Uposatha, aka: Upavasatha, Uposathā; 9 Definition(s)


Uposatha means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Observance day, corresponding to the phases of the moon, on which Buddhist lay people gather to listen to the Dhamma and to observe special precepts. On the new moon and full moon uposatha days monks assemble to recite the Patimokkha rules.(Source): Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms

1. Uposatha - King, son of Varakalyana and an ancestor of the Sakyan tribe. His son was Mandhata (Dpv.iii.4). He was one of the kings at the beginning of the kappa (J.ii.311; iii.454). In the Digha Commentary (DA.i.258) he is given as the son of Varamandhata and the father of Cara. In the northern texts he is called Uposadha. Mtu.i.348; Divy.210.

2. Uposatha - The name of the Elephant Treasure of the Cakkavatti Mahasudassana. He was all white, sevenfold firm (sattappatittha), wonderful in power, flying through the sky. (D.ii.174; M.iii.173f). In the Lalita Vistara his name is given as Bodhi.

Uposatha is also the name of a tribe of elephants, the ninth in a series of ten tribes, of ascending importance (DA.ii.573; UdA.403). It is said that a cakkavattis elephant belongs either to the Chaddanta tribe or to the Uposatha. If a Chaddanta elephant comes to a cakkavatti, it is the youngest of the tribe that comes, if an Uposatha elephant, then it will be the foremost (DA.ii.624; J.iv.232, 234; KhA.172). When the cakkavatti dies, the elephant goes back to his fellows (DA.ii.635). The strength of an Uposatha elephant is equal to that of one thousand million men (BuA.37). In the Milindapanha (p.282), the king of the Uposatha elephants is described as being gentle and handsome, eight cubits in height and nine in girth and length, chewing signs of rut in three places on his body, all white, sevenfold firm. Just as this elephant could never be put into a cow pen or covered with a saucer, so could no one keep as slaves the children of Vessantara.

3. Uposatha - Known as Uposatha kumara. The eldest of the ninety nine brothers of Samvara, king of Benares. When Samvara ascended the throne, his brothers protested and laid siege to his city; but Uposatha, having discovered by means of questions put to Samvara, that he was in character by far the best suited for kingship, persuaded the others to renounce their claims to the throne. Uposatha is identified with Sariputta. J.iv.133ff.

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A pious lay devotee of Saketa. She did many deeds of merit, and was born in Tavatimsa, her abode being known as the Uposatha vimana. It is said that she was known in Saketa as Uposatha, because of the life she led. She expresses to Moggallana her remorse that she should have desired to be born in Nandana vana, instead of listening to the Buddhas teaching and putting an end to all birth. Vv.20f; VvA.115f.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names

M Reading of the rules of patimokkha within the sima at every full moon and each new moon.

This term does also define the practice of the five or ten precepts that some laity do observe on full, new and half moon days.

(Source): Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

lit. 'fasting', i.e. 'fasting day',

  • is the full-moon day,
  • the new-moon day,
  • and the two days of the first and last moon-quarters.

On full-moon and new-moon days, the Disciplinary Code, the Pātimokkha, is read before the assembled community of monks (bhikkhu), while on the mentioned 4 moon-days many of the faithful lay devotees go to visit the monasteries, and there take upon themselves the observance of the 8 rules (attha-sīla; sikkhāpada). See A.VIII.41ff.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

In the time of the Buddha there was a girl called Uposatha at Saketa, which lies in Kosala region in Central India. She lived by the teachings of the Buddha and became a Stream winner. When she died she was born in Tavatimsa heaven. There she lived in a magnificent palace.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Fundamentals of Vipassanā Meditation
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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uposatha : (m.) Sabbath day; observance of 8 precepts; biweekly recitation of the Vinaya rules by a chapter of Buddhist monks.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

Uposatha, (Vedic upavasatha, the eve of the Soma sacrifice, day of preparation). At the time of the rise of Buddhism the word had come to mean the day preceding four stages of the moon’s waxing and waning, viz. 1st, 8th, 15th, 23d nights of the lunar month that is to say, a weekly sacred day, a Sabbath. These days were utilized by the pre-Buddhistic reforming communities for the expounding of their views, Vin. I, 101. The Buddhists adopted this practice and on the 15th day of the half-month held a chapter of the Order to expound their dhamma, ib. 102. They also utilized one or other of these Up. days for the recitation of the Pāṭimokkha (pāṭimokkhuddesa), ibid. On Up. days laymen take upon themselves the Up. vows, that is to say, the eight Sīlas, during the day. See Sīla. The day in the middle of the month is called cātudassiko or paṇṇarasiko according as the month is shorter or longer. The reckoning is not by the month (māsa), but by the half-month (pakkha), so the twenty-third day is simply aṭṭhamī, the same as the eighth day. There is an accasional Up. called sāmaggi-uposatho, “reconciliation-Up. ”, which is held when a quarrel among the fraternity has been made up, the Gen. confession forming as it were a seal to the reconciliation (Vin. V, 123; Mah. 42).—Vin. I, 111, 112, 175, 177; II, 5, 32, 204, 276; III, 164, 169; D. III, 60, 61, 145, 147; A. I, 205 sq. (3 uposathas: gopālaka°, nigaṇṭha°, ariya°), 208 (dhamm°), 211 (devatā°); IV, 248 (aṭṭhaṅga-samannāgata), 258 sq. (id.), 276, 388 (navah aṅgehi upavuttha); V, 83; Sn. 153 (pannaraso u); Vbh. 422; Vism. 227 (°sutta = A. I, 206 sq.); Sdhp. 439; DA. I, 139; SnA 199; VvA. 71, 109; PvA. 66, 201.—The hall or chapel in the monastery in which the Pāṭimokkha is recited is called uposathaggaṃ (Vin. III, 66), or °āgāraṃ (Vin. I, 107; DhA. II, 49). The Up. service is called °kamma (Vin. I, 102; V, 142; J. I, 232; III, 342, 444; DhA. I, 205). uposathaṃ karoti to hold the Up. service (Vin. I, 107, 175, 177; J. I, 425). Keeping the Sabbath (by laymen) is called uposathaṃ upavasati (A. I, 142, 144, 205, 208; IV, 248; see upavasati), or uposathavāsaṃ vasati (J. V, 177). The ceremony of a layman taking upon himself the eight sīlas is called uposathaṃ samādiyati (see sīlaṃ & samādiyati); uposatha-sīla observance of the Up. (VvA. 71). The Up. day or Sabbath is also called uposatha-divasa (J. III, 52). (Page 150)

(Source): Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Upavasatha (उपवसथ) according to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XXII).—In the Vedas, upavasatha is the day of preparation preceding the Soma sacrifice. The word has passed into Buddhism, not without having gone through transformations: in Pāli, uposatha; in Sanskrit, upoṣadha (Mahāvastu; Avadānakalpalatā VI.76), and, more frequently, poṣadha (Lalitavistara; Divyāvadāna; Mahāvyutpatti 9101, 9287). In Jaina Prakrit, there is posaha. Hence the traditional Tibetan translation gso-sbyoṅ “that which nourishes (gso = poṣa) the merits and which washes (sbyoṅ = dhav) sins”. The person who is practicing upavāsa is called upoṣadhika (Mahāvastu), poṣadhika (Mahāvyutpatti 8726), poṣadhoṣita (Divyāvadāna) or upavāsastha (Kośa IV).

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana book cover
context information

Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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