Uposatha


The word means "entering to stay," in the Buddhist sense, in a vihara or monastery. But it has a long history before Buddhist times as it was the custom of the brahmans who performed the Vedic rites and sacrifices to go to the sacred place away from their homes and families and purify themselves by leading a secluded life for a day and night, returning after the rites were finished. The days when they kept this seclusion were determined by the phases of the moon, the most important being the Full Moon and the New Moon days. Two other days, the quarter-moon days, were also observed.

Lay people in Buddhist countries periodically withdraw for twenty-four hours to a monastery for the practice for some special Dhamma. But what is to be done where there is no monastery, no bhikkhus, and no possibility of taking time off from work?

First, on these days, or on some of them, one could be a bit DSC04019more in the shrine room. This would include reciting the Eight Precepts instead of the five and if one knows any special discourse of the Buddha, in Pali or in English, they should be chanted or read through. A very appropriate sutta to chant or read is the Discourse on the Eight-part Uposatha and to this could be added such popular suttas as the Discourse on Loving-kindness (Karaniya-metta Sutta) and the Discourse on the truly Auspicious (Maha-mangala Sutta). Longer suttas such as the Discourse on Treasures (Ratana Sutta) and the Discourse on Setting in motion the Wheel of Dhamma (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) would be appropriate if one has time.

Apart from precepts and discourses, more time should be given to meditation on these days, so if one uses the shrine room only once on ordinary days, it should be used twice upon these days, while making the effort to sit rather longer. When the Eight Precepts are backed up by the calm strong mind produced in meditation then they become easy to keep.
 
The Dhamma that one can practice during the day at work must be decided by each person, taking account of his own personality and of the circumstances surrounding him. Of course, one tries to keep one's conduct within the bounds of the Eight Precepts and do only those things which are consonant with the spirit of the precepts. One may find it possible to practice Giving (dana) in some way on these days and some short periods devoted to some of the recollections might be possible — it depends on each person to find his own ways and means.

The Uposatha days can be found here.

(Extracted from Lay Buddhist Practices.)
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