Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Highest Self—Enlightened One!
The Buddha performing the twin miracle of simultaneously producing water & flames from his body. Click on the image to download a larger version.
In our country, just as the Vesak and Poson, Esala Full Moon Poya day is given much importance; observed with equal veneration and holiness, not only because of the great incidents related to the life of Prince Siddartha (Later the Buddha), but also because of the several other significant incidents connected to Sri Lanka’s Buddha Sasana has occurred on this great day.
Esala poya assumes prominence for yet another ritual of the Sri Lankan Buddhists. This is the annual rains retreat of the monks, “Vas”, which commences on the day following the Esala full moon. On the next poya day, Nikini (August), those monks who failed to commence the normal Vas on the day following Esala Poya, are allowed to enter the “late Vas.”
Prominent events associated with Esala Full Moon Poya Day:
The conception of Boddhisatta in the womb of Queen Maya.
It was on Esala Full Moon Day that Prince Siddhartha relinquished the lay life and did the ‘Abinishcramanaya’ (renunciation) to become an ascetic, in search of the ‘Truth’.
This day is of great significance to the entire Buddhist community as it was on such a day, two months after the Buddha attained Enlightenment, delivered his first sermon, Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (the wheel of truth) to the five ascetics—Kondangna, Wappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji at Isipathanaya in Benares (Baranasi).
The sermon consisted of the central teachings of the Buddha — the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. This set in motion the great Buddhist tradition of the Sangha, for popularizing the teachings of the Buddha firstly in India and later throughout the world.
The Great Renunciation, the performance of the Twin Miracle (yamaka—patihariya).
The Blessed Buddha explains the Abhi—Dhamma in the Tavatimsa heaven to his mother. Click on the image to download a larger version.
The Buddha preached the Abhidhamma to Mathru Divaraja in the high heavens of Thusitha Divyaloka.
Esala Full Moon Poya day ranks quite high in the order of significance to the Sri Lankan Buddhists because on such a day the Buddha Sasana was established in the country during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. Under the instructions of Mahinda Thera who visited Sri Lanka in the 3rd Century B.C. (as the missionaries of Asoka Emperor of India), the King took necessary steps to proclaim the children of the country and teach them Dhamma. Furthermore, Mahinda Thera preached ‘Wassupanayikkandaya’ to the king and the group and on the same day the nephew of the king, Aritta and fifty five other children were predestined thus establishing Buddha Sasana in the country.
On this day there also took place the laying of the foundation for the celebrated dagoba, the Mahastupa or the Ruwanvelisaya and also its enshrinement of relics by King Dutugemunu.
A decorated elephant from the Esala perahara / procession in Sri Lanka. Click on the image to download a larger version.
On an Esala Poya day, in 1753, the Theravada Buddhist Reformation of the Maha Sangha took place at the Kandy Pushparama Maha Vihare (Malwatte Temple). In a Seema—malaka built there, the Most Venerable Upali Maha Thera, and his assistant monks who came to Kandy (Siriwardenapura) from Siam, Thailand on an invitation from King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (1747—1781) administered a valid Upasampada (Higher Ordination) to purify the Sangha. It meant the age of the gunnin—nanses, who led worldly lives in temples was over. The Ven. Welivita Saranankara who spearheaded this great event, was conferred the ecclesiastical title of “Sangharaja” by the royal court. As the historic Upasampada was conducted in the Siamese tradition by the most Ven. Upali Maha Thera on July 17, 1753, the new order of monks came to be known as the Shyampoli Maha Nikaya.
This significant historic event signaled that the torch of Sakyamuni Gothama Buddha’s noble dharma was again lit, after the visit of the sage Maha Mahinda. The decadent moral conduct of the Gunninnanses was replaced in temples with Buddhist monks who observed the vinaya rules. Several temples were built around the capital city with Buddhist painting and frescoes of the Kandyan style as seen at Degoldoruwa, Hanguranketa, and Hindagala Temples. Pirith was recited daily and monks went out on pindapata, and counselled the villagers in time of need.
It is owing to the combination of all these events that the Sinhala Buddhists celebrate the Esala Full Moon Poya Day with great reverence, with religious festivals and processions throughout the country, giving pride of place and anticipating to witness the most grandeur the Kandy Esala Perehara in mid August.