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DURUTHU FULL MOON DAY – January
On this Poya Day, Lord Buddha visited the Island for the first time. We call this month January now and also the beginning of a New Year. But in the Sinhalese calendar this is tenth Lunar month. This was ninth month of his Buddhahood. Lord Buddha knew that Sri Lanka would become the stronghold of Buddhism in the future. He further knew that he had to pave the way for the future. Therefore on Duruthu Full Moon Day the Yakkas were gathered at a river bank where later Mahiyangana Dagoba was to be built. The Lord appeared above them. He caused a sudden darkness and a torrential rain. This frightened the Yakkas. The Lord Buddha promised to banish their their fear. In the ensuing miracles he performed, he caused the conversion of millions of Yakkas by preaching to them, the three refuges and the precepts of duty. Even the Devas attended this gathering. God Sumana of Samanthakuta attained the first stream enterer (sowan). He begged for a memento to worship. Lord Buddha gave him a few hairs which the Deva enshrined at Mahiyangana. This happened to be the first stupa to be built in Sri Lanka even while the Lord Buddha was still alive.
“Mahiyanganan Nagadeepan
Kalyanan Padalanchanan………..”
It is significant that in this stanza Mahiyangana is mentioned first of all.Kelaniya temple is famous for the Duruthu Perahera. Here too as the saying goes.“Upandasita karapu pow netha varak wendoth Kelaniye” Most of us visit Kelaniya temple and the beautiful wall paintings of Solius Mendis will be etched in our memory forever.
NAVAM FULL MOON DAY – February
On Navam Full Moon Day in February Lord Buddha accepted Sariputhra and Moggallana as his first Chief Disciples. Sariputhra became famous for for his profound knowledge (pragna) and Moggallana for his spiritual powers (Iddhi) Lord Buddha held the first council for his sangha at Veluvanarama in Rajagriha. This was attended by approximately 1340 Bhikkus. Lord Buddha advised the Bhikkus how they must behave. “Sabbha papassa akaranang - Kusalassa upasampada Satchitta pariyo dapanang etham Buddhanu sasanang” Lord Buddha explained that it was upto the Bhikkus to guide the people along the right path. When accepting his Chief Disciples he stretched out his right arm and said “Priests come hither. Stop revolving in the wheel of your rebirths. Become Brahma charyas”. They appeared before him as fully robed priests.
It was on a Navam Poya day that Lord Buddha now almost 80 years old was resting at Chapala Chetiya Gardens in Vaishala that Mara visited him and requested him to pass away. Lord Buddha accepted this request and promised that he would die three months hence on Wesak Full Moon Day. He kept his promise and attained Parinibbana on the day decided by him.
MEDIN FULL MOON DAY – March
In the year 311 A.D. during the reign of Kit Siri Mevan, The King of Kalinga had to face great trouble in his Kingdom. He called the most trustworthy person he knew and that was his daughter Princess Hemamala to take his most precious possession - the sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka for safety. She, accompanied by her husband disguised as Brahmins came to the island with the Tooth Relic hidden in her hair do. She handed over the Tooth Relic to the King who housed it safely in his palace but out of kindness had an annual exposition for the people at Maha Megha Gardens.
Tooth Relic has a long history of adventures, and bravery by devotees The Kings were careful and protective of the relic. Parakrmabahu III became a vassal of the Pandyas to get it back to the Island. The ultimate resting place is the Tooth Temple at Kandy where it is looked after with all reverence, even upto the present day.
BAK POYA FULL MOON DAY – April
Bak Poya Day commemorates the second visit of Lord Buddha to this Island in the fifth year of his Enlightenment. This visit was to save two hostile Naga Kings (Culodhara and Mahodara - Uncle and Nephew) at Nagadipa from an impending War with each other over a Gem Set throne, which would have disastrous to all Nagas Chulodhara was married to Mahodara’s daughter. For her dowry many precios things were given, along with it was this gem encrusted throne which was considered a very lucky heirloom. Now that daughter was dead, the father wanted the throne back. They would not settle this amicably they were poised for war on either side of the river.
At first Lord Buddha hovered above them and called forth darkness over the battle field. This terrified the Nagas, the Lord comforted them. They all worshipped Him. He preached to them and converted them. They offered him the throne which he accepted, He preached to them seated on it. The Naga King of Kalyani, who having come to join the fray heard the Doctrine and invited Lord Buddha to Kalyani at another time. Lord Buddha accepted the invitation and went back to Jethavanaramaya.
It was on a Bak Full Moon day that Prince Siddhartha on his way to the pleasure garden saw an old man for the first time.
WESAK FULL MOON DAY – May
Of all poya days Wesak Full Moon Day is of utmost significance since it celebrates three major events in Lord Buddha’s life. They are the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Lord Buddha. During Lord Buddha’s long journey through Sansara he was an Ascetic named Sumedha.It was during the period of Deepankara Buddha. He prophesied that Sumedha would be his 24 th successor in eons to come. A Buddha aspirant {Bodhisattva} is reborn in many existences fulfilling 30 perfections. Before his final birth Bodhisatva after living on earth as King Wessanthara rested in Thusitha Heaven. He was waiting for the correct time, right time, right country right centre, Right father and right mother.
Bodhisattva looking down from Thusitha Heaven discovered a King of the Sakya Clan who ruled in Kapilavasthu in Jambudeepa. King Suddhodana was married to Princess Maya daughter of Prince Suprabuddha.
Ten months after the dream of Queen Maha Maya, she asked to be taken to Lumbini Pleasure Garden which had been laid out for her Mother by her father Prince Suprabuddha. Here she walked the Sal trees which were laden with flowers. Walking up to the shade of a flower filled tree she stretched up her arms to a branch. Here in this fragrant bower she gave birth to her son who was received by the Devas from heaven. King Suddhodana welcomed his son. The wise ones named him Siddhartha and prophesied that he would be a Chakravarthi or he would be a Buddha. But young ascetic Kondanna was positive that he would be the Buddha. His mother will die in seven days as the new born prince would be too holy for his mother to have more babies. Ascetic Asitha came from the Himalayas walked round the Prince and worshipped him. He predicted that he would either become a most powerful sovereign a Chakravarti but if he leaves the worldly life he would be a Buddha. At the time of his birth no other baby was born, no one died, no crime was committed, no one broke the five precepts. It was on this Vesak Day that Princess Yasodhara and his charioteer Channa, Kalidayi, Kanthaka his horse, were born. Even the sacred Bo Tree started on this day.
Seven days after his birth his mother Queen MahaMaya died and entered Thusitha heaven. The Prince lived in lap of luxury. But he realized life’s true nature when he came across a sick man, old man, dead man and a mendicant. He quietly left the palace leaving behind his wife and son.
For 6 years he wandered far and wide searching for the truth. Ultimately he realized that no amount of depravation would get him closer to the truth he was searching for. He sat down under a Nigrodha Tree (kiripalu nuga tree) sat down facing East. Sujatha found him seated there and offered him milk rice. He took the food, walked to Nerajana River where there was a spot where all Bodhisattvas always bathe before becoming a Buddha, bathed there. He partook his food breaking his fast of almost 49 days He put his bowl gently into the river and made a wish. he wished that if he finds what he is looking for the bowl should float against the current. Lo behold! The bowl floated upstream. He reached Gaya and sat under the Bodhi Tree, the long search ended .He had become the Buddha the All Knowing, All Wise, Thathagatha.
He was now 80 years old he had wandered far and wide.Hehad a visitor, none other than Mara. He requested Lord Buddha that it was time for him to pass away. Lord Buddha gave his word that he would do so three months hence. He had now preached for 45 years. He passed away in the Sal grove of Malla Royal Family in 3 months on a Wesak Full Moon Day.
In the 8 th year of his Buddhahood Lord Buddha paid his third visit to Sri Lanka. It was on a Wesak Full Moon Day. Hehad promised King Maniakkikha of Kelaniya the gem set throne was ready for him. Seating himself on this throne he preached to the Nagas and Devas. Maniakkikha became an Arahant. A stupa was built over the gem set throne many subjects became followers of Lord Buddha.
After the sermon Lord Buddha visited many places visited by earlier Buddhas. He first left his foot print on top of Samantha kuta, the future MahaMegha gardens and meditated on the site of future Ruwanveli seya, Thuparama, and where Sri Maha Bodhi was to be planted. After blessing these places Lord Buddha left Sri Lanka for the last time.Prince Vijaya of Sinhapura in the Lata Kingdom exiled by his father landed in Thammanna on the Lord Buddha’s parinirvana day.
Lord Buddha entered the City of Kimbulvath on the invitation of his Father King Suddhodana where he preached to his proud Sakya relatives converted them, performed twin miracles and King Suddhodana attained Anagami and worshipped his son for the 3 rd time.
On such a day as this King Devanampiya Tissa had his second consecration according to the wishes of King Asoka of India. He sent the following - a fan, a diadem, a sword, parasol, shoes, turban, ear ornaments, chains, a pitcher of yellow sandalwood, a set of garments that cleaned by itself, costly shawl, unguents brought by nagas, red earth, water from Anothattha lake, water from the Ganges, valampuri, golden utensils a costly palanquin, healing herbs, 100 wagon loads of mountain rice brought by parrots and many more.
On such a Wesak day Arahant Mahinda passed away after living for 120 years during the reign of Uththiya.
King Dutu Gamunu after clearing up the place laid the first foundation stone for Ruwanveli seya on a Wesak Day. In Sri Lanka on Wesak days people frequent the temples to offer flowers, for atasil (Eight precepts) and many religious programmes. By evening it takes on a carnival atmosphere. Wesak lanterns are lit. Pandals are built with Jataka stories painted on them. Another interesting feature are the dansal.Every body visits these and are welcome irrespective of being rich or poor, caste or creed.
POSON FULL MOON DAY – June
This poya day falls in June Old King Mutasiva father of Devanam Piya Tissa was dead. Devanampiya Tissa was his second son. Arahat Mahinda spent 3 months with his mother Asandhimitta in the City of Vedisa knowing that he would not see her again. He was now ready to take up his missionary work. Devanampiya Tissa was a friend of Emperor Asoka though they had never met.
In 236 B.C. on Poson full moon day along with Theras Itthiya, Utthiya, Sambala, Bhaddasala and Sumana Samanera headed by Arahat Mahinda met the King at Missaka Pabbata where the King was hunting deer.
Suddenly the King heard someone calling him by name “Tissa,Tissa” The King was taken by surprise as nobody would dare call him by name. The King Looked up and saw a person dressed in saffron robes. He inquired as to who they were he replied
“Samanamayam maharaja - dhamma rajassa sravaka
Thameva anukampaya - Jambudeepa idagatha”
Arahat Mahinda explained that they were disciples of Lord Buddha who had come from Jambudeepa. Devanampiya Tissa then realized that his friend had sent them. He put down his weapons and approached the sage. He greeted him and both seated themselves comfortably with their respective followers. Arahat Mahinda proceeded to test the King’s intelligence.
“What name does this tree bear O king?”“This tree is called a mango tree”“And are there yet other trees beside this mango tree?”“There are many mango trees”“And are there yet other trees beside this mango tree?”“There are many trees Sir, but those are trees that are that are not mango trees”“And are there, beside the mango trees and those trees that are not mango trees, yet other trees”
“There is this mango tree”“Hast thou Kinsfolk O king?”“There are many Sir”“Are there also some who re not kinsfolk of thine?”“Yes Sir there are many who are not my kinsfolk”“Are there anyone beside the insfolk and others?”“There is yet myself Sir”“Thou hast a shrewd wit O King”
Arahat Mahinda realized that the King was a very intelligent person. The wise Thero preached Culahatthipadopama Sutra. At the end of this discourse the King and his retinue embraced the new faith. King Devanam Piya Tissa put down his bow and Arrow never to pick it up again In Sri Lanka Arahant Mahinda is reverently called Anubudu.
Coming of Buddhism to Sri Lanka on this day was a blessing. The establishment of the monastic organization and the building of cave temples, temples for priests began on such a day.
It was on a Poson day that Therini Sanghamitta arrived with a branch of the sacred Bo-tree. With the coming of Theri Sanghamitta there was emancipation for women. The Bhikkuni Sasana began. The first Bhikkuni being the King’s Sister-in-law Princess Anula and her retinue. The other blessings were the Art of writing, literature, Art and Craft, architecture, education centres, even health care, Irrigation and agriculture. Most important of all it brought an organized religion with a set of moral discipline.
Just like for Wesak, Poson is a religious and a cultural festival. People go to temple to observe atasil. There are programmes for dhamma discourses, meditation. Pandals, Peraheras, Bhakthi - Gi are organized, even dansal to all as for Wesak. The theme for Poson is mainly the meeting of Arahant Mahinda’s meeting with the king hunting deer.

 
 
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