During October-November is the time for all Buddhists to celebrate and participate in the “Kathina-robes Offering Ceremony”. The brief facts about “Kathina” are as follows:
The historical background of the Kathina robe offering is mentioned in the Vinaya Pitaka. While the Buddha was dwelling at Jetavana Monastery in Sãvatthi, a group of thirty monks visited the Buddha after the three-month rain-retreat. The Buddha asked them about their retreat and noticed their worn out robes. It is said that at the time, monks used to wear sewn pieces of cloth collected from different places such as cemeteries, streets, rubbish-heaps, etc. To rectify this, the Buddha granted permission to celebrate the Kathina ceremony.
The Meaning of Kathina
In the Commetary to the Kathinakkhandaka (Section on Kathina) of the Vinaya Pitaka, Kathina is defined as a concept of conglomeration, which means bringing things together. It is a concept that arises because of certain things that arise together. For example:
(1) A bhikkhu/bhikkhus who has/have spent the first vassa
(2) A Samgha (community of bhikkhus) comprising at least five bhikkhus
(3) Robe-season (the Kathina month)__first month after the end of the first vassa, i.e. last month of the rainy-season
(4) A rightfully acquired robe__the robe to be donated must not be requested by a member of the Samgha, nor must any hint be given for the robe to be offered; rather the robe must be offered spontaneously by the donor.
These are some things that come together for the concept of Kathina to arise.
Time To Celebrate
The Kathina festival is a major observance of Theravada Buddhism. It is a Buddhist festival which comes at the end of Vassa, the three-month rainy season retreat for Theravada Buddhists. The season during which a monastery may hold Kathina is one month long (usually between October and November), beginning after the Abhidhamma Fullmoon Day. It is a time for lay people to offer cloth for robes and other necessities to the monks. It is a time of giving, for the laity to express gratitude to the monks.
Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks. Today Kathina is an important annual observance for lay Buddhists in Theravada countries. Buddhists get together and celebrate the day by offering monastics gifts, such as robes and alms. Together with ceaseless support on the part of the devotees, the successive Kathina ceremonies are held every year in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and other countries. That indeed have enabled the monks to carry on their missionary works far and wide.
The exact procedure varies a bit, but usually on the designated day people begin to bring their donations to the temple early in the morning. In mid-morning there is a large community meal, with monks eating first, then lay people. After this meal, people may come forward with their gifts, which are accepted by the designated monks.
Monks accept the cloth on behalf of the Samgha, and then announce who will receive new robes once they are sewn. Traditionally, monks with unusually shabby robes are given priority, and after that the robes are designated according to seniority.
Once cloth is accepted, the monks begin cutting and sewing at once. Sewing of the robes should be completed that day. When the robes are sewn, usually in the evening, the new robes are ceremonially given to the monks designated to receive them.
The Two Special Benefits of Kathina
(1) The monk who participates in Kathina will enjoy the Five Privileges of Kathina as a special benefit from the date of the ceremony.
The first privilege is Anamantacara, freedom of movement before noon in spite of having accepted an invitation for a meal.
The second privilege is Asamadanacara, freedom to stay apart from one’s set of three robes at the break of dawn.
The third privilege is Ganabhojana, freedom to accept invitations to group meals.
The fourth privilege is Yavadatthacivara, the freedom to keep as many robes as desired without having to determine or assign them according to Vinaya regulations.
The fifth privilege is Yo ca tattha civaruppada, exclusive right to Samghika robes given at one’s vassa monastery.
(2) Hence Kathina Ceremony can be accomplished only by the offering of robes dedicated to Samgha order, it is the perfect chance for the donors to get the most beneficial “Samghika-dana”.
- During Kathina Festival, the Buddhist followers support and help the Samghas to maintain the Buddha’s Teachings. They offer Samghas not only robes but also other offertories and requisites. Those who support the Samghas are always happy, joyful, and wealthy.
- The Samghas have no worry about searching for cloth to make their robes, and in this way they have more time to concentrate on their dhamma study and meditation practice, and can serve more people with dhamma in their communities.
- The donors cultivate generosity, perform charity, and exhibit selflessness.
- The donors follow the noble way of life and maintain unity among the community.
- Hence Kathina could be held only once in per monastery per year, it is also “Kala-dana” which is one of the “Sappurisa-danas”.
- The donors’ volitions become more keen and pure than usual hence they understand that their offerings of Kathina-robes would bring special benefits to Samghas.
None of the deed could help bhikkhus to be able to avoid some of the strict Vinayas determined by the Buddha except Kathina. That’s why the Kathina ceremony demands more determination, firmness and stability. The sponsors, receivers, and makers accumulate immeasurable merits. The ceremony is far more special than other offerings. And from that, we gain all the blessings toward the highest goal known as “Nibbāna” .
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