By Hannah Stevens @hannahshewans
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Nomadic photographer Claudio Sieber attended Dhammakaya temple in the Pathum Thani province of Thailand in early February to enjoy the Full Moon Day.
Wat Phra Dhammakaya is the fastest growing temple of the Dhammakaya movement, which was founded by Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro in the early twentieth century.
People of all backgrounds can participate in the event or volunteer at the temple and Sieber was welcomed with open arms by monks and participants alike.
Claudio said: “I always wondered what this UFO shape looking building was all about when flying into Bangkok Duong Mang International Airport.
“It turned out it is one of the most sacred places in Thailand and this year it hosted one of the year’s biggest buddhist events - the Magha Puja Day.
“I practice meditation - Vipassana - myself and was keen to find out what the annual event was all about.
“Wat Phra Dhammakaya emphasises a culture of making merit through doing good deeds and meditation, as well as an ethical outlook on life. Therefore participating or spreading the word can’t hurt.”
As a Buddhist Festival, Magha Puja Day is celebrated around the world by Buddhists in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Sri Lanka. It comes in the third lunar calendar month - usually late February or early March - on a full moon.
Full Moon Day - or Magha Puja Day - commemorates the spontaneous gathering of 1250 monks from around the world to pay homage to Lord Buddha, who recited the Ovadha Patimokkha - The Fundamental Teaching - to his disciples.
Sieber said: “Meditators come from all over the country, monks from Myanmar and Nepal also take part. There is an Almsgiving Ceremony, chanting, meditation, offerings of a midday meal are made to the monks, sermons and the Light of Peace Illumination ceremony.
“On the evening of Magha full-moon day, each temple in Thailand holds a candlelight procession to celebrate the Magha Puja day.
“But to witness 100,000 lit candles and roughly the same amount of happy people gathering together to spread loving kindness is just impressive.
“One can see in the eyes of the participants that they really enjoy being there. Instead of having a meditation session or chanting along I decided to capture the procession to spread the word. That’s the best way of being involved.”
Although the festival attracted thousands of attendees, the Buddhist sect has faced controversy for its use of modern methods and technology to revive traditional Buddhist values.
More recently, the temple has been embroiled in a manhunt for 72-year-old monk Phra Dhammajayo, an influential spiritual leader who is wanted for alleged money laundering.
He is believed to be hiding somewhere in the large compound and has claimed that he is too ill to face officials. Despite thorough searches, officials are yet to find the elusive monk but they have discovered an underground tunnel tucked away in the vast complex.