Significance of Vap Full Moon Poya
The rainy season commenced three months ago with Esala – ‘Vassana Kalo’. It comes to an end with the Vap Poya. The ‘Katina’ season ushers in the Buddhist calendar with Vap, which is popularly known as ‘Cheevara Masaya’.
This year, Vap Full Moon Poya falls on Saturday, October 3 (today).
Vap Poya marks the offering of the ‘Katina Cheevara’ or new robes to Buddhist monks, who observed ‘Vas’ – Rainy Retreat, beginning from Esala to Vap.
‘Katina’ – ‘Cheevara Pooja’, the noble meritorious deed is considered the most sacred wholesome act a Buddhist can perform. It is known as the Great Eight Merits or ‘Ata Kusal’. The word ‘Katina’ means unbreakable. It is believed that those who participate in ‘Katina’ religious activities obtain much merit and they live a happy life in this world as well as in the other world once they depart.
It was on Vap Full Moon Poya Day that the Buddha visited the heavenly abode of Tavatimsa. In this heavenly abode, He preached ‘Abidhamma’ to the Devas of that celestial plane, which resulted in the elevation of ‘Matru Deva’ (Mother Diety) to attain ‘Sotapanna’ and 80 crores of Devas to various stages of Sainthood. Eventually, He terminated his retreat in order to descend to the city gate of Sankassapura. He informed Arahat Moggallana about his arrival. Moggallana had paid him a visit seven days before.
Vap Poya is of great significance for yet another reason. Throughout our cherished history, Buddhists have celebrated Vap on a grand scale. Temples in Sri Lanka will be filled to capacity. They will be involved in ‘Dana’, ‘Seela’, ‘Bhavana’ and thereby they accumulate merit.
Buddhist history reveals another important landmark which is connected to Vap Full Moon Poya Day; for it was on such a day that the future Buddha, Maitriya Bodhisatva, entered the order with a retinue of 500 followers.
Furthermore, Vap Poya paved the way for the arrival of Sangamitta Theri. The advent of Buddhism took place with the advent of ‘Dhammarajassa Savaka’ Arahat Mahinda Thera. King Devanampiyatissa’s sister-in-law Anula, was very keen to enter the Order of Bhikkunis. Therefore, the King made a request to Emperor Asoka to send Sanghamitta Theri.
It is clear as crystal that Sri Lanka and India had a very cordial diplomatic relationship, even at that time. It was on Vap Poya Full Moon Day that Devanampiyatissa sent Minister Maha Aritta, a close relation of Devanampiyatissa to India, for this mission. This resulted in the arrival of Sangamitta during Unduvap Poya, which is in the month of December. It records the establishment of a ‘Bhikkuni Sasanaya’ in Sri Lanka. Sangamitta brought a Bo–Sapling from the Jayasri Maha Bodhiya to Sri Lanka.
The Great King Devanapiyatissa, who propagated Buddhism, questioned Arahat Mahinda whether Buddhism was firmly rooted in Sri Lanka. Arahat Mahinda stated; "Dear King, until such time a person born and bred in Sri Lanka enters the order, holds a ‘Dhamma Sangayanawa’ and after a complete and thorough study of ‘Vinaya’ rules relating to Dhamma, then only will Buddhism be firmly established throughout Sri Lanka."
According to chronicles, this was fulfilled by Minister Aritta, who entered the order. Therefore, the establishment of Buddhism on a firm footing took place on Vap Full Moon Poya Day.
On this Vap Poya Day, Let us follow firmly the five precepts (Pancha Seela), abstain from destroying living beings, abstain from taking things not given, abstain from sexual misconduct, abstain from false speech and abstain from taking anything that causes intoxication.
May the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem and the protection of the devas be with you!