Magha Puja Day
Magha Puja Day falls on the full moon of the third lunar month, somewhere toward the end of February. Magha is the name of a month in the lunar calendar used in ancient India. The word "Puja" means worship. So, Magha Puja means the worship in the month of Magha.
The Magha Puja Day is also known as the day of the Four fold Assembly. This was a special assembly which took place at the Bamboo Grove (Veluvana) and contained four extraordinary features namely:
1. It was the full moon day of the month of Magha.
2. 1,250 monk disciples assembled to see the Buddha, all by themselves, without an appointment.
3. All these monks were Arahants who had attained the six fold super knowledge.
4. All of them were the Buddha's direct disciples having been ordained by the Lord himself.
At the four hold assembly the Buddha gave the monks an important discourse summerizing his teachings into three main principles, namely:
(1) not to do any evil
(2) to do good and
(3) to purify the mind.
These three principles are fundamental in Buddha-dharma (Buddhist Doctrine).
Magha Puja Day is also known as the Dharma Day as it was the occasion in important Dharma discourse was delivered by the Buddha.
Magha Puja Day is also important in another respect. It is said that in the last year of the Buddha's life, just three months before his passing away, the Buddha had determined the the day he would die and announced it to his disciples. The incident is known as the Rejection of the Aggregates of Life and it also took place on the full moon of the third lunar month (Magha). This fact adds more signifcance to the Magha Puja Day and makes it even more sacred for all Buddhists.
On Magha Puja Day, Buddhist flock to the temple in the moring. They observe the five precepts, listen to a sermon, serve food for monks, meditate or take part in other forms of meritorious activities. They also perform circumambulation, walking around a shrine or a Buddha image three times, as a gesture of faith and respect in the Holy Triple Gem.
Visakha Puja Day
The Buddha was born in 623 B.C. His father was King Suddhodana, his mother was Queen Maya, and their capital city was Kapilavatthu in the North of Indai. Before enlightenment, the Buddha was known by his personal and name as Siddhārtha Gautama.
Visakha Puja Day is the most sacred occasion for the whole Buddhist World. It marks the three important event in the Buddha's life, namely, his birth, enlightenment and the Great Demise, which all took place on the full moon of the sixth lunar month (Visakha).
Seven days after Siddhattha's birth, Queen Maya died and the baby prince was thereafter looked after by his foster mother, Pajapati. He was an extraordinary person, extremely intelligent and compassionate. It was predicted that he would ether become a Universal Monarch or a Buddha.
Despite all the comefort and luxury of a royal houshold, Prince Siddhattha decided at the age of twenty-nine to leave home and family and became a wandering ascetic in search of the Truth. He labored hard for six years, experimenting with all kinds of spiritual practices and meditation. Then, on the full moon of the month Visakha, at exactly thirty-five years, he attatined enlightenment and became Buddha, the Enlightened One.
The Buddha worked hard to spread his teaching and to enlighten people. During the forty - five years of his mission, he was able to establish his religion, which is now known as Buddhism. His following came from all walks of life; there were kings and princes, trader and peasants, Brahmins and outcastes, the rich and the poor, the influential and the ordinary. His Teaching is now one of the major world religions and it was at one time the greates and the most influential civilizing force in human history.
The Buddha passed away at the ripe age of eighty, again on the full moon day of Visaha. He had left us an invaluable legacy-a spiritual heritage-which has benefited the world at large (and still does) through tis long existence and wide spread over 2,500 years.
Asalha Puja Day
It was on the full moon of Asalha, the eight lunar month, that the first discourse was delivered. At the end of the sermon, Kondanya attained the Eye of Truth; the Order of Sangha was initiated and the Holy Triple Gem became complete. There are thus three reasons why the Asalha Puja Day is celebrated by Buddhists:
The Buddha attained enlightenment at Buddha-Gaya (Bodhi-Gaya) on the full moon of Visakha. Twe months later at the Deer Park near Benares, he delivered the first discourse to his first five disciples, viz, Kondanya, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanma and Assaji. This epoch-making incident marks the establishment of the Buddhst religion by the Lord Buddha.
1. It is the day of the Buddha delivered the first sermon or discourse;
2. It is the day the religion was established;
3. It is the day of Sangha came into existence and the Holy Triple Gem because complete. (For this reason it is also knowns as the Sangha Day).
The name of the first discourse is Dhammacakkappavatana Sutta. "Dhammacakka" means the Wheel of Dharma and the whole word means "Setting into Motion the Wheel of Dharma". "Sutta" means a discourse. The main theme of the first sermon is the Four Noble Truths, namely, Suffering (Dukkha), the Cuse of Suffering, the End of Suffering and the Way to the end of Suffering. These truths are universal and invariably valid at all times and in all places. They are therefore known as the Four Noble Truths.
The first truth states that existence is unsatisfactory, incomplete, empty, subject to change and undesirable. Because of this we have to suffer one way or another. For example, we cannot be happy at all times even if we want to; men are born, grow old, become weak, and die; and there are times when we have to be separate from those we love and care for. All these and other undesirable elements are the conditions of life.
The second truth explain the cause of suffering. Everything that exists comes under the Law of Cause and Effect. This law operates in all spheres, and at all levels, of existence. Suffering can be removed, according to this law, by destroying its causes.
The third and the fourth truths offer the way out of suffering. Nirvana is the end of suffering. It is the state of perfect calm and bliss, the ultimate freedom from all forms of suffering. One can reach this state by following the Eightfold Path, also known as the Middle Way (fourth truth), which are, Right Understading, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. This is the way of ture happiness. This is the way we all should follow.
When Buddhism first became established, the number of monks was relatively small and the Sangha organization was more manageable. Originally, monks did not stay at any particular place, but were most of the time on the move in their mission to spread the Buddha's teachings. During the rainy season, when the country experienced heavy and frequen rainfalls, things were quite difficult for them and their travels were often impeded or interrupted. The season was also the time for farmers to cultivate their land and grow crops. It was, naturally, the time for most ascetics to stop wandering and remain stationed in a specific place.
The day following the Asalha full moon is called the Lent Commencement Day or Vassupanayika in Pali. The Lent, or Rains Residence (Retreat), is one of the monastic observances haveing its origin in the time of the Lord Buddha.
The Buddha therfore thought it fit to promulgate a rule for the Sangha. According to this rule, monks are obliged to remain posted at a certain place, preferably a monastery, for a period of three months, starting from the first day of the eight waning moon (i.e. the day following the Asalha full moon).
During these three months, monks cannot spend the night outside the are they have taken for Rain Residence. If they have to go out, they make sure to return before the dawn of the following day. Such is the rule laid down by the Buddha for th Holy Sangha.
There are, of course, expeptions to this rule by which a monk is allowed to spend the night elsewhere, other than his Rain Residence, for instance, when his parent is seriously ill or he is required for some urgent religious work at a place too far to return in one day. But even in such cases, he may be away only for seven days at a stretch. This practice, like many others, is preserved to the letter down to these days and the period is considered by all Buddhists as execptionally sacred to perform merits, or to take certain vows for ones' spiritual uplifting.
In some Buddhist countries this is a high time for young men to enter monkhood and stay in a monstery in order to acquaint themselves better with the religion-something they cannot conveniently do while leading a household life. The number of monks during the Lnet in such countries is therefore much greater than at other time of the year. This is particularly true of Thailand, where the Buddhist tradition is still very much alive and strong.
Religiuos activities usually increase for both monks and the laity. Monasteries conduct special courses for new Sangha members; intensive meditation classes and Dharma lectures may also be organized for both parties.