THE BUDDHIST DAY OF OBSERVANCE. THE BUDDHA TAUGHT THAT THE UPOSATHA DAY IS FOR “THE CLEANSING OF THE DEFILED MIND,” RESULTING IN INNER CALM AND JOY
SIGNIFICANCE AND HISTORY:
Dating back to the 500 BCE ‘Uposatha’ was an important ceremonial day of the Buddhists and is still observed by them. The word literally means ‘going inside to stay’ especially in monasteries in the Buddhist point of view. Generally the New or Full Moon day is chosen as the Uposatha day.
The word Uposatha originated from the Sanskrit word ‘Upavasatha’ that means the Buddhist day of fasting which took place prior to Vedic Sacrifices.
Once there was a King known as Bimbisara who was very much influenced by the Buddha’s preaching. The Buddha on the request of the great King established the Uposatha day. He gave instructions to his disciples to spread his teachings to the common people on this day and perform recitations of ‘Patimokkha’ the second Uposatha day.
The countries who follow the Chinese calendar observe Uposatha day for about six times in the respective month especially on 8th, 14th, 15th, 23rd and the last two days of every Lunar month.
Seclusion from the families and homes is observed for attaining purification both of mind and body. In other words refinement of a tainted mind is achieved by staying away from all sorts of attachment to at a secluded place.
Practice of Eight Precepts is observed by the lay people and monks of the monasteries. The practices may vary from eight to five as per the traditions.
Lay Tradition: The Lay followers get the chance to visit a nearby monastery on this day and perform prayers and offerings. Listening to the ‘Dhamma’ discussions by the monks and participating in the contemplation sessions also takes place.
If any practitioner is not able to take part in the happenings of the Monasteries there is an option of strengthening oneself by doing intensive meditation and practising the Dhamma individually. Meditation is done for an extensive period of time for additional sessions in such cases.
Monastic Tradition: It is customary for the local Sangha of the monasteries comprising of four or more monks to perform narrations of the Patimokkha on the New and Full Moon day of Uposatha. This narration can take thirty minutes or can continue for an hour. Confession of infringement of rules to any other monk or to the Sangha is done before the commencement of the recitation takes place.
It is completely under the authority of the Monastery to allow the common people to attend the narration ceremony.
The common people do not consume any eatables before providing alms to the monks. Some Full Moon Uposatha days are very important according to the Buddhist calendar such as Magha Puja, Visakh Puja or Vesak, Asalha Puja, Pavarana Day and Anapanasati Day.
The Buddhists Theravada Trends observe Uposatha or ‘Ubot Nei’ on the days of ‘La hsan’ or waxing moon, (La Pyei Nei’) or Full Moon, ‘La Hsote’ or waning moon and ‘La Kwe Nei’ or the New Moon day. In the countries of Theravada, this day of ceremony is observed once in a week keeping in view the four Phased of the Moon.