Asalha Puja Day
|Sermon in the Deer Park|
This is one of the most important festivals for Theravada Buddhists. It is a day that celebrates the anniversary of the first sermon delivered by the Buddha at Deer Park over two and a half thousand years ago.
It is named for the month of Asalha in the old Indian calendar and is celebrated on the full moon of that month - the 8th lunar month.
The typical activites for Asalha Puja Day may include:
- Recital of the Eight Precepts by the monks.
- Giving of alms to the monks.
- A Sermon may be delivered by a monk who may then lead a Meditation.
- Monks lead the lit candle procession three times around the Temple while chanting in Sanskrit.
Asalha was also the start of the monsoon season and it is a sort of Buddhist Lent or three month 'Rains Retreat' where monks spend three months of the rainy season in permanent dwellings, in a type of intensive retreat. As monks usually travel around spreading the Buddha's teaching, this is a time for them to stay put during the period of poor weather. This is specifically important for those in Thailand and India where the monsoon winds and torrential rain can make travel difficult and dangerous. It also stops wandering monks from unintentionally damaging newly planted rice crops.
During these three months the monks are not allowed to spend a night away from their chosen residence, or if they must go out, they have to be back before dawn the next morning. Although there are exceptions, such as if a monk needs to be somewhere for a longer time due to the illness of a family member or a religions work that is more than a day away. If this happens, no more than a seven day stretch is allowed. It comes from Buddha and has been preserved throughout the centuries.
Lailat al Bara'ah
Birthday of Horus
Also known as Mid-Sha'ban it is In keeping with Islamic tradition this celebration began at sunset last night (14th of July). It is the night that is known as Lailat al Bara'ah or Laylatul Bara'ah, and means the night of records, the night of assignment, the night of deliverance and the night of 'quittancy' or forgiveness of sins. It is believed, in the Sunni tradition, that this is the night that Allah travels to the nearest heaven to forgive every deserving Muslim. The Shias believe that this is also a celebration of the birth of their final Imam - Muhammad al-Mahdi.
Muslims may spend the night in a prayer filled vigil and while some accounts state that there is a celebration with feasting, others state that the day after Lailat al Bara'ah (so that would be today this year) is a day of fasting.
I wrote about this in the Epagomenal Days post yesterday. Click here to read it.