Vassa, the Rains Retreat

Full Moon Uposatha Day, August 2, 2012

This particular full moon marks the beginning of vassa, the three month rains retreat as observed in the Theravada tradition. According to tradition Buddhist monks and nuns are encouraged to stay put during this rainy season where every muddy step would endanger the many living things that are displaced and driven to the surface by penetrating wetness. To confuse matters, unlike in India (and Burma for that matter) here in Texas vassa is precisely the driest time of the entire year. We might very well see no precipitation at all before November. Nonetheless, vassa serves also traditionally as an opportunity to settle into one’s own practice without the distraction of travel.

For this vassa I have decided to avail myself of more time for practice and study and accordingly I am going to do something different with regard to my weekly Uposatha Day postings. I have been in the habit of posting an essay each week, generally at least three pages single-spaced in my word processor before painstaking silly image insertion, assiduously researched and composed, and commonly involving a bit of a last-minute time crunch. No longer! I had considered suspending these postings altogether for three months, but decided that was not necessary. A creature of habit myself and knowing that there is a substantial audience in the habit of receiving my weekly posts, I intend instead to continue posting on Uposatha Days, but something more informal and probably generally very short. One week it might be just a thought or a quote, the next a review of something I’ve just read, still another something I have rewritten from an earlier post. If anyone would like to submit a Dharma question that lends itself to a short answer they might also form the basis of a post.

I intend to do some writing during vassa, but at a reduced pace. Perhaps I can complete a draft of my autobiography, which has been frozen at about 2010 for some months. I would also like to revisit some of my previous serialized postings and to reorganize the content, sometimes into separate essays. I notice from examining the statistics of this blog, for instance, that “Buddha’s Meditation and its Variants 13” has displaced my stand-alone essay “Sex, Sin and Buddhism” as the runaway most popular (15 hits so far today alone). I think this is because it deals with the curious similarities between Theravada Vipassana and Zen Shikantaza. Since people seem to be skipping over the twelve essays that precede it it seems appropriate that I turn this one episode into a stand-alone essay by summarizing what people need to know from the first 12 episodes and then giving in a catchier title, like “Zazen and Vipassana: What’s the Difference?”

I hope this adaptation of a weekly habit is satisfactory to the readers of these posts.

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