Saga Dawa is a very important month in the Tibetan Buddhist calendar. This year, Saga Dawa, the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, started on May 19th 2015 and will run until June 16th. The 15th day of the lunar month, the full moon day, is called Saga Dawa Düchen and this year it falls on June 2nd. Düchen means “great occasion” and this day is the single most holy day of Tibetan Buddhism.
Like the Theravadin observance of Vesak, Saga Dawa Düchen commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni. Buddhist communities all over the world consider this a very sacred time of the year. People make extra efforts to practice more generosity, virtue, compassion, better temperament and conduct, in order to accumulate greater merit.
Saga Dawa is known as the month of merits. Tibetan Buddhists believe that during this month, the merits of ones actions are multiplied, and that on the 15th day of the month the merits of ones actions are hugely increased.
The nuns at the seven nunneries supported by the Tibetan Nuns Project all mark Saga Dawa in special ways and we will be sharing photos and news of the 2015 celebrations via this blog and our Facebook page as soon as possible after June 2nd.
A nun at Dolma Ling Nunnery reads part of the Tibetan Buddhist canon during Saga Dawa in 2013.
Practices undertaken during this month include:
- praying and reciting of mantras
- lighting of butter lamps
- making pilgrimages to holy places
- refraining from eating meat
- saving animals from slaughter and releasing them
- making prostrations and circumambulations
- giving money to beggars
It is considered a time of the year when our one positive act of kindness is multiplied a million times over to accumulate good merit.
In the meantime, here’s a description of some of the usual practices by Tibetan Buddhist in general and by the nuns in particular. For instance, every year, during the month of Saga Dawa, over a period of several days, the 240 nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute read the entire Tibetan Buddhist canon or Kangyur, the 108 volumes of the spoken words of the Buddha. Because this month includes some of the holiest days in the Buddhist calendar, the nuns believe they can accumulate more merit by doing such practices at this time. Butter lamps will also be lit during the full moon and everyone will try to practice positive deeds during the full month.
Nuns at Dolma Ling Nunnery reading the words of the Buddha to celebrate Saga Dawa in 2013.
On this day many individuals from the monastic and lay communities also take Thikchen Tsochung. His Holiness at the main temple gives the vow if he is in town during the year or it is given by a Khenpo or Geshe. The vows are to follow the eight Mahayana precepts for 24 hours. Individuals taking this vow take just one meal that day mainly lunch that has to be taken before noon and once one has stopped the meal it is considered finished. One can drink water or light drinks but not whole milk, thick juice with pulp etc.
Reading the entire Tibetan Buddhist canon takes several days. This photo was taken on the second morning of the Saga Dawa readings in 2013 and shows the sacred texts carefully wrapped and stacked.
In Dolma Ling nunnery many nuns eat only twice a day during this month. Nuns refrain from eating any solid food after finishing their lunch. They can drink water and are served light tea (with little milk) at 6 p.m.
At Tilokpur Nunnery, the nuns participate in a number of pujas such as the Nyugney puja, Vajra puja, Avalokiteshvara mantra, Guru Rinpoche puja, Green Tara puja, Phakmo Dakini puja. The nuns also do prostrations and offer thousands of butter lamps during the month. The other nunneries like Geden Choling also do the Nyugney puja (fasting).