The Full Moon Significance in Buddhism

Buddhist, Poya, Full Moon, Sri Lanka

The full moon day known as Poya/Pohoya in Buddhism are days for reflection and meditation and renewed dedication to the practice. It is observed in the Theravada form of Buddhism, and hails from the time of the Buddha’s life. In Sri Lanka these Poya days also coincide with historical milestone of Buddhism in relation to the country and is therefore observed with great significance as a national holiday every month.

JANUARY

IN BUDDHISM: This day commemorates the Buddha’s visit to Uruwela Danawwa (place of habitation). During his visit the Buddha directs the Kassapa brothers on the correct path. The Kassapa brothers; Uruwela Kassapa, Gaya Kassapa and Nadi Kassapa were arrogant Jatila ascetics with one thousand followers.

IN SRI LANKA: This day observes the Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka to the Mahiyanganya region. At the time the prehistoric inhabitants in Lanka were the Yakkha (devil) and the Nagha (serpent) tribes. These tribes were in constant confrontation and this visit was on the invitation of the God Sumana Saman to put an end to this hostility. The Buddha was able to create peace among them. The legend says the Yakkhas unable to understand his words dispersed to the Giri Divayina (island) whilst the Devas (gods) and Naghas accepted Buddhism. God Saman requested for a relic to worship and the Buddha gave him a lock of his hair which he in return enshrined in the Mahiyangana Dagaba (shrine).

FEBRUARY

IN BUDDHISM: The two very significant incidents that took place on the Navam Poya were the first ever Buddhist congregation where a code of ethics for Buddhist monks was proclaimed and the appointment of two chief disciples (aggasavakes) of the Buddha as namely Sariputta and Moggallana. In the eve of the first Navam Full Moon Poya day after the enlightenment of the Buddha, there were more than one thousand two hundred and fifty disciples in the order.

MARCH

IN BUDDHISM: It was on the Medin Full Moon Day, that Buddha, along with a retinue of twenty thousand disciples travelled to Kimbulwathpura seven years after his Abhiniskaramanaya (leaving princely life to find the truth) to meet his relatives.

APRIL

IN SRI LANKA: This holy day celebrates the second visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka, in order to reconcile two Naga tribe chiefs, Mahodara and Chulodara, uncle and nephew, who had fallen into disagreement and were threatening hostility over a throne beset with jewels.

MAY

IN BUDDHISM: Known as the Themagula (triple auspicious events) Buddhists commemorate this as the most important Full Moon Poya Day for three events that took place in the life of the Lord Buddha. First comes the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. The second event was Siddharta Gautama’s supreme attainment of nirvana to become the Buddha. The third event was Lord Buddha’s Parinibbana (death) over 2,500 years ago.

JUNE

IN SRI LANKA: Poson Poya is noteworthy to Sri Lankan Buddhists as the day on which Indian Emperor Asoka’s son, Arahant Mahinda, introduced Buddhism to the island in the 3rd century B.C. Mihintale rock was the location where the momentous encounter between the Elder and the King took place and Sri Lanka’s king was converted to Buddhism. The Ambasthale Dagoba (shrine) is the temple which towers above the Mihintale rock, accessible by 1840 steps and built over the very spot where Mahinda is said to have appeared before the King.

JULY

IN BUDDHISM: Esala Poya commemorates Buddha’s preaching of his First Sermon, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, to the five ascetics inaugurating his public ministry. The other noteworthy events connected with this day include the conception of the Bodhisathwa in the womb of Queen Maya, his Abhinishkramanaya (leaving princely life to find the truth), the performance of the Twin Miracle (Yama Maha Pelahera causing a stream of fire from one part of hist body and a stream of water from the other at the same time), and his preaching the Abhidhamma (detailed religion) for the first time in the Tavtisa heaven.

AUGUST

IN BUDDHISM: Nikini Poya day celebrates the first ever Dhammasangayana – the first Buddhist council where the Buddha’s preachings were agreed upon and recited. This took place for seven long months. It established the original authentic Tripitaka (the three scriptures of sacred text) in the Pali canon spoken by the historical Buddha and his disciples.

SEPTEMBER

IN BUDDHISM: It is on this Poya day that Bhikkhuni Sasana (female monastic congregation) was founded. This request had been refused by the Buddha many times earlier on the grounds that he did not wish for women to enter homeless life in this doctrine and discipline that has been taught. But on a final request made by Ananda Thero (the Sanga who attended to the Buddha) on behalf of the female congregation he gave permission for their entry into monastic life on the condition that they would accept the Eight Great Conditions.

OCTOBER

IN BUDDISM: It was on Vap Full Moon Poya Day that the Buddha visited the heavenly abode of Tavtisa. In this heavenly abode he preached Abidhamma (detailed religion) to the Matru Deva (Buddha’s mother deity) and Devas (gods). Furthermore, the month of Vap is known as the month in which Lord Buddha sent out his first 60 disciples in 60 different directions preaching the Dhamma (religion).

Vap Full Moon Poya Day; is also foretold to be the day the future Buddha, Maitriya Bodhisatva, enters the order with a retinue of 500 followers.

IN SRI LANKA: It was on this Full Moon Day that Devanampiyatissa (King of Sri Lanka) sent Minister Maha Aritta, a close relation of Devanampiyatissa to King Asoka in India, for the mission of bringing back a sapling of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (the Bo tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment).

NOVEMBER

IN BUDDHISM: The prediction of the emergence of the future Buddha was announced on the Ill Full Moon Poya Day. The receipt of permission (Niyatha Vivarana) by Bodhisatta Maitriya to be the next Enlightened One or the Future Buddha Maitriya occurred on this Poya.

IN SRI LANKA: The first stupa in Sri Lanka was called Thupharama in Anuradhapura. The laying of the foundation to construct the stupa took place on Il Full Moon Poya Day.

DECEMBER

IN SRI LANKA: Commemorates the arrival of Sangamitta Theri in Sri Lanka with a Bo sapling from the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (the Bo tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment) in India. Sangamitta Theri with her accompaniment landed in Dambakolapatuna port in Jaffna on an Unduvap Poya Day during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. Sangamitta Theri was the daughter of Emperor Asoka and the sister of Arahant Mahinda who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. After landing here and delivering this precious gift, she was responsible for establishing the Bhikkhuni Sasana (female monastic congregation) during this same month.

References:

Website of the Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka [https://sridaladamaligawa.lk/ ]

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