Buddha Day – Chokhor Duchen Celebrating the First Teaching: How to celebrate Buddha’s First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma — this year on July 9 or 10, 2024

Wall mural painting of The Buddha
Wall mural painting of The Buddha in Dharmchakra Teaching Mudra, representing the Turning of The Wheel of Dharma mudra or pose, Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet. In Buddhism, the Dharma Chakra symbolizes “teaching.” The Jokhang is a Buddhist temple in Barkhor Square in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Of the four Holy Days dedicated to Shakyamuni Buddha each year, Chokhor Duchen, the “First Teaching” celebration — the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma — is the most important. This year in Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, it is celebrated on July 9 or 10, 2024, depending on your lunar calendar. FPMT calculates it as July 10, while some other centres have it as July 9 — due to lunar skip days. There are also time-zone differences. The important thing is to celebrate the first teaching!


n Buddhism, we take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, but the Dharma — the teachings (Dharma) — is considered the most important. The true refuge is in Buddha’s teachings and the conduct and practices he taught — and no teaching was more important than the first discourse.

“Chokhor Duchen, one of the four annual holy days of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, takes place this year on July 9 or July 10 depending on the various Tibetan calendars. Both days are fine. On these holy days of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the power of any meritorious action is multiplied by 100 million, as taught in the vinaya text Treasure of Quotations and Logic.”

 Relief of Buddha teaching in Vietnam temple.
Chokyur Druchen honors the day Buddha first Turned the Wheel of Dharma. Relief of Buddha teaching in Vietnam temple.

In this feature, we explain the Holy Days and offer many meritorious practice recommendations for the most Holy of Days Chokhor Duchen. In this feature we offer dozens of practices, long and short, with links to other suggested practices from venerable teachers.

Chokhor Duchen commemorates the day when Buddha gave his first teaching, the turning of the Wheel of Dharma, at Sarnath. It is also known as Sangha Day, because it celebrates the founding of the Buddhist monastic order.

According to Lama Zopa: “Chokhor Duchen, one of the four annual holy days of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, takes place on the 4th day of the 6th Tibetan lunar month. On these holy days, the power of any meritorious action is multiplied by 100 million, as taught in the vinaya text Treasure of Quotations and Logic.”

Reciting Sutras is Highly Meritorious on Buddha Days:

 

Among the most auspicious and meritorious of practices on Buddha Days is recitation of Sutras. This can be in Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, English, or any language.

When we dedicate our actions on Chokhor Duchen to others, we create powerful merit that will help them in this life and in future lives. If you’ve been thinking about taking up a new practice or making a change in your life, Chokhor Duchen is an excellent day to start.

No matter what you do on Chokhor Duchen, the most important thing is to remember the spirit of the day: giving and benefiting others. When we focus on others, our own happiness naturally increases. So take some time on August 1st to think about how you can benefit others, and make it a special day for everyone.

As one of the four major days celebrating the shining life of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Conqueror, according to sutra, the merit of all practices is multiplied at least 100,000 times.

The one overwhelming theme of Chokhor Duchen is joy, life affirmation, and compassion for all beings.

This is why we might eat a vegetarian meal — to honor our fellow sentient beings — or engage in acts of charity or kindness. On this day, most Buddhists — and non-Buddhists to honour the day of compassion — will typically engage in the five lay precepts, to paraphrase them concisely:

  • Refrain from taking life (hence vegan for the day!)
  • Refrain from taking what is not given.
  • Refrain from misuse of all our senses.
  • Refrain from wrong speech (gossip, lies, and so on)
  • Refrain from intoxicants that cloud the mind.

The First Teaching, Meet the Buddha in Deer Park: Video

In a lovely video, our editor visualizes “stumbling on the Buddha” in Deer Park and eavesdropping on the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma. Don’t miss this lovely visualization:

Practices to honour Chokhor Duchen

Some practices recommended by teachers for this very special day, which falls on August 1st this year include :

1. Chanting Sutras [Why reciting sutras out loud is important feature:]

Chanting the Heart Sutra, here in English (Sanskrit version above):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Yvs8B9KQjU

2. Making Offerings to Sangha

3. Practicing Bodhichitta [For a feature on Bodhichitta,]

4. Giving Charity

5. Taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts

6. Doing a Water Bowl Offering Ceremony. [For a feature on Water Bowl practices]

7. Developing the Paramita of Wisdom by Studying Dharma Texts

8. Doing Prostrations to the Buddha or Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels. [Why taking refuge is important]

 

Monks celebrating Holy Day near Boudanath Stupa in Nepal Kathmandu.
Monks celebrating Holy Day near Boudanath Stupa in Nepal Kathmandu.

 


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