The Holy month of Saga Dawa takes place in the fourth month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar. Its duration is marked from new moon to new moon which, in 2017 begins on May 26 and ends on June 24. It is a time of honouring the Buddhas life and is often referred to as the “month of merits”.
The word “Saga” denotes the name of a star prominent in the sky during this time and “Dawa” means month in Tibetan. It is a period in which the stars and planets are perfectly aligned in such a way that the internal energies of a person are allowed to flow freely into the external world thus, creating a synergy between man and the Cosmos.
Legend has it that the five major events of Buddha’s life occurred on the full moon nights of Saga Dawa; these being conception, birth, defeating evil forces, nirvana and paranirvana (death).
The Tibetans believe that the month of Saga Dawa is so sacred that the merits obtained by the performing of good deeds in this time is multiplied tenfold. It is often for this reason that we see a large increase in acts of charity and devotion, as well as commitments of sacrifice similar to those made by millions of Christians during the time of Lent.
The most popular action taken during this month is the that of giving – dana. Donations flood the local temples and the roads of Saga Dawa Duchen can often be seen with rows of beggars lined along the sides in expectations of receiving money.
Masses of pilgrims can be seen circumabulating local shrines or holy places as the murmur of mantras carry across the wind. Abstaining from killing animals and eating meat is also a common occurrence amongst the Tibetans as is the lighting of butter lamps to banish the spiritual darkness.
During Saga Dawa, laypeople often follow eight precepts on the particularly potent new moon and full moon days. These are:
- No killing
- No stealing
- No misusing sex
- No lying
- No abuse of intoxicants
- Eat only one meal before noon
- Avoid sleeping on a high, soft bed
- No jewellery or makeup
Whether as a devout Buddhist or spiritual observer, the month of Saga Dawa has played a significant role in the Tibetan’s cultural history. It is a reminder not only of the achievements of Buddha but also the importance of morality and integrity in a changing world.