Day of Highest Merits: Celebrate Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Paranirvana on Saga (Saka) Dawa Duchen June 4, 2023
In the Vajrayana tradition, the most sacred day — the day of highest merits — is the 15th day in the Holy month of Saga Dawa. On this day, we celebrate the Birth, Enlightenment, and Paranirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha. All or our individual and collective merits are multiplied, every good deed and karmic imprint becomes “skies of merit.”According to the Vinaya Text Treasure of Quotations and Logic, all of our merits on this day are multiplied one hundred million times.
Saga Dawa Duchen is a day set aside to honor not only the birth (circa 563 B.C.), but also the enlightenment (528 B.C.), and the Parinarvana of Guatama Buddha (483 B.C.).
June 4, 2023 on Tibetan lunar calendar
In 2023, this day on the Tibetan calendar is June 4, 2023. This is the 15th day (full moon) of the 4th month on the lunar calendar. For Buddhists on the lunisolar calendar (many Mahayana and Therevadan’s Buddhists) this sacred date is honored earlier due to differences in the lunar calendar calculations. (See this feature on understanding the lunisolar calendar>>)
The entire 4th month is the Saga Dawa, the month merits, while the 15th day is the most sacred day of the year, traditionally a time when everyone becomes vegetarian at least for the day, and observes all of the precepts strictly. Any Dharma practices, from simple prayers, to offerings (real and imagined) to mantras and sadhanas are multiplied meritoriously.
For example, chant along with Yoko Dharma, this beautiful Shakyamuni Buddha mantra:
Saga Dawa Duchen: Recommended Activities
“Saga” is the name of the star prominent in the fourth month, while “Dawa” more or less means “merits.” So Saga Dawa is the name of the Month of Merits (the entire 4th lunar month, this year from May 20, 2023 to June 18, 2023. (In lunisolar calcalutated calendars, this would be almost one month earlier.)
“Duchen” more or less means “grand occasion” and is the day of great celebration and Dharma activity. In the entire year of 2023, on the Tibetan calendar, June 4 is the most important of all days in the year.
The day of the “Great Occasion” is the best day of the entire year for “making merit” for the benefit of all sentient beings. In addition to the 8 precepts, other activities recommended include:
- Strongly recommended by Lama Zopa: do a Shakyamuni Buddha Puja. There are long and short forms of this Puja, downloadable here from FPMT>>
- Reciting the Sutra Remembering the Three Jewels [For a feature on the benefits of reciting sutra out loud, see this special story>>]
- Your regular daily practices.
- Reciting sutras, such as Vajra Cutter Sutra, Sutra of Golden Light, and Sanghata Sutra
- Reciting other prayers, such as Chanting the Names of Manjushri, and King of Prayers
- Undertaking Nyung nes
- Performing self-initiation, for those who fulfilled the necessary prerequisites (normally only for people who have completed a particular retreat protocol and fire puja.)
- Performing Lama Chopa, and at either the beginning of the practice or during the lamrim section, you can meditate on emptiness
- Reciting the names of the Thirty-Five Buddhas, with prostrations
- Reciting Vajrasattva mantras
- Reciting OṂ MAṆI PADME HŪṂ with bodhichitta
- Meditating on emptiness and dependent arising
- Meditating on bodhichitta
- Practicing tonglen
- Liberating animals
- Listening to Dharma teachings (live or online is fine).
Jataka Tales — Celebrate with Your Children
Extensive Dharma practice may be difficult for toddlers and children, but it is still a good day, for example, to read (or view videos on) the Buddha’s previous lives, the Jataka Tales. For example:
For Adults: Taking the 8 Precepts for a Day
Anyone can benefit from taking the precepts of the Buddha. The late, great Lama Zopa recommended taking the full 8 precepts — the precepts of a monk or nun — for the day. Traditionally, lay disciples follow five of the precepts — but for the day they take can take all eight. This should be done in the early morning (earlier the better!) He explained:
“Taking the eight Mahayana precepts is a way to make life meaningful, to take its essence all day and night, by taking vows,” Lama Zopa Rinpoche has taught. “It is so simple. It is just for one day. Just for one day. It makes it so easy.”
Taking Refuge: Important Every Day
Before taking the Precepts for a Day, or before any Dharma practice, it’s always valuable to formally Take Refuge. We symbolize our Refuge in the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha by stating or chanting it out loud.
Chant along with the beautiful voice of Yoko Dharma:
 According to the Vinaya Text Treasure of Quotations and Logic, notes that on “Buddha Multiplying Days, karmic results are multiplied by one hundred million. See this feature with advice on this topic by the great Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the FPMT’s article on Lama Zopa’s Advice about “Buddha Multiplying Days.
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Author | Buddha Weekly
Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.