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Moon Days

Buddha Mind - get one, be one.

pic.above, links to moon phases In the time of the Buddha (2500+ BCE) the solar calendar hadn't been developed. Phases of the moon were much easier to observe and regular meetings were arranged accordingly. The establishment of the first of these meetings was around the recitation of the sangha's rules of discipline - the Patimokkha (see MONASTICISM-VINAYA). These days can be thought of as the Buddhist 'sabbath' - equivalent to Sunday (the day of the sun) in Christianity. This tradition is still maintained today and the sangha meets fortnightly (full and new moon) for a recitation of their rules - monks and nuns seperately.

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gone with the wind


In our monasteries this is preceeded - the day before - by shaving the head. Much can be said [see: MONASTICISM - MENDICANCY] about head shaving but in the context of moon days one aspect we can reflect on is the idea of purity. The body is cleaned, there is a 'confession' prior to the recitation with many of the rules being concerned with moral purity; a kind of inner 'cleansing'. There is an evening vigil, where the emphasis is on meditation, the development of mental purity. The Buddhist concept of impurity and defilements is in relation to ignorance (rather than say wickedness or evil) which is seen as an impermanent condition of the mind. In the monastery much time is given to meditation and contemplation but even in a monastery the state of  'the world' can get quite complex and the moon days are given especially importance as an occassion for stopping, for putting down the business of life and turning one's attention inward. "How confused am I? How 'impure' am I? What is the condition of my mind?"

Moon days are also the time when new monks or nuns would most likely ordain. It is also the occasion for the fortnightly confession and recitation of the monastic rules. [see: MONASTIC]

It is not uncommon for lay people to visit the monastery and join the sangha for the vigil. If they have the time or the moon day falls on a weekend they may come and spend the day in the monastery.

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A day of celebration
The tradition in Asia is for the laity to visit the monastery regularly, but especially on these days and often wearing white (another symbol of purity). They would join in the offering of the meal in the morning and, time permitting, join the sangha in meditation during the day and the formal gathering in the evening - which usually finishes at midnight.