Sunday, January 8, 2012

Durutu poya

Durutu poya, celebrated today in Sri Lanka

The Gautama Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka. (nine months after his Enlightenment, the Blessed One visited Mahiyangana, in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka. 
His mission was to restore peace, to create a state of freedom from war or violence.)

Durutu Poya (January) when the Sinhala Buddhists commemorate the first visit of the Buddha to the island. According to the Mahavamsa, nine months after his Enlightenment, the Buddha visited present Mahiyangana in the Badulla District, where stands the dagaba by that name enshrining the Buddha's hair relics and the collar bone (Mhv.i,197). The Buddhists remember the event by holding an annual perahera. This much-venerated dagaba is also of consequence as the first edifice of this type to be constructed here, originating the ritual of dagaba worship in Sri Lanka.

The poya that follows, Navam Poya (February), celebrates the Buddha's appointment of the two arahants, Sariputta and Moggallana, as his two chief disciples. It also marks the Buddha's decision to attain Parinibbana in three months' time. The Medin Poya in March is hallowed by the Buddha's first visit to his parental home after his Enlightenment, during which he ordained the princes Rahula, Nanda, and many others as monks. The month that follows is called Bak (pronounced like "buck"), which corresponds to April. In this month it is not the full-moon day but the new-moon day that invites attention as signalizing the Buddha's second visit to Sri Lanka, when he visited Nagadipa[13] on the day preceding the new-moon day (amavaka: Mhv.i,47) in the fifth year after his Enlightenment.
• The Gautama Buddha, offered Deity Sumana, some locks of hair.
He placed it in an urn as a valuable Relic in the Mahiyangana Stupa.

Poya Days
In their religious observances the Sri Lankan Buddhists have adopted from Indian tradition the use of the lunar calendar. The four phases of the moon are the pre-new-moon day, when the moon is totally invisible, the half-moon of the waxing fortnight, the full moon, and the half-moon of the waning fortnight. Owing to the moon's fullness of size as well as its effulgence, the full-moon day is treated as the most auspicious of the four phases. Hence the most important religious observances are held on full-moon days and the lesser ones in conjunction with the other phases. In the Buddhist calendar, the full moon, as the acme of the waxing process, is regarded as the culmination of the month and accordingly the period between two full moons is one lunar month.

The religious observance days are called poya days. The Sinhala term poya is derived from the Pali and Sanskrit form uposatha (from upa + vas: to fast) primarily signifying "fast day." Fasting on this day was a pre-Buddhist practice among the religious sects of ancient India. While the monks use the monthly moonless day (called amavaka in Sinhala) and the full-moon day for their confessional ritual and communal recitation of the code of discipline (Patimokkha), the lay devotees observe the day by visiting temples for worship and also by taking upon themselves the observance of the Eight Precepts.

A practicing Buddhist observes the poya day by visiting a temple for the rituals of worship and, often, by undertaking the Eight Precepts. 

Aṭṭhangikasikkhāpadaṃ: Eight Precepts
1. Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī - sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. Adinnādānā veramaṇī - sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. Abrahmacariyā veramaṇī - sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual activity.
4. Musāvādā veramaṇī - sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. Surā-meraya-majja-pamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
6. Vikālabhojanā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e., after noon). 
7. Nacca-gīta-vādita-visūkhadassanā, māla-gandha-vilepana-dharaṇa-maṇḍana vibhūsanaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
8. Uccāsayana-mahāsayanā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.
The observance of the Eight Precepts is a ritualistic practice of moral discipline quite popular among the Sinhala Buddhists. While the Five Precepts serve as the moral base for ordinary people, the Eight Precepts point to a higher level of training aimed at advancement along the path of liberation. The popular practice is to observe them on full-moon days, and, among a few devout lay Buddhists, on the other phases of the moon as well.

The poya observance, which is as old as Buddhism itself, has been followed by the Sinhala Buddhists up to the present day, even after the Christian calendar came to be used for secular matters. Owing to its significance in the religious life of the local Buddhists, all the full-moon days have been declared public holidays by the government. Another noteworthy fact about this day is that every full-moon poya has assumed some ritualistic significance in one way or other.

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