Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas & Vinaya

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Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas & Vinaya

Post by dylanj » Sun May 12, 2019 9:44 pm

Hello, so I take Uposatha observance very seriously in accordance with the Buddha's instructions to the Sakyans in AN 10.46. I understand that in the suttas the proper dates of observance is explained according to the ancient Indian lunar calendar & I read a bit about this calendar recently, as well as reading suttas such as SN 10.5 & AN 3.37 where the dates are named.

According to these suttas the observance is to be held on the 8th, 14th, & 15th days of the lunar fortnight.

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Per my understanding of the Buddhist Calendar, the quarter moon phases always fall on the 8th day. The full moon phase always falls on a 15th day, & the new moon phase falls on either the 14th (in which case the fortnight ends a day early & the lunar month becomes 1 day shorter) or 15th day, alternating between the two from month to month.

Image

By my understanding the classical observation of the Uposatha falls just on the new moon, quarter moon, & full moon days.

But according to these suttas where it says "fourteenth and fifteenth days", along with the 8th, it seems to me that the day prior to the full moon should also be observed since it is the 14th day, & on whichever case the new moon day falls on a 15th then the day prior to it, the 14th, should also be observed. None of these suttas say anything like "the fourteenth or the fifteenth days" or anything indicating that the 14th should only be observed when it is the day of the new moon, or that it should be excluded in the case of the fortnight leading up to the full moon.

The suttas also say that on the 8th day the ministers of the 4 Great Kings observe the world to see if humans are living righteously, on the 14th day their sons observe the world, & on the 15th day they themselves do it, & then report it back to the Tāvatiṃsa Devas. This is described in AN 3.37 which I mentioned above. So again this seems to suggest that the 14th day is to be observed even when it does not correspond to one of the lunar phases.

So is the classical method of observance only 4 times a month wrong? Am I missing something?

Now, to make things even more complicated, after saying to observe on the 8th/14th/15th day the suttas go on to say "...and during special fortnights", or in another translation, "...as well as on the fortnights of special displays". In an Āgama Sūtra, SA2 46, it says "...as well as on the during the fortnight when the spirits walk". It seems the relevant pāli word is pāṭihāriyapakkha. Can anyone tell me what all of this refers to?

Thanks. :anjali:


EDIT:


I found this in the Vinaya.
Now at that time monks, thinking: “The recital of the Pātimokkha on an Observance day is allowed by the Lord,” recited the Pātimokkha three times during the half-month—on the fourteenth, on the fifteenth and on the eighth (days) of the half-month. They told this matter to the Lord. He said:

“ Monks, the Pātimokkha should not be recited three times in the half-month. Whoever should (so) recite it, there is an offence of wrong-doing. I allow you, monks, to recite the Pātimokkha once in the half-month: either on this fourteenth or on the fifteenth (day).”
As far as I can tell this confirms the fact that there's 3 Uposatha days in a fortnight (except when there is no 15th day), inclusive of the 14th day. So for example the day of the full moon & the day prior to it are both observance days.
Last edited by dylanj on Sun May 12, 2019 11:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Born, become, arisen – made, prepared, short-lived
Bonded by decay and death – a nest for sickness, perishable
Produced by seeking nutriment – not fit to take delight in


Departure from this is peaceful – beyond reasoning and enduring
Unborn, unarisen – free from sorrow and stain
Ceasing of all factors of suffering – stilling of all preparations is bliss

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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas

Post by Virgo » Sun May 12, 2019 10:02 pm

dylanj wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 9:44 pm
Can anyone tell me what all of this refers to?
I do not know but I can tell you that there are roughly 30 days in a lunation. The Indians count these days as 1-15 from the new moon day (the conjunction of the sun and moon) to the full moon day (the opposition of the sun and the moon). They then count them as 1-15 again from the full moon to the next new moon when the cycle begins again. So this is 30 days total, but the lunar days are listed as 1-15, and then as 1-15 again. They make the distinction that the waxing moon (from the new moon to full moon) is shukla paksha (waxing phase), and the waning moon (from full moon to new moon) is called krishna paksha (waning phase). So for example, the 8'th day of krishna paksha, would be the 23'rd day of the lunar month, if you are using a calander that counts the lunar days as 1-30.

The new moon is the conjunction of the sun and moon from a geocentric (earth-centric perspective).

The 8'th day is the first square between the sun and moon.

The 15'th day is the opposition of the sun and moon.

The 23'rd day (or the 8'th day of the waning cycle) is the last square that the sun and moon make before the new moon.

I think the important part is simply observing the precepts. It is possible that these days were stressed because other religious holidays were held on these days so they were well known.

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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas

Post by mikenz66 » Sun May 12, 2019 10:25 pm

Astronomical clocks, such as the phases of the moon, were very easy for anyone to observe (until we started lighting up the sky in cities...). Hence their popularity. They could be used for holidays and observances without having to have a written calendar. Similarly with solstices (these are a little trickier to observe, but the Chinese New Year is [usually] the second new moon after the solstice, Thai used to be the 5th, but is now a fixed date). It wouldn't matter if people in different villages had slightly different opinions as to whether "tonight's the night", as long as they agreed locally. I don't think it's an accident that our week is 7 days, which is close to a lunar quarter (7.4 days).

With larger organisational units, written calendars became necessary to standardize the days, but I'm not sure if we should read anything magical into the standardization. For one thing, which days the phases fall on depends on where you live. Furthermore, a modern definition of a full-moon day (for example) may not match the ancient ones. Is it the day when the moon is full sometime between 0:00 and 24:00, or did they use mid-day to mid-day? I suspect they would have used the latter, as mid-day is something observable, whereas determining mid-night requires a clock...

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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas

Post by Virgo » Sun May 12, 2019 10:28 pm

The "fortnights of special displays" and so on, I think might refer to the times of eclipses. But those always fall on new or full moon days anyway (1,15) when the sun or moon are also within 12 degrees of the lunar nodes.

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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas

Post by dylanj » Sun May 12, 2019 11:27 pm

I found this in the Vinaya.
Now at that time monks, thinking: “The recital of the Pātimokkha on an Observance day is allowed by the Lord,” recited the Pātimokkha three times during the half-month—on the fourteenth, on the fifteenth and on the eighth (days) of the half-month. They told this matter to the Lord. He said:

“ Monks, the Pātimokkha should not be recited three times in the half-month. Whoever should (so) recite it, there is an offence of wrong-doing. I allow you, monks, to recite the Pātimokkha once in the half-month: either on this fourteenth or on the fifteenth (day).”
As far as I can tell this confirms the fact that there's 3 Uposatha days in a fortnight (except when there is no 15th day), inclusive of the 14th day. So for example the day of the full moon & the day prior to it are both observance days.
Born, become, arisen – made, prepared, short-lived
Bonded by decay and death – a nest for sickness, perishable
Produced by seeking nutriment – not fit to take delight in


Departure from this is peaceful – beyond reasoning and enduring
Unborn, unarisen – free from sorrow and stain
Ceasing of all factors of suffering – stilling of all preparations is bliss

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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas & Vinaya

Post by mikenz66 » Mon May 13, 2019 1:16 am

I think our local Sri Lankan Monastery observes these "extra" days, but it was never explained to me what they were... :thinking:


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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas & Vinaya

Post by Volo » Mon May 13, 2019 2:37 am

dylanj wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 9:44 pm
Now, to make things even more complicated, after saying to observe on the 8th/14th/15th day the suttas go on to say "...and during special fortnights", or in another translation, "...as well as on the fortnights of special displays". In an Āgama Sūtra, SA2 46, it says "...as well as on the during the fortnight when the spirits walk". It seems the relevant pāli word is pāṭihāriyapakkha. Can anyone tell me what all of this refers to?
There seems to be several explanations in the commentaries (all VBB's translations):

VBB in his translation of SN (p. 478, n. 574) says:
And during special periods (pātihāriyapakkhañ ca). Spk explains this as if it meant the days proximate to the Uposatha: “This is said with reference to those who undertake the Uposatha observances on the seventh and ninth of the fortnight too (in addition to the eighth), and who also undertake the practices on the days preceding and following the Uposatha on the fourteenth or fifteenth (the full-moon and new-moon observance days). Further, following the Pavāraṇā day (see n. 513) they observe the Uposatha duties continuously for a fortnight [Spk-pṭ: that is, during the waning fortnight].” Different explanations of the expression pātihāriyapakkha are given at Mp II 234 and Pj II 378.
Pj II 378 (commentary on Snp):
On the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth of the fortnight: having observed the uposatha with its eight factors on these three days; and during special periods.1306 These five months are called the special periods: the month of Āsāḷha, which precedes entry upon the rains retreat, the three months of the rains retreat, and the month of Kattika (following the rains retreat).1307 But others say it is just these three months, Āsāḷha, Kattika, and Phagguna. Still others say they are four additional days in each fortnight, the days preceding and following the actual uposatha days of the fortnight, that is, the thirteenth, the first day of the new fortnight, the seventh, and the ninth. One may accept whichever interpretation one wants.
Mp II 234 (commentary to AN):
Pāṭihāriyapakkha. Mp says that they undertake a continuous uposatha observance for the full three months of the rains (antovasse temāsaṃ); if they cannot manage this, they should observe it for a full month after the rains, between the two invitation days, or at least for a two-week period following the first invitation day. The “invitation” (pavāraṇa) is the occasion, at the end of the rains, when bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs “invite” (pavāreti) their fellows to point out any faults in their behavior during the rains. Spk I 307,9–16, commenting on pāṭihāriyapakkha at SN 10:5, I 208,27, explains the term in a broader sense (see CDB p. 480, note 573).
Concerning the observance of uposatha on 14th day when full moon is on the 15th is interesting. At the beginning I was thinking to say that there is only one "ca" ("and") in "cātuddasī pañcadasī aṭṭhamī ca pakkhassa", which would mean it refers only to 8th ("14th, 15th and 8th of the fortnight" not "14th and 15th and 8th of the fortnight"), but the Vinaya passage you've quoted would probably refute this. In any case following uposatha both on 14th and 15th days would definitely be even more beneficial.

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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas & Vinaya

Post by salayatananirodha » Tue May 14, 2019 4:29 am

week of may 26 - june 1, when do i keep it? should the eighth day not always fall on a quarter?
the full moon is always the 15th day? does a day begin at midnight or is it different?
i'd like to be as faithful as possible to the observance times but i am not sure how to do this
definitely want more information on the special observance days, more than speculation
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas & Vinaya

Post by Virgo » Tue May 14, 2019 6:29 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 4:29 am
week of may 26 - june 1, when do i keep it? should the eighth day not always fall on a quarter?
the full moon is always the 15th day? does a day begin at midnight or is it different?
i'd like to be as faithful as possible to the observance times but i am not sure how to do this
definitely want more information on the special observance days, more than speculation
Some calendars may list one lunar day per calendar date but that is actually not how lunar days work. They do not begin at sunrise or at midnight, etc. They can actually begin at any time of the day or night based on whenever the new moon happens to fall (which begins the lunar month). Lunar time does not follow solar time. There are roughly 12 lunations in a calendar year but they do not correspond directly with solar months. A solar month also takes around 30 days because the sun moves roughly 1 zodiacal degree per day, and takes roughly 365 days to complete a full cycle around the zodiac. That is why we use an adjusted solar calendar. It is a kind of compromise between solar time and lunar time. Other cultures also used similar approaches.

In any event, the main point is the take the 8 precepts. If you wish to know exactly when a lunar day begins your best bet is to use software which calculates it. This is one example: https://vedictime.com/en/tools/calendar. Once you have clicked on the date, click on the tithi to see the lunar date. Each bubble represents when either the weekday, lunar day, half-lunar day or karana (no need to really pay attention to that), nitya yoga, or the moons nakshatra or celestial mansion change. Just look for the tithi and click on it to be taken a table of lunar dates. Don't forget to set your location. To do that click on the settings icon in the lower-left corner.

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Re: Uposatha Observance Days According to the Suttas & Vinaya

Post by dylanj » Thu May 16, 2019 12:47 am

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Someone from discourse.suttacentral had this on the matter of the special observances in the āgama version
Born, become, arisen – made, prepared, short-lived
Bonded by decay and death – a nest for sickness, perishable
Produced by seeking nutriment – not fit to take delight in


Departure from this is peaceful – beyond reasoning and enduring
Unborn, unarisen – free from sorrow and stain
Ceasing of all factors of suffering – stilling of all preparations is bliss

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