be within the first week of the Rains Retreat period. Lay people follow this tradition too, and will go to pay respects to their elders, and to the village headmen.
Paying respects to Elders is an Indian tradition that comes from the Buddha’s time. In fact, he would not give ordination to people who still had obligations to their family, and frequently gave special dispensation to monks who needed to return home for family reasons. On the other hand, his Sangha did deplete the stock of young men of the noble class for the Sakyan Kingdom, and his own entering monkhood was done without his parents permission or consent. Many of the kings of northIndia at the time, would pay respects to the Buddha, even at times when they were at war with the Sakyans.
For 18th July, the entering Pansa (sem sem as Vassa or Rains Retreat) is mostly a ceremony for the monks. The boundaries of the temple grounds will be agreed upon, and the monks lined up in order of seniority. The Abbot will give the annual instructions on the Rains restrictions, and there will be extra chanting and meditation in the mornings for the many new monks who will have been crowding in to get ordination in the last week. Their special instructions will go on for the three months, and there is a dhamma exam at the end of it for those who have completed the period and instructions.