Significant of Vap Poya
Ayan Vassana Kalo. This is rather the climax of the Vassana season which culminates in the Katina Cheevara Pooja believed to be the highest merit bestowing religious ceremony performed in the Buddha Sasana coming down from the days of Thathagatha the perfect one. This is a remarkable event, an eventful religious performance of utmost faith ranking as the highest punyakarma that one could perform.
“Anujanami bhikkave Vassane
“Anujanami bhikkave Vassan
Uttanan bhikkunan Kathinan Aththartitun”
The above stated in Mahavaggapali - Vinaya Pitaka reveals the observing of Vas and its culmination. “Every Buddhist monk blessed with the higher ordination (Upasampada) should observe the Rain Retreat during the three months commencing from Esala and they are entitled to the receipt of the Katina Cheevara (robe) from the laity.”
This noble meritorious deed is considered the most sacred wholesome act out of Ata Maha Kusal while at the same time it is said to suppress the ill effects of bad Kamma. It is with great anxiety that the Buddhists await the dawn of this month to provide the monks with the four essentials in the life of a monk:
cheevara, pindapatha, senasana, gilanopasthana (robes, alms, shelter and medical care) in gratitude for the great service rendered by way of Dhamma sermons, pujas and religious rituals.
This is the time that the meritorious heart of the true Buddhist is bent on Sraddah, love and compassion. Both parties, Bhikkhus as well as laymen, get involved in threefold religious activities: dana, seela, bhawana. Hence the Vas season leading to the Katina Puja creates a special religious awakening among the devotees making a great impact on their moral lives. This brings about a total disciplined way of life compelling them to utilise the day meaningfully.
They invite the Maha Sangha to observe Vas with Vas Aradhana pinkama since that time till it culminates in Katina Puja the laity look after them to the best of their ability. This is also the period during which the Bhikkhus would be blessed with higher levels of Dhamma through study and meditation. They in turn shower the laity with Dhamma as the gift of Dhamma excels all other gifts. “Sabba Danam Dhamma Danam Jinathi.”
According to early chronicles the first Vassana was observed by the Buddha and his five disciples at Isipathana, Migadaya in Benares. He advised His numerous disciples to spread the doctrine to all mankind. When the monsoon breaks however it was not possible for them to engage in the sasanic tour.
The Buddha advised them to stay indoors, during the Vassana period from July to October. The practice of observing Vassana continues to this day as the fulfilment of a disciplinary requirement as laid down by the Buddha.
The Vassana season comes to a close with the Katinanusasana sermon delivered as the final event on the day of the Katina puja. Throughout history, Buddhists in Sri Lanka has celebrated the festival on a grand scale knowing very well the religious significance of the sacred event.
Vap Poya is of great significance for yet another reason in Buddhist history, as the day that the Buddha preached Abhidhamma to His mother Matru Deva. It was on a Vap Poya that the Buddha had reached Javatimsa to spend the seventh Vassana which He did for three months continuously terminating the vas retreat before He arrived at Sankassapura, where another sacred event, occurred the following month, regarding Bosath Maithree. History reveals that Bosath Maithree entered the order with a retinue of 500 on this Vap Full Moon Day.
There are other events for which the Vap full moon day is important in the annals of religious history in Sri Lanka. One such event is, paving the way for the arrival of Theri Sanghamitta.
With the introduction of the supreme gift to Sri Lanka, by Arahath Mahinda countless numbers accepted Buddhism and when king Devanampiyatissa’s sister in law Anula was anxious to enter the order of Bhikkuni the king was instructed to request Emperor Asoka to send off Therini Sanghamitta for the purpose.
It was on a Vap Poya that the king sent envoys to the city of Pataliputta under the leadership of Minister Maha Aritta a close relative of the royalty. On his return he entered the order here in this country with a retinue of 500 and having gained a considerable knowledge of the Vinaya rules held a Vinaya Sangayana in Thuparama.
This was exactly what King Devanampiyatissa who toiled hard for the propagation of Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka wished and admired. To a question put to Ven. Arahath Mahinda “Has Buddhism been established in Sri Lanka?”
The answer given was that it will not be so until a person born and bred here holds a Dhamma Sangayana after completing the study of Dhamma Vinaya rules. Hence, according to early chronicles this was fulfilled by Minister Maha Aritta. Hence, the establishment of Buddhism on a firm footing on a Vap full moon day is said to be of great historic and religious significance in the annals of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
The rainy season and offering of robes to the Maha Sangha
* The word Vas means the rains; Viseema means the dwelling. Therefore Vas Viseema means to sojourn during the rainy season.
* Vassana Kala, or the rainy season of three-months starts from the Esala Full Moon Day
* Vap Pinkama is performed during the period from Vap Full Moon Day to Ill Full Moon Day. The most important event is the Katina Pinkama, or offering of robes to the Maha Sangha.
* The Buddha set an example to his followers by observing Vas himself.
* Amongst the religious activities, the most important event is the Katina Puja.In the words of the Buddha, this is the noblest religious activity for Buddhists in which limitless merit is accumulated.
Vassana Kala, or the rainy season of three-months starts from the Esala Full Moon Day and ends on Vap Full Moon Day. The monks end or give up Vas on Vap Full Moon Day. This is called Vas Pavaranaya.
From Vap Full Moon Day, Buddhists commence a series of special religious events. Vap Pinkama is performed during the period from Vap Full Moon Day to Il Full Moon Day. The most important event is the Katina Pinkama, or offering of robes to the Maha Sangha.
The Buddha set an example to his followers by observing Vas himself. The seventh Vas period after attaining Buddhahood is of special significance because it was during that season that the Buddha dwelled in the divine world ‘Thausitha’ or ‘Thautisa’. The Buddha decided to dwell in ‘Thautisa’ during this Vas season to be of assistance to the mother god.
Queen Mahamaya died seven days after giving birth to prince Siddhartha and was born as a mighty god in the divine world ‘Thausitha’. Buddha gave religious instructions to the mother god and other divine beings. Mother god attained ‘Sowan’ or the first of the four stages or steps leading to Nirvana.
During this Vas period the Buddha delivered ‘Abhidharma’ or transcendent doctrine to gods. He accomplished twin or double miracle - a power said to have been possessed by Buddha to cause a stream of fire to emanate from one pore of his body and a stream of water from another, simultaneously.
The Buddha used this power exclusively for the purpose of clearing the doubts of celestial beings and not to entice them through miracles. He taught his followers that no one should be charmed or enticed through miracles but that they should be made to understand the reality.