Updated: Aug 14, 2021
2021 Vas Aradhana (Rains retreat)
Vas means rains and this is the rainy season in South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, India, Burma etc. In the Buddha’s time during the rainy season, monks remained in one place and meditated while lay people used this time to support monks and learn the Dhamma and practice of meditation. This usually happened when they invited a monk to stay in a dwelling made specifically for the monk. Each year all fully ordained monks in the Theravada tradition follow this practice of observing the Rains Retreat. It begins on the full moon Poya day in the month of July or August where lay people make an official invitation to the monk and this invitation is known as Vas Aradhana or Rains Retreat Invitation. Each year at Nirodha, yogis invite Bhante to participate in the Rains Retreat. This year the date was on July 23, and due to Covid restrictions it was done on a very small scale with only six people participating in person, and yet the traditions and rituals were upheld.
Preparations for the day
Early morning on the full moon day in July, yogis came and cleaned the Colombo City Centre and made preparations for the auspicious ceremony of Vas Aradhana or invitation for the Rains retreat. The altar was neatly arranged with vases of lotus flowers and trays of jasmine and yellow jessamine flowers.
Under normal circumstances this ceremony is attended by several dozen participants, but this year due to COVID restrictions, there were only six yogis in person (Kapila, Lakshima, Renuka, Aloka, Dulsiri, Nileeni) and there were several yogis (Nithushi, Janaki, Anuruddha, Roshini, Sheevani) who collaborated on preparations but were not present at the event.
Rains Retreat Invitation for Bhanté
The traditional ceremony started with Bhanté leading the attendees in meditation and observance of eight precepts followed
by a Dhamma Talk that described the importance and significance of the Rains retreat or Vas period. This was followed by the most important part of the day which was to invite Bhanté to reside in the dwellings. Traditionally the practice also meant that monks would then not need to have to go out in the rain. Lay people also request the monk to teach them meditation and Dhamma. This invitation is done by everybody together and one person representing the yogis invites the monk to reside at the dwelling by making an offering of betel leaves with flowers and covered with a monastic inner robe. The offering is made by the chief dayakaya and this year it is Kapila and he is here making that offering and inviting Bhanté to reside in these premises.
Other lay yogis offered gifts or pirikara for Bhanté, symbolically including the four requisites for the three months such as medicine and food: dry rations, tea, coffee, snacks.
Kappiya to Bhanté
A Kappiya or lay attendant is appointed for the Vas season and for this year Aloka was appointed as the Kappiya. The role of the kappiya is to support Bhanté in abiding by a minor monastic rule in
which monks are not allowed to eat fruits containing seeds. To respect even this small rule there is the practice of the kappiya cutting fruit with a knife and taking the karma, to make it suitable for offering the fruit to a monk. When the fruit is offered to a monk he asks, “Is it kappa or suitable for me to eat?” then the kappiya responds - “Kappiyam Bhanté - yes Bhante it is suitable.” This practice is done only for plant life and not for any other being.
Although there are four monastic requisites, food is offered as pindapata. Monks are served in their pindapata bowl, and in the photo the kappiya is offering the first spoon of staples to Bhanté.
To participate in making a pindapata offering is seen as a very meritorious deed as it is considered as a practice to show respect to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and therefore the offering is made to the best of one’s ability. Devotees take it upon themselves to give the best and most generous food donations. Even in the poorest of places where they may not have much food, they give monks the grandest food as a part of respecting the Dhamma. The meal was offered to the Buddha and monks first,
and only after they have taken the meal do the lay people take their food. If they ate together, it would not be an offering, but a sharing and traditionally, lay people do not sit with the monks and instead sit separately. Usually there are a lot of people in attendance at such events and everyone who comes on this day is invited to partake in the meal. Although in Nirodha during non-COVID times there are large lunch buffets with 30—40 people participating but this time although it was done in a very small scale, there was yet a wide variety comprising of nearly twenty curries, grains and desserts. After the conclusion of the program, the lay people had their lunch.
As a result of the experience from previous Vas Aradhana events, this auspicious day concluded after following all the necessary rituals or cāritha as guided by the Bhikkhu Sangha.
Other Photos of the day