Sagadawa celebrates the birth of the Buddha, which is marked on the full moon of the fifth lunar month. For Mahayana Buddhists around the world, the whole month is a time devoted to religious practice and people celebrate by making prostrations, taking vegetarian vows, saving animal lives and giving alms to the poor.
Each monastery has its own way of celebrating, and in Ritoma, Sagadawa is marked by the unfurling of the Great Thangka. In Labrang, pilgrims assemble from all over the Tibetan Plateau, and give alms to the beggars who crowd the lingkhor, the circumambulatory road that circles the monastery. On the more worldly level, it is a time for congregating, meeting friends and relatives, an opportunity in communities who live so spread out, and do think about the world beyond.