Holidays and Regular Observances

Are there cyclical observances or feasts that occur regularly but not just once a year?

During each lunar month, many Buddhists observe four “moon” days called uposatha. These are the full moon days, new moon days, and days midway between them, or the 1st, 8th, 15th, and 23rd of the month. Originally important as fast days in ancient Hindu practice, Buddhists now attach ceremonies to them somewhat the way Christians do to Sundays, Jews to Saturdays, and Muslims to Fridays. Lay Buddhists in some countries still regularly congregate in the local temple for a time of heightened religious discipline. Rituals include listening to a monk preach, meditating, and praying as monks chant the scriptures. Some devotees seek to gain spiritual merit by observing eight, rather than the usual five, precepts during that day. Monastic life singles out the new and full moon days. Monks assemble then to recite the rules of monastic discipline from a text called the Pratimoksha. They also engage in a communal confession of faults not unlike the traditional practice known as the “Chapter of Faults” in some Christian religious orders and monastic communities. After the monks recite each prohibition in the Pratimoksha, they pause to allow individuals to admit any transgression. Some Buddhists engage in fasting on new and full moon days, emulating the monastic practice of taking no food between noon and breakfast the following day.


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