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DateLine Sunday, 17 February 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Significance of the month of Navam

After attaining Enlightenment at the age of thirty five the Buddha delivered his first sermon-Dhamma Chakka Pawathna Sutta to the five ascetics- Kondangna, Vappa, Baddiya, Assaji and Mahanama in the Deer Park at Isipathana near Benares.

From that day for nearly forty five years, the Buddha continued to preach the Dhamma to all classes of men and women equally- kings and ordinary people, Brahmins and outcasts, the wealthy and beggars, holy men and robbers.

It is through one's behaviour that a person becomes either a Brahmin or an outcast, not by his/her birth, the Buddha taught the world about 2585 years ago. The path he showed was open to all men and women and they soon became his followers.

Lord Buddha's teachings have come down from generation to generation as a result of the great service rendered by the Sangha. The month of Navam bears significance in this context as many important incidents related to the Sangha Sasana had taken place on this day apart from the other incidents related to the life of the Buddha.

The Buddha observed his first three month Vas retreat at Isipathana after delivering his first sermon to the five ascetics.

His number of disciples soon increased up to sixty during that period. At the end of the Vas season the Buddha despatched his first set of disciples to disseminate the Dhamma, setting in motion his sublime mission.

Assaji Thero (one of the five ascetics before he entered the Order) too was among this group. It was in the month of Navam that Upatissa of Upatissagrama came across Assaji thero who was spreading the Buddha's teachings. This historical event has a great significance in the history of the Buddha Sasana and it is worth reading how Buddhist literature elaborates on this great event.

Kolitha and Upatissa

In fact Assaji Thero arrived in Rajagahanuwara at a period when many a Brahmin youth had developed an interest in investigating the truth. There were several Paribrajak who had the same interest and they spent time in temples (paribrachakarama) with their disciples.

Sanjaya was one such paribrachaka who had Kolitha and Upatissa of Kolithagrama and Upatissagrama respectively as his disciples along with another two hundred and fifty. Kolitha and Upatissa soon realised that they are on the wrong track.

So the two friends decided to go on two routes in search of truth promising each other that if one of the two could find a way out of suffering first, he would inform the other about it.

So young Upatissa arrived in Rajagaha Nuwara to see Assaji thero walking on the street in a serene manner with his bowl of alms. So pleased with the Thero's way of conduct, Upatissa waited till the Thero finished having his Dana and offered him water to drink, from his own bowl. Knowing for sure that the thera is an Arhat, Upatissa then inquired him about his teacher and his teachings.

"I'am a disciple of the Buddha , but still I'am a beginner" said the thero. Further on the invitation of Upatissa, Assaji thera summed up the Buddha's teachings: "Ye Dhamma Hethuppabawa,/ Thesan hethu thathagatho Aha,/Thesan thaya Nirodo,/Evanvadhi Maha samano" (If there is a particular nature of a thing causing from a reason, the Buddha preaches what that reason is. If there is a way out he teaches that as well.")

After listening to this discourse Upatissa could attain the first stage of the path to Nibbana. Then together with Kolitha he went to meet Sanjaya paribrachaka.

Since he was not willing to join them, the two friends headed their way towards Veluwanarama together with Sanjaya Paritbrachaka's two hundred and fifty disciples.

Seeing Upatissa and Kolitha reaching towards him the Buddha had thus addressed his set of monks.

"O, Bikkhus, those two will become the two Chief disciples of the Thathagatha." They were soon ordained and came to be known as the sariyuth and Mugalan. Mugalan thero became an arhat on Navam Pura Atawaka poya day.

Sariyuth thero entered Arhathood after listening to 'Vedana Pariggaha sutta' which was preached to Deega Nakha on Gijukulu mountain. During the first council of bhikkhus which took place in the month of Navam at Veluwanarama, the Buddha appointed them as his chief disciples (Agasavu) and told the Bikkhus how both Sariyuth and Mugalam engaged in meritorious deeds through out their past births in order to become the Chief disciples of the Gauthama Buddha.

The first Council of Bhikkus

The first Council of Bhikkus consisted of 1250 bhikkus. There the buddha also proclaimed a code of fundamental ethical precepts (Owada Prathimoksha) for the monks.

During the first twenty years it was this set of advice that the bhikkus had to abide by. In fact it was a mere set of advice: "Sabba Pa Passa akaranan,/Kusalassa Upasampada,/Sachiththa pariyo dapanan,/Ehan Buddhanu sasanan" (Refraining from all evil, attainment of what is good, cleansing of one's thoughts- this is the advice of the awakened one.)

During the first twenty years the Buddha did not have the need to enforce a set of rules than this type of advice. It was mainly because the people who entered the Order during this period did it out of genuine faith.

But later people began entering the Order for their personal benefits and for security and as a result the Buddha had to impose a set of vinaya rules to the Bikkhus. Also it was on a Navam poya day that the Buddha declared that he would be passing away three months later(Giving up ayu sanskara).

In fact while observing his last Vas retreat at Veluwagrama the Buddha was suffering from Lohitha Pakkandhika. So the buddha decided to pass away in another ten months of time.

But he did not reveal it. But seven months later at Chapala Chethi in Visal Pura the Buddha told Ananda thera that if a Buddha wishes to live the full term of life (120 years), he can do so.

But Ananda thera could not understand what the Enlightened one implied, so he remained quiet, not inviting him to live his full term. (It is also said that it was Vasawarthi Mara who influenced Ananda thero at that moment).

So on Navam Poya day the Buddha declared "Itho thinnanmasana achchayena thathagatho parinibbayissathi. (Maha Parinibbana Sutta)

So Navam Full moon poya day which falls on February 20th is of utmost important to the Buddhists. Among various religious deeds of the day, navam perahara of Gangarama temple stands as the most important one in Sri Lanka.

On this Navam poya day Buddhists should concentrate on the teachings of the Buddha.

A good understanding of the Dhamma could stand people in good stead through the ups and downs of their lives, forcing them to refrain from evil deeds and encouraging them to engage in good... following the middle path avoiding extremes.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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