Tomorrow is Poson Poya day. This year we in Sri Lanka celebrate Poson Poya in a way very unique to us as Sri Lanka Buddhists.
We mark the 2,328th year of the arrival of the Arahat Mihindu Thera, the Royal Missionary Monk, the son of Emperor Asoka of India, to the Rock at Mihinthalaya, here it becomes the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The Mihindu Thera comes to us with an immeasurable and invaluable treasure in his possession. It is the Way of Life drawn on the precepts or tenants articulated based on the Noble Teachings of the Gautama Buddha.
His preaching persuaded the kings of Sri Lanka to embrace the Buddhist way of life beginning from King Devanampiyatissa whom Arahat Mahinda addressed directly, and converted the King.
The King embracing Buddhism as a way of life had a great influence on the local community to do the same and adapt themselves to live the noble tenets, adherence to Panchaseela, the teaching of the Gautama Buddha.
Right now almost the whole world and all humanity, irrespective of caste, creed, ethnicity and social status, are suffering immensely in one way or another, due to the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic which keeps spreading, escalating to all corners of the globe.
The adherence to the spirit of the noble teachings of the Buddha is the only solace the Buddhist could find and the present environment has created the necessary atmosphere for every Buddhist to ponder in silence upon the way one has lived the teachings of the Noble One, in one’s lifetime until the time of the breaking of the new coronavirus early this year.
We in Sri Lanka mark the arrival of the Mihindu Thera in 236 BC to introduce the noble teaching of the Lord Buddha, in the third century BC. This hallowed day of Poson is second only to the Vesak, the most important date of the Buddhist calendar. Vesak and Poson are the two most important days in the lives of the Buddhists.
Mihintale and Anuradhapura are the most important historical venues Buddhists throng at on Poson Poya day, but this year Buddhists are advised to stay at home and observe religious rites and rituals in the environ of their homes as Sri Lankans are to be conscious of the danger at hand and strictly adhere to the advice of the health authorities to avoid further spread of COVID-19 and have been instructed to observe social distancing for the good of all.
Poson Full Moon Poya day is of great historical and religious significance. It is a festival of great piety. The inner essence of the Poson Poya (full moon) which falls on Friday succinctly denotes the spirituality beneath the observances of the day, very much fitting with the conditions humanity faces in the environs of the pandemic experience we are forced to accept.
With the establishment of the Buddha Sasanaya, a much-civilised society arose depicting all characteristics that are part and parcel of an enlightened society. This in turn resulted in introducing religious rituals, devotional songs accompanied with music and dance, the art of writing, art and architecture, style of writing, composition of stanzas, religious art, and culture with Royal patronage.
This year we are advised to be at home with our families and loved ones, without creating unnecessary crowds to avoid escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic and to carry out all our religious rites and rituals within our households. As true Buddhist and lovers of the country of our birth, our Motherland, it is best that we oblige in good spirit.
Let this Poson Poya Day lead us to meditate deeply and search our inner selves and learn where we have gone wrong, accept our mistakes and correct ourselves and move on to the correct path the Buddha has shown. That should be our resolution on this historical day of Poson, a gift from the Gautama Buddha to all his children of Sri Lanka.
(The writer is Adviser to Quingliang Vihara Singapore, Executive Director HELP International and Voice of Dhamma Centre.)