Sangha Day (usually in February)
This festival is also known as Fourfold Assembly or Magha Puja Day.
Sangha Day is the second most important Buddhist festival. It is a celebration in honour of the Sangha, or the Buddhist community. For some Buddhists Sangha refers only to monks and nuns. It is a chance for people to reaffirm their commitment to Buddhist practices and traditions.
In Theravada Buddhism, the Sangha is the order of Buddhist monks and nuns, but Sangha can also refer to the wider Buddhist community. The word 'sangha' istelf means 'community', 'assembly' or 'congregation'. Sangha Day is also known as Magha Puja Day.
Its origins date back to the sermon a Buddha gave at the Veruvana Monastery to over 1000 enlightened disciples all of whom had gathered together without prior notice. There, the Buddha outlined the rules of monastic discipline later written down to become the Vinaya Pitaka, scriptures which outline the rules monks and nuns need to abide by.
Sangha Day seems to be a celebration more prominent in the West than the east and is a time for gathering together, exchanging gifts and renewing one's commitment to the Buddhist way of life. Many Buddhist communities will gather together on this day and undertake a variety of activities including meditation, discussion, readings from the scriptures, chanting and simply socializing.
The Three Jewels
The Sangha is also the third of the three jewels of Buddhism, the other two being the Buddha and the Dhamma. The symbolism of a jewel is obvious in that it signifies how precious each of these three elements are. The Buddha is precious because he is an individual who gained enlightenment and was willing to guide others to gaining enlightenment too. The teachings are precious too because they are a means of understanding what one needs to do to gain enlightenment. Finally, the Sangha is precious because it is through the support of the spiritual community that commitment to practice can be sustained.
On Sangha Day many Buddhists will review this commitment by reciting the three refuges:
I go for refuge to the Buddha
I go for refuge to the Dhamma
I go for refuge to the Sangha.
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