Wazo, the Rain Retreat is the Buddha’s way of conserving and preserving natural environment.
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day 5 June 2017 celebrated across the world is “connecting People to Nature”.
It was exactly the same theme “Connecting the People to Nature” when Lord Gotama Buddha prescribed Wazo Rain Retreat for his monk disciple followers. Previously, Buddhist monks were free to move about at anytime, anywhere in all seasons of the year, until public complaint reached the Buddha. In their free movements especially in the rainy season when farmers were busy with their cultivating activities in the fields and when all living world is fully alive with flora and fauna in nourishing showers free movements of Buddhist monks caused in inadvertent unintentional annoyances and damages. The farmers had to stop their work to pay respect and donate food to the monks. The moving monks unknowingly and accidentally step upon creatures coming out and creeping about from the wet soil, some die under their or some crippled.
When the Buddha heard the public outcries about these accidents, he was obliged to prescribe a monk discipline to restrict the movements of them in rainy season. Thus appeared Wazo Vows for Rain Retreat. Every monk was required to take the vow at the assembly of monks of the same monastery that he would reside at the monastery of his residence and would not go out or move about outside of the monastic compound during the period of three monsoon months Wazo, Wakhaung and Tawthalin [July, August and September respectively]. If unavoidable circumstances or situation occurred that required his stay outside the residential monastery and his movement away from the compound, he was required to beg for leave of absence not more than seven days from the Abbot Monk of the monastery. On failure of making that formal request for leave of absence, he immediately suffers from the sin of breaking Wa Vow . Losing all his ordained years and the right to receive Kathein robe offering.
Wa vows have the beneficial impact upon the education of the monks. During rain retreat monks could devote whole time to learning Pariyatti and practicing Patipatti and Pariveda —the three Sasanas of Buddhism —learning, Practicing and promoting.
Farmers could devote themselves to agricultural activities unannoyed by the sight of monks. Flora and fauna old and new safely enjoy their lives under monsoon showers.
Wazo Rain Retreat is Lord Buddha’s way of connecting People [clergy and laity] to Nature.
Dhammacakya Sutta discoursed on the fullmoon night of Wazo by Lord Gotama also bears profound natural environmental significance.
King Sudhodara of Kapilavatthu kingdom gathered all Brahmin Priests who were Raja gurus [Royal advisers] to his audience. He presented his baby son Prince Siddhartha and asked them to read his horoscope [Record of Birth Day] and predict his future. All guru Brahmins carefully examined the horoscope referring to all veda treatises. One by one they gave their prediction to the King each showing two fingers.
‘’Your Imperial Majesty, I’m happy to tell you the result of my examination. Either your son would grow up to succeed your throne and become a Universal monarch or he would renounce his mundane life to become a forest recluse and eventually become Buddha. “I could not let my son leave the palace and become Buddha. I want him succeed me to throne and become chacravan [Universal monarch]. Could you make some means of keeping my son in the palace and succeed me to the throne?”
“Oh yes, your Imperial Majesty. Just build three palaces for three seasons Yama, Thuba and Thuyama and surround your son with all attractions and pleasures of palace life. Let him always get caught up in the defilements of mundane life”.
The King then turned to the last Brahmin guru, Kondinya, the most junior in age and service and asked.
“What about you young Brahmin guru?”
Showing only one forefinger of his, the youngest Brahmin guru replied.
“Your Imperial Majesty, after I have thoroughly examined your son’s horoscope and checked with all veda treatises I obtained one and the only one answer. That is that your son would definitely become a Buddha. He would never succeed you to the throne. I am a faithful royal guru who speaks truth, the who truth nothing but truth. I do not tell what your Imperil Majesty wishes to hear that your son would succeed you to the throne so that I get royal favour. Here are the exact dates of events of your son’s life. Your son would get married and had a son born. By the age of 29 years after seeing the four visions —the Aged, the Infirmity, the Dead and Forest Recluse, he would renounce his mundane life to become a recluse in the forest. After six years of austerity practices in the Uruvala Forest, he would attained Buddhahood at the age of 35 years. He would give his first sermon to the five forest recluses in the Migara Wunna Dear Park. Next he would continue his dhamma duta his teachings journey home and abroad for 45 years. Then at the age of 80 he would pass away and attain Nivarna —Escape from the Samsara the cycle of births and rebirths and all sufferings and cravings to reach the end of body and soul.”
Your Imperial Majesty, you may punish me for not answering what you wish to hear that your son succeed you. I was a faithful royal guru, to speak the truth. Now I resign my post of royal guru. I shall go to the Uruvala forest to become a forest recluse and wait for your son as Buddha to come to Migara Wunna Dear Park for his first sermon Dhammacakya Sutta which I shall hear.
So saying the youngest raja guru Brahmin Kondinya left the palace. No peace, no truth of Dhamma could be obtained at the capital, in the Palace where daily life was surrounded by defilements. Only in the forest where there is green natural environment where one’s body and soul can get bliss of solitude and peace.
The entire Dhammacakya Sutta has been translated into Myanmar and English and published by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar Government. Here a summary is given to emphasize the importance of the middle way of living [Majjhima Patipada] and significance of green natural environment for the middle way of living. After six years of his quest for truth [dhamma] by practicing austerities, recluse Prince Siddhartha discovered it. While in the Uruvala Forest he and other five forest recluses searching for truth promised to one another to tell one another if he had found out the truth. Therefore forest recluse Prince Siddhartha on becoming enlightened as Gotama Buddha was obliged to tell the truth [dhamma] he had discovered to the five forest recluses (1). Kondanya (2). Wappa (3). Baddiya (4). Mahanama and (5). Assaji.
The middle way [Majjhima Patipada] avoids the two extremes (1). Kamasu khalika nuyogo [Hedonism] on one hand and (2). Atta kilamathanuyogo [self-mortification] on the other. Both these two extremes are wrong because they lead to no truth. The middle way only leads to truth.
There are four noble Truths
(1) Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, illness is suffering and death is suffering. Associatiaon with those we do not love is suffering. Separation from those we love is suffering and not getting what we desire is suffering.
(2) The origin of suffering is craving.
(3) Suffering can be ended and Nivarna can be attained.
(4) The way to stop craving and end suffering is to follow the eight fold path [Maga] which Gotama Buddha teaches as follow.
(1) Right View
(2) Right thought
(3) Right Speech
(4) Right action
(5) Right Livelihood
(6) Right Effort
(7) Right Mindfulness and
(8) Right concentration.
At the behest of Maha Brahma “Sahanpati” Gotama Buddha sat calmly under the Sal trees in the deer park in Migara Wunna Forest in the evening of the fullmoon of Wazo when gold yellow coloured round Moon rose above the foliage and shed its rays on earth Lord Buddha began his discourse on Dhammacakya Sutta. Not only Five Forest recluses but also all Brahmas, devas and sentient beings of the whole Universe gathered to listen to the Sermon.
Next on the 5th waning moon of Wazo the Buddha discoursed on Anatta Lakkhana Sutta.
Having heard and thoroughly understood these two Suttas the five as cartic forest recluses became arahat [saint monk] one after another on the following consecutive days. The first as cartic forest accluse to become saint monk was Kondanna. These five arahat saint monks formed the first Sangha order to impart Buddha’s dhamma [Truth] to all sentient beings. Because all five ascetic forest recluses became monks in the month of Wazo. Myanmar people made the tradition of the Festival of Ordination of monks in Wazo. Wazo full moon day is commemorated as Dhammacakya Sutta Day by Myanmar Buddhist across the country by reciting the Sutta and expounding it to the audience.
Today, Migra Wunna, the deer Park Forest is well maintained by the Indian Government for Buddhist pilgrimage tourism as well as natural environmentalists across the world. Well conserved and preserved, the entire park is made free from all polutions. No industries, no emissions in its vicinities. You walk on foot or buttery charged wheel chains are provided for the needy. Many land marks and memorials of the Dhammacakya Sutta are well preserved to retain the original atmosphere of those days when this first sermon was delivered.
After the visit you return home not only with the essence of the sermon in your heart and soul but also that of green natural environment for the sustainability of our planet Earth with all living beings inhabiting on it.