Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Thadingyut at Sektha Dittha nunnery

That Kya is one of the more famous nunneries in Myanmar. It is also known as Sektha Dittha. Sektha refers to the clan name of Gautama Buddha, and dittha is daughter, so the nunnery may be known as “Daughters of the Buddha.” The story of its founding is inspiring. One daughter greatly wished to become a nun, and three days after she did, both her parents did, followed by her brother sixteen days later. Except for her brother, the rest of the family has stayed in robes. In 1998, she, her mother, and her close friend wished to create a high quality nunnery. They connected with Dr. Hiroko Kawanami from Japan, who purchased land for the monastic site, and the renowned Sayadaw U Thiloka became their mentor, helping them to get the nunnery established. A beautiful photo of the three Burmese nuns hangs today in the room where visitors are received. Past visitors have remarked the degree of cleanliness found here, seen in the most careful of details such as how the sandals are perfectly arranged outside a hall.

The holiday seen in these photos is called Thadingyut, which marks the end of Buddhist Lent. Thadin refers to an observance, in this case, the observance of 8-10 precepts sīla; gyut means to be completed for finished. Thus, Thadingyut refers to the fact that the stricter following of 8-10 precepts during Buddhist Lent is over, and people begin to observe 5 precepts again. During this holiday new robes are again offered as they are at Waso, because by this time the intense rains have likely worn many of the old ones out.

Held on a full moon day that typically falls on September or October, it celebrates the time when Buddha descended from the heavenly realms to preach Abhidhamma. He had been teaching Celestial Beings—among them his own mother—in Tāvatiṃsa (the Abode of the Gods) for the duration of Lent, and as he ascended back to the world, the devas created three staircases made of gold, silver, and precious gems that spanned the sky stretching to earth, and lit up the entire universe. For this reason, the three-day holiday is today marked by illuminating the entire country with candles. Families will go to shrines, monasteries, caves, and pagodas and place candles on every surface, hence its name as Festival of Lights. In general, lights are thought to bring about a greater intellectual prowess, and during exam times in March many pagodas also become full of candles.

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