What is Meak Bochea Day?

  • Meak = Full moon day of the third lunar month in the Khmer calendar
  • Bochea = to honor
  • Meak Bochea Day is also known as Magha Puja
  • Meak Bochea Day pays tribute to the final sermon given by Buddha with 1,250 enlightened disciples in attendance. In his final sermon, Buddha summarized the “Heart of Buddhism” into three principles:

    1. Ceasing from all evil
    2. Doing only what is good
    3. Cleansing the mind

    “The non-doing of evil / the full performance of what is wholesome / the total purification of the mind.”

    On this day, Buddha also correctly predicted the day of his own death, three months later. He was born, reached enlightenment, and died; all on the same day.

    Visak Bochea (not to be confused with Meak Bochea) is when Buddhists around the world celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.

    What Happens During Meak Bochea?

    In Cambodia, a full moon signifies a holy day. This makes Meak Bochea the perfect time to repent sins and to perform virtuous acts. The Khmer see this as a day of penitence, good deeds, and remembering Buddha’s teachings. For this, many locals visit pagodas to purify their minds and to follow the teachings of Buddha.

    In the evening, temples and pagodas are full of people listening to sermons given by monks. They also often perform a candle ritual where they walk clockwise three times around the temple holding flowers, incense, and a lighted candle. Each of the three circuits around the temple represents one of the three jewels (ideas at the heart of Buddhism).

    1. Buddha
    2. Dharma
    3. Sangha

    When is Meak Bochea?

    Meak Bochea Day is observed on the full moon in the third month of the Khmer calendar. This means that the date depends on the lunar cycle but usually, it is observed in late February or early March. This year, in 2018, it was observed on January 31st. Next year, in 2019, it will fall on the 19th of February.

    What should you do during Meak Bochea?

    Whether you find yourself in Cambodia or in a neighboring country, you should take the time to learn more about this important Buddhist holiday.

    The best way to learn is by joining the locals at the pagoda to experience Meak Bochea firsthand. This is the perfect time to repent and reflect on the teachings of the Buddha.

    We recommend using this day to purify your mind, avoid all sins, and perform some merit making acts.

    • Visit a nearby pagoda. You’ll get to see the processions of candles, incense, and flowers
    • Travel to Oudong Mountain. Hundreds of monks and government officials gather there to perform Meak Bochea rituals
    • Spend the day with a friendly Khmer family to really experience this Buddhist holiday