Category: Buddhist holidays
Buddhism is a nontheistic religion or philosophy (Sanskrit: धर्म dharma; Pali: धम्म dhamma) that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha, commonly known as the Buddha ("the awakened one"). According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end their suffering through the elimination of ignorance and craving. Buddhists believe that this is accomplished through the direct understanding and perception of dependent origination and the Four Noble Truths.
Theravāda (Sanskrit: थेरवाद, Pali, literally "school of the elder monks") is a branch of Buddhism that uses the teaching of the Pāli Canon, a collection of the oldest recorded Buddhist texts, as its doctrinal core, but also includes a rich diversity of traditions and practices that have developed over its long history of interactions with cultures and communities. It is the dominant form of religion in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and is practised by minority groups in Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, Nepal, and Vietnam.
Mahāyāna (Sanskrit: महायान mahāyāna, literally the "Great Vehicle") is one of two (or three, under some classifications) main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. The Buddhist tradition of Vajrayana is sometimes classified as a part of Mahayana Buddhism, but some scholars may consider it as a different branch altogether.
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Buddhism in Tibet, Mongolia, Tuva, Bhutan, Kalmykia, Buryatia and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, and India. It is also practiced in Mongolia and parts of Russia and Northeast China. Religious texts and commentaries are contained in the Tibetan Buddhist canon such that Tibetan is a spiritual language of these areas. Tibetan Buddhism preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth century India. Tibetan Buddhism aspires to Buddhahood or rainbow body.
Vassa (Pali: vassa-, Sanskrit: varṣa-, both "rain") is the three-month annual retreat observed by Theravada practitioners. Taking place during the wet season, Vassa lasts for three lunar months, usually from July to October. In English, Vassa is often glossed as Rains Retreat or Buddhist Lent, the latter by analogy to the Christian Lent (which Vassa predates by at least five centuries).
For the duration of Vassa, monastics remain in one place, typically a monasteries or temple grounds. In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation. Some Buddhist lay people choose to observe Vassa by adopting more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking. While Vassa is sometimes casually called "Buddhist Lent", others object to this terminology. Commonly, the number of years a monk has spent in monastic life is expressed by counting the number of vassas he has observed.
Most Mahayana Buddhists do not observe Vassa, though Vietnamese Thiền and Korean Seon monastics observe an equivalent retreat of three months of intensive practice in one location, a practice also observed in Tibetan Buddhism. Vassa begins on the first day of the waning moon of the sixth lunar month, which is the day after Asalha Puja or Asalha Uposatha ("Dhamma day"). It ends on Pavarana, when all monastics come before the sangha and atone for any offense that might have been committed during Vassa.
Vassa is followed by Kathina, a festival in which the laity expresses gratitude to monks. Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks. The Vassa tradition predates the time of Gautama Buddha. It was a long-standing custom for mendicant ascetics in India not to travel during the rainy season as they may unintentionally harm crops, insects or even themselves during their travels. Many Buddhist ascetics live in regions which lack a rainy season. Consequently, there are places where Vassa may not be typically observed.
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