The Buddha preached his first sermon to five ascetics in the deer park at Varanasi. This is commemorated on Dhamma Day – when bikkhus chant the Dhamma Cakka Sutta – the text of the first sermon. This marks thebeginning of Vassa –the three month longrainy season retreat.
The first viharas wereestablished in the Buddha’stime for the bikkhus to rest in during the monsoon rains. It was seen as an opportunity to reflect, study and meditateintensively. This is still the case, and Vassa is animportant time for bikkhus.
“Venerable ones, I invite reprimand from the Sangha. According to what has been seen, heard or suspected of my actions, may the Venerable ones correct me out of their compassion. Recognising it is my fault, I shall make amends” The end of Vassa ismarked by Pavarana day,when the bikkhus reflecton their behaviour during the rains retreat. This is an opportunity to getstrained relationships out in the open!
During Vassa the Bikkhus and the Laity have had littleto do with one another. The end of Vassa is markedby a festival of Unity called Kathina. The Bikkhus are congratulated on their retreat, as it is believed that they have created merit for the whole community. Lay believers give the Bikkhus new robes, and other essentials for the Vihara.
Giving robes to the Sangha is a greatsource of Merit for the donors.
Uposatha days. Uposatha days happen on the full and new moons. The Bikkhus gather together to chant the 227 Patimokkharules of the Sangha. This is seen as an opportunity for Bikkhus to recommit themselves to their lifestyle, and to clarify the mind.