the 15th day of the 7th moon


By Dharma Master Yin Tak

1.   Why is the 15th day of the 7th moon a day for monks to confess their sins?

According to Buddhist regulations, each summer during the 90 days from the 15th day of the 4th moon to the 15th day of the 7th moon, monks will not go out to convert. They will assemble together. During the summer retreat, they will follow the rules strictly, purify their acts, and concentrate on the right path. The last day is to dismiss the summer retreat.

On the last day, monks will confess their sins. First, they will evaluate whether they have committed any physical, verbal or mental sins.  Secondly, they will invite other monks to comment on their opinion, what they hear and what they doubt. Monks will then confess their sins at the assembly, correct their mistakes and restore to purity. This is how monks confess their sins.

The 15th day of the 7th moon is a day for monks to reflect and to accept other monks' comments or evaluation.

2.   Why did Buddha implement the summer retreat?

a)   What is the summer retreat?

This is held each year between the 15th day of the 4th moon and the 15th day of the 7th moon. During this 90 day period, monks will gather together to study and meditate in a tranquil dwelling.

b)   Why did Buddha want his disciples to hold the summer retreat?
  • Buddhist followers normally practise near the bottom of hills or forests or close to water. During the summer, flooding occurs frequently in India. For all followers' safety, Buddha implemented this regulation which requires monks to assemble together to spend the summer.
  • Summers in India are humid. It is the season for snakes and insects to grow. The summer retreat will avoid monks from being hurt by these insects and at the same time prevent the monks from hurting these insects, as they will not be going out.
  • During the 90 days, Buddhist followers assemble and study together to encourage each other to achieve their goals.

3.   What is dismissing of the summer retreat?

After self-confession on the 15th day of the 7th moon, the crowd will depart and individuals will return to their normal places of dwelling to continue with their practice and will be relieved of all restrictions observed during the summer retreat.


1.   Why is Buddha joyful?

Everything that Buddha did has the good intention of benefiting all human beings and relieving them of pain.  Therefore, it is joyful for Buddha to see human beings becoming good rather than evil, understanding rather than superstitious, and being true rather than false.

2.  Why is the 15th day of the 7th moon call Buddha's joy day?

After self-confession, 3 things can make Buddha joyful:

  1. Buddhist believers gather together to study and practice.

  2. During self-confession, monks will reflect and evaluate their behaviour.  They will report their sins and restore purity.

  3. After dismissing the summer retreat, monks might attain the 4 kinds of Hinayana, i.e. early fruit, second fruit, third fruit and fourth fruit.


1.   The meaning of Ullambana

Ullambana means to hang upside down. This is to describe those hungry spirits - their esophagus is as narrow as a needle, their belly is as big as a drum. They cannot eat nor drink and are always hungry.  Even though there is food, it will turn into charcoal as soon as it is swallowed.  The pain is similar to being hung upside down. "Bana" is a vessel filled with offerings of food and it has the meaning of salvage. In other words, Ullambana means to save from being hung upside down and to relieve of pain.

2.   The origin of Ullambana

According to the Ullambanapatra-sutra, Mahamaudgalyayana used his deva-eye (i.e. divine sight & unlimited vision) saw his mother in the hungry spirits path.  Her skin and bones were stuck together. She suffered from perpetual pain. Mahamaudgalyayana offered her a bowl of rice. Because of the bad deeds she did previously, the food turned into charcoal. Mahamaudgalyayana wanted to release her from her pain. He asked Buddha for his guidance. Buddha directed him to put food and drinks in the Ullambana on the 15th day of the 7th moon and offered them to the 3 Gems. With the 3 Gems' divine power, he could remedy the sins committed by his parents during the past 7 lives. Mahamaudgalyayana followed the instructions and his mother was instantly released from pain. Buddha's saying to his follower: Buddhist followers, who are filial to their parents, should remember them all the time. On the 15th day of the 7th moon each year, they should offer Ullambana to Buddha and Sangha to thank their parents, including those for the past 7 lives, for their kindness and love.

3.   How to arrange 'Ullambana'?

If it is inside a temple, the container should be placed in front of Buddha. Food such as vegetables, fruits, noodles, biscuits, rice, oil, tea, etc. should be placed in the container. The container will then be offered to Buddha and Sangha.