Vap Poya | The Month of Robes
Vap Poya (Vap Pura Pasalosvaka Full Moon Poya Day) marks the end of the 3 month retreat by Buddhist monks known as the Vas ‘rainy’ season. The laity offer Katina robes on Vap Poya to the Buddhist monks as an act of merit and to gain good Karma. The month is also called the Cheevara (Civara) Masaya – ‘Month of Robes’ or the Katina Masaya – ‘Month of Steadfastness’. Katina means ‘firm’, ‘strong ‘ or ‘solid’. Cheevara (or Civara) means ‘robe’.
Also known as the Vas (rain) season – this is a period of retreat where the monks stay indoors in their monastaries. Vap usually falls in October and is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. Buddhists all over the country visit Temples to observe Sil and make offerings of flowers and incense. As on all other Poya days the sale of liquor and meats is prohibited in this country and most commercial establishments are closed for business.
The Significance of Vap Poya
The ‘Vas’ retreat which begins on Esala Poya comes to an end on Vap Poya, and thereafter commences the ‘Katina’ period. This period lasts for the duration of a month until the next Poya (Il) in November. On Vap Poya ‘Katina Cheevara’ or new robes are offered by devotees of the Temples to Bhikkhus who observed the ‘Vas’ season and this is considered one of the most meritorious deeds in Buddhism. In fact the word ‘Katina’ means unbreakable and refers to the merit gained by offering this ‘Katina Cheevara’ to one of the Maha Sangha. It is taken in procession (Katina Perahera) along with other gifts from the laity to the Temple where the donation ceremony takes place.
Vap Poya was significant even during the life and times of Lord Buddha many centuries ago. It was on such a day that the Buddha ended a ‘Vas’ retreat for the seventh time since attaining Enlightenment. He had spent this time in the celestial abode of Tavatissa, where He had preached the Abhidhama to the deities headed by Matrudeva. He ended the retreat by descending near the gates of Sankassapura where he preached the Dhamma to devotees flocked there.
Also on a Vap Poya day many years later, after Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka, King Devanampiyatissa dispatched a delegation to India to meet Emperor Asoka. This delegation was led by Prince Aritta and included Ven. Mahinda Thera. The Emperor had inquired of the Thera if Buddhism had been successfully established in Sri Lanka, to which the prelate was able to truthfully provide an affirmative answer.
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