Theravāda bhikkhus reciting the disciplinary code in unison to begin their observance of the annual ‘Rains Retreat’.
Beginning the day after the full-moon of Āsāḷhā month (around July every year), Theravāda Buddhist monks/nuns are required to observe vassāna or ‘Rains Retreat’ for a duration of 3 months. The vassāna period from July/August to October/November corresponds with the monsoon season in South and Southeast Asia (which were historically Buddhist strongholds), thus making traveling very difficult and even dangerous. Monks and nuns were often invited by Buddhist communities to reside in village ārāmas (monasteries and nunneries) for the duration of the ‘rains’.
The tradition of ‘Rains Retreat’ was started by the Buddha Himself in the year 588 BCE, where the Lord and 60 bhikkhus – including the elders Kondañña, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahānāma and Assaji, as well as Venerable Yasa and his 54 friends – resided in the vicinity of Sarnath near Vārāṇasī. During those 3 months, the venerables learned and practised Dhamma intensively under the direct guidance of the Buddha; at the end of which, all 60 bhikkhus (monks) had attained the highest spiritual fruit of arahantship.
At the conclusion of that inaugural ‘Rains Retreat’, the Buddha instructed the Arahant elders to “Go forth O bhikkhus, for the welfare and happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world; propagate the Dhamma…. excellent in the beginning, middle and end….in letter as well as in spirit… There are beings with little dust in their eyes, who without hearing the Dhamma will falter and fall away… There will be those who understand Dhamma.”
Monks and nuns would ideally spend their vassāna period engaging in intensive meditation and other spiritual pursuits. The Buddha, seeing that the period of intense spiritual practice and communal discipline had greatly benefitted the monks, formally instituted the ‘Rains Retreat’ whereby monks and nuns were to refrain from traveling and engaging in much activity to focus their attention inwardly towards spiritual development and purification.
The Buddha also encouraged lay devotees to support the material needs of the monks/nuns during this 3-month period so as to free the practitioners to concentrate on spiritual work. At the end of the rough-weathered and monsoonal ‘Rains Retreat’, many of the monks’ robes were often close to tatters; hence the Buddha also allowed monks/nuns to receive offerings of new cloth from lay devotees to be cut, sewn and dyed into new robes. This allowance has today evolved into the much-celebrated ‘Kaṭhina’ Ceremony marking the end of vassāna.
Nowadays, the end of rains retreat is marked with the much-celebrated ‘kaṭhina’ Ceremony where the laity offer robes and requisites to Saṅgha members. The vassāna period afforded lay people more opportunities to approach resident monks for Dhamma teachings and spiritual guidance. Thus, the close symbiotic relationship between the monastics and the laity was further cemented.
In the Theravāda School of Buddhism, the tradition of observing the vassāna persists till today. In fact, the seniority of a Theravāda bhikkhu/bhikkhunī is reckoned by the number of ‘Rains Retreat’ they has observed since his ‘upasampadā’ (higher ordination). The vassāna period afforded lay people more opportunities to approach resident monks for Dhamma teachings and spiritual guidance. Thus, the close symbiotic relationship between the monastics and the laity was further cemented. In the Theravāda School of Buddhism, the tradition of observing the vassāna persists till today. In fact, the seniority of a Theravāda bhikkhu/bhikkhunī is reckoned by the number of ‘Rains Retreat’ they has observed since his ‘upasampadā’ (higher ordination).
The continuation of the Buddha-Sāsana very much depends upon the upholding of the Buddha’s teachings (Dhamma)
and discipline (vinaya) by both the monastic and lay communities. As long as there is practice and realization of the Dhamma, the world will never be deprived of the Buddha’s profound wisdom.
The contact to support projects and activities of the Association Karuṇā Sevena: 6855804001/5500, IBAN: CZ6755000000006855804001, SWIFT: RZBCCZPP - The funds are used to cover the basic monastic needs of the Venerable bhikkhunī Visuddhi, such as - robe, food, medicine and abode (this also covers transportation, accommodation, air tickets, etc.). Distribution of books, construction of the meditation room, the furnishing of the monastery KS, insurance, utility bills, etc. Tax deductible in the Czech Republic. Please state the reason for the donation with the following note" For the Association KS."
The contact for the project Suriya Lamai: 6855679001/5500, IBAN: CZ4955000000006855679001, SWIFT: RZBCCZPP
- The intention of the project Suriya Lamai “The Children of the Sun” is to enable children from poor families to develop and educate themselves and to provide them with basic needs. The donation is tax deductible in the Czech Republic.
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