Nikini Full Moon Poya Day marks the beginning of the Vassana kala or the rainy season of the year which the Bhikkhus spend in a retreat-particularly an abode with a roof and a door and devote more of their time for the observance of religious practices and preaching the Dhamma to the lay devotees who attend to them as sanctioned by the Buddha who spent in the Deer Park of Issipathana, the first Vassana Kala following his great Enlightnment. The Nikini Full Moon Poya is of great significance in the Buddhist calendar. According to Buddhist history, many significant events had taken place on the Nikini Full Moon Poya day. The Enlightened One preached the importance of maintaining discipline among Bhikkhus. It is a two way process between Bhikkhus and laymen.
The link between the two segments is considered as a golden thread which binds them together.The month of Esala falls before the Nikini Poya. The rainy season or the Vassana season commences with the month of Esala. During this period Bhikkhus stay indoors and laymen get the opportunity to meet them and discuss various matters pertaining to religion.
As the Nikini Full Moon Poya and the Vas Season (rain retreat) fall together, Nikini Poya could be considered the beginning of Vas season. As a mark of respect to the Nikini Poya, devotees conduct various Vas pinkamas during the Poya season.
The picture is one of the 7 Sattapanni Caves, where the First Buddhist Council was held ~ 483 BC. A huge wooden hall was built outside the cave to house the 500 Arahants. This was built by King Ajatasattu, who tried to do some good after having killed his father the good king Bimbisara, King of Magadha
The world renowned Kandy Perahera or the religious pageant of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth is conducted to coincide with the Nikini Full Moon Poya. which falls on August 8. The Adi Nikini Poya also falls during August. Therefore, the month of August this year can be considered as a great month for Buddhists as there are two Full Moon Poya days this month.
After delivering the first Dhamma sermon Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta, the great wheel of Dhamma, to the five ascetics Kondanna, Vappa, Baddhiya, Mahanama and Assaji, the Buddha stayed at the Deer Park, Issipathanarama.
The incident took place on Nikini Full Moon Poya Day.At the end of the rainy season, devotees offer 'Vassika Satakaya' to Bhikkhus. It is known as Katina Cheevaraya.
The greatest female devotee Visakha attained 'Sotapanna' - stream-enterer, the first of the four stages towards the realisation of liberation, leading to Arahatship at the tender age of seven years.
Visakha Maha Upasika with the permission of the Blessed One, provided robes to Bhikkhus during the Vas season.
The devotees also offered alms and looked after the necessities of Bhikkhus. This took place during the Nikini period.
It was on the Nikini Full Moon poya day, the first ever Buddhist convention took place at Sattapanni Rock Cave, under the patronage of Mahakassapa Thera.
There were 499 Bhikkhus at the beginning and Ven. Mahakassapa Thera kept the 500th seat vacant for Ven. Ananda Thera. The day before the Convention Ananda Thera attained Arahatship.
Nikini poya is ranked second only to Vesak, since it marks the first council of 500 Bhikkhus. The first council plays a vital role in paving the way for a new tradition.
The traditional Vas retreat is performed in two ways. Bhikkhus who are unable to observe Vas on the previous poya day do so on Nikini poya day and it is known as Pera Vas Samadanweema. Bhikkhus unable to observe Vas on Nikini Poya day is said to be called Pasu vas Samadanweema.
The period beginning with vassana is an eventful period of great faith which creates a special religious awakening among the devotees making a tremendous impact on their moral lives. Vassana remains a very important one for devout Buddhists who await the dawn of the Vassana season to engage in religious activities and gain merit.
They invite the Maha Sanga to observe Vas through the Vas Aradhana Pinkama. It is the responsibility of the Dayaka Saba to look after the Sanga complying with their requests.
In Sri Lanka, Buddhists celebrate the Nikini Full Moon Poya on a grand scale. Unlike in urban areas, Buddhists in remote areas celebrate the Nikini Poya by conducting meditation campaigns, flower distribution campaigns, Dhamma sermons, pinkamas and also cultural pageants such as peraheras.