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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Significance of Vap full moon Poya Day

Significance of Vap full moon Poya Day

By: Gamini Jayasinghe

---Daily Mirror
Vap full moon Poya day is a day of paramount importance to Buddhists worldwide and particularly for us in Sri Lanka due to a number of special events taking place on this day some of which take place annually.

In the past monks did not have permanent homes and they made “Pallankans” or bed-steads under the shade of trees, sat there and meditated and had to go from door to door with a bowl to beg for food, which is called Pindapatha, food received in the bowl.

However, during the period from Esala (June-July) to Vap (September-October) with pouring rain in Dambadiva (India) and it is extremely cold in the snowy peaks of the Himalayas and the valley where ascetics meditate under the shade of trees. Due to the inclement climatic conditions hindering sheltered nests to live in during this season birds migrate to other regions where the climate in not so cold.

During the rainy season worms, insects and other living things come out of the earth, seeds and plants begin to grow. When monks travel from place to place they trampled new plants, insects and other living things. Without their knowledge living things get killed and people became critical about it. Buddha took such criticisms into consideration patiently and permitted all the monks to sojourn during the rainy season.

This permission enables a Buddhist monk to remain with a house holder during rains, whilst there it is usual for him to give religious instructions to the inmates and others who attend to him. House holders may provide lodgings or give residence to Buddhist priests during the rainy season. From Esala to Vap (June-October) Monks May observe the law of qualities efficacy and moral philosophy at places where they sojourn during the wassana kala or the rainy seasons. There are thirteen passion subduing ordinances called “Thelesdruthanga” that a Buddhist monk may observe during the Wassana Kala. “ Savanak Pirisa the Buddhist community or the assembly of four kinds viz. Bhikku monks, Bhikkunees, Upasaka-lay male devotees and Upasika –lay female devotees accumulate merit during this period. The Vas period ends on Vap Full-moon poya day. Monks give up Vas on the Vap full moon Poya day. This is called “ Vas Pavaranaya” The month beginning from Vap Full moon Poya day and ending on Il full moon Poya day is a period when the Buddhists perform a series of special religious activities the most important of which is the Katina Cheevara pooja or offering of robes to Maha Sangha. Katina cheewaraya is a web of cloth made in a day and presented to a Buddhist priest. An incident led to the invitation of Katina pooja or offering of a robe to monks who had completed vas or rainy season sojourn. When Gauthama Buddha was sojourning in Srawasthi Jethavanaramaya thirty monks came to see him from Paweyya state. Since it was the rainy season they remained with house holders in Saketha Nuwara and at the end of three month Vas period set off for Jethawanaramaya and on their way they got caught to heavy rain and came to Jethawanaramaya in wet and damp robes. On inquiries they told the Buddha that they got caught to rain. Buddha gave them permission for “Katinaskaranaya” or entitled them to have another robe.

Katina Pooja is a long standing religious custom prevailing in all the countries where Theravadhi Buddhism prevails. Katina is offered to Buddha on the Vap full moon Poyaday and in Sri Lanka Katina Pinkama ceremonies are performed in Buddhist Temples during the period from Vap full moon Poya day to Il Full Moon Poya day. In the words of Buddha this is the noblest religious activity for Buddhist in which limitless merit is accumulated.

To achieve the best results of a Katina Pinkama a number of prerequisites should be fulfilled. There should be a monk who had completed a period of rainy seasonal sojourn. Cheewaraya should be a thick robe for the wet season cut and sewn on the spot in a day and night. A monk who had completed a period of rainy seasonal sojourn is entitled to receive a Katina Cheewaraya. In the event of a member of monks observing vas at the same place only one monk is entitled to receive a Katinaya at that place. A single devotee can offer any number of Katina Cheewaras at different places. All the items offered at a Katina pinkama ceremony are regarded as equally efficacious bridges of offerings in the road to Nirvana.

Buddha set an example to his followers by observing Vas himself. He spent his first ‘vas’ period at Baranesa Isipathanaramaya with the five Brahmin ascetics who first heard Buddha preach. He decided to dwell in Thautisa or Thavathinsa during the seventh ‘vas’ season after attaining Buddhahood to be of assistance to the mother god; queen Mahamaya who died seven days after giving birth to prince Siddhartha was born as a mighty god in the divine world of Thautisa. Buddha gave religious instructions and delivered Abhidharma or transcendent doctoring to the mother god and other divine beings mother god attained ‘sowan’ or the first of the four stages or steps to Nirvana.

After completing the ‘vas’ season in Thautisa Buddha returned to this world on the Vap Full Moon Poya day attended by Devas and Brahmas according to Buddhist literature Buddha decended from ‘Thautisa’ to this world down a ladder made of ‘Sathruwan’ or seven precious things i.e. gold, silver, pearls, gems, cats eye gems, diamonds and coral. ‘Shad Varna’ i.e. an aggregate of six colours, blue, yellow, crimson, white, red and the colour formed by the combined radiance emanated from his body and formed into a halo around him.

Thousands of Devas and Brahmas including the king of gods, Sakra stood beside the ladder to pay their homage to the Buddha. ‘Sahampathi’ Maha Brahma held the ‘Chathra’ parasol and god Suyama (chief god of the divine world ‘Yama’ fanned Buddha with a Vijinapotha’ or ‘Vatapotha’, ‘Panchasika’ played the veena.

When the Buddha decended followed by Sakra, Maha Brahma and Suyama the people were overcome with ‘Buddhalambana Preethiya’ or the pleasure connected with the Buddha. People who could not make offerings during the period of three months were happy about his return to the world of men and with that Buddhalambana preethiya they made it a religious festive season.

On a day like this King Devanampiyatissa sent his minister, Aritta, who was also his nephew to the emperor, Dharmasoka in India as an envoy. The message sent by the King under the admonition of Arahat Mahinda Maha Thera was to send Arahat Sanghamitta Theri to Sri Maha Bodhi in Buddha Gaya.

In response to this message and under the admonition of Arahat Moggaliputta Tissa Thera Emperor, Dharmasoka sent a Sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lankan sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi in a golden bowl and handed it, over to Arahat Sanghamita Theri to be taken to Sri Lanka. The emperor sent craftsmen of eighteen ranks to take care of Sri Maha Bodhi. Arahat Sanghamitta Theri embarked from Thamraliththi fort accompanied by other nuns, craftmen and Sri Lankan envoys and disembarked in Sri Lanka in a few days. Sri Maha Bodhi was planted in Maha Meuna Uyana on Unduwap Full Moon Poya day.

Arahat Sanghamitta Theri established the Meheni Sasna the order of nuns in Sri Lanka initiated steps for the procession of Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka and the establishment of the order of nuns in Sri Lanka were taken place on a Vap Full Moon Poya day.

Prince Maha Aritta who was ordained as Singala Maha Thera attained the goal of Buddhism-Nibbana. he held a convocation of Vinaya Pitakaya. The commencement of this convocation was on a Vap Full Moon Poya day.

According to the celebrated history of dynasties of the Kings of Ceylon as illusrated in Mahawansa various kings had offered Katina Cheewara on Va[ Full Mon Poya days.

King Parakramabahu the Great who ruled from Polonnaruwa had offered eighty Katina Cheewara at eighty different places. Collecting cotton wool, knitting and sewing had been done on the same day.

King Parakramabahu VI who was enthroned in 1410 AD in Kotte had offered Katina Cheevara annually to Three Thousand four hundred and thirty two monks in Three Sinhale – Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti.

King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe who ruled the country from Kandy had offered Katina Cheewara annually on Vap Full Moon Poya day.

The month of Vap is also important for farmers. It is the chief sowing season. Agricultural activities such as breaking up follow ground ploughing and sowing take place during this month. Vap Magula or Vap festival had been patronized by royal families.King Suddhodana had taken Prince Siddhartha – Bodhisatta out on that day to see the ploughing festival. Nineteen Amunas had been ploughed with sixty ploughs, Bulls of fest breeds, well made ploughs and yokes, driving sticks and cords were carried in carriages drawn by horses.

According to Mahawansa Sinhala Kings had conducted the Vap Mangula the ploughing festival with the highest esteem and in a grand scale.

At present Vap Magula is a national festival patronized by Ministers and Parliamentarians including the President. Vap festivals are conducted not only at the national level but also provincially. In certain Vap festivals elephants are used presumably for want of strong bulls and buffaloes in sufficient number or with the intention of making the best use of elephants.

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