Celebrating Sangha Day!

Also known as Māgha Pūjā Day or The Fourhold Assembly, Sangha Day is the second most important Buddhist festival, behind Wesak, which celebrates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. It is a celebration in the honour of Sangha, a term for the Buddhist spiritual community. The holiday enables people to prove or reaffirm their commitment to Buddhist traditions and practices. Dates vary as it is celebrated on the first full moon of the third lunar month, which this year is the 16th of February. In a leap year this is postponed to the full moon day of the fourth lunar month.

As well as being a celebration of the Buddhist spiritual community (Sangha), it is also referred to as Magha Puja as this celebrates the ideal of both creating a spiritual community and the actual spiritual community. It may also be known as the Fourfold assembly, due to the four characteristics in the traditional story. These are:

  1. The 1,250 disciples who unsummoned came to the Buddha.
  2. These were all Arahants, enlightened disciples of the Buddha
  3. They were his direct spiritual descendants as they had been ordained by the Buddhist himself.
  4. It occurred on the full moon day of the third lunar month.

The day commemorates 1,250 enlightened monks who spontaneously assembled to hear the Buddha preach at Veluvana Vihara. Veluvana Vihara is known as the first Buddhist monastery, which was donated by King Bimbisara of Rajagaha, who became a follower of the Buddha. He intended the Buddha to use the residence as a place for mediation and teaching. On this day the Buddha gave his first sermon, The Ovadhapatimokha, which means ‘to cease from all evil, to do what is good, and to cleanse one’s mind’, and formed the principles of Buddhism.  

Typically, traditional gifts are exchanged, along with meditation, chanting and oil lamp lighting are practiced. It is a public holiday is Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, so many business and government offices are closed, however large celebrations are held around the globe. Devotees practice the teachings of the five precepts, which are morality rules and the eight-fold path, which Buddhist’s believe is the path that leads to the end of suffering. With the overall aim of improving oneself in the cycle of existence for the larger goal of achieving enlightenment, by purifying the mind and only doing good things. Buddhist communities may discuss these teachings in temples, attend group meditations and chant.

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