Wassana Kala or the rainy season from Esala (July/August) to Vap – (October/November) can be regarded as a four-month moratorium for Buddhist priests who observe methods of meditation to gain merit.
After his enlightenment, Buddha set apart this period for the monks to observe methods of meditation. Monks learnt the methods of mediation from the Buddha and observed the law of qualities, efficacy and moral philosophy at places where they sojourned during the Wassana Kala – the rainy season
These practices were observed by the community of monks and even today this is the opportune period for the monks to complete performances of religious duties and observances as prerequisites to Buddhaship, including the endurance of the suffering and privation of every kind and the loss of life itself in the discharge of those duties. Thus, during this period the aspirants of Buddahood and nibbhana observe ten seelaskandha – the whole body of moral and religious duties.
This is the period of the year when laymen too gain merit by ministering serving or attending to monks who observe methods of meditation and observing the law of qualities themselves. Thus this is the “Savwanak Pirisa” the Buddhist community or assembly of four kinds viz Bhikkhu-monks, Bhikkhuni-nuns, Upasaka – lay male devotees and uipasika –lay female devotees accumulate merit.
There are thirteen passion subduing ordinances to be observed by Buddhist priests. “Pansukulikangaya” – Rubbish heap ordinance, which enjoins the priests to wear robes made form cast off clothes on rubbish-heaps dunghills etc.
“The Cheewarikangaya” – Three robes ordinance which requires that the Buddhist priests dress shall be a particular kind and consist of three parts – “Andanaya” – under garment. “Thanipata Sivura” single robe and “Depata Sivura” double robe. Even when bathing no other robe or cloth should be worn.
“Pindapathikangaya” – Buddhist priests ordinance of mendicancy or begging with the bowl.
Sapadanachanikangaya – “Sa”- with “Padana” – alms, “Charika” itinerant, “Augaya” Section or ordinance, which requires the priests to procure food by begging from house to house.
“Ekasanikagaya” – Buddhist priests ordinance relating to the use of only one seat when eating offerings.
“Paththapendi kangaya” – “paththa” bowel “Puidika” – rice eating “angaya” – Section or ordinance, Ordinance which enjoins a Buddhist priest to take food only on one platter or bowl.
“Pasnchha Bhasleththi kangaya” (Bhaththika Angaya) After eating ordinance viz the ordinance which requires a Buddhist priest to take only one meal a day and that exactly at mid day.
“Aranya kangaya” Buddhist priest dwelling ordinance which requires the priests to reside in forests or solitary places.
“Rukhamuli kangaya” ordinance which enjoins upon the Buddhist priests always to lodge at the foot of a tree affords.
“Abbokasi kangaya” – Open air ordinance, viz the ordinance in Buddhism which requires monks to live altogether without shelter.
“Sassani kangaya” The ordinance of the Buddhist priest which enjoins devout meditation in a burial ground at midnight.
“Yathasaththa thikangaya” – “Yatha – as “Saththathika – spread, “Angaya” Section or ordinance.
Ordinance enjoining upon the Buddhist priests not to shift or alter the net or bed when spread out to repose on. As it is laid down so it must remain.
“Sajji kangaya” the ordinance requiring Buddhist priests not to lie down, but to sleep in a suiting position. Out of the four positions of the body the Buddhist priests who observe the passion subduing ordinances are required to sue only sitting, standing and walking positions and not the reclining posture. Further they should not confine to a single posture. For instance they should not be seated throughout, but should rotate. By going to observe this ordinance Chakkupala Thera who did not sleep lost his sight. He had not told anyone that he was observing passion subduing ordinances.
Bhikkhus or monks may observe all these thirteen passion – subduing ordinance but Bhikkhunis or nuns are allowed to observe only eight of them. They should not observe the other five ordinances as it is not convenient for them to observe these five ordinances. The observance of these five ordinances is not proper for Bhikkhunis.
Wassana Kala or the rainy season is the period when the clergy as well as the laymen engage in religious activities including Dana – Charity –Seela – Morals and Bhawana – Meditation. In Buddhist countries like Thailand and Myanmar students in educational institutions including schools are given holidays during the period to enable the students to engage in religious activities. In our country too religious activities are performed daily during the Wassana Kala.
Binara Full Moon day is of special significance to us in Sri Lanka because on this day that the annual religious festivals of Seruwawila Mangala Maha Seya is held. It is in Seruwawila that the Fore head Relic of Gauthama Buddha is treasured, Girihanduseya annual festival is also held on this day. Girihanduseya is sacred because the Hair relic brought to Sri Lanka by two merchant brothers Tapassu and Bhalluka is treasured.
When Gauthama Buddha was spending the seventh week after the Enlightenment under the Rajayathana Kiripalu tree two merchant brothers who came from the cities of Uthkala offered him “Aggala” sweet balls made of flour and honey. Buddha had given them hair relic which they brought to Sri Lanka and treasured in Girihanduseya built in the Eastern coast.