The month of merit: Saga Dawa, celebrating Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Paranirvana — be generous, moral and practice often

“The most important month in the Tibetan lunar calendar is Saga Dawa, the 4th lunar month which runs from May 23rd up until June 22nd, 2020. The 15th day of this lunar month, the full moon day, is called Saga Dawa Düchen (Düchen means “great occasion”). In 2020, Saga Dawa Düchen falls on Friday, June 5th. This day is the single most important holy day of the year for Tibetan Buddhists.

Saga Dawa Düchen commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana of our perfect and most supreme teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni. In other Buddhist traditions this occasion is known as Buddha Purnima, or Buddha Day and is celebrated slightly earlier than Saga Dawa as it is based off of a different lunar calendar. Last year we honored this auspiciously great occasion at the Buddhist Institute with an inter-tradition gathering that brought together Venerable’s and fellow Dharma brothers and sisters from four different Buddhist temples. We may be from different tradition’s, however we all follow and praise the same foremost teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni.” — from Universal Compassion Website.

Buddhist teachers always remind us to meditate on impermanence, to give us a sense of urgency to meditate and practice. Saga Dawa (sometimes Saka Dawa) is the “Month of Merit” where, traditionally, all of our meritorious karma is particularly fruitful. It is an especially good month to practice the three grounds of merit:

  • Dana: generosity
  • Sila: morality and good conduct
  • Bhavana: meditation or mental development/ practice

Saga is named for a star that is prominent in this lunar month, and Dawa just means “month.” It begins June 3 (new moon) and ends July 2 (new moon) in 2019.


Saga Dawa Duchen

The most important day in the month (perhaps for the entire year, for many Buddhists) is Saga Dawa Duchen on the full moon. Duchen means “great occasion,” and this year falls on the full moon day, June 17. It is similar to Vesak in Theravadin Buddhism  — celebrating the birth, Enlightenment and Paranirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Making Merit — scrubbing the negative karma away

Every meritorious act in the Holy Month, is especially fruitful. Positive acts can help us “scrub the negative karma.” Traditionally, positive karma is multiplied in the month, and especially on Saga Dawa Duchen. To many practitioners, this means extra practice (Bhavana or meditation), and it is also the month to be extra careful of Sila (morality). Many Buddhists become vegetarians in the Holy Month — at the very least on the day of Saga Dawa Duchen.


The entire month of Saga Dawa is meritorious and all good karmic acts are especially fruitful.


Here are the ways to “make merit” in the meritorious month of Saga Dawa:

  • Observe all the precepts: not to kill, steal, misuse sex, lie, and abuse intoxicants (for lay followers)
  • Do extra personal practices, mantras, sadhanas
  • Do extra Tsogs offerings, especially on the normal Tsog Days, plus Saga Dawa Duchen
  • Request pujas
  • Pilgrimages to sacred places
  • Visit the temple or gompa or centre more often.
  • Venerate stupas and shrines — especially formal circumambulation (where you full-body prostrate and chant mantras as you circle)
  • Dana and giving, and especially to monks and temples
  • Donations to the poor, and especially look to donate to people in need on who are homeless
  • Lighting butter lamps to banish the darkness
  • Go vegetarian for at least, Duchen, and ideally the whole month
  • Buy animals intended for slaughter and humanely release them — but it is critical to only release where it is humane: releasing a non-indigenous animal is NOT meritorious, or releasing an animal where they face peril is also a negative act, or releasing an animal that was specifically caught to be released is also negative.

Lee Kane

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.

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