This week in Buddhism: Magha Puja or Sangha Day

by | Feb 17, 2024 | Blog

Coming up on 24th February 2024 is Magha Puja Day, or Sangha Day.

“Magha Puja, also known as Sangha Day, commemorates the occasion when one thousand of the Buddha’s followers gathered to hear a teaching together with 250 awakened followers of his principal disciples Mahakasyapa (Sanskrit; Pali, Mahakassapa), Sariputra (Sanskrit; Pali, Sariputta), and Maudgalyayana (Sanskrit; Pali, Mogallana). All 1,250 are considered to be in the Buddha’s direct lineage because they were considered awakened and had been ordained by the Buddha himself. The gathering, which took place in a grove near the city of Rajagaha, was unplanned and came together spontaneously on a full moon during the third lunar month, or Magha. “Puja” refers to practice, or ritual. 

The teaching given by the Buddha that day is said to be the Ovada Patimokkha Gatha, a series of verses admonishing monks to follow a path of righteousness.

The verses are recited in many ceremonies in Theravada Buddhism and include the following lines:

“Not doing anything evil,

Undertaking what is wholesome,

Purifying one’s mind,

This is the teaching of the buddhas.”

—Mahapadana Sutra, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism

Because Magha Puja marks the sangha’s auspicious beginning, it is known as Sangha Day. 

Laypeople are encouraged to meditate on the significance of the three jewels. 

Magha Puja is a time to earn merit, to clean one’s house (literally and figuratively), refrain from unprincipled behavior, and rededicate oneself to follow the precepts and practice earnestly. The festival is known for the lighting of lanterns, symbolizing hope and renewal, and is also known as the Lantern Festival.

Magha Puja is also known as the Fourfold Assembly because of the four wondrous things that it is remembered for: 

1. it took place on the full moon; 

2. the monks gathered without being summoned; 

3. all 1,250 monks were arhats, or fully enlightened beings; 

4. each had been ordained by the Buddha.”

Text Source: Tricycle, Buddhism For Beginners, Sangha Day

Chade-Meng Tan

Meng is an award-winning engineer, international bestselling author, movie producer and philanthropist. His work has been nominated eight times for the Nobel Peace Prize. (Read Meng's story)

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