Saga Dawa, or the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar, starts on May 23rd and ends on June 21st in 2020. The main days of celebration in 2020 are May 29, the day that the Buddha was born, and June 5th, when Buddha reached enlightenment and passed away (parinirvana). Saga Dawa is the most sacred month of the year in Tibetan Buddhism, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and parinirvana (death) of the Buddha, and it is believed that all positive and negative actions are multiplied by 100 million as a result.
Therefore Saga Dawa is called the ‘month of merits’ for Tibetan Buddhists. Dawa means ‘month’ and Saga or Saka is the name of a star prominent in the sky during the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar.
Traditionally, the holy day of Saga Dawa is observed through practice, generosity and the performance of meritorious deeds. So this month is especially dedicated to ‘making merit’. Merit is understood in many ways in Buddhism. We can think of it as the fruits of karma, especially when this brings us closer to enlightenment. The three grounds of meritorious actions are generosity, morality, and meditation, although there are many ways to make merit.
Sojin, the practice of life release, is commonly performed by purchasing animals that are destined to be killed (like worms, crickets or fish), and releasing them into their natural habitat with prayers and positive aspirations. The act of giving this way is believed to extend the practitioner’s lifespan and create positive circumstances.
The lighting of butter lamps is a common devotional practice. The lights are said to banish spiritual darkness as well as visual darkness. Donating oil lamp oil is another way to make merit, or giving to the poor. Another way to make merit is by not eating meat and not consuming alcohol.
I wish all of you a happy Saga Dawa, particularly now in this challenging time of Corona. You should do a lot of praying. Please respect everyone around you and the choices they make. It is a difficult time for all of us and we all have our personal wished, fears and challenges to deal with. Please keep respect, a calm mind and equanimity towards yourself and others. Next to that I would also like to kindly invite you to lessen or stop eating meat and consuming alcohol for one month, or for as long as you think you can handle. And please have extra respect for the environment you live in, for example less plastic and less pollution in general. Not only keep your mind clean from any garbage, but also your outer world.
Remember, Dharma practitioners should behave better than non-Dharma practitioners. Try to apply the teachings of the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva in your daily life. Recognize your faults, be humble, do not be selfish and be kind to others. Be a good human.
I wish you all the best this month. This means nonviolence, mental peace and to live a life more useful and meaningful.
Lama Jigmé Namgyal