Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pavarana - Buddhist Holy Day

Pavarana is an important day and usually falls on the full moon day of the eleventh lunar month (usually in October). It marks the end of the three month 'rainy Sangha residence or retreat' which began on the full moon of Asalha (usually in July). Literally 'pavarana' means 'inviting admonition or inviting others to advise one'.

According to history, upon this day, the Buddha allowed the monastic community to reprimand each other, especially those (monks) who have lived together in rainy retreat for three months. The words of part of the ceremony are as follows:
"Venerable One's, I invite admonition from the Sangha. According to what has been seen, heard or suspected (of my actions), may the venerable one's instruct me out of compassion. Seeing it (my fault), I shall make amends. I ask this of you for the second time; and again I ask for the third time."
Since the Buddha’s time, this was the tradition for all the monks. After the rainy retreat, they would come together from near and afar to pay respect to the Buddha. When they were all settled in the Dhamma hall, the Buddha would ask them of how their retreat was, how they had lived and how they carried out their duties; learning and practice meditation.
The monks would in turn answer the Buddha, some would say that “This retreat was great, we have gained many good experiences” and some would say “This was difficult for us, our place of residence was very barren” and so forth. One time, one group of monks said to the Buddha that they had spent the retreat feeling worried because they had thought that due to the length of time they had to be confined in each others company, conflict may arise.
And so during the retreat, they had agreed amongst each other that they would observe noble silence during the 3 months and not engage in verbal communication with each other. When the Buddha heard of this, he said in reply, “It is not beneficial to any community if those within it act as if he was a mute. It is also more beneficial to get together at the end of the retreat to openly discuss what one may see as both good and bad about the monastic life so that improvements can be made to the order.

Not long after, the Buddha had laid down a new rule which had opened the opportunity for the resident monk within each monastery to invite one another for reprimand at the end of each retreat and to discuss the pros and cons of monastic life. So from then on, on the full moon day of the eleventh lunar month, instead of the usual Patimokha (the 227 disciplinary rules of the Order) chanting, a Pavarana meeting is done in its place.
In order to reprimand constructively, it must be done out of loving-kindness and compassion for each other in mind, speech and body. Both, the reprimander and the reprimandee must both be kind and open-minded towards each other. The topic of discussion must be clearly specified, it must be agreed by both parties. If one party disagrees, he must be given an opportunity to air his views, both sides must be given an opportunity to have their say. If both sides agree, then the accuser must one must make amends. This ceremony is done for the better of the community and those individuals that live within it, to promote unity.
This ceremony benefits not only the monastic life but also is adapted to fit all ways of life. It is very good if people open opportunity for the others to speak or admonish one another and do it out of loving-kindness and compassion, not with prejudice. Something useless should be made amends and something useful should be developed for the better. To do it in this way, the community is going to progress.

There are other activities that also takes place on Pavarana day:
One other important tradition is the welcoming-ceremony for the Buddha’s return from celestial realm. In Thai and Pali, this day is called “Devorohana”. The story behind this tradition is as follows:
When the Buddha became enlightened and taught the world, he had started his teachings in India where he had taught his father and other family members. Then he went on to teach his mother who had already passed away a long time ago (When the Buddha was seven days old) and so he entered into the realm called ‘Davadingsa’ where his mother had been born after her death. There he had taught his mother Abhidhamma for three months.
At the end of the three months, he returned to the world resided at Sangkappa city. When people heard of the return of the Buddha they were gathering to welcome him and offer him alms. From this day on, it is the tradition that people would flock to the temple on the day after the rainy retreat and offer alms food for the monks.
Devorohana day is also known as the ‘open world day’, because it is the day that the Buddha was known to return to the world. It is said that many deities had followed the Buddha on his journey. At that time, three worlds: celestial realm, human realm and the animal realm were opened and all that lived within it were able to see each other. As a result, those living in the three realms can witness the result of good and bad; those who did good were born in the good realm and those who did bad were born in the bad realm.

Therefore, this particular day is historic. We can look back at what has happened in history so that we can act appropriately in the present. There is benefit to every tradition and there are lessons to be learnt from every act.

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