Medin Poya

About holidays, or rather, Days of the Full Moon — Poya — we have repeatedly mentioned in previous publications. If you, however, are not yet familiar with this colorful religious tradition, then let's figure out what is Poya. This is the Buddhist New Moon festival, which is celebrated in Sri Lanka 12 (and sometimes 13) once a year. Each such day, Poya bears its name and has a certain significance, the direction of the holiday.

The word «sing» comes from a combination of two words in Sanskrit: «upa» and «vastha», that is, «upavastha», having passed through Pali language, the term acquired a simplified and changed form of «singing». In some years, there are two days of Poya, and then the second day is called «Adhipoya».

Buddha practiced distraction from worldly affairs and practice of spiritual practice on the days of the full moon, and later the tradition of reading Buddhist texts and commentaries in monasteries and temples on the full moon days developed. The tradition of celebrating the days of Poya in Sri Lanka began with the arrival of Buddhism in the island in 247 BC. to strengthen ties between the Sangha, that is, the monastic community, and the laity.

In ancient times, during the life of the Buddha, the Indian calendar marked three seasons. This is winter, summer and rainy season. Thus, with Esala Poya, a period of solitude begins for the monks, which lasts 4 months before Wap Poya. During this stretch of the year, monks engage in spiritual practices, interrupting daily social work. 4 months — Esala, Nikini, Binara and Wap — monks do not leave the limits of monasteries and temples.

In monsoon season monks spend in the indoors, focusing on meditation. They also attend religious events, conduct sermons and open discussions about the Dharma in the temples. The tradition of organizing seminars and sermons during the rainy season is practiced in countries with Theravada Buddhism, and first of all in Sri Lanka.

In the wet season, believers gather where practicing monks live, or bhikku, and help them with food, clothing and other donations. These gifts from the laity lead them to accumulate special merit and express the relationship of bhikku and laity.
The finale of the rainy season marks the end of the monks' seclusion period. This period is called Wassana Samaya. It ends with the ceremony of Kathina Chivaraya and a colorful procession with the participation of Candian dancers and drummers.

Of course, strictly observing the centuries-old tradition of celebrating Poya, far from the large and metropolitan cities of Colombo and Kandy, Poya's festivals are not so expressive in decoration, but are more profound in spiritual atmospheres and adherence. At the same time, every inhabitant of the remote area knows exactly which of the stages or events of the life of the Buddha Poya is dedicated this month.

For example, in March, Medin Poya. This time the day was there on a full moon on the night of March 12 to March 13, 2017. In Medin Poya it is customary to recall the Buddha's visit to his own father King Shuddhodhana, as well as to representatives of the Shakya clan, where Buddha was called by the birth of Prince Siddhartha. Siddhartha's father, King Shuddhodhana, dreamed of meeting with his son, but going to her himself was below royal dignity, and he sent ministers and messengers to persuade his son to return from the hermits to the royal palace. But all the king's attempts failed: the envoys stayed with the practiced and preached Buddha, becoming followers of His philosophy. However, one of the ministers named Kaludaya could persuade the Buddha to see his father. By the way, Kaludaya and Siddhartha — the future Buddha — were friends from childhood, and both were even born on the same day. Subsequently, Kaludaya joined the followers of the Buddha, whose number at that time reached 20,000 students, and about 10,000 of them were from the Shakya clan. As a result, the Buddha visited his father, finding him in hard times. At the same time, all residents of the city were waiting for a meeting with the Buddha. And later Medin Poya became the holiday of the full moon, in which it is customary to remember the arrival of the Enlightened One in the possession of his father.

For the members of the Shakya clan, their origin and status meant a lot. The clan elders refused to show respect to the Buddha, forcing the younger brothers to do likewise. After seeing this Buddha, ascended into the sky and began to work miracles. The king, seeing what was happening, bowed to Him three times and began to pray. The same was done by all the courtiers. Then Buddha went to Yashodhara, his mundane spouse. She, all in tears, fell at His feet and began to read mantras continuously.

At the end of the visit, Buddha Himself and His followers gathered alms and returned to the King's castle. The Buddha persuaded the heir to the throne, his brother Nanda, to go with Him to the temple. There Buddha ordained his brother to the order. King Shuddhodana was not pleased with what was happening, because the next day was the wedding of Nanda. The father approached Buddha and sadly shared that the most precious treasure for parents is their children and heirs. He asked not to dedicate children, if the parents did not give their consent. Buddha fulfilled his father's request. From that day it was led that every person who wants to renounce the worldly should receive the consent of the parents. Such a story from the life of Buddha is remembered in every temple and monastery in Sri Lanka in the evening service of Medin Poya.

In the newly-built temple in 2016, Sri Thilakarathnaramaya in Kahandamodara, for example, as in all other corners of the island, a service or a puja / pujava on the occasion Medin Poya started as early as the day, however, the main rituals in the temple were performed by monks from the local Sangha. And only in the evening, as usual, by 19-00, the surrounding residents from Kahandamodara, Kahandawa, Kelanigama, Thillanwala and Diyawara Gammanaya began to be brought to the temple. Traditional evening puja begins with the lighting of oil lamps and incense as a token of gratitude to the Buddha for His Teaching. Offerings in the form of jars of water and fresh fragrant flowers — a token of gratitude to the Master from the heart. Vessels with water and flowers bring to Buddha statues from almost every family, during the day, these sacred objects of the cult can be touched.

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By evening puja, religious objects are collected in a room for monks who pronounce blessing and thankful mantras, after which water, flowers and other gifts are given back to the parishioners of the temple. These shrines are taken in turn by all those who came to the temple to be able to touch them in turn with their palms, then folding their hands in a gesture «namaskar» — a gesture of greeting to Buddha, simultaneously the same gesture combined at the chest or hand, conveys a wish to all to surrounding people — «Ayubowan», that in Sinhalese means «May you live a long life»

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After the ceremony of removal and attachment to the shrines, the believers gather in a friendly crowd inside and on the steps of the temple to listen to the narration from the life of the Buddha, timed to Medin Poya. The traditional introductory mantra of Puja is «Buddham Sharanam Gachchami», or Mantra of Refuge.
The mantra «Buddham Sharanam Gachchami» refers to the tradition of initiation.
«Refuge» is an appeal to someone or something for guidance and assistance in support. Taking «Refuge» is a conscious step. Before doing it, one has to make sure that he understands the value of the Three Jewels, appreciates them and is ready to rely on them.

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To take refuge in Buddha means for the good of all sentient beings is the desire for states of Enlightenment, Compassion and Wisdom. This is the first Jewel, one of the three Theruwans. The path to achieving the results of these aspirations is shown by the second Jewel — the Dharma, that is, the Spiritual Teachings, the Knowledge that is freed from confusion and suffering, ignorance and darkness.
Taking Refuge is learning by trying to understand and find a practical place for the knowledge gained in life, while maintaining a positive mindset. The community of practitioners, friends of like-minded people and helpers who seek the same goal and apply the same methods that support and help on the path to Enlightenment, represent the third Jewel — the Sangha, that is, the community of monks.

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The mantra sounds like this:
Buddham Sharanam gachchami,
Dhammam Sharanam Gachchami,
Sangham Sharanam Gachchami

In translation this mantra means:
I take refuge in Buddha.
I take refuge in the Dharma.
I take refuge in the Sangha.

Mantra expresses the most positive and beneficial intention to engage in education on the path of enlightenment and development for the benefit of all living, helps to tune in to a certain vision in which the mind is brought into a state of awakened mood and harmony. By repeating the mantra of the Refuge and understanding its meaning, speech and mind are purified.

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After uttering a monk, the mantra is echoed by all present in the temple. Then the puja smoothly flows to the main story of the Medin Poya evening — a narrative of events more than 2 and a half thousand years ago. These historical chronicles carefully preserve the Sangha community for so long, which means that the religious, cultural and historical connection of the times will for a long time carry the code of the unapproachable values of the people of Sri Lanka. And already on March, 13, immediately after Medin Poya, begins a new cycle of the month, when all the forces of the peasants will be directed to harvest the spring harvest. And he will end with a magnificent celebration — Aluth Awurudhdhu, or Sinhalese and Tamil New, the year that falls on 13-th and 14-th April.

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