Magha Puja

Magha Puja Day is also known as Sangha Day or Fourfold Assembly Day in most Buddhist countries, and is observed on the first full moon day of March. The day commemorates a time when 1,250 Buddhists spontaneously came together to pay their respect to the Buddha. The festival is in honor of the Sangha, or the Buddhist community and is a chance for people to reaffirm their commitment to Buddhism.

What Do People Do?

Many Buddhists around the world celebrate Magha Puja Day with gift exchanges, lighting of oil lamps, chanting, meditation, attending temple for special observances and participating in Buddhist activities. The spiritual aims of the day are to do only good things and to purify one’s mind. In the evening, each temple in Thailand holds a candle light procession while holding flowers and incenses. The monks and the congregation members circle the Uposatha Hall three times to represent the Three Jewels - the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

The practice of the Five Precepts or the practice of renunciation is one of the activities that is observed on Magha Puja Day. This involves observing the Eight Precepts, the practice of mediation and mental discipline, going to temple, and wearing white robes for a number of days.

For some Buddhist communities, there may be a series of meetings to discuss various aspects of the teachings, periods of group meditation, talks given by senior members of the community (both resident and visiting) and a variety of other events - often quite spontaneous - over a period of several days.

Public Life

Magha Puja Day is a public holiday in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia so government offices and many businesses are closed. It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States but some cities may hold large celebrations for the occasion.

Background

Magha Puja Day commemorates the spontaneous assembly of 1,250 enlightened monks to hear the Buddha preach at Veluvana Vihara. The day is also called the Fourfold Assembly because it consisted of four fortunate factors that happened nine months after the Enlightenment of the Buddha:

  • There were 1,250 Sangha followers that spontaneously came to see the Buddha.
  • All of the followers were Arhantas - enlightened monks.
  • All of them were direct disciples having been ordained by the Buddha himself.
  • It was the full moon day of the Magha month (March).

The Buddha gave his first important sermon on this day - The Ovadhapatimokha - to cease from all evil, to do what is good, and to cleanse one’s mind - which laid down the principles of Buddhism. The Buddha also declared that he would pass away in three months, so some believe that the Buddha might have used this event to make this announcement.

Symbols

Sangha is the term used for the Buddhist spiritual community. Magha Puja is also referred to as Sangha day because it celebrates both the ideal of creating a spiritual community, and also the actual spiritual community which they are trying to create.

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