Vassa: The fun of Lent for Buddhists!

So today is Dhamma Day (also called Asalha Puja), which marks the anniversary of the Buddha’s first sermon at Deer Park. Tomorrow marks the beginning of Vassa, the three-month rains retreat historically observed by monks in Theravada Buddhist countries.

This will be my third observation of Vassa. Traditionally, Vassa means extra practice, extra precepts, and not leaving the monastic environment. So how does Vassa become a modern practice in the US for the lay practitioner? I don’t claim to know, exactly, how Vassa translates to Western Buddhist practice. I observe it by giving up drinking alcohol entirely (I normally just try to follow the rule of not taking intoxicants to the point of heedlessness). I strive to follow the Five Precepts, which are as follows:

1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

Source: Access to Insight

I also re-devote myself to home meditation practice, download and listen to tons of Dharma talks from places like Audio Dharma, and generally try to be less of an asshole.

You can read an interesting article on Vassa to learn more about the history of this observance. Access to Insight also has a fantastic lay resource called Lay Buddhist Practice by Bhikkhu Khantipalo which has an excellent section on the rains retreat. If you practice Vassa observance, I’d love to hear about your methods in the comments.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Vassa: The fun of Lent for Buddhists!”

  1. Thanks for the post. I follow you on Twitter and this was a very helpful post for my practice. My Fiance has been Buddhist all her life and never new this aspect of Vas so she was really happy to learn of it.

    Thanks again,

    Rafael

  2. Great post! I know that a lot of people go vegetarian during Vassa, or just give up eating beef/any meat from four legged animals (pork, lamb, etc.). It’s really great to see your post because it really encourages me to do something to deepen my own practice during this part of the calendar. For my own practice, I merely try to make more temple visits during Vassa.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: