Vassa or Rain retreat

The traditional retreat during the rainy season lasting for three lunar months from July to October. During this time, Buddhist monks remain in a single place, generally in their temples.

Kathina

The Buddhist festival at the end of Vassa (usually October). It is a time for the laity to express gratitude to monks by offering new robes.

Uposatha days

These are times of renewed dedication to Dhamma practice. For monastics, these are often days of intensive reflection and meditation. Lay people observe the eight precepts on Uposatha days as a way to re-energize commitment to the Dhamma.

Photo credit: Tan Yew Beng

Buddhist Ghost Festival: Ullambana

The Ghost Festival has roots in the Buddhist festival, Ullambana and also some from the Taoist culture. The Buddhist origins of the festival can be traced back to a story from India. In the Ullambana Sutta, there is an account of a well-to-do merchant, Mahāmoggallāna, who gave up his trade to become a Buddhist monk. After he became an arahant, he wondered what became of his parents. He travelled the Buddhist universe, and found his father in heaven. However, his mother was reborn in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Despite her inheritance, his mother was not generous. She did not offer daana to Buddhist monks and did not show any kindness. When she died, she was reborn in the realm of hungry ghosts. Mahāmoggallāna eventually saves her from this plight by battling various demons and entreating the help of the Buddha. The story ends with this festival and the rescue of his mother from hell. She ended up being reborn as a dog in a well-off household. It marks the first day of the Ghost Festival.

Vesak

The most holy day in the Buddhist calendar. On Vesak Day, Buddhists all over the world commemorate the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. On this day all Buddhists are expected to use the opportunity to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to purify their minds, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to all beings.

Photo credit: Tan Yew Beng