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Friday, October 17, 2008

Kathina Ceremony and its Meaning

Kathina Ceremony and its Meaning

Introduction:

When Buddhism was first established in ancient India, there were few monks and nuns. These monks normally did not stay in fixed places or temples but rather spent most of their time moving from one place to another as it was their mission to spread the teachings of the Buddha for the happiness and welfare of all people and living beings.

In those days, there were no paved roads, so during the rainy season when the country experienced heavy and frequent rainfall, their travels were often impeded and interrupted. In this season, the farmers also cultivated their land and planted new crops.

Because travel was inconvenient, The Buddha allowed his disciples to stop wandering and take up temporary abodes during the rainy season.

In Pali, this season is called vassa, meaning the "Rains Retreat" and it extends for three lunar months. It begins on the 15th day of the waxing moon of the 8th Lunar Month, and ends on the 15th day of the waxing moon of the 11th Lunar Month.

This corresponds approximately from early July through late of October in the Gregorian calendar. In this year, 2006, the Rains Retreat started on July 11th, and ended on October 7th.

Historical Background

About four or five years after attaining Enlightenment, the Buddha was dwelling at Jetavana Mahã Vihãra near Sãvatthi City, the capital of the Kosala kingdom ruled by King Pasenadi.

A group of thirty monks who had been ordained by the Buddha himself came from Sãket city east of Sãvathi just after the three months Rains Retreat Observance to visit the Buddha. The Buddha greeted them, asked them about their retreat and journey, and noticed their wet and torn robes. The lady disciple of the Buddha, Visakha Mahã Upãsikã was also there visiting and listening to the Buddha expounds the Dhamma. When she saw the monks in tattered and worn robes, she asked permission of the Buddha to offer new robes to the monks, and the Buddha granted her request. Since then the Buddha granted the monks the opportunity to search for robes in various places and even to accept robes offered by donors during the period of one month from the middle of the Eleventh Lunar Month to the middle of the Twelfth Lunar Month. This period is called Kathina.

As there were no sewing machines or textile factories in those days, the preparation of robes for monks required a lot of manpower and coordination. It could not be done in a single day.

The Buddha realized this problem and allowed his lay disciples to prepare and make robes for any monks who needed them. The process required searching for appropriate cloth, washing it, cutting it, sewing the pieces together into robes, coloring the robes, and drying them. After that, the robes were distributed to the monks who needed them with the consent of the Sangha, the community of the Monks.

Present:

Nowadays, lay followers prepare robes for the monks but not in the same way as it was done in the time of the Buddha. They are two ways in which monks may obtain robes, namely: (1). by searching for them in various places like cemeteries, cities, and towns, or (2) by accepting offerings of robes from the people.

The Kathina ceremony takes place during the month immediately following the full moon day of October (from the beginning of waning moon of the Eleventh Lunar Month to the beginning of waxing moon of the Twelfth Lunar Month).

According to Vinaya Pitaka, the Theravada Book of Discipline, during the three month period from mid-July to mid-October, monks are required to take up a settled residence and are allowed to leave their encampments only under special conditions.

In this environment, the wandering mendicant nature of the Buddhist monk began to change. In particular, a number of customs and practices of a collective life, including the recitation of rules and the distribution of robes, became incorporated into the annual cycle of monastic life.

These ceremonies have continued through the ages and have evolved from culture to culture. The traditions of Theravada Buddhism spread throughout Southeast Asia as Buddhism won the favor of ruling monarchs in Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. Theravada Buddhism expanded greatly in Thailand under the patronage of King Ramkhamhaeng.

Today in Thailand, the Kathina ceremony provides one of the most popular occasions for merit-making. The Buddhist people celebrate this robe- offering ceremony with profound respect and devotion to the monks, who have just spent three months in the monastery observing the Vassã (Khao Pansã in the Thai, Lao, and Cambodian languages) –the Rains Retreat. In rural Thailand, everybody in a village will participate in the Kathina ceremony as a community activity which may last anywhere from one day to as many as three days.

All Buddhist monks and fully ordained nuns in all parts of the world observe the Rains Retreat during this period, though in certain countries the custom has been modified. Buddhist monks in Thailand, Lao, Cambodia, Burma, and Sri Lanka however continue to observe the Rains Retreat in the traditional Theravada way.

The author has proposed the idea to the American Buddhist Congress of shifting the observance of the Rains Retreat to occur from December to March in North America. The American Buddhist Conggress has found the idea appealing, but such a change would require approval by senior monks from the Thai Sangha.

Why have I proposed this idea? Because during this period North America experiences heavy snow and bad winter weather which makes it very difficult for monks to travel and perform their missionary duties of spreading the Dhamma to all living beings.

Among the Buddhist of Southeast Asia, there is a very grand festival at the end of the observance of the Rains Retreat. People offer food to the monks in monasteries and prepare the special yellow robes that are offered to the Sangha.

This special offering is called the Kathina Offering Ceremony. It is done only during the period of time starting from the end of Rains Retreat to the first day of the waning moon of the 12th Lunar Month, as previously mentioned.

Benefits of Kathina Offering

1. Monks who receive the offerings and the members of the Sangha, can go from places to place for their Dhamma works and meditation practice without needing to inform any monk in the monastery.

2. Monks do not need to carry a complete set of robes when they go anywhere to carry out their religious duties.

3. Monks can have their breakfast and lunch in different places offered by different donors without breaking their monastic rules (Vinaya).

4. They can keep other robes according to their wishes for more than ten days without breaking monastic rules.

5. The robes offered to them by donors are suitable and good for them, so they can extend their time to search for another set of robes for four months through out fall and winter.

6. The Buddhist followers support and help the monks to maintain the Buddhist teachings and tradition for world peace.

7. Those who support the Monks and the Sangha are always happy, joyful, and wealthy.

8. They promote Buddhist Teachings in Western society where people are Seeking Spiritual food for their hearts, and need spiritual and moral training.

9. The Monks have no worry about searching for cloth to make their robes, and in this way they have more time to concentrate on their Dhamma study and meditation practice, and can serve more people in their communities.

10. The donors cultivate generosity, perform charity, and exhibit selflessness.

11. The donors follow the noble way of life and maintain a humane society on this planet.They are the source of peace and happiness for the world.

Where is Kathina Ceremony observed?

The Kathina ceremony is observed by Buddhist people in all parts of the world, not only in the Asian countries, but also in European countries such as the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Change:

According to Buddhist tradition, the robes prepared on this occasion were usually offered to the Monks who had old and torn robes which were insufficient to protect themselves.

The robes were made by the "Sangha", under the idea of coordination collaboration, harmony, and participation in religious and monastic service.

The process of making the robes was completed in one day, beginning with making the cloth, cutting, sewing, washing, coloring, drying, and organizing it into a set of three. Then, with agreement of the Sangha, the robes were offered to the monks through the ceremony. The Kathina Ceremony therefore is a community activity that needs to be performed in a harmonious way.

This is the Buddha’s idea of collaboration and harmony, of care and the loving way of the compassionate heart for community and social development and for human society as a whole. Buddha Vihara, the Midwest Buddhist Meditation Center as a new community needs coordination, collaboration and harmony, (Sukha Sanghassa Samaghi Samaghanang Tapo Sukho. Harmonious activity of the community is the source of happiness).
----------The Island.LK

‘Let our people come in peace: Can they?’

‘Let our people come in peace: Can they?’

The article by Dr. Noel Nadesan under the caption "Let my people go in peace" in The Island of September 18, 2008, analyses what the Tamil people of Sri-Lanka have gone through, especially from the time of armed insurgency by Tamil militants, for remedying perceived political and developmental anomalies in the country. His concluding plea triggered tears in my eyes, and I am sure others who read this article would have responded the same way.

What touched my heart and prompted me to write this is his submission …. "with all my experience I find that blaming others is not the answer to our problems. We have to take responsibility for our failure to look at issues critically and take responsibility in areas where we went wrong. Blaming the Sri-Lankan government, India, the international community and others, as we have done throughout our history, has not saved us. The time has come to go beyond blaming outsiders for our blunders. Our duty is to use common sense and end the war sooner than later. This can be achieved only if we make a clear choice between our politics and our people. Are we going save our failed politics or are we going to save our people? That is the question we must answer now. It is hypocritical for us to cry for human right when our people are not even given the choice to decide whether they should be in the middle of the war, facing unnecessary risks and sufferings or given the choice to escape to a safe heaven. How can we feel morally superior when our people are kept against their will to face war which they don’t want? If we can’t decide between war and peace we can at least make a choice between keeping our people as prisoners in the middle of a war or letting them go.// The people have a right to decide where they should stay in times of war. They cannot be kept against their will to face bullets and bombs. Let the people decide with whom they want to stay. It is time we all said: Let My People Go In Peace To Wherever They Want To Go".

After World War II several democratic countries emerged in Asia but quickly they succumbed to majority-domination, authoritarian impulses and army coups, making it difficult to broad base democracy in practice for wider representation of various social groups in legislatures of a country. The Tamils of Sr-Lanka too had felt that successive Sinhalese-majority governments failed to fulfil their aspirations in terms of dividends expected after independence from the British. They complained of marginalization and discrimination against them by the mainstream governance when it came to parity status or nation building. The Tamils would submit that they pleaded and reasoned for rectifying post-independent inequities for long but the government of the time was only concerned in placating the majority community to secure its power. Therefore, the Tamils had no choice but resort to violence for winning a piece of the country as their homeland. Some are even convinced that the Sri-Lankan government took serious notice of the Tamil voice only after bombs exploded in its backyards and decision makers were gripped in fear-psychosis of being blown up even within "armed security cordons’.

In fact, except the Mavil Aru episode and President Rajapaksa’s stance thereafter, all previous governments succumbed and adopted a position that greater the brutality of terror and violence higher the concessions and favours government was prepared to yield. Thus, LTTE operational dictum when dealing with the government of Sri-Lanka was ‘terror for territory’, and ‘terror for taming’ became an useful tool to subdue its own stock – the fellow Tamils- in countries where they migrated to after 1983 or those who remained in the country, stuck to their village roots, with the hope of affinity-protection against the non-Tamil enemies.

History is replete with civil dissensions to effect socio-political changes. Some ended in division of the country as in the separation of East Timor from Indonesia or re-union, after a strangling conflict, as in the case of Aceh when the rebels and the mainstream government of Indonesia decided to live together, as one country, after waging a 30-year bitter war. The case of Biafra declaring unilateral independence in July 1967 and functioning as a separate ‘rogue country’ with clandestine recognition and support of some countries, reuniting with the parent country Nigeria in 1970 after fighting an ethnically motivated secessionist war is another dimension the world has witnessed of a mass civil uprising against an established government at that time. The objective of all these internal strife has been to rectify shortcomings in the governance to create an environment of equity and justice for all the citizens domiciled in a country.

Dr. Nadesan’s article probably reflects the current mood and mindset of most Sri-Lankan Tamils after decades of struggle. He claims to have been an activist and sympathiser of militant groups including the LTTE that pursued Tamil homeland cause. The dramatic change of mood has happened after rigorous analysis and soul searching, and it is a departure from a confident position, not too long ago, of LTTE strength to dictate, on behalf of the Tamils, terms at negotiations with the Sri-Lankan government. If not for some strategic errors, the LTTE-imposed fear psychosis and government’s reluctance to confront the LTTE militarily may have continued as was the case pre-Mavil Aru.

Dr. Nadesan’s question, "why is it that the majority of the Tamils prefer to live outside their ‘homeland’?" indicates that Tamils, given the choice to "decide with whom they wish to stay", would voluntarily choose to live away from their perceived ‘homeland’. The present situation, I believe, is an opportunity the government and others who care to preserve the territorial integrity cannot miss, and therefore should hasten to declare – Let Our People (the Tamils) Come in Peace. Such overtures have been tried in the past. President Chandrika in her moments of magnanimity admitted mistakes and offered an apology to the Tamils but it was not matched by actions to blot out inter communal prejudices and distrust accrued over many years of abrasive and exterminatory approaches of the fighting factions.

According to Dr. Nadesan the Tamil community has been let down by the leadership that promised better living conditions in a separate homeland. The Tamil community cannot understand the logic of the very group claiming sole authority to liberate the Tamil people from the Sinhalese hegemony and oppression using greater force and brutal methods to extract allegiance even from Tamils who remained trapped in their enforced ‘homeland’. The large number of Tamils who had taken refuge outside the northern and the eastern provinces and the constant stream of people leaving these two provinces illustrate feeling of their relative safety among other ethnic groups. As more and more Tamils now feel threatened in their ‘homeland’ the accelerated military pursuit is being justified as a response from a responsible government to retrieve Tamils from a failing but revengeful leadership that had kept them under its iron grips for many years.

A growing complacent mood in the country is that the LTTE is going to be crushed soon but, it will be too naïve to expect that peace is around the corner. There is no visible evidence yet of a sincere attitudinal change to build a multiethnic and pluralistic country with all the safeguards for all its citizens to claim that the Country Belongs to All. What prompted some of the citizens to rebel against the system of governance still remains very much the same. The Tamils have complained of Tamil language not being given the rightful official status then but even today, except a statutory provision for the use of Tamil, nothing much has changed on the ground. The Tamil people undergo the same hassle and encumbrances when they have to go through the officialdom of the country, and while trying to decipher, for example, whether to turn right or left at a road diversion which, instructs only in the Sinhalese language, is a daily occurrence. The Tamils had complained about discrimination and favouritism in resource allocation and recruitments which, according to them, had led to development inequalities. Over concentration of resources and developmental activities in some provinces than others is not helpful to convince that the government policies are fair by all citizens. Extreme Sinhala nationalistic pronouncements that are increasingly being voiced from highly placed individuals and political parties in the country are also counterproductive at a time when trust and confidence among the different communities are what required regaining and strengthening.

Sri Lanka is at a crossroad of building a future from lessons learnt along the rugged path it has traveled since independence. On this path ethnic, religious, lingual and cultural sentiments have pushed some groups to the brink of claiming supremacy of rights and privileges over others in the same country. With military at work to defeat terrorism, gaining more of rebel territory will not be enough to win the hearts of the innocent people tapped there for long in misery. Many of them are in their teens, and may not know more than hurling a grenade and that, there is a vast expanse of land outside their kraals. Compulsion of fate now demands that (Dr.Nadesans’s) people trapped will have to be led from the misery to safety. Dr.Nadesan may not have suggested where his people could be safe at this point in time had he been unsure of the place to where he is sending them. How ready are we to receive this (our) people back to the main fold? Do we have the compassion and readiness to share and care to comfort each other, particularly the Tamils who have suffered an imposed misery in their ‘homeland’? Can there be a repeat of the Biafran story in Sri-Lanka? Although not widely cited in the conflict resolution literature, historians find magnanimity of the Nigerians and the extra distance the Head of State General Yakubu Gowon took to embrace (as fellow compatriots) the rebels when they decided to return to the fold of Nigeria, is unmatched in recent history.

Sadly, there are signs of extremity in some quarters calling the military advantage Sri Lanka government has at the present as an opportunity to consolidate the path of majority-led supremacy and hegemony further into the future. To the majority of right thinking patriotic people of this country it is an opportunity indeed only if used to create a new path of co-existence, recognizing that everyone has a space to live and right to pursue life goals in the spirit of equality and justice. If there is still reluctance to create the new path collectively -by confluence of political parties- the people on whose behalf Dr.Nadesan appealed for their safety may be better off left undisturbed wherever they are, but no one can prevent them from hoping that someday someone will have a better chance to take them to their ‘homeland’. For the moment, Dr. Nadasan can be happy that he had not led his people from a land of misery to a land of wilderness.

Practising meditation in the world

Practising meditation in the world

Dailymirror.lk**********
Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso

The purpose of meditation is to get you in touch with your real home, the place of stillness inside of you. You realize that your true home is carried around with you all the time. But how do we get in there? The door of your heart is open to you no matter what you do. Freedom, love, compassion, just being still, not controlling, letting go, is the door into that home inside of you. You don’t go there by measuring and by judging. You go there by quietness and not thinking. So you come through the door of your inner home where you can reside at will, at any time.

If you know that home, that place, it means when you do come out into the world, where you work hard, strive and struggle for the sake of other beings; at least you’ve got a place to come back to, a refuge, a home. When we don’t have that refuge, that home, we don’t know how to escape from the turmoil of life.

In the suttas, the Buddha said you should know the gratification, the danger and the escape from these worldly things. You can understand the gratification; you can understand the danger of the worldly ways, but please know how to escape as well. I have taught you the escape; it is going to the inner home. So once you know that inner home and are familiar with it, you can always go back there anytime. It’s a place of rest, and the real refuge of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. One who sees the Dhamma sees the Buddha, it’s not Gautama the Buddha who passed away in Nibbâna thousands of years ago. One sees the Dhamma inside one’s heart, that state of freedom, that knowing, that awakening, that liberation, which is the real refuge. That’s what connects you and all the others to the Ariyas in the world; it is the ‘Ariya Sangha inside the heart’. That’s why it’s a refuge, because it’s deep within. You know it’s a refuge because whatever you are doing outside in the world, you can always come home and put your feet up as it were. We can come home to have a cup of tea and to really relax in the refuge of our real home.

When you go out of your home every morning – I don’t mean your house I mean your inner home – you go out to do your duties and your work. But you know you’ve always got a place to come back to, a place of rest and peace. This is what we do in the world. I go to Sydney this afternoon. I go to work over there but I take my inner home with me. At any time if you feel tired or stressed, you can go back into your inner home. It’s a marvellous resource. Sometimes, as a senior monk, you do a great deal, and you get very tired physically. What you need to do then is just go into your inner home and rest there for awhile. When you come out you can be so bright, so peaceful and so clear.

That’s where the Dhamma comes from, from the inner home.

A sacred place

I keep encouraging all Buddhists to have a place in their houses, if not a room, at least a corner of their house, which is their shrine room, their religious room. I sometimes see how big people’s bathrooms are. Sometimes they’re made of marble, and they have very fancy taps and faucets. What are they used for? People use that place to clean up their bodies!

People also have these amazing kitchens, and lounge rooms, and games rooms, and playrooms, and TV rooms, and dining rooms, and huge, huge bedrooms, with en-suites. But very few houses have got a spiritual room. A room set aside just for the cultivation of Dhamma or religious practice. They don’t have a spiritual haven in their house, a place where they’re not cleaning their bodies, but they are cleaning their minds. They don’t have a place where they’re not feeding their stomach, but they are feeding their heart. I think that it is so necessary in today’s world, to have a meditation room, a shrine room – just a place of peace and silence.

If you really haven’t got a room in your house to do that, ask yourself, “Do I need all these other rooms”? Are they really all that important, an office and all that other stuff? Put the office in a corner of your bedroom, and put your meditation room in your office. What is more important to you? But if you haven’t got the room, at least use a corner of some quiet room, a quiet space, where you can put your Buddha statue or your pictures, and your Dhamma books. Have that as a sacred space in your house, a place where you can go at any time. After a while by sitting there regularly; chanting there, even reading Dhamma books there, it builds up power. and becomes a power spot in your house. A place where you can just sit, because the only thing you ever do there is: to meditate, to chant, to read Dhamma books, to quieten down. It becomes psychologically empowered as a place of peace.

One of the things that I’ve always stressed about meditation is the happiness of meditation. Happiness is an important thing in meditation. If you get happiness in meditation early on in your practise, you will always want to meditate. It’s not a case of getting up in the morning and saying, “Oh, I’ve got to do my meditation now. I must get this out of the way so that I can go to breakfast.” You know how it is? You do your half an hour every day just like taking medicine. It’s not like that at all. If you really understand what meditation is, you love doing meditation. You just want to do it. Sometimes you have to get your breakfast out of the way to get to your meditation, or you have to get your work out of the way to get to your meditation. It’s just you doing it. You sit on your chair, or your stool, or your cushion, and your mind just leaps towards silence. The Buddha said that when the mind leaps, or jumps, to quietness, to stillness, to non-doing, that’s a great stage on the path of wisdom, on the path to Enlightenment.

Katina Pinkama – The Noblest Religious Activity of Buddhists

Katina Pinkama – The Noblest Religious Activity of Buddhists

(By Gamini Jayasinghe)
-----------Dailymirror.lk

Vap Full Moon Poya day is a significant day for Buddhists because of the Katina Pinkama as well several other events which took place on this day. Gauthama Buddha’s completion of His Vas period in Thusitha heaven, the dispatching of an envoy by king Devanampiyatissa to emperor Asoka in India requesting him to send a sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka, the attainment of arahantship by Aritta Samanera as Singala Maha Thera and the recitation of Vinaya Pitaka under the supervision of Aranhant Mahinda Maha Thera are the significant events to have taken place on Vap Full Moon Poya day.

Buddhist monks complete the Vassana kala or the rainy season sojourn on Vap Full Moon Poya Day. This three month period is very important for ‘Savanak Piris’ or four groups of the Buddhist community viz. “Bhikkhus” –monks, “Bhikkhunis” nuns, “Upasaka“–lay male devotees, “Upasika” lay female devotees, because this is the period of the year when they can accumulate merit in various ways. Buddhists perform a series of special religious activities; the most important of them is the Katina Cheevara pooja or offering of robes to the Maha Sangha.

Katina Cheevaraya is a web of cloth made in a day and presented to a Buddhist priest. An important incident led to the introduction of Katina Pooja or offering of robes to monks who had completed vas or rainy season sojourn When Gauthama Buddha was sojourning in Srawasthi Jethawanaramaya 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 the three month Vas period they set off for Jethawanaramaya but on their way they got caught to heavy rains as the rainy season had not finished. They came to Jethawanaramaya in wet robes. On inquiries they told Buddha that they got caught to the rain. Buddha gave them permission for “Katinaskaranaya”or entitled them to have another robe.

Katina Cheevara Puja – Offering of New Robes

Katina Puja or offering of new robes to Buddhist priest is long standing religious custom prevailing in all the countries where Theravadhi Buddhism prevails. Katina is offered to Buddha on the Vap full moon poya day and in Sri Lanka Katina pinkama ceremonies are performed in Buddhist temples during the period from Vap full moon poya day to Ill Full Moon Poya day. In the words of Buddha this is the noblest religious activity for Buddhist in which limitless merit is accumulated.

Monks who have completed a period of rainy season sojourn are entitled to receive Katina Cheevara after the completion of the period successfully. In the event of a number of monks observing Vas or sojourning for the rainy season at the same place only one monk is entitled to receive Katina at that place. However, a single devotee can offer any number of robes but at different places.

Virtues of Katina Puja

In Buddha’s words all the items offered at a Katina Pinkama ceremony are equally efficacious bridges of offerings in the road to Nirvana.

A number of prerequisites should be fulfilled to achieve the best results of a Katina puja. First of all every monk to whom the Katina Cheewaraya is offered should have completed the rainy seasonal sojourn in the proper way. .The Cheewaraya should be a thick robe for the wet season cut and sewn on the spot in a day and night.

First “Vas” Period of Gauthama Buddha

Gauthama Buddha set an example to His followers by sojourning Himself during the Wassana Kalaya or the rainy season. The first “Vas” period sojourning of the Gauthama Buddha after His Enlightenment was at Baranasi Isipathanaramaya – the grove in Benaris where He first preached to His monks.

Gauthama Buddha’s Rainy Season Sojourning in Thauthisa

Buddha’s seventh “Vas” season is also of special significance. Gauthama Buddha decided to be of service to His mother god who was in Thauthisa or Thavathinsa. Queen Mahamaya who died seven days after giving birth to prince Siddhartha was born in the divine world called Thauthisa as a mighty god. During His sojourn in Thauthisa Buddha gave religious instructions to the gods including the mother god. He delivered Abhidharma or Transcendent doctrine. On hearing Abhidharma the mother god attained Sowan, the first of the four paths or stages leading to Nirvana.

It was on the seventh Vap Full Moon Poya Day after His Enlightenment that Buddha returned to the world of men from Thauthisa divine world. Attended by celestial beings Buddha descended to the world sown a ladder of “Sath Ruwan “– seven precious things ie. Gold, silver, pearls gems, cats eye gem, diamonds and coral, “Shad Warna” 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 stood in the air on either side of the ladder to pay respects to the Enlightened One.

“Sahampathy Maha Brahma held the “Chathra” –parasol and god Suyama (chief god of the divine world “Yama” fanned Buddha with a Vijinipatha or Vatapotha and Pancasikika played the Veena Human beings who could not make offerings to the Exalted One in person during a period of three years were anxious to have a glance of Him. He descended followed by Sakra, Maha Brahma and Suyama. Human beings who were overwhelmed with happiness the Buddhalambana Preethiya- made it a religious festive season.

Envoy to request for a Sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi

Vap Full moon Poya day is significant also in connection with the Sri Maha Bodhi. It was on a Vap Full Moon Poya day that King Devanampiyatissa sent his minister, who was also the king’s nephew to emperor Dharmasoka, as his envoy, requesting him to send a sapling of Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka. The king dispatched this envoy under admonition of Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera

Emperor Dharmashoka who had already sent missionaries to various countries including Sri Lanka did not hesitate to send a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi. Under the admonition of Arahant Moggaliputta Tissa Thera the emperor Dharmashoka sent a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi in a golden bowl which was handed over to Arahant Sanghamitta Theri to be taken to Ceylon.

Craftsmen of eighteen ranks accompanied Arahant Sanghamitta Theri who was accompanied by a number of other nuns and embarked from Thamraliththi fort to disembark in Sri Lanka a few days later. The Sri Maha Bodhi was planted in Maha Meuna Uyana on Undu Vap Full Moon Poya day.

Arahant Sanghamitta Theri established the Meheni Sasana – the Order of Nuns in Sri Lanka on a Vap Full Moon Poya day.

Prince Maha Aritta who was ordained by Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera was the first Lankan to attain Arahantship.- the goal Buddhism. He held convocation of Vinaya Pitakaya. The commencement of this convocation was on a Vap Full Moon Poya day.

According to legend Mahawansa kings in Sri Lanka have patronaged Katina Cheewara Puja ceremonies and very often kings themselves had offered Katina Cheewara to the Maha Sangha on Vap Full Moon Poya days and in addition they had included various items required for the respective temples.

King Parakramabahu the Great who ruled the country from Polonnaruwa is one such monarch who played a pioneering role in the Katina Puja. He had contemplated on offering eighty Katinas in eighty different places. Collecting cotton wool, knitting and sewing had been done on the same day. The King had got “Kappiya Bhanda” or articles to be offered to Buddhist priests and had offered them to Maha Sangha. He had offered Katina to Maha Sangha annually during the period of his reign.

There is also a detail account of Katina Puja performed by king Parakramabahu the sixth in 1410 A.D. During the Kotte period Katina Cheewara offering ceremonies had been conducted in various temples such as Kotte, Kelaniya, Bellanwila and those in outstations such as Kandy, Anuradhapura and down South. He had offered Katina Cheewara and other accoutrements or articles required by Buddhist priests including Atapirikara viz. Bowl, undergarment, Single robe, double robe, girdle, knife or razor, needle and water strainer annually to three thousand four hundred and thirty two Buddhist priests in three Sinhale, viz. Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti

There is historical evidence to the effect that King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe of the Senkadagala Kingdom had offered Katina Cheewara to the Maha Sangha 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 Mangula or Vap festival had been patronized by royal families. King Suddhodhana had taken Prince Siddhartha- Bodhisattva out on that day to see the ploughing festival. Nineteen Amunas had been ploughed with sixty ploughs. Bulls of best 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 Mangula 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.

Significant of Vap Poya

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

Vassan upaganthun”

“Anujanami bhikkave Vassan

Uttanan bhikkunan Kathinan Aththartitun”

The Buddha advised them to stay indoors, during the Vassana period from July to October

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.

Finding Buddha’s path on streets of San Francisco

Finding Buddha’s path on streets of San Francisco

A block off Grant Avenue in San Francisco’s Chinatown - beyond the well-worn path tourists take past souvenir shops, restaurants and a dive saloon - begins a historical tour of a more spiritual nature.

Duck into a nondescript doorway at 125 Waverly Place, ascend five narrow flights and step into the first and oldest Buddhist temple in the United States.

At the Tien Hau Temple, before an intricately carved gilded wooden shrine and ornate Buddha statues, under dozens of paper lanterns, Buddhists in the Chinese tradition still burn pungent incense and leave offerings to the goddess Tien Hau in return for the promise of happiness and a long life.

Established in 1852 by Chinese immigrants who came to California during the Gold Rush and named for a 10th-century provincial woman who protected people at sea, the original temple burned down in the fire set off by the 1906 earthquake but eventually found its new home in this three-block-long alley.

Over the next 150 years, San Francisco would continue to water those early seeds of Buddhism planted in America, as geography, social history and waves of immigrants made it fertile ground for a once esoteric tradition now grown so popular that the Dalai Lama regularly fills football stadiums.

“Since the 1800s, San Francisco was the most important gateway for people coming from the Pacific Rim,” said Charlie Chin, artist in residence at the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco, who also leads tours and gives lectures. “They weren’t proselytizing Buddhism, but they brought it here with their other cultural beliefs and practices.”

Today, a spiritual tourist, whether Buddhist or not, can find inspiration if not enlightenment following in the footsteps of American Buddhism on a pilgrimage throughout the Greater Bay Area.

The Buddhism the Chinese brought was a spiritual mix of traditional folk beliefs, Taoism, Confucianism and Chan, the antecedent of Japanese Zen.

Though there are differences, central to both Chan and Zen is meditation, or zazen in Japanese, as well as the Buddha’s basic lessons of compassion, impermanence and awareness of the present moment.

Japanese immigrants arrived in San Francisco in the late 19th century as agricultural labourers, bringing Zen and its variations. In 1898, they founded the Buddhist Temple of San Francisco in the downtown district. Based on a sect of Buddhism called Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land), America’s first Japanese Buddhist temple also burned down in 1906 but was re-established in 1913 at 1881 Pine Street, not far from the current Japantown.

Now part of the Buddhist Temples of America, whose national headquarters are nearby at 1710 Octavia Street, the San Francisco center has pews in its worship hall that make it look like a Christian church or Jewish synagogue - that is, until you catch sight of the elaborate altar with a golden statue of the Buddha in the centre.

On the roof of the Temple is one of the most sacred Buddhist monuments in San Francisco. Housed in a domed tower (stupa in Sanskrit) that is topped by a spiral that looks like a braided hair knot is a small box containing what are said to be a bit of the Buddha’s ashen bone relics, a gift sent in 1935 by the ruler of Siam. Visitors may ask to view the box.

It was not until the 1950s that interest in Buddhism grew with the next wave that migrated to San Francisco. Though these immigrants were not Asian, they did settle in downtown at the edge of Chinatown, where an intrepid pilgrim can continue to follow their footsteps.

In fact, starting in the mid-50s and continuing into the 1960s, a series of events and trends turned San Francisco into a hothouse for new varieties and strains of American Buddhism.

At the busy intersection of Columbus Avenue and Broadway, which separates Chinatown from the bohemian-style cafes, neon-lit Italian restaurants and the block-long red-light district of North Beach, the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti helped found the City Lights Bookstore in 1953 as the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country.

Across from where entertainers like Lenny Bruce worked out new material at the Hungry and the Purple Onion (still showcasing comedy), Ferlinghetti published Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl and Other Poems’ in 1956. City Lights became an unofficial headquarters of the Beat literary movement, the hangout of Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and many other authors who were reading, practising and writing about Buddhism.

“I made a beeline to City Lights as soon as I moved to San Francisco in the 1960s,” said Wes Nisker, a Bay Area FM radio commentator who now teaches and writes about Buddhism and performs the one-man musical “Big Bang, the Buddha and the Baby Boom.”

“It was the epicentre for a radical new kind of Buddhism that was beginning to flower in America. As a budding Buddhist myself, I had to make it the first stop for my own personal pilgrimage.”

In 1959, Shunryu Suzuki, a Buddhist priest from Japan, came to San Francisco to teach Zen to ethnic Japanese in the city’s Western Addition and Japantown. But so many Westerners were attending his talks that three years later Suzuki-roshi (roshi means teacher) established a separate Zen center on Page Street, down the hill from Haight and Ashbury Streets, crossroads of another ‘60s movement also in search of peace, love and happiness.

“It was a time of great foment, when there was enormous interest in one’s inner life,” recalled Yvonne Rand, the resident teacher at Goat-in-the-Road, a Zen centre in Mendocino County, who first attended Suzuki-roshi’s meditation classes in 1966 and quickly became his secretary.

“Roshi attracted people in the arts, civil rights activists and other agents of social change and consciousness - all hanging around the Bay Area.”

The teacher’s enthusiasm for integrating Zen practice into everyday life spawned several offshoots: Greens, a gourmet vegetarian restaurant at Fort Mason overlooking the bay; Tassajara Bakery, several blocks from Haight Street; the Zen Hospice Project, which has become a national model; and three other Bay Area meditation centres, including Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a three-hour drive south of San Francisco near Carmel Valley, which opened in 1966 as America’s first Zen monastery.

New York Times

Finding peace among the hillside Buddhas

Finding peace among the hillside Buddhas

-----Daily News.LK

Bandung, Indonesia — Something glistens and gleams in the distance. At first it is little more than a glimpse of something that is white, something that catches the eye. But then it comes slightly more into focus.

It is still, though, an unusual sight to see among the hills that surround Bandung. So a second look, a refocusing, may be necessary.

Upon a second, refocused look and upon getting nearer to this unusual object that shimmers in the sunlight streaming onto the hills here, it becomes clear that what can be seen is a large Buddhist stupa. It sits on the hill, the tallest building amongst a huddle of other buildings.

The entrance at the bottom of the hill to the temple complex is guarded by a statue of two large white elephants that face each other, almost aggressively, near a footpath that may be taken to the largest stupa (the large central stupa is surrounded, at each corner, by four smaller ones).

But there is also a road leading up to a small car park set among trees, somewhat shielded from the main buildings of the temple complex. Upon arrival at this Buddhist temple that is known as Vihara Vipassana Graha, the sense of being at a spiritual place is almost immediately felt.

The repetitive chants, or mantras, of Buddhist prayer can be heard coming from the various buildings that are set up with large open spaces within them for collective or individual prayer. Buddhists monks wonder among the buildings. Their robes flutter in the breeze. Calm expressions and peacefulness show on their faces.

The faithful come in crowds, buses are seen parked along the road to the temple that have carried worshippers from quite afar. But although there may be many people within the temple complex, the scale of this development is such that the area does not really feel crowded. The temple grounds are quite extensive and varied.

There are many people in the temple’s grounds, but this does not disturb the general feeling of calm and peacefulness. Bells hanging from the eaves of buildings gently sound as a soft breeze passes. The unwanted noise and disturbances of modern city living do not crowd in and disturb the mind here.

The temple was first established here in 1987 and has evidently grown, in terms of the number of buildings within the complex, since it was first established. One of the primary features of the temple is a reference to it being the “temple of 10,000 Buddhas”. But this, perhaps, needs some explanation and clarification.

There are indeed many statues of the Buddha within the complex but there are also large mirrored walls with small shelf spaces covering them entirely.

These small, pigeonhole like, shelves each contain a single Buddha statue of perhaps six to eight inches in height.

Each one of these thousand or so small statues, (which appear to be made of brass), have in fact been donated by people making a contribution to the temple. For a fee of around Rp 1 million, which can also be paid in installments, “donators” can have a statue placed on a shelf here and it will appear with their name, or names, printed on the base.

It is very hard to count exactly how many Buddha statures there are, but it is said that the target of 10,000 has not yet been reached. But these Buddhas are, in a sense, secondary to the large white central stupa surrounded at four corners by four smaller ones.

The tallest stupa of the five here is essentially the rooftop over another wide prayer area. It is, though, possible to climb up to this stupa. From this vantage point there is an excellent view over the entire temple complex and the surrounding countryside.

From this high point it is possible to look out upon the surrounding hills in the area and the hills that surround the city of Bandung.

This also highlights the deliberate choice of a prominent, and yet relatively secluded, location for the temple.

On the walls that surround the large stupa, stories of the life of Buddha are told in relief. Colorful flags flutter in the wind flowing over the hill. The flags then create a gentle rustling sound which is just about the only sound here. Looking directly down from this vantage point, at each corner there stands a pristine white stupa. Within each corner stupa there is a single statue of the Buddha.

The statues that reside within the corner stupa are either life-size or near life-size. Each is a different representation of the Buddha, whether standing or sitting. Each representation does, however, have meaning.

The extent and detail of this meaning can be so precise that different gestures or placements of the fingers mean different things. For example, an image of the Buddha that has a hand in a lowered position with the palm facing up and outward is a gesture of bestowing blessings and charity.

Similarly, a Buddha statue that shows a hand raised with the palm facing outwards represents fearlessness and reassurance.

There is, then, much meaning and spirituality to be found within the precincts of this temple complex known as Vihara Vipassana Graha. One does not necessarily have to be a believer in the Buddhist faith to sense this.

The general aura and sense of peace that can be experienced here is pleasing to the mind, body and soul.

The temple is located in the hills just north of Bandung. The traveller does not have to travel very far from the Bandung district of Dago.

Journeying towards Lembang, there is a road off in the direction of the temple and this road is densely populated by sellers of potted and flowering plants, roses, shrubs and trees.

It is, then, a relatively short and pleasant trip from the centre of Bandung to this relative peace.

Jakarta Post

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