the beginning of the Rains Retreat

The significance of Buddhist Lent Day

Buddhist Lent Day marks the beginning of the annual retreat for monks as laid down by Lord Buddha more than twenty-five centuries ago. On that day, all monks take a vow to stay in a particular place or temple for three months from the first day of the waning moon on the 8th lunar month to the 15th  day of the waxing moon on the 11th lunar month. This year, Buddhist Lent Day falls on July 25,2021 and it coincides with the rainy season. During Lent Day, the monks are not allowed to stay overnight anywhere else, except in exceptional cases based on reasons granted by Lord Buddha.

The history of Buddhist Lent Day

The commencement of the three-month Buddhist Lent known among Thais as Khao Phansa. During this period, coinciding with the rainy season, Buddhist monks and novices remain closet in their particular  temples or monasteries and they are not permitted from spending nights elsewhere.

The custom of spending three months of the rainy season in a fixed place is a ritual observation since the time of the Lord Buddha. In those days, villagers attributed young seedling damage at the start of the planting season to unnecessary travel by monks. Realizing that monks on pilgrimages could accidentally tread on young plants, the Lord Buddha decreed that his followers spend three months of the rainy season in the  permanent dwellings.

In cases of necessity, such as taking care of sick monks or parents or conducting religious functions, monks may travel and stay away from their monasteries during this period. However, they are required to return within seven days.

The significance of Buddhist Lent Day to the monks

Buddhist Lent Day means the day on which the Buddhist monks take the vow to stay only at one particular place or temple which can shelter them from the sun, storms and rain. For Buddhism and its followers, Buddhist Lent has the following important characteristics :

  • First, Buddhist monks who have been travelling from place to place have to take up shelter in a particular place, according to Lord Buddha’s discipline. In this period of time, they will have the great opportunity to study the Lord Buddha’s Teachings and they will exchange their Dhamma Wisdoms among themselves.
  • Second, during Buddhist Lent, Buddhist Monks have the great opportunity to purify  their minds through meditation practice, to accumulate delicate merits ,and to get rid of defilements.
  • Third, Buddhist Monks will have the chance to continuously study Tripitaka (Pali Buddhist scripture) to have more insightful knowledge on the Lord Buddha’s Teachings. Therefore, when the end of Buddhist Lent coming, they are ready to teach Dhamma Wisdom to the laypeople , to guide them how to live peaceful lives and to cope with their sufferings.
  • Fourth, Buddhist Monks will have the chance to be a Kalayanamitra (good friend) to each other. In the path of propagation Buddhism, it is not easy and full of obstacles. Thus, some monks would be discouraged and might be distracted from their spiritual journey. So, how to give cheerful encouragements to each other among themselves is really important.

With the above reasons, Buddhist Lent Day is really important for monks to purify their minds, to study the Lord Buddha’s Teachings , to observe their 227 precepts and to get ready to propagate Buddhism and Inner Peace to the world after the end of Buddhist Lent.

The significance of Buddhist Lent Day to the laypeople

Since ancient time, when the first day of Buddhist Lent arrives, most Buddhists would take the opportunity to make their own resolutions to cease doing bad deeds, they may resolve that during the three months of Lent, I will try to rectify the bad habits that I have. In another example, those who used to drink may declare, “During this Lent, I resolve to quit drinking alcohol entirely.” For others, it may be a resolve to stop smoking during Buddhist Lent.

During Lent, Buddhists will resolve to abstain from bad deeds and to perform more wholesome deeds. For example, prior to the start of Lent, if we offered alms only occasionally, we can resolve to offer alms to monks every morning for the entire three months.

Another example, if they normally observe the Five Precepts, they might resolve to observe the Eight Precepts during Lent, if they previously only observe the Eight Precepts on Buddhist holy days, they will make it twice a week. While for others, they may intend to observe the Eight Precepts for the entire three months of Lent. The terms of the resolutions are varied according to the strength of one’s faith. Many people take it even further by resolving, in addition to observing the Eight Precepts, I will practice meditation every day or every evening for one hour, or two hours, or three hours respectively. These are the things that our ancestors consistently practiced in the past.

During the Lent, Peace-lovers and laypeople can study and learn Dhamma Wisdom, observe Silas (precepts) and practice meditation. Luang Por Dhammajayo once  said that “during rainy season, the surroundings are very helpful to have meditation, it is always fresh and green atmosphere”

So, please give yourself a chance to experience inner happiness by practicing meditation during Buddhist Lent Day with each other.