The assembly is called the Fourfold Assembly because it consisted of four factors: (1) All 1250 were Arahats; (2) All of them were ordained by the Buddha himself; (3) They assembled by themselves without any prior call; (4) It was the full moon day of Magha month (March).
Asalha Puja Day ("Dhamma Day")
Asalha Puja means to pay homage to the Buddha on the full moon day of the 8th lunar month (approximately July). It commemorates the Buddha's first teaching: the turning of the wheel of the Dhamma (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) to the five ascetics at the Deer Park (Sarnath) near Benares city, India. Where Kondanna, the senior ascetic attained the first level of enlightenment (the Sotapanna level of mind purity).
Uposatha (Observance Day)
The four monthly holy days which continue to be observed in Theravada countries - the new moon, full moon, and quarter moon days. Known in Sri Lanka as Poya Day. [ Web Link: ]
This day marks the conclusion of the Rains retreat (vassa). In the following month, the kathina ceremony is held, during which the laity gather to make formal offerings of robe cloth and other requisites to the Sangha.
Kathina Ceremony (Robe offering ceremony)
Is held on any convenient date within one month of the conclusion of the Vassa Retreat, which is the three month rains retreat season (Vassa) for the monastic order. It is the time of the year when new robes and other requisites may be offered by the laity to the monks.
At the end of one rains retreat (vassa), the Buddha was so pleased with the progress of the assembled monks that he encouraged them to extend their retreat for yet another month. On the full-moon day marking the end of that fourth month of retreat, he presented his now-famous instructions on mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati), which may be found in the Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) - The Discourse on Mindfulness of Breathing.
In the Burmese tradition, this day celebrates the occasion when the Buddha is said to have gone to the Tushita Heaven to teach his mother the Abhidhamma. It is held on the full moon of the seventh month of the Burmese lunar year starting in April which corresponds to the full moon day in October.
This Thai Buddhist festival goes on for several days during the middle of April. People clean their houses and wash their clothes and enjoy sprinkling perfumed water on the monks, novices and other people for at least two or three days. They gather around the riverbank, carrying fishes in jars to put into the water, for April is so hot in Thailand that the ponds dry out and the fish would die if not rescued. People go to the beach or river bank with jars or buckets of water and splash each other. When everyone is happily wet they are usually entertained by boat races on the river.
Loy Krathong (Festival of Floating Bowls)
At the end of the Kathin Festival season, when the rivers and canals are full of water, the Loy Krathong Festival takes place in all parts of Thailand on the full moon night of the Twelfth Lunar month. People bring bowls made of leaves (which contain flowers) candles and incense sticks, and float them in the water. As they go, all bad luck is suppose to disappear. The traditional practice of Loy Krathong was meant to pay homage to the holy footprint of the Buddha on the beach of the Namada River in India.
The Ploughing Festival
In May, when the moon is half-full, two white oxen pull a gold painted plough, followed by four girls dressed in white who scatter rice seeds from gold and silver baskets. This is to celebrate the Buddha's first moment of enlightenment, which is said to have happened when the Buddha was seven years old, when he had gone with his father to watched the ploughing. (Known in Thailand as Raek Na)
The Elephant Festival
The Buddha used the example of a wild elephant which, when it is caught, is harnessed to a tame one to train. In the same way, he said, a person new to Buddhism should have a special friendship of an older Buddhist. To mark this saying, Thais hold an elephant festival on the third Saturday in November.
The Festival of the Tooth
Kandy is a beautiful city in Sri Lanka. On a small hill is a great temple which was especially built to house a relic of the Buddha - his tooth. The tooth can never be seen, as it is kept deep inside may caskets. But once a year in August, on the night of the full moon, there is a special procession for it.
Ulambana (Ancestor Day)
Is celebrated throughout the Mahayana tradition from the first to the fifteenth days of the eighth lunar month. It is believed that the gates of Hell are opened on the first day and the ghosts may visit the world for fifteen days. Food offerings are made during this time to relieve the sufferings of these ghosts. On the fifteenth day, Ulambana or Ancestor Day, people visit cemeteries to make offerings to the departed ancestors. Many Theravadins from Cambodia, Laos and Thailand also observe this festival.
Ulambana is also a Japanese Buddhist festival known as Obon, beginning on the thirteenth of July and lasting for three days, which celebrates the reunion of family ancestors with the living.
Avalokitesvara’s (Kuan Yin) Birthday
This is a festival which celebrates the Bodhisattva ideal represented by Avalokitesvara. Who represents the perfection of compassion in the Mahayana traditions of Tibet and China. It occurs on the full moon day in March.
The Buddhist Diet can best summed up in one word which is vegetarian. However, with that said, it is important to state that there are no hard rules. Vegetarianism has become closely associated with the Buddhist Diet, but it is not an absolute. Buddhists believe in non-violence and to this end, many Buddhists refrain from consuming meat. As a general rule, a large percentage of Buddhists are vegetarians. A diet based largely on fruits and vegetables is one that is often sited as being a healthy one that likely increases life span.
What to Eat
Those on the Buddhist Diet will often focus on vegetables and fruits. Wheat and soy are also common staples of the diet. Considering the nutritional benefits of a largely fruit and vegetable diet, the Buddhist Diet has a great deal to offer.
Since they believe in the possibility of being reincarnated as an animal, Buddhists are vegetarian. And they avoid alcohol and other stimulants, since these products diminish clarity of the mind. The more complete reason for being vegetarian is ethical. There are five main precepts in Buddhism (however monks and nuns follow many more related to their monastic life), and the first precept – "I take the vow not to intentionally kill any living being" – is adhered to by all Buddhists
Buddhists believe that the body, which is a temporary shell for the spirit, should be treated with great respect and care so the mind can concentrate on pursuing enlightenment. Some believe that people who are spiritually focussed and who follow a faithful regimen of meditation, diet, and exercise will not become sick. If illness does occur, many Buddhists believe that 80% of the time it can be cured using the mind and 20% of the time it can be cured using herbs. Some believe that exposing the body to the harsh natural elements will strengthen the immune system. And some Buddhists attribute sickness to laziness in faith or lifestyle.
Though some Buddhists combine aspects of Western healthcare practices with Eastern traditions, the modern Western hospital is not really set up to address their needs. The ICU, especially, with its bright lights, constant noise, and close monitoring of the patient, does not have the quiet environment in which the spirit of an ill person can contemplate.
Hinduism embraces a great diversity of beliefs, a fact that can be initially confusing to westerners accustomed to creeds, confessions, and carefully-worded belief statements. One can believe a wide variety of things about God, the universe and the path to liberation and still be considered a Hindu.
This attitude towards religious belief has made Hinduism one of the more open-minded religions when it comes to evaluating other faiths. Probably the most well-known Hindu saying about religion is: "Truth is one; sages call it by different names."
However, there are some beliefs common to nearly all forms of Hinduism that can be identified, and these basic beliefs are generally regarded as boundaries outside of which lies either heresy or non-Hindu religion. These fundamental Hindu beliefs include: the authority of the Vedas (the oldest Indian sacred texts) and the Brahmans (priests); the existence of an enduring soul that transmigrates from one body to another at death (reincarnation); and the law of karma that determines one's destiny both in this life and the next.
Note that a specific belief about God or gods is not considered one of the essentials, which is a major difference between Hinduism and strictly monotheistic religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism. Most Hindus are devoted followers of one of the principal gods Shiva, Vishnu or Shakti, and often others besides, yet all these are regarded as manifestations of a single Reality.
The ultimate goal of all Hindus is release (moksha) from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). For those of a devotional bent, this means being in God's presence, while those of a philosophical persuasion look forward to uniting with God as a drop of rain merges with the sea.
The religious life of many Hindus is focused on devotion to God (perceived as Brahman, Shiva, Vishnu, or Shakti) or several gods. This devotion usually takes the form of rituals associated with sculptures and images of gods in home shrines.
More philosophically-minded Hindus ignore the gods altogether and seek Realization of the Self through intense meditation. Still others focus primarily on fulfilling the social and moral duties appropriate to their position in life.
These various approaches are regarded as equally valid, and in fact are formally recognized as three paths (margas) to liberation: bhaktimarga (the path of devotion), jnanamarga (the path of knowledge or philosophy), and karmamarga (the path of works and action).
Hindu religious practices center on the importance of fulfilling the duties associated both with one's social position and one's stage of life. With regard to the latter, traditional Hindus are expected to pass through four stages (ashramas) over the course of their life:
brahmacharga, which takes place during the school years, is focused on acquiring knowledge and developing character;
grastha, the middle years, is focused on worldly pursuits and pleasures such as marriage, family and career;
vanaprastha, when one's children reach adulthood, is a time of increased focus on spiritual things; and
sanngasu, in the last years of life, one may abandon the world entirely for a life of contemplation.
All stages of life for the Hindu, however, involve religious rituals and practices. Some of the major Hindu practices are described in the articles below.
Hindu worship (puja) involves images of god/goddesses (murtis), prayers and chanting of mantras and use of diagrams of the universe known as yantras.
Worship of the image or icon of God/Goddess (murtis) is the most important part of Hindu worship. This can be done either at home or in the temple.
Hindu worship is primarily an individual act; it involves making personal offerings to the deity.
Worship involve repeating the names of favorite gods and goddesses (istadevatas), and repeating mantras. Water, fruit, flowers and incense are offered as sacrifices/gifts to god.
Hindus have a shrine or personal worship room in their homes called a puja room where offerings are made and prayers are said. The pooja room can be anything from a room, a small altar or simply pictures or statues of the deity.
Visiting and worshipping temples is an integral part of Hindu worship.
Hindu religious rites can be generally classified into three categories:
1. Nitya: These are rituals that are performed daily. (Sometimes 3 times per day.) These consist in offerings made at the home shrine or performing puja to the family deities.
2. Naimittika: These are rituals that occur only at certain times during the year. Examples are celebrating of the festivals in temples, offering thanksgiving etc.
An example of naimittika is the Kumbh Mela that happens only once every 12 years. Up to 10 million devotees share in ritual bathing at the Kumbh Mela festival at Allahabad where the waters of the Ganges and Jumna combine. Ritual bathing (to wash sins away), spiritual purification, and ceremonies to obtain the blessings of the deity are part of this major event.
3. Kamya: Examples of Kamya are pilgrimage. They are optional; but highly desirable.
Pilgrimage allows a devotee to see and be seen by the deity. It is an important part of Hindu Worship. Rivers (especially river Ganges, and holy places such as Banares (believed to be the home of Lord Shiva), Allahabad, etc.), temples, mountains, and other sacred sites are popular pilgrimage places
15 Friday Mauni Amavasya
20 Wednesday Vasant Panchami
16 Tuesday Bikrami Samvat (Hindu New Year)
30 Tuesday Hanuman Jayanti
13 Tuesday Baisakhi
16 Sunday Akshaya Tritiya/ Akha Teej
11 Friday Ganga Dussehra
13 Tuesday Rath Yatra
25 Sunday Guru Poornima
24 Tuesday /Raksha Bandhan
08 Friday begin
07 Sunday Bhai Duj
Devout Hindus believe that all of God’s creatures are worthy of respect and compassion, regardless of whether they are humans or animals. Therefore, Hinduism encourages being vegetarian and avoiding the eating of any animal meat or flesh. However, not all Hindus choose to practice vegetarianism, and they may adhere to the religion’s dietary codes in varying degrees of strictness. For example, some Hindus refrain from eating beef and pork, which are strictly prohibited in the Hindu diet code, but do eat other meats.
Like Buddhists, Hindus believe that food affects both body and mind. Food is considered to be a source of the body’s chemistry, which affects one’s consciousness and emotions. Thus, expression of the soul depends on the body, which depends on the food. A proper diet is considered vital for spiritual development in Hinduism. The Hindu diet code divides food into three categories, based on the food’s effect on the body and the temperament:
- Tamasic food is leftover, stale, overripe, spoiled or other impure food, which is believed to produce negative emotions, such as anger, jealousy and greed.
- Rajasic is food that is believed to produce strong emotional qualities, passions and restlessness in the mind. This category includes meat, eggs, fish, spices, onions, garlic, hot peppers, pickles and other pungent or spicy foods.
- The most desirable type of food, Sattvic, is food that is non-irritating to the stomach and purifying to the mind; it includes fruits, nuts, whole grains and vegetables. These foods are believed to produce calmness and nobility, or what is known as an “increase in one’s magnetism.”
Hindus believe that for true service to God, purity of food is necessary to maintain the desirable state of mind that leads to enlightenment. Food is consumed not only to survive but also to stay healthy and maintain mind/body equilibrium. By eating a purer quality of food, such as a Sattvic diet, and regulating food consumption, one can ensure a pure heart, long life, cheerful spirit, strength, health, happiness and delight. Good and pure food promotes a peaceful—not agitated—mind, which is needed to see the Truth as the Truth. Sin, or an agitated state of mind, prevents the journey to moksha (divine supreme knowledge, which leads to freedom from the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth).
Some specific Hindu dietary customs and practices include the following:
- A true devotee will refuse to accept any food that is not offered first to God. Gaining God’s blessing before consuming the food is essential. Hindus may do this is by placing their daily food before the particular deities they worship and by reciting shlokas(prayers). Once the food is offered to God, it is eaten as prasad or blessed food.
- Before starting any daily meal, a devout Hindu first sprinkles water around the plate as an act of purification.
- Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the table to acknowledge the debt owed to the devta runa (divine forces) for their benign grace and protection.
- For a child’s birthday celebration, the sacred symbol “OM” is added onto the birthday cake along with “Happy Birthday.” Also, a lamp is lit instead of having the child blow out the candles. In the Hindu faith, lighting a lamp is symbolic of new life, a new beginning or the spreading of knowledge.
Hindus have a great respect for medical professionals, but many are quite wary of drugs and pills. If drugs are given, try to explain what it is for and what the effects are. Natural and homeopathic medicine is preferred over drugs and surgery in most cases.
Many Hindu diabetics do not take insulin made from animals.