The average Sri Lanka Buddhist
visits the pansala (temple) four times a month on poya days,
which equate to the phases of the moon. The full-moon day is most important and a monthly national
holiday in the Buddhist tradition of this island nation -- a day of reverence for
the faithful and a relaxing day away from work for those of other faiths. A tray of flowers is
offered at each of the three places of worship, small oil lamps are lit (to represent wisdom and
enlightenment), and incense is burned (to symbolize purity).
Poya day ceremonies are
conducted from dawn until dusk at all temples. This includes Dharma sermons,
meditation classes, pujas (offerings), administration of the precepts,
and pirit-chanting of protective suttas (discourses).
Merit-making (punya karma)
is considered to be the cornerstone of lay Buddhism. By following the Dharma
and the precepts, by striving for compassion, equanimity and wisdom, and by
performing meritorious deeds -- such as dana (almsgiving), pilgrimage
and worship, and paying homage to elders -- one can assure oneself a more
advanced rebirth on the spiritual ladder toward nibbana.