“When the rainy season has come and it is raining, many living beings are originated and many seed just spring up. … Knowing this one should not wander from village to village, but remain during the rainy season in one place.”
Acaranga Sutra, Jaina Sutras I, p.136 by H. Jacobi
More than 2500 years ago, during the rainy season, the Jain mendicants would disrupttheir wandering habits in order not to injureother living beings. This practiceof non-injury (ahimsa) was highly respected by the Buddha who ordered his followers to spend the rainy season in settled dwellings too. Buddhist monks would usuallyselect two types of settlements for the rain-retreat: avasas and aramas.
The avasas were built by monks themselves, using natural shelters such as rocks, trees or caves forming natural boundaries so as not to disturb each other. These temporary places had been removed by monks at the end of the rain-retreat.
In contrast to these temporary places, the aramas were more permanent places, mostly private properties, donated by lay devotees, which could give shelter to a number of monks.
Although the reasons for rain retreats may not be exactly as they were 2500 years ago, this tradition is still practiced by Buddhists around the world. Nowadays, the retreats are spent either in the silence of the hermitages or monasteries, where hermits, monastics, or lay people take time for intensive practice or simple for refuge from everyday affairs.
Although today's retreats are usually shorter, their impact on practitioners is always intense. It is well documented that during the rains-retreats, many monks and nuns reach the next step in their spiritual maturity or even the final realization. But implications are also indisputable to laymen, who can experience a peaceful state of mind and an accumulation of energy that helps them to better settle in society.