Rain retreat, unrivalled Buddhist event

Rain retreat, unrivalled Buddhist event

The Nikini Poya is connected with “Vas” - Rains Retreat or Monsoon season Retreat. It is the period of three months, in the monsoon season, during which monks (Bhikkus) and Nuns (Bhikkunis) are expected to reside one place in Indoors and devote themselves with their practice.
The Mahayana Buddhist believe it as the end Rains Retreat coincides with Ullambana/Obon Festival (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts). Vas is observed by the Theravada Buddhist and the monks and nuns concentrate on religious activities.
Vassa in Pali, or Vas in Sinhala is an auspicious day for monks and nuns. It was on this day those who attended the Vas or Rains Retreat, become one year older in the order (Salerdotal Age), the Monsoon season retreat period. A Bhikkhus or Bhikkunis seniority is determined by the number by rains he/she has spent in the order.
During the rainy seasons, Buddhist monks/nuns are not expected to live or reside outdoors, under the trees or in open air. This is a cardinal principle, the Buddhist monks/nuns should follow, during the Rainy season or Vassana Samaya.
This year’s Nikini Poya falls on Tuesday 20 August 2013. According to the principles laid down by the Buddhists, there are two days for observing Vas. They are known as “Peravas” and “Pasuvas”, namely Pre-Retreat and Post-Retreat.
Buddha observed first Vas at Migadaya Deer Park - Isipatanaramaya.
After delivering the great discourse or the wheel of Dhamma - “Dhammachakapavattana Sutta,” to the five disciples - Vappa, Bhaddhiya, Mahanama, Assaji and Kondanna, the blessed one, observed the first recorded Vas-Rain-Retreat and stayed at Migadaya, Deer Park, Isipatanaramaya.
It was at Isipatana, Migadaya, Buddha delivered the first sermon Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta, on Full Moon Day of Esala (July) two months after his awakening. Saranath mean sanctuary for Deer (In Pali Migadaya). Even today one can see some deer in this premises. This wonderful site is located 12km from the city of Varanasi or Baranasa.
Isipatana was a place for holy men. The holy men, practising in the snow clod beautiful Himalayan Range, ascended and descended to Migadaya regularly during rainy seasons. The decaying ruins of the Mulagandhakuti Vihara mark the place where Buddha spent his first rainy season, in seclusion.
The practise was there in Pre-Buddhist Era
The practise of staying indoors during the rainy season was followed even during the Pre-Buddhist Era. There were number of religious sectors - ascetics, who lived a peaceful lives in meditating and various other religious acts.
Buddha appreciated constructive criticism.
The Thiratakas - and those who followed Jainism, Nigantanathaputras followers - the naked ascetics, who were extremists protested against Buddhists monks, stating that the Rainy seasons, they roam about and they damage and kill the lives of insects by tampering them. The Buddha appreciated the constructive criticism, level against the order, and advised them to be indoors and follow Pera Vas and Pasu Vas. This clearly shows Buddhism is a Democratic Religion and that its a thinking religion.
It was revealed that on a Nikini Pura Pasalosvaka Poya Day, King Bimbisara, King of Magadha at the time of Buddha, built the city of Rajagraha (Bihar) India. He presented the Bamboo grove to Buddha for the use of the sangha. He was murdered by his son - Ajatasatra - Ajasath.
End of Vas Katinacheevara offering
Till the end of November, the Vas Period, Buddhist monks and nuns live in their Aramayas or Temples. During the end of Vas - the laymen offer Vassika Satakaya called Katina Cheevaraya. The offering of a Katina Cheevara is supposed to be one of the greatest meritorious acts.
During Vassana Retreat, certain rules were laid down to the Buddhist monks and nuns. If they are invited, only seven monks, as a group is allowed to leave their abode. They must return within a week to the place of the residence, where they observed “Vas”. This is known as “Sattakaraniya”. They are free and allowed to visit a Bhikkhu, a Buddhist nun, student monk (Sikshamanya) novice monk, novice bhikku8uni, father and mother.
When a monk falls sick, he needs help and guidance, and if the parents and relations fall sick, the Bhikkhus and Bhikkuni who have observed “Vas” are allowed to visit them. But, they have to report back to their place of indoor residence with in seven days.
Mihintalawa or Missaka Pabbata was the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The great Arahat Mahinda and Arahat Aritta observed “Vas” on Nikini Poya Day and they resided in the rock caves of Mihintale during the three months of Vas.
This practise observance of Vas, continues upto date. Sri Lankan Buddhist lay-devotees, kindly look after their residential monks during the Nikini season by providing them with alms and other necessary facilities. The Buddhist monks and nuns are involved in Indoor Religious activities such as reciting pirith and deliver sermons to their kind devotees.
First convocation
Another very notable feature that happened on the Nikini Poya Day was first ever Dhammasangayanawa - The first Buddhist council of the monks or convention under the patronage of Mahakassapa Thera where Ananda Thero too was present and participated.
Immediately within three months of the passing away of the blessed one Gautama Buddha, there was dissension among the sangha or Buddhist monks.
To arrest this situation certain disciplinary codes were laid down in this convention. It was held at Sattapanni Rock Cave in Rajagaha.

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