Celebrating Binara Full Moon Poya Day in Sri Lanka
Lanka has a vibrant culture, and this is quite evident during the country's
many national holidays. One of the most important dates on the Sri Lankan
calendar is Binara Full Moon Poya Day, a public spiritual celebration observed
across the country in September during the full moon.
A Time of Reflection
Although Sri Lanka is a
society that encompasses many faiths, Buddhism is the most prevalent religion in
the country. To Sri Lankan Buddhists, the Binara Full Moon Poya Day is a time of
celebration, reflection and contemplation. A "poya" day refers to a date upon
which a full moon will be visible, and the Binara Full Moon Poya Day is
celebrated in September. During this national holiday, Buddhists observe the
disciplinary code first laid down by Buddha, and Buddhist monks, known
as bhikkhus, spend much of this time in prayerful meditation.
A Historic Moment
The celebration marks
the first time that women were permitted to join the Buddhist order. It is said
that while Buddha was residing at Nigrodharamaya in the city of Kapilavastu,
Queen Mahapajapati approached him and requested that women be allowed to adopt a
monastic lifestyle in temples across Southeast Asia.
However, the Buddha
rejected Mahapajapati's request three times. Undeterred, she assembled a group
of 500 wives of noble princes before they shaved their heads and donned yellow
robes to signify their commitment to monastic ways. Upon seeing this
demonstration, Buddha granted Mahapajapati and her compatriots permission to
become bhikkhunis (fully ordained female priests), and this momentous
decision is recognized on Binara Full Moon Poya Day.
A Country United
Although Binara Full
Moon Poya Day is primarily observed by practicing Buddhists in Sri Lanka, the
government formally recognizes this day as a national holiday. As such, most
businesses are closed, and many customs are forbidden, such as the sale of
alcohol and meat.
All over Sri Lanka, celebrations are held to
commemorate this important day. Lanterns adorn the exterior of many buildings,
and traditional ceremonies take place to honor the Buddha and his teachings.
Most importantly, Buddhists do their best to undertake and meditate upon the
five precepts of Buddhism: to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct,
dishonesty, and the consumption of drugs and alcohol.
month has its own poya day, September's is one of the most important, and it
serves as a reminder not only of the basic tenets of the Buddhist faith but also
of the struggle of Queen Mahapajapati and the very first bhikkhunis.