December 21 Winter Solstice, Full Moon, Eclipse, Sanghamitta's Day
How we may delight in auspicious conjunctions.
Last night in Fremont, the clouds parted and showed deep dark sky and bright stars just for the time of the full moon lunar eclipse, on this the Winter Solstice, darkest time of the year. A beautiful time for standing and walking meditation outside, underneath the red gold moon. There is a feeling of connection to many others around the world and to very ancient Buddhist history in taking the full moon or the lunar fortnights or quarters as special time of practice; time to set our normal habits aside, to stop, look and listen deeply, to clear our hearts, be still and awaken.
Sanghamitta Theri Arriving in Anuradhapura
with Bhikkhuni Sangha and sacred Bo tree
3rd century BCE
This moon is a special one in Buddhist history, known as Undvap Poya to our Sri Lankan friends, for it is the lunar anniversary or commemorative day of the arrival of ancient Arahant Theri Sanghamitta from India to Sri Lanka, bringing the southern branch of the sacred Bo tree, and bringing the precious opportunity to ordain to the aspiring Sri Lankan women who awaited her, making the Fourfold Sangha complete.
The full ordination of Sri Lankan Queen Anula
and 500 companions with Sanghamitta Theri
The Bo tree that she brought survives in Anuradhapura still (some say the oldest living tree in the world), and it was a cutting from this tree that was used to bring back the Bodhi tree to its original home in at Bodhgaya in India, when the original tree passed away. The venerable lady Sanghamitta's newly rediscovered reliquary stupa just reopened as a place of Buddhist pilgrimage and meditation this past year (thanks to many of your participation), and the ordination lineage of the Bhikkhuni Sangha which she brought and dedicated her life to also still remains, now revived in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia, together with it first arising in the West. This day, in places given her name as "Sanghamitta Day," is celebrated in Sri Lanka as a day of special appreciation to women in Buddhism.
On this day, in which we feel the great cycles of our world and earthly embodiment, and the movement from going into the darkness to going into the light, i would like to appreciate, commemorate and celebrate all women in the Dhamma. All my bhikkhuni and upasika sisters both young and old, back to the most ancient of our enlightened foremothers, to those who travelled long and far and wide to share the Dhamma, to those to come. Like the passing of the lamp, the world's first known women's chronicle known to history, the Dipavamsa -- the lamp of our foremothers and forefathers kindled in their hearts by the Awakening of the Buddha, now touches our lives, burns brightly in our hearts -- and then passes on to the next generation.
In this time of great transition and great change in the world, in the great shifting of our planetary and cosmic cycles, it is especially important to touch into what is essential, deep and true in our being, to make our intentions clear, and dedicate ourselves to the illumination of our lives by them. That this may guide our course, both as individuals and collectively, into the future.
Shrine to Sanghamitta Theri and the Bo Tree
Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
I leave you now with a final bright image. Of standing and seeing and knowing all in the world, internal and externally, steady and balanced in oneself, giving in presence to oneself and to everyone and every thing that is met - that comes into the light of awareness.
Wishing all illumination of both dark and light,
and the peace of heart and mind that penetrates and sees through it all,
on this full moon Solstice,
Ayya Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni
the highest gift
Sabba Danam Dhamma Danam Jinati
The Gift of Dhamma Is the Highest Gift