Thadingyut and Pavaran
by Ashin Mahosadha Pandita
During the month formerly called "Than-tu-la", now called "Thadingyut", religious festivals are regularly performed since the time of the Burmese kings, and have thus persisted in the Burmese culture.
Tavatimsa Pwe or Myint-mo Pwe
After visiting Tavatimsa - the place of the deities- for the entire 3 months of the lent, the Lord Buddha returned to the city of Sankassa. Dusk was approaching as the Buddha returned to Sankassa on this full moon day of Thadingyut. The people lighted candles and lamps to welcome the Lord Buddha. The Buddha made his descent on the ruby stairs flanked by the deities on gold and silver stairs on the right and left. In commemoration of the Lord Buddha's return from Tavatimsa, the Burmese Buddhist celebrate by festivals known as the "Tavatimsa Pwe or Myint-mo Pwe."
The Abhidhamma Occasion Festival
During the lent(Vassa) when the Lord Buddha was visiting Tavatimsa, the Buddha expounded the Abhidhamma to the deities, in particular the Santussita Deitiy who in the previous existence had been the Buddha's mother. Following this act of gratitude to the maternal deity, the Lord Buddha returned to the human world at the time of Thadingyut. In commemoration of the Abhidhamma teaching, festival of recitation of 7 volumes of Abhidhamma such as the Patthana are carried out on the full moon day of Thadingyut. The Burma Broadcasting Station also broadcasted the recitation of 7 volumes of Abhidhamma every year.
Paying Respect ( to elders) at the End of Vassa
Paying respects ( to elders, etc.) at the end of the lent is a cultural tradition founded on the example set by the Buddha. It is true: the Buddha spent the entire period of the vassa (lent) expounding the Abhidhamma in partial repayment of the gratitude he owed to his mother who was then a deity in Tavatimsa. To emulate the example set by the Buddha in recognizing the gratitude and his efforts to repay his mother, the Buddhist people pay their respects to Sanghas, parents, teachers, elders and venerable people on this full moon day of Thadingyut at every town and village.
Kathina Robes Offering Ceremony
To monks who observed Vassa during the 3 months of the lent ( from the first day after the full moon day of Waso to that of Tadingyut), the Lord Buddha granted permission to accept Kathina Robes. Thus, during the one month period from the first day after the full moon of Thadingyut to the full moon day of Tasaungmon, the Buddhist folks can offer Kathina robes. Most of people would try to conduct the Kathina Robes Offering Ceremony as early as possible following the full moon day of Thadingyut.
The above religious and cultural festivals are well known to the Burmese Buddhist who perform and participate in these activities annually. Thus, everyone is bound to remember the joyous Thadingyut festivals. However, few will know about the Pavarana Pwe because this is a precept that the Lord Buddha has laid down to be practiced by the Buddhist monks.
Pavarana is a Pali tern meaning "Invitation". Pavarana to Buddhist monks means an invitation among monks by one another mutually to "admonish or correct any act that is seen or heard or thought to be at fault or dubious". The reason why such a precept of invitation among monks arose is explained as follows.
The Buddha observed Vasa at the Jetavana temple at Savatthi. A large number of monks also observed vassa together in a monastery. With the aim of staying together in unison without argument and in peace, the monks decided to observe a practice they prescribed among themselves. This decision was that they should not talk among themselves and practice non-verbalism. The monk who arrived back from his round of alms should prepare water and pots for washing the feet, prepare seating and setting the table for meals, wash pots and plates and fill up water for drinking and use. The monk who arrived back last should clean up the left over from the meal, clean up the plates and seats/ table, see that the drinking pots were placed properly, sweep the dining room, fill up the drinking water pots and if he could not do alone, to signal by hand movements to other monks to help. For no reason are the monks to talk among themselves at all. With this practice of non-verbalism, the monks observed the entire vassa.
After the Thadingyut, the monks went to the Buddha to pay homage. As usual, the Buddha ask if the monks had spent the lent in peace and accord without any disagreements or quarrels. The monks replied that they had lived in peace and described what they had practiced during the entire vassa.
Then, the Lord Buddha admonished and reprimanded these monks. The Buddha told them that they had admitted they had lived in peace while they had not at all. The Buddha likened this practice of non-verbalism to living like animals in the forest of living like lambs. It was like living among enemies because enemies would not talk among themselves. The Buddha asked why the monks practiced like mute people or Titthi ( heretical sects outside Theravada Sasana). The Buddha said that this practice would not help engender respect in the Sasana among those who did not have respect, and would not improve the respect of those who already had respect for the Sasana at all. Thus, the Buddha laid down the precept that all those who practice non- verbalism of mutism will suffer the penalty of Dukkata Apatti.
After laying down this precept, the Buddha mentioned that after the vassa, monks should invite one another among themselves to mutually "admonish or correct any act that is seen or heard or thought to be at fault or dubious". From that time on, at every full moon day of Thadingyut, Buddhist monks have observed the Pavarana Pwe. For this reason, the wise sages has inscribed:
"All venerable Sanghas, Always invite ( one another), The festive Pavarana Pwe."
How Pavarana Pwe is performed
All Sanghas of the temple assemble in the Sima. When everyone has been accounted for one monk makes the statement to all monks: "Venerable Sirs, Please pay attention to my words. Today is the day for Pavarana. When all Sanghas are in agreement, let us perform Pavarana." After all the monks are thus informed, the senior monk or the presiding monk of temple sits in a squatting posture with hands in prayer and says his invitation so that all monks within the Sima can hear thus: "Monks, I invite all to help me by telling me and admonishing me without any reservations regarding faults you may have seen or heard or have doubts about. By knowing my faults, I will correct them". This is spoken three times> Thereafter, each monk takes his turn to say the invitation in order of their seniority, the youngest monk saying the invitation last. This is how Sanghas assemble together in the Sima to perform the Pavarana Pwe. During this activity, the monks can tell one another of any faults that have been seen, heard of doubted, and thus and help one another correct himself.
This practice prescribed by the Buddha has lasted over 2500 years and had stood the test of time, being still applicable to this day. It is true. With the aim of keeping the Sasana clean and the Sanghas maintaining their moral integrity, the Buddha had always encouraged criticism, and had always desire that if some faults are know/seen/heard, one kept silent like a mute person. The Buddha thus paved the way to allow a monk to correct himself if he is at fault, and to point out any fault with benevolence.
The Buddha stated that by such an invitation, the following 3 benefits are achieved:
(I) Being able to discuss freely among one another ( Annamanna nuloma)
(II) Being able to correct a fault promptly ( Apatti vutthana)
(III) Being aimed towards a high level of personal integrity ( Vinaya purakkhara)
This practice of Pavarana prescribed by the Buddha is a practice the not only persons, but also organizations, and government should follow. In this world, "there is no lawyer who had not erred, and no physician who had not lost his patient". If one does not accept criticism from wise and experienced persons and insists on going his or her own way, one is headed towards destruction and disaster. The Buddha opposes such "onemanship". In the Vinaya Pali, the Buddha had stated thus: "When a fault is found, only by pointing this out among one another and correcting the fault will the audience be prosperous: only such a united organization will prosper without quarrels."
Once, the most venerable Ashin Sariputta Mahathera had one piece of his robe that had slipped down accidentally which was noticed by young novice. The novice pointed out, " Sir, your robe is not appropriately worn". The Ashin Sari putta Mahathera, instead of discarding a little novice's words, rearranged his robe and asked with respect, "Teacher, is my robe now worn correctly?". This illustrates how Pavarana practice allows even a young novice to be able to and to have the courage to point out a fault.
It is by correcting one another, that the Theravada Sanghas are able still to exist nowadays. Throughout the ages, attacks by other religions, and by unjust kings have occurred, that had ill-treated Theravada Buddhist monks. Despite these, by abiding to the Theravada practice according to the Buddha's precepts, the Buddha Sasana is still holding its own. By inviting one another mutually to " admonish or correct any act that is seen or heard or thought to be at fault or dubious". Buddhist monks had practiced an open-door policy and had thus been able to preserve the Sasana.
If this practice laid down by the Buddha is practiced by everyone, there would be no more taking advantages, no more killing, but a world in unity and peace.
If we deviate from this practice, then...
Ashin Mahosadha Pandita