- By Aye Mar Way (Researcher)
The full day of Waso is a very holy day for Buddhists. In the Myanmar calendar, Waso is the fourth month, and its full moon day usually falls in July every year. This year, 2018, it will fall on 27 July. The full moon day is called Dhammacakka Day because our Lord Buddha preached his very first sermon “Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta” on the full moon day of Waso (Saturday) in the year 103 of Maha Sakarit. To commemorate the Buddha’s first sermon, Buddhists customarily perform meritorious deeds such as offering donations, observing moral precepts, reciting the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta and paying obeisance to Buddha’s images on that full moon day.
The full moon day of Waso also marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent, taking three months until Thadingyunt Full Moon Day (the Light Festival). During Buddhist Lent, monks (members of Sangha) go into rainy season retreats and avoid travel. A significant and meritorious deed for Buddhists in Waso is to offer robes to the monks for use during Lent. The robes offered to monks in the month of Waso are called Waso robes. No weddings, feasts, or festivals are celebrated during Buddhist Lent, and people try to follow the Five Precepts more conscientiously.
Moreover, the full moon day of Waso is very significant for Buddhists because it is on this day that Buddha was conceived, when he renounced worldly pleasure to search for enlightenment, preached the first sermon of Dhammacakka and performed the twin miracles.
In the year 103 of Maha Sakarit, Prince Siddhattha attained Buddhahood, or Supreme Enlightenment and Liberation, under the Bodhi Tree on the bank of the Nerañjarā river in Buddhagaya on the night of the full moon day of Kason (Wesak). Afterwards, the Buddha remained silent for 49 days (seven weeks) in the environment of the Bodhi Tree. Then the Buddha decided to teach the Dhamma he had realised to the five ascetics (his former companions) known as Pañcavaggiya, namely, Kondanna, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji. He came to Isipatana (now called Sarnath) on foot from Buddhagaya. Sarnath is a small town near the sacred city of Varanasi in central India. He arrived at Deer Park (in which deer were given sanctuary) of Isipatana on the full moon day of Waso (Asalha), exactly two months after Kason of his enlightenment. In the early evening of the full moon day, the Buddha delivered the First Sermon to the Pañcavaggiya in the Deer Park. This first sermon of Buddha is Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, commonly known as the Great Discourse on Turning the Wheel of Dhamma.
The Pāli word “Dhamma” means “the Buddha’s teachings” or “his truth that leads to one liberation from suffering”. Cakka is also a Pāli word which means “wheel”. Thus Dhammacakka can be translated as “Wheel of Truth”, which is a Buddhist symbol referring to Buddha’s teaching of the path to enlightenment. The meaning of Pavattana in Pāli is “turning” or “rolling” or “setting in motion”. Therefore, the meaning of Dhammacakkapavattana is “Turning the Wheel of Truth”.
The Sutta introduced the fundamental concepts of Buddhism such as the Middle Way (Majjhima Paṭippda), and the Four Noble Truths (Ariya Saccas). The main subject of the Sutta is the Four Noble Truths, the essence of all Buddha’s teachings. The Sutta contains the following subjects in order –
The two extremes to be avoided,
The Middle Path: The Noble Eightfold Path,
The Four Noble Truths,
The Twelve Insights,
Proclamation of release from rebirths,
Arising of the Dhamma Sense to Kondañña
Proclamation of the devas on Buddha’s setting the wheel of Dhamma in motion and
Response of the Buddha to Kondañña.
According to the Sutta, there are two extremes we must avoid. They are (i) Kāmasukhallikanuyoga (Enjoyment of sense pleasure) and (ii) Attakillamathānuyoga (Practice of self-mortification). By avoiding these two extremes, we may find out the “Middle Path”.
The Buddha said that, by realising the mistake of both these two extremes, he followed the “Middle Path” called “Majjhima Paṭipada”, which gives rise to vision and knowledge, and which leads to peace, which directs enlightenment to Nibbāna. The Buddha explained that the “Middle Path” is called “Noble Eightfold Path”. The eight factors of Noble Eightfold Path are –
Right Understanding (Sammā-diṭṭhi)
Right Thought (Sammā-saṅkappa)
Right Speech (Sammā-vācā)
Right Action (Sammā-kammanta)
Right Livelihood (Sammā-ājīva)
Right Effort (Sammā-vāyāma)
Right Mindfulness (Sammā-sati)
Right Concentration (Sammā-samādhi)
The Middle Path produces spiritual insight and intellectual wisdom to see things as they really are. Besides, this path leads to understanding the Fourth Noble Truth thoroughly, and finally to the realization of the Ultimate Goal to Nibbāna.
Continuously, the Buddha described the Four Noble Truths, which form the heart and nucleus of all his later teachings. The Four Noble Truths also represent the essence of Buddha’s teachings. Those who understand and realise these four kinds of truths thoroughly become noble persons called Ariyas. Since only noble persons can know and see these truths clearly, they are known as Noble Truths (Ariya Saccas).
The Four Noble Truths are –
The Noble Truth of Suffering (Dukkha Ariya Sacca)
The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering (Dukkha-samudaya Ariya Sacca)
The Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering (Dukkha-nirodha Ariya Sacca)
The Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Extinction of Suffering (Dukka-nirodha- gāminipatipadā Ariya Sacca)
First, the Buddha explained the Noble Truth of Suffering, which deals with “dukkha” meaning “suffering” or “misery”. All living beings are subject to birth (jāti), decay (jarā), disease (vyādhi), and finally to death (marana). No one is exempt from these four types of suffering. Moreover, unfulfilled wishes are also suffering. Association with hated persons or meeting unpleasant things and separation from loved persons or pleasant things are sufferings. Not getting what one wants is suffering. In brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
Second, the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering was expounded. It is craving called (taṅhā) which gives rise to rebirth, and bound up with pleasure and lust, now here and now there, finds ever fresh delight. There are three kinds of craving; (i) Craving for sense pleasures (kāma-taṅhā), (ii) Craving for existence or becoming (bhava- taṅhā) and, Craving for non-existence or self-annihilation (vibhava-taṅhā).
Third, it is the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering, which states a complete cessation of suffering. It is “Nibbanā”, the ultimate goal of Buddhists. When the craving is totally uprooted and eradicated, all other defilements are already eradicated totally. Due to freedom from all defilements, the mind becomes completely pure. Consequently, total peace and supreme bliss exist in the mental stream. By this way, Nibbanā can be achieved in this very life. This Nibbanā can be realized by the sense of enlightenment by renouncing all attachment to the internal body and external world.
The fourth truth is the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Extinction of Suffering, which is the unique path leading straight to Nibbanā. This path is the Noble Eightfold Path consisting of eight noble factors — right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
After the Buddha had explained these Four Noble Truths, he continually described the Twelve Insights by developing the Four Noble Truths in three ways of each. Then he admitted that he had been a perfect Buddhahood who had attained the full Supreme Enlightenment in the midst of the world. Consequently, he proclaimed his liberation from rebirth.
This sutta then states that while listening to the Buddha’s teaching, the eldest of the five ascetics, Kondañña realised the characteristic of impermanence called “anicca”, and became a stream-winner (Sotapanna).
Afterwards, various types of devas from different realms step-by-step raised proclamation on the Wheel of Dhamma in motion set by the Buddha. At the moment, the proclamation spread as far as the Brahma world, and ten thousandfold world systems shook, quaked, and trembled and immeasurable glorious radiance appeared in the world surpassing the light of the devas.
At the end of the discourse, Kondañña acquired the name of Aññata Kondañña: Kondañña Who Has Understood. The Buddha firstly called Venerable Aññata Kondañña the word “ehi bhikkhū” meaning the monk, and he became the first monk (Sangha) of the Buddha Sāsana.
According to the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta mentioned above, two gems, Dhamma Ratana (Buddha’s sermons or teachings) and Sangha Ratana (Buddhist monk) emerged on the full moon day of Waso. Besides, the Buddha said the word “ehi bhikkhū” for the first time on the day.
Therefore, the full moon day of Waso is the day when the Buddha expounded his first sermon named Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta explaining very fundamental concepts (the two extremes, the middle way called the Noble Eightfold Path, and the Four Noble Truths), that he was conceived, that he renounced worldly pleasure to search for enlightenment, the day that two gems (Dhamma and Sangha) emerged, that he called the word “ehi bhikkhū” for the first time, and that he performed the twin-miracles. These reasons show that the full Moon day of Waso called Dhammacakka Day is very significant, very holy, and very important for all of us Buddhists. Finally, I pay obeisance very respectfully to our Lord Buddha by contributing this article about the full moon day of Waso and Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta.