Saga Dawa is a holy month in the Tibetan Buddhist calendar. It’s a lunar calendar, so in our western reckoning it’s not exactly the same time every year. This year, 2022, it lines up almost perfectly with the month of June. Saga Dawa starts on May 31st and ends on June 29th this year.
There important events are said to have happened during this month. They are: the birth of the Buddha, the Buddha’s Enlightenment, and the Buddha’s death. This is when Tibetan Buddhists celebrate all of these things. Our Christian friends can try to imagine what it would be like if Christmas and Easter were in the same month to get a general sense of the auspiciousness here. This is sometimes called “the Month of Merit”
Because these great events are said to have happened on this month, Buddhists throughout the world celebrate by recalling the kindness of the Buddha and making extra efforts to practice generosity, virtue, and compassion. This is also a good occasion to light some extra incense, recite some extra prayers to thank the Buddha for coming to this world, and to do some extra meditation. Some Buddhists make pilgrimages in this month.
Saga Dawa Duchen occurs on the full moon, in the middle of the month of Saga Dawa. This year it is June 14th. This day in the middle of Saga Dawa is considered the most holy and important day of the month. On this day a lot of Buddhists go on retreat and take some additional vows. I’ll be in retreat that day at the Rime Center with my community.
This is a really good time to reflect on what Buddhism means to us and to rededicate our commitment to the path. I think we need reminders once in a while that what we are doing is important. AND because we live in the West most of us celebrate one or more Christian holidays. It’s nice that we can celebrate the holidays of our tradition as well and I think we should do that. It helps us feel bonded to our communities and our tradition.
It’s even said that this time of year any merit that’s generated is magnified many times over. I don’t know if that’s true. I still have some skepticism about things like karma being magnified. But it’s also not a bad thing to behave as though the good deeds we do matter a lot. The truth is they do matter a lot. What you do matters. Try not to think that it doesn’t or that little good deeds are insignificant. Sometimes it seems like little good deeds are all we can really do. No virtuous action is too small to matter.
I do know that holidays and sacred months seem to mean something to us as human beings. So take of that what you will and let’s try to do some good this month.
Happy Saga Dawa!
If you’re near Kansas City, you can join us at the Rime Center for our Saga Dawa Duchen one day retreat.
Here’s the details from the rime center website:
Saga Dawa Duchen is one of the most important sacred Buddhist days. The full moon day of fourth Tibetan month is commemorates Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinirvana (passing away). All the merits of virtues actions done on this day are multiplied.
The Rime Center will be open during the day for you to come in and meditate at your own pace and time limit. Lama Matt will be offering the 24 hour Mahayana vows to those who wish to make special effort for the day. The vows will be given in-person at 5:30am. A special puja to commemorate Saga Dawa Duchen beginning at 6:00 pm. The puja will be in-person and online using Zoom. If you want to attend online click on the button to register in advance.
5:30 am – 24 Hour Mahayana Vows – In-person only
6:00 am – Open House for Meditation In-person throughout the day
6:00 pm – Special Shakyamuni Buddha Puja – In-person and online