The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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This is reflected in the Buddha’s observation: ‘Rain sustains both slack and bold, as a mother nourishes her only child. The life of all earthbound creatures is sustained by the falling of the rain.’ (S.I,44).
He observed that rain falls in at least two different ways – in large drops (thulla phusitaka) as during a monsoon downpour, and in small scattered drops (ekaṃ ekaṃ) as when it is spitting (A.I,243; S.I,104). He said that the failure of the rains could be due to such things as heat, wind or the clouds being blown out over the ocean (A.III,241).
A drought (nidāgha or viṭṭhidubbuṭṭhi) was considered a disaster that could lead to famine and anarchy. Some ascetics preyed on peoples’ anxieties about the rains by claiming to be able to predict good or bad rainfall (D.I,11).
The cool gusts, high humidity and water lying everywhere meant that fevers, skin complaints and waterborne diseases were very prevalent during that time. It was during the rainy season that the Buddha contracted the illness that eventually led to his death (D.II,99).
For centuries before the Buddha it was the tradition amongst the different sects of wandering ascetics to stay put during this time, simply because muddy roads, flooded rivers and sheets of water everywhere made travel difficult.
Keeping the Rains (Vassaṃ Vasati, Vin.III,10) usually began the day before the waning moon of the month of Āsaḷha with a formal ceremony in which monks vowed to stay in a selected location for the next three month and the surrounding lay people promised to provide for their needs.