The month of Saga Dawa is one of the most important in the Buddhist Calendar. It starts from the new moon of the fourth month ending with the full moon of the next month.
This year Saga Dawa is from May 23 to June 21. The most special day of this month, June 5th, is the full moon day or 15th day called Saga Dawa Duchen. In Tibetan, “Duchen” means great occasion. All virtuous deeds during this time are multiplied 100,000 times.
Saga Dawa honors and celebrates the three main events in Buddha Shakyamuni’s life:
1) The Birth of Buddha in Lumbini, also known as Vesak in Asia
2) Buddha’s Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya
3) Buddha’s Parinirvaṇa (death)in Kushinagar
During Saga Dawa, especially, we honor the Buddha’s life events by accumulating merit through virtuous deeds and generosity.
This is an excellent time to consider the merit and virtuous deeds of Shakyamuni Buddha as well of all who have responded to the coronavirus crisis. Phakchok Rinpoche says “Practitioners should take advantage of all opportunities to increase the accumulation of merit easily and swiftly”.
These past few months have been sad and frustrating for people all over the world. Throughout the world people have been participating in overcoming the virus either through working as health care professionals, supporting the community by maintaining services, or seriously changing behavior to reduce contagion. Many have experienced hardships in doing so.
As we do with the Buddha, we can rejoice in the merit accumulated by doctors, nurses, every type of health care workers and all the people working to support the economic, transport, and public infrastructure systems. For those of us house bound, don’t forget that your willingness to abide by these constraints is also an act of consideration and virtue. We can honor all these activities by acknowledging our gratitude and dedicating the merit.
Daily recitation of the practice of Buddha Shakyamuni: “Treasury of Blessings” brings immense benefit. This practice honors the Buddha’s wisdom and compassion and is a source of inspiration for the accumulation and dedication of merit.
There are several ways to accumulate even more merit. Traditionally the most important were making pilgrimages, visiting monasteries, holy places, and great masters. But with the corona virus being so widespread these customary deeds are not possible for most of us. Instead, as Tulku Migmar advises, we can rely on other traditional methods of generosity- helpful deeds in the community and donations of money and goods to dharma centers. Donations to community services and to those compromised by the virus are equally virtuous.