The month of merits for 2022 has begun! The most important day of this amazing, meritorious month, is the great Saga Dawa Duchen, which this year will be on June 14. (The month of merits, or month of Saga Dawa began May 31, 2022 and ends June 29, 2022.
NOTE: This is often confused with Vesak, which is on a separate lunar calendar. Saga Dawa celebrates on the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. For more about lunar calendars, see our full feature “Clearing the Confusion on Lunar Calendars”>>
Most Important Day of the Year!
The most important month in the Tibetan lunar calendar is Saga Dawa, the 4th lunar month which runs from May 31st to June 29, with the biggest celebration on the full moon, June 14, 2022. (Full moon is also a day for taking Precepts and Medicine Buddha and Green Tara pujas)
The 15th day of this lunar month, the full moon day is called Saga Dawa Düchen (Düchen means “great occasion”) — the most important day in the Buddhist calendar, this year on June 14, 2022 (on the western solar-based calendar).
Saga Dawa Düchen commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment, and Paranirvana of our Perfect and most Supreme teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni. In other Buddhist traditions, this occasion is known as Buddha Purnima, or Buddha Day — and may be celebrated slightly earlier than Saga Dawa depending on the tradition.
Saga Dawa — Month of Merits (bumgyur Dawa)
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 May 31 (new moon) and ends June 29 (new moon) in 2022.
According to the Universal Compassion Foundation:
“Saga Dawa is the month of merits, also called bumgyur Dawa, which means “merits multiplied by a hundred thousand times.” Tibetan Buddhists worldwide make extra efforts in practicing Dharma, generosity, and compassion to accumulate greater virtuous merits and purify our negative karmas. Along with remembering Buddha and his activities, the festival’s main point is to pray.”
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 14. It is similar to Vesak in Theravadin Buddhism — celebrating the birth, Enlightenment and Paranirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, but is based on the Tibetan lunar calendar. Both are the “4th month” of the lunar calendars, but they are calculated differently. (See this feature on lunar confusion for clarification>>)
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 June 14).
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 center 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.