Festivals & Ritual

Short descriptions of some popular Buddhist Festivals and some information about Ritual

Buddha Day

 

Dharma Day

 

Sangha Day

Sangha Day is a celebration in honour of the Sangha, the Buddhist spiritual community. It is a chance for people to reaffirm their commitment to Buddhist practices and traditions.

Sangha Day commemorates the spontaneous gathering of 1,250 enlightened monks (arahants) to hear the Buddha preach at Veluvana Vihara.

At this gathering, the Buddha gave his first sermon, or recitation of the Patimokkha (the rules and regulations of the monastic order).

Sangha is the term used for the Buddhist spiritual community. On Sangha Day Buddhists celebrate both the ideal of creating a spiritual community, and also the actual spiritual community which they are trying to create.

The Sangha is precious in Buddhism as without those in the community to look up to or share aspirations with, the spiritual life would be very challenging.

Celebrations vary, but can include Dharma talks, chanting, meditation, the lighting of candles and incense and the reaffirmation of people's commitment to Buddhist practice.

Ritual

There are weeks at Sangha when there is ritual, which to some may feel meaningless or maybe even irrational.

However ritual is an integral part of Buddhism. The Sanskrit word for ritual is Pūjā. Ritual is expressive, we can express our aims and values to make them more conscious and strengthen their power to guide our life and actions.

And when we share ritual, by taking part in it at Sangha, it takes on another dimension by becoming a way to express and strengthen our sense of community with other like-minded individuals.

Ritual becomes a way of creating Sangha, the spiritual community.

Ritual (pūjā) is something to be enjoyed. It is not meant to be heavily solemn, it is meant to be joyful, so enjoy the images evoked by the words and enjoy taking part with all the mindfulness you can. Enjoy the sound of the mantras and rhythm of the chanting.

The mantras particularly may seem very strange to a newcomer or those unused to pūjā. They are chanted in the ancient language (Pali), and are chanted to evoke the essence of the various different Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (a person whose essence is perfect knowledge).

And being involved in pūjā we are opening ourselves to the influence of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, inviting them to enter our awareness.

They are chanted in Pali because this is the closest we can get to the language spoken by the Buddha and therefore a link to the historical Buddha and his followers. It also links us with all other Buddhists worldwide who also chant the certain parts of the pūjā in this language and therefore reminds us of our connections with all other Buddhists even those stretching back through time to the historical Buddha and his followers.

If you would like to hear some of these mantras then we have included some links to some recordings made in a Buddhist Retreat Centre for women called Taraloka and below are some of the mantras in written form so you can see the Pali words. Clicking on these will take you to Taraloka’s YouTube channel where you can hear that particular mantra being chanted.

Om mani padme hūm

(Avalokitesvara Mantra)

Om tāre tuttāre ture svāhā

(Tara Mantra)

Om amideva hrīh 

(Amitābha Mantra)

Om muni muni mahā muni śākyamuni svāhā

(Śākyamuni Buddha Mantra)

Om āh hūm vajra guru padma siddhi hūm

(Padmasambhava Mantra)