Uposatha for layperson according to the theravadin tradition

Hello monks, nuns, upasaks and upasikas.
I wish to start obesrving Uposatha.
And I have read that theravadin tradition is the least diluted buddhist tradition.
So, Is there any way you can guide me with the details for observing Uposatha, in the Theravadin tradition, specificaly directed towards Upasak-upasikas?

6 Likes

The Theravada Buddhists tend to take Pali EBTs and associated commentaries as reference for their practice. Below I list some of the Pali EBTs on the topic of Uposatha. Note that in Ajahn @sujato’s most recent translations the term ‘sabbath’ is used instead of the original Pali.

AN8.43

AN3.70

AN9.18

There’s lots more to explore. The search below will help in case you want to dig deeper.

:anjal:

5 Likes

Hi @abhinava!

I rejoice in your aspiration!

I’ll let others give their own advice, but I think you may find this essay by Khantipālo on “Lay Buddhist Practice” a useful guide to the rituals and forms of Theravada Buddhism.

4 Likes

Thankyou! I will read the Suttas from the links you have provided.

1 Like

Thankyou! i will read the essay.

1 Like

It’s about keeping the 8 precepts, usually at a temple, for 24 hours. I don’t know anyone who has kept it going successfully!

2 Likes

Thankyou again!
I read the first three linked suttas you shared.
What i understand is:
Along with the 5 percepts we take everyday, other three are to be taken on Sabbath days.
Namely

  1. Avoiding untimely meals i.e. no meals past noon
  2. Sleeping on the ground on a mat just as the monks would
  3. Applying no effects.

And of course, How can i forget 4. meditation,
Thats a total of nine things.

Thankyou once again.

I have a question. What days are observed as Sabbath days?
I know that full moon and new moon days are to be included. Other than that, what days must i include?

2 Likes

You can find a calendar of observance days as followed by the Forest Sangha here in a couple of formats (if I understand correctly, the calculation of days may be slightly different by the Sri Lankan calendar…?). I also have converted it into an .ics and can post it if that is at all useful to you.

And while I’m here, just a coule of other notes:

I checked another guide to Buddhist observances and rituals, but it doesn’t say all that much about uposatha days. Nevertheless, what it does say is maybe helpful to some:

On moon days (indicated on all Buddhist Calendars), the practice of joiningother practitioners at the monastery, to take the Three Refuges and Five or Eight Precepts and meditate with members of the Sangha, can be both aninspiration to oneself, and supportive and encouraging to others. Even if one isunable to get out of the house, it is still uplifting to conduct one’s own puja, and to take the Refuges and Precepts before starting meditation.

To me, what’s particularly neat (and has the potential to be very powerful) about the first sutta Gabriel linked to, AN8.43, is the reflection it encourages in conjunction with taking precepts:

I, too, for this day and night will … observe the sabbath by doing as the perfected ones do

5 Likes

Hmm not sure if we’re careening into rites and rituals territory :thinking:.

Don’t quite understand this one Mat, it’s a factual note about the limitations of my knowledge about which days are observance days in response to the directly related question, when are the observance days… Pretty difficult to mark the days if you don’t know when they are.

2 Likes

It is all about what the community agrees. In the context of our modern 7 days week solar calendar, it could be once every 14 days, Saturday or Sunday, so as to not disturb one’s working or studying routines and commitments.

:anjal:

3 Likes

I was just commenting on @abhinava’s OP. When sila is something to ‘have’ all the time, to serve as a foundation for samadhi, I was commenting on the culture of ‘giving’ sila, ‘taking’ sila, and scheduling sila! :joy:. But, nevertheless there might be some people find this helpful.

2 Likes

Thankyou! The observance days chart, the link for which you shared, is very helpful.

2 Likes

Yes. That is one very important aspect. People in my community can’t find time to follow Uposatha days because

  1. The term is still new to many, and many who know it think of it as a mere fasting practice (which i feel it isn’t) because of its similarity to the term ‘upavasa’ ( fasting ) in my tongue.
  2. As you mentioned, it clashes with the working/ studying routines and other commitments.

Well, spreading awareness is all that can be done i guess :slight_smile:

2 Likes

I agree with you. While i have sila (pancasila) on all days, I think if i set some particular days aside to make the practice more rigorous by having atthasila and giving more time to meditation than usual, think it would serve as a foundation for me to be able to follow atthasila without any problem for more and more days in the future :slight_smile:

5 Likes

fwiw, when I was a lay person I did the observation every week on Sundays in my own apartment. It doesn’t have to be done on astrologically auspicious days or in a sacred building. The important thing is to take a whole day every week or two to invest in your own spiritual development :slightly_smiling_face:

10 Likes

Great way for initiation of practice for someone just starting out, someone like me.
Vandāmi Bhante! Thankyou!

4 Likes

Retreats are typically a week long and attendees keep it going successfully?

1 Like

One could argue that a modern form of uposatha are the meditation retreats, in which lay disciples remove themselves from their routine to hear, reflect and practice the teaching usually under guidance for a member of the bhikkhu or bhilkhuni sanghas.

It’s not rare for people nowadays to dedicate a total of 1-3 weeks a year to those retreats. Thus the total number of days people are dedicating to a more intense practice, an emulation of how arahants would live, ends up being quite the same as the lay disciples of EBTs used to dedicate back in the time of the Buddha.

:anjal:

4 Likes

Yes, they are! I have completed two 10 day vipassana retreats. I agree that they are a form of Uposatha. Retreats encourage an atmosphere where sila can be very easily maintained, and noble silence sustained throughout the duration of the retreat. This helps in better developement of samadhi and panna, compared to practicing at home. :slight_smile:

2 Likes