Venerable LuangPhor sir, how should Buddhists carry themselves during the Buddhist Lent season so that they can achieve the maximum merit?
by Venerable Dhattajeevo Bhikku
During the Buddhist Lent season, new and seasoned monks reside together in one place.This arrangement of having monks reside together in one place provides an auspicioussituation for the laypeople. In what way? The right field of merit is present and available to the laypeople. The laypeople, ranging from grandfathers to grandmothers, will not allow these monks to enter the Lent season on their own. The laypeople will join together and enter the Lent season too, but in the manners and protocols suited for laypeople.
Three important Dhamma tenets of Buddhism
Avoid evil deedsDo wholesome deedsPurify your mind
During the rain retreat, monks also have the duties of relinquishing all his bad habits. These are not the misdeeds similar to those of laypeople. Relinquishing one’s bad habits here means ceasing one’s defilements. You’re not able to recognize some of these things as being bad habits from the prespective of a layperson. For instance, having a distracted mind or a mind always lost in thoughts is considered a defilement because it is a bad habit that exists in a monk’s mind even though most people do not recognize it. Even if no one recognizes it, a monk will cease this distraction of the mind by meditating even more to reach a higher level of purity of the mind. He will continue to relinquish these defilements, or refined bad habits, in order to be a better monk while increasing his good deeds at the same time.
At the temple, seasoned monks are able to teach, mentor, and give sermons to the new monks. The newly ordained monks will be able to acquire more knowledge. These new monks will be focused and determined in acquiring more knowledge and goodness, and ultimately increase the wholesomeness within themselves. They will continue to purify their minds. They will rise in the early hours of each day, around 4 am, to chant and meditate.
Now as for the laypeople, when the Buddhist Lent season begins, they will make resolutions that are similar to those made by our ancestors. What kinds of resolutions are made? "For the next three months, during the rain retreat, I resolve to quit at least one of my bad habits or practices. I will better myself by ceasing bad habits and behaviors." For instance, those who drank alcohol can make the resolution to completely stop the consumption of any alcohol during the rain retreat. Those who smoked can resolve to quit smoking entirely during the rain retreat. These are examples of resolutions that laypeople can make during the rain retreat, in order to cease bad habits, whether they are refined or crude. The goal is to stop any prior bad habits. This is done to closely follow and mirror what monks are doing, except on the level of laypeople.
You continue to do even more good deeds than you did before. For instance, before the Lent season started, you may have given alms to monks inconsistently. Previously you gave alms when you had the opportunity, and you didn’t on days when you felt too lazy. If that was the case, then monks who are residing together are now available to receive alms. During this season, be determined to give alms to monks every morning. Before you may have given alms only on weekends or Buddhist holy days, but for this season make the resolution to give alms to monks every morning for the next three months of the Lent season, since all the monks are present together in one place to receive them. This was what our forefathers used to do.
For some people, this can be carried even further. If you regularly observed the five precepts, you can now observe the eight precepts on Buddhist holy days, increasing from five to eight precepts. If you regularly observed the eight precepts on every Buddhist holy day, you can now observe it on the day before the Buddhist holy day too. This increases from one day to two days per week. While others can do even more, by resolving to observe the eight precepts for the entire three months of the rain retreat.
Increase your level of faith accordingly too, from wherever it may have been. There are those who will go above that. In addition to observing the eight precepts for the entire Buddhist Lent season, they may even resolve to meditate every day, each evening before bed for a minimum of one hour. Those who have never done this can make the resolve to meditate for at least one hour each night. Those who are already doing this can increase that amount to two or three hours per day. Do it according to the purity and strength of your faith. This was what our ancestors did before.
There’s another thought that I would like to leave everyone with. There have been a lot of changes in today’s society. Most people normally do not work on Saturday or Sunday. The monks at our temple normally give sermons on the day before the Buddhist holy day. If this is the case, do you think that only elder laypeople are going to be there to listen to sermons on the day before the Buddhist holy day?
Now that we are in the Buddhist Lent season, I would like to remind all the venerable monks that it would be virtuous if Saturday and Sunday were included as days when sermons and Dhamma are given to laypeople, since they are already off work on these days. As for the laypeople, please remember to attend these sermons and Dhamma now that our venerable monks have agreed to include Saturday and Sunday during this Lent period, along with the days before the Buddhist holy days, to give their sermons. If you attend these sermons diligently, there can only be merit waiting during the entire Lent period. Then the growth and progression of oneself, Buddhism, and the country of Thailand, will increase throughout the year and continuously.