Pic above links to a line drawing you can colour-in
The cloth is carried in procession.
The cloth has been received and acknowledged.
Carefully layed out and cut ready for sewing.
The whole bhikkhu community will take part in finishing
Kathina is a festival that takes place during the
months of October and November. For 2500 years families have gathered
to take part in the largest alms-giving ceremony of the Buddhist year.
Friends, old and new, parents and children join together in a celebration
on the theme of harmony. Kathina occurs at the end of the Vassa. During
this three month retreat, the residents of the monastery have been
obliged by their Rule not to travel unless absolutely necessary; now
some of them will move on. This may mean resuming the life of a mendicant
wanderer, or going to live in another monastery - so it's a time for
leave-taking and extending a welcome. Also, as winter approaches,
the supporters are checking to see that the basic needs of the samanas
are being met. It is with regard to the offering of these requisites
that this festival comes about.
According to the scriptures, a group of thirty bhikkhus (monks)
were journeying together with the intention of spending the retreat
season with the Buddha. However the Vassa began before they reached
their destination and it was required that they stop travelling. Accordingly,
although they lived harmoniously during the retreat, the bhikkhus
were unhappy at not being able to be with the Master. When they were
allowed to travel again, the bhikkhus continued on to see the Buddha.
Hearing of their unhappy sojourn, he decided to cheer them up by allowing
them to roam freely after the Rains Retreat to gather cloth for robes.
The Buddha knew that nothing is so uplifting as sharing and generosity,
and so then established a procedure whereby the bhikkhus could agree
among themselves to make a gift of the cloth so acquired to one of
their number. And so, when they had enough cloth, the bhikkhus set
about sewing a robe. In those days the method used involved spreading
the pieces of cloth on a frame and stitching them together. This frame
was called a Kathina.
From that time until now, lay supporters have made a point of offering
cloth at the end of the Vassa; it being allowed that this offering
can take place at any time during the four weeks following the end
of the retreat. The Sangha are not allowed to request the offering,
so it is important that the initiation of the offering and its organisation
be done entirely by the lay people. Actually, the ceremony is held
in such high esteem that it is rare that the Kathina doesn't take
place and supporters will usually agree on a date with the abbot of
the monastery well in advance. The cloth, according to the Buddha's
advice, must be offered to the whole Sangha, not to any particular
individual, so that the bhikkhus have to formally agree as to which
of them should receive the cloth. About three metres of cloth are
needed: enough to make up at least one of the main robes. Once the
cloth has been offered, the entire community tries to take part in
the activity of sewing the new robe, it being stipulated that this
robe be cut, sewn and finished before the dawn of the next day. Until
recent times finishing always involved dyeing the robe as well, and
even today, in traditional forest monasteries in Burma and Thailand,
white cloth is given and whilst some of the bhikkhus are cutting and
sewing, others are preparing the bath of natural dye.
Usually one person has undertaken the task of co-ordinating the occasion;
this work may have started as far back as the Kathina of the previous
year. Although all that is required is enough cloth to make up one
robe, it's usually the case that all sorts of things are offered:
everything from socks to tools to stamps and winter fuel. On the day
of the festival people begin arriving at the monastery early - some
may have come the night before. Bhikkhus and nuns from other monasteries
will have been invited and be gathering also. By about 10:00 a.m.
everyone is beginning to settle and at around 10.30 a.m. a meal is
offered to the Sangha and then everyone helps themselves to the remainder
of the food. About 1.00 p.m. the ceremonial offering of cloth and
requisites takes place with one donor leading the assembly of lay
people in taking the Refuges and Precepts and then announcing the
offering using the following formula. This would be done in both Pali
"May we venerable Sirs, present
these robes together with the other requisites to the Sangha.
So, Venerable Sirs, please accept these robes and the other requisites
from us, for our long-lasting welfare and happiness."
The cloth is formally
presented to two bhikkhus who have been agreed upon by the Sangha.
In turn they announce the donation of all the Kathina offerings and
then nominate one senior and well-respected member of the community
to receive the robe once it has been made up. The unanimous agreement
in silence by the Sangha is strengthened by the collective utterance
of "Sadhu" (it is well). At this point some of the bhikkhus leave
and begin cutting the cloth. Later, others will join them. The formal
Sangha Act (Sangha Kamma) of receiving a Kathina offering will be
completed later in the evening (sometimes very late depending on whether
or not the sewing goes smoothly) when the finished robe is ceremonially
presented to the appointed bhikkhu.
Part of the acknowlegement of the offering by the
two appointed bhikkhus:
sappaņņa vadaņņu vitamacchara
Kalena dinnam ariyesu ujubhutesu tadisu
Vipassannamana tassa vipula hoti dakkhina.
Ye tattha anumodanti veyyavaccam karonti va
Na tena dakkhina una tepi puņņassa bhagino.
Tasma dade appativanacitto yattha dinnam mahapphalam
Puņņani paralokasmim patittha honti paninan'ti.
who are wise, generous and free from selfishness give at the appropriate
times. Then what is given to those who are worthy and morally
sound is an offering of great purity and substance. Those who
likewise show appreciation or perform acts of service make no
lesser offering and they also share in this merit. Thus in giving,
the heart is unbounded, what is given is of great fruit and those
meritorious deeds bring about good fortune in the life to come.
|view a selection of Kathina ceremonies in Western monasteries §|