Vap Poya Day | Sunday Observer

Vap Poya Day

Prince Aritta obtaining a sapling of the Bo Tree in Buddha Gaya
Prince Aritta obtaining a sapling of the Bo Tree in Buddha Gaya

The month of October is called Vap and its Poya day is known as the Vap Poya.

The Vas kalaya or Vassana kalaya (the four month retreat) ends in October with the holding of the Katina pinkamas when the Katina robes or Cheevaras are offered to the Sangha. Therefore, it is also called the Chivara Masaya or Chivara month. This starts on the day after the Vap Poya and goes on till the Il Poya day in the month of Il (November). The offering of Chivara or robes is thought to be very meritorious.

The Buddha permitted the offering of the Katina Chivara or robes to bhikkhus during a time when he was staying at the Jetavanaramaya. Thirty bhikkhus who had finished the Vas retreat at a city named Saketa were returning to the Jetavanaramaya when they were held up by heavy rain. Their robes were soaked. When he saw this, the Buddha allowed the offering of the Katina Chivara to the bhikkhus once the period of Vas was completed.

Katina Chivaraya

The Katina Chivara could be only accepted by bhikkhus who had started the Vas retreat on the day after the Esala Poya day. Bhikkhus who started the Vas retreat on the later date, (that is the day after the Nikini (August) Poya day) and bhikkhus who have not properly observed Vas, even if he had started Vas at the correct time, are not permitted to accept the Katina Chivara. Novice bhikkhus or bhikkhus who have not yet received Higher Ordination also cannot receive the Katina Chivara. When there are several bhikkhus observing Vas at the same temple the bhikkhu who is to receive the Katina Chivara, is decided among themselves. A bhikkhu eligible to receive the Katina Chivara must have a sound knowledge of certain matters, including the wearing of the three robes in the proper way, and the laying of the robe.

The reciting of the Vinaya Pitaka for the first time in Sri Lanka took place on a Vap Poya day at the Thuparamaya in Anuradhapura. It was presided over by the Ven. Maha Arittha Thera.

The Buddha spent the Vas retreat in his seventh year of Enlightenment in the Thavthisa Dev Lova preaching the Abidhamma to the Mathru Diya Rajaya and other gods or devas. (The Mathru Divya Rajaya was Queen Mahamaya Devi, who was the Buddha’s mother in his lay life as Prince Siddhartha. (She died seven days after his birth and was reborn as the Mathru Divya Rajaya and dwelt in the Thavuthisa Dev Lova or the Thavuthisa abode of the gods). The Buddha descended from the Thavuthisa Divay Lokaya on a Vap Poya day accompanied by the Gods and Brahmas. The six fold rays shone from his body. He came to Samkassapura amidst the cries of Sadhu from a great gathering of people.

The Buddha posing a series of questions

Another important event that took place on this Vap Poya day was the ordination of the Bodhisatva Maithreya the Buddha aspirant who will be the next Buddha in this Kalpa or aeon. He got himself ordained after listening to a learned discussion between the Buddha and the Ven. Saripuththa.

It was on a Vap full moon day that the Buddha posed a series of questions to the Ven. Saripuththa who answered them all. Then, the Buddha declared him to have the highest wisdom among his disciples.

Another event which took place in Sri Lanka was the departure of a delegation, led by Prince Aritta, to India.

They went for two reasons, to seek Indian help to establish a Bhikkuni Sasana in Sri Lanka and to obtain a sapling of the Bo tree in Buddha Gaya (under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment), to be planted in Anuradhapura.