Today, 8 October 2014, marks the last day of Vassa for Theravāda monastics. The vassa, or “rains”, is a three month period every year when monastics remain in one place, usually a monastery or temple. Many take this time to work harder in their studies and meditation practice, and sometimes make themselves available for special Dhamma teaching to the lay devotees. The pavāraṇā part, or invitation, is a special ceremony in which each individual atones for any offences committed during this period in front of the rest of the Saṅgha.
In Myanmar, today is also known as Abhidhamma Day. According to legend, seven years after the Buddha attained awakening, he spent his vassa in Tāvatimsa heaven to expound the Abhidhamma to his mother, whom as you may remember, passed away 7 days after his birth. On the last day of vassa, he descended from the heaven back to earth on a bejewled staircase. I couldn’t find an artistic representation that spoke to me, so here is one of him given the teaching.