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Vassa, the annual three-month rains retreat practice to begin from today
The three-month long annual Vassa (rains retreat), a monastic retreat practiced by Theravada Buddhist monks, will kick-start on Tuesday, all around the globe.

During the Vassa, Buddhist monks remain in one place, typically in a vihara or a monastery and leave its grounds only when necessary. The Theravada Buddhist laypeople (Upasakas & Upasikas) show their devotion and appreciation by supporting their monks with food and other necessities.

Every year, the Vassa begins on the day of full-moon of Asalha month (July-August) and it concludes in October or November with the pavarana ceremony, in which every monk, irrespective of rank or seniority, agrees willingly to receive instructions from any other monk in the monastery, if he acts improperly. The lively `Kathina Civara Dana' (robe offering ceremony), in which groups of laymen present gifts to the monks, takes place during the first month, following the conclusion of Vassa.

Twenty-five centuries ago, there had long been a tradition of wandering mendicant, the Buddhist monks who took shelter in forests. Most of the time, Buddha and his disciples followed this tradition. They traveled in groups from village to village, offering teachings, receiving alms, and sleeping beneath the boughs of trees.

But, much of India had monsoon season then, just as it has today. Usually, the rains begin some time in June or July and continue till September or October. The incessant downpour didn't just make travel difficult for Buddha and his monks, but small animals that came out in the rains - leeches, snails, worms, frogs, would also get crushed underfoot. And occasionally, the monks travelling in the rains also damaged the newly planted rice paddies.

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