Vesak day is commonly known as a significant date in the Buddhist Calendar. What about the other important days? March 6 2023 marks Magha Puja, also known as Sangha Day, which celebrates the power of community. Below is the importance and why Buddhists celebrate it.
About Magha Puja
Magha Puja, also known as Sangha Day or Fourfold Assembly Day, is a Buddhist holiday commemorating the gathering of the 1,250 enlightened disciples of the Buddha. It was particularly special for 4 reasons:
- The meeting happened on the full moon of Magha
- The monks gathered naturally without first being invited.
- All the monks were Arahants (Fully-enlightened)
- All the monks were ordained directly by the Buddha (ehi-Bhikkhu ordination).
According to the scriptures, these disciples spontaneously came together to pay their respects to the Buddha, who then gave them an important discourse on the principles of Dhamma such as the famous:
Not to do any evil;
to embrace the good;
to purify one’s mind:
this is the instruction of the Buddhas.
What’s important for us
Buddhists believe participating in the Magha Puja will enable them to experience similar spiritual benefits as the 1,250 disciples who gathered around the Buddha. This is because practitioners that gather together undertake the precepts (training rules) together, develop mindfulness, and listen to the Dhamma. This creates wholesome conditions for the purification of minds.
In addition, Magha Puja emphasises the importance of the Sangha, or the spiritual community. One of the most important factors in achieving spiritual progress. Hence, a community provides a support system for individuals as they work to overcome their obstacles and achieve enlightenment.
How can we observe it?
As we celebrate Magha Puja Day, we are reminded of the importance of coming together as a community to practice the Buddha’s teachings, and of the benefits that come from working together towards a common goal. It is an opportunity for Buddhists to renew their commitment to each other and to the Buddha’s path.
One way of celebrating Magha Puja is by gathering with other Buddhists to listen to teachings, practice meditation and make offerings to the Sangha. We can also recite the Three Refuges (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha) and the Five Precepts (not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, not to engage in sexual misconduct, and not to take intoxicants) to reaffirm our commitment to the Buddha’s teachings.
Another way to mark the occasion is through the practice of making offerings to the Sangha, which is believed to be a meritorious event. The offerings can include food, clothing, money or other necessities, and can be made to any monk or nun.
In addition to its significance for the Buddhist community, Magha Puja can be a valuable opportunity for personal growth and development. It helps one to develop virtue, deepen concentration, and cultivate wisdom. The practice of giving and cultivating generosity, reflection on the preciousness of human life, and contemplating the rarity of the opportunity to encounter the Dhamma are some examples that one can practice!
May you have a meaningful Magha Puja