Temples of Sri Lanka


By Dr. Damenda Porage

Hundreds and thousands of lives come to light all over the world in every moment, every passing minute. Even though the mankind expands every minute, the land we live in does not, the Earth does not expand like the human population.

To adjust to this rapid growth of population all over the world, the environment pays a huge price by sacrificing the precious forests and lands that belong to the nature, to make space for us humans. This act not only led to deforestation but has caused massive changes in the climate as well.

The month of August also known as “Nikini” was the second month of the summer season during the Buddha’s time. Since there were no heavy rain during the months of Vesak (May) and Poson (June), the Esala (July) and Nikini (August) months were the rainy months, and the soil becomes soft with heavy rains, preparing the soil for agriculture for the months starting from Binara (September). Once again due to the negligence of humans and because humans did not nurture the environment, the month of rain ‘Kini’, later became the month without rain, hence the name ‘Nikini’ came. Rivers often used to dry up during this month so the people near tank areas renovated them and some used to dry fish.

Although this is the nature of the Nikini month connected with agricultural life, there is much more to know about the Nikini month associated with the history of Buddhism.

During the Buddha’s time, the Buddhist monks depended on ‘Pindapatha’, but this was troublesome to the people during the rainy season. As it is a basic teaching in Buddhism to live a life without hassle to others, the Buddha advised the monks to retain inside the temples and refrain from visiting homes to teach the Dhamma. Accordingly, the custom of offering a resident Buddhist monk with the Chivara (clothing- robe) began. It started ceremoniously mostly on the day of Esala Poya and for the monks who could not attend this on Esala Poya day, people started Chivara Pindapatha on the day of Nikini Poya. The monks who could not commence their Rain Retreat (Vas or Vassa) on the July (Esala) full moon was allowed to start the retreat on August (Nikini) full moon. Therefore, the Nikini Poya day was also named ‘Pasu Vas Sitina Poya’.

Some important events in the history of the Buddha Sasana on Nikini Poya Day

  • Ven Ananda Maha Thero, who was a pious follower of Dhamma, known as the treasury of the dhamma, and a regular attendant of the Buddha, attained Arahanthood on a Nikini Poya day.
  • The first Dhamma congregation (Sanghayana) ceremony was held at a beautiful pavilion in front of the Sathvapanna cave gate of the Vehara Rock in Rajagaha, with the participation of Ven Arahat Ananda, En Anuruddha, Ven Upali Thero along with the auspices of Ven Arahat Maha Kashyapa Thero and 500 other monks, under the patronage of King Ajasatta.
  • The Buddha preached ‘Rahulovada Sutta’ to Prince Rahula who who was listening intently to the Sutta and attained Arahathood thus became Ven Rahula Thero on a full moon day like today.
  • A monk cannot leave until the end of the ‘vas season’, but if the monk can leave the place of worship and return within a week, it was allowed. The date on which the Buddha granted approval of such journeys also occurred on a Nikini full moon day.
  • The season after Nikini Poya is the rainy season. The construction of the Seruwila Dagaba which enshrines the relic of the Buddha’s forehead, also started on a Nikini Poya. The Seruwawila Perahera (grand procession) commences with the Nikini Poya is another significance for the Buddhists of Sri Lanka.

The Buddhist devotees are engaged in meritorious deeds during all twelve poya (full moon) days of the calendar, likewise today too many temples in the island organize religious activities to bless the sentient and celestial beings under health regulations in spite of a nationwide lockdown.

May this Nikini Poya be a day commemorating the great compassion of the Buddha, while living with a righteous attitude, righteous thinking and spreading kindness, compassion, equality, and coexistence for all beings of the universe.

May you all enjoy, good health and happinness! May you all be free from suffering!

© Satipatthana Buddhist Magazine


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