The Buddha gives the Ovadapatimokkha discourse to the assembly of Arahats on Magha Puja day
Not long after Moggallana and Sariputta had been admitted as monks the Buddha held a meeting of the Order on the full moon day of the third lunar month at the Bamboo Grove Monastery in Rajagaha. This meeting of the Order was recognized by later Buddhists as a great event, and the day has become an important Buddhist holiday known as agha Puja Day.
The meeting of the Buddha's disciples on this day was unlike any other meeting convened during the Buddha's time in that each of the 1,250 monks in attendance had been ordained personally by the Buddha himself; they had all the same preceptor. All were Arahats. Each had come spontaneously to the meeting without prior appointment. And on that day the Buddha gave the Ovadapatimokkha discourse. Thus the meeting of the Order held on that day is also called the caturangasannipata-the meeting with the four special features.
At that time Rajagaha was a center of the state of Magadha. When the Buddha went to stay there the monks who had separated in order to spread the teaching, hearing where the Buddha was, all went there to meet him. Since more than a thousand monks had gathered there, the Buddha called the meeting and gave the Ovadapatimokkha address.
The Ovadapatimokkha is a brief synopsis of the principles of the Buddha's teaching, containing both injunctions and principles for administration of the Order. There are thirteen points in all. They include: Buddhism teaches the giving up of evil, the cultivation of the good, and the purification of the mind; the highest of all teachings is Nibbana, the cessation of defilements and transcendence of suffering; a monk must be restrained, moderate in eating, patient, not disparaging others, not harming others.
At this time, the Buddha had not yet formulated the monastic discipline for administering the Order because no damage had yet arisen in that regard. Thus he only laid down the principles for administering the Order in brief. In illustration, not so many years ago Thailand had no state constitution (rath thammanoon), but instead a manifesto (thammanoon) of principles for government. This thammanoon may be compared to the Ovadapatimokkha. The constitution (rath-thammanoon) for governing the kingdom may be compared to the Vinaya, the rules of discipline, determined by the Buddha in the later time of his administration.
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