Q: How did this tradition come about?
In Southern Asia there are only two seasons in the year. They are Rainy and Hot. In India there are three seasons, Rainy, Cool, and Hot. Rains retreat came about during the Rainy season of the year. During the time of the Buddha monks were attempting to live the precepts very precisely. The first precept is "Not killing or harming living beings on purpose". This included bugs and other beasties that live in the ground. During the Rainy season, when the rain came down, the bugs came up out of the ground. When the monks were traveling from one place to another, they couldn't stop from harming the bugs that were being born! The Buddha was criticized by other religious sects and the town folk so much that he had to put into effect the Rains Retreat so monastics could keep the precept fully. Also, it was very difficult to travel during this time and the Buddha requested the monks just stay put.
The tradition is that each year during the rainy season, the monks stayed close to a town so they could walk on the roads to get their alms instead of walking through the forests. Over time this Rains Retreat officially happened in conjunction with the Asian season from July full moon til October full moon. Gradually, as other geographic countries became involved, where seasons fell at other times, it became acceptable within the monastic rules, that a person could take their Rains Retreat in keeping with their own country as long as they served one retreat per year in this way.
Each year students have come to Dhamma Sukha Center to study because they know the guiding teachers will be there, usually from May through October to teach. In 2008 the center began accepting temporary ordinations in the traditional way and will continue to do so in the future. We will do some temporary ordinations during a retreat at a few times each year but it is less frequent now. Write us for details.