Practices of Blessings and Wisdoms with Monks and Nuns in the Retreat Season

Update: 16/07/2022
After the Buddha Birth Day Anniversary, Northern Buddhist monks and nuns reside in one place during the rainy season from 16th April to 15th July lunar calendar. As for the monks of Theravada Buddhists in countries such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, they settle in one place and practice the rainy retreat season during the period from 16th June to 15th September lunar calendar.

Practices of Blessings and Wisdoms with Monks and Nuns in the Retreat Season


The reasons why Buddha set these practices during the Retreat season which were written in The Vinaya as follow

“At the time, Buddha was staying at Rajagaha, Veḷuvana (Truc Lam), where squirrels were raised. The practice of residing in one place for a retreat during the rainy season was not set for the Bhiksu by the Buddha yet. Therefore, those Bhiksu traveled during the cold, the hot and also the rainy seasons. The public complained, criticized, and disparaged that:

-  "Why do the Sakyamuni disciples travel during the cold, the hot and also the rainy season? They are trampling on green grass, harming the life of a single-sense species, and causing the mass killing of many small sentient beings. Even these heterodox practitioners whose teachings are badly taught still reside in one place during the rainy season. It also applies to the birds which build and remain in their nests on the treetops during the rainy season. However, these Sakyamuni disciples travel in the cold, the hot, and also the rainy season. You are trampling on green grass, harming the life of a single-sense species, and causing the mass killing of many small sentient beings."

The Bhiksu heard such complaining, criticizing, and disparaging and they reported the matter to the Buddha. The Buddha took advantage of this, preaching the Dharma and told the Bhiksu:

"Bhiksu, I allow the settled retreat to be held during the rainy (vassaṃ) season"

(The Pāḷi Canon, Great season 1, chapter 3 - In the season of seclusion, p.347 - Vietnamese translation of the Bhikkhu Chanh Than).

During the retreat season, practitioners have the opportunity to consolidate their knowledge of Buddhist teaching, learn majestic conduct from the experiences of the elders. It can be said that the Buddha's teachings through the experienced guidance of the respected ones will become more vivid and practical than ever. Thanks to continuous improvement, the practice of Precepts-Concentration-Wisdom is increasing day by day. The Buddhists will be the protectors of the Dharma and the  supporters for monks and nuns to have a peace of mind to practice during these three months.

In the past, Buddha and his disciples went for mendicancy daily in order to create opportunities for sentient beings to have good causes and to plant fields of merit, as well as to preach the Dharma. Sentient beings make offerings to the Buddha and the monks to create blessings for themselves, listen to the Dharma to develop wisdom, apply it to increase blessings and gain peace as well as happiness in the present and the future.

Talking about cultivating merit which means cultivating the root of happiness, if lay people have limited financial conditions, lay people will be limited in their ability to practice good ways. It is difficult to fully and completely practice the Dharmas of giving, including offering of goods, of Dharma and fearlessness, making offerings, publishing scriptures, building pagodas, creating statues, building ashrams to study and support the four necessaries for monks and nuns to widely proclaim the Buddhist- truth.

The three-month retreat is an opportunity to help the Bhiksu intensively practice full courses of study, including meditation, chanting, repentance etc., instead of practicing for a couple of hours like the rest of the months in a year. In the temple/ monasteries of the Mahayana, lay people can practice together with the monks through the sessions. This creates a great chance for us to cultivate the power of mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom, and progress on the path to liberation. Besides, by regularly going to the temple to study, to be close to the venerable ones, we will establish different practicing methods to transform greed, hatred, delusion, and distress. It is important to remember cultivating both blessedness and wisdom. Don't just focus on doing charity, freeing animals, making offerings but forget to take care of yourself to reach enlightenment and liberation.

Cultivating both blessedness and wisdom is the way of practice for many Buddhist generations. We practice it flexibly depending on the situation and ability. Even though it will never be enough, just do it. Because the result will be good from the good deeds sown. If this life is not enough, we will vow to continue and carry-on cultivating merit and wisdom in next lives. It is within our reach to overcome obstacles and to achieve happiness and peace.

Tâm Cung

Translated into English by Thai Nhuoc Don


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