The Waso Full Moon Day on 3rd August marks the beginning of Vassa, or the Buddhist Lent, that lasts until October. It’s interesting how the important months of Myanmar will play out with a pandemic.
It was on this day when Buddha and preached the Dhamma Satkyar, a sermon of Four Solemn Truths and summarisation of Tripitaka scriptures, for the first time to his five disciples.
Following his steps Buddhist monks do the same on the day, hence it is also known as Dhamma Satkyar Day.
People visit pagodas, make good deeds and donate new robes to monks who are supposed to remain in their respective monasteries until the Thadingyut Full Moon Day in October as a rain retreat.
Of course, they still have to go out to collect alms and for urgent matters. But they don’t move out of their residences during this period.
Since pagodas are closed in line with COVID-19 preventive measures, donations will be private this year.
Buddhists tend not to change their locations during this period. Also, Buddhist couples put their weddings on hold since marriage is correlated with moving out in the Burmese tradition. Now you get why weddings mushroom in October. Lovebirds can’t wait anymore!
Some Buddhists choose to observe Vassa by adopting more ascetic practices, like fasting, giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking. A day in each week is designated the Uposatha (a kind of Sabbath). Some schools close on this day and open on Saturday instead.
Some people fast or abstain from meat, entertainment and intoxication on this day. It’s meant to cleanse one’s mind of wants and worldly pleasures.
On Sunday mornings around 4 am, a group of Buddhist laypeople will visit streets from streets and yell to get people up and prepare meals to offer to monks. They hit a gong as they walk and shout which is the sound of the morning during Vassa.
But this year could be different. I hope this beautiful tradition can continue with social distancing and face masks in the new normal.