Posted by: Upāsaka | 10/05/2017

Happy Uposatha – Kathina

Today is the end of the Vassa (Rains) period. It’s a special day in the Theravada Buddhist calendar. For those of you who may not be familiar here is a little more information:

The three-month rains-retreat seclusion of Buddhist Saṅgha concludes with the pavāraṇā (invitation) ceremony, which is in turn followed by Kaṭhina robe offering festival. It is a traditional ceremony and ancient custom mostly found in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Today, the Kaṭhina robe offering is a large, annual festival where Buddhists get together and celebrate the day by offering monastics gifts, such as robes and alms.

Kaṭhina means “hard”, “stiff”, “difficult”, etc. The word Kaṭhina denotes a cloth offered to the monks annually after the end of the rains-retreat (vassāvāsa). It also refers to a wooden frame used by the monks in sewing their robes. However, the word mostly denotes the robe, cīvara in pali, known as Kaṭhina cīvara. The character of the material used symbolizes the cīvara, which is one of the four requisites of a monk. The Kaṭhina robe is offered to the monastic Saṅgha by lay followers. Apart from the lay followers, monks, nuns and novices also can offer to the Buddhist Saṅgha.

The historical background of the Kaṭhina robe offering is mentioned in the Vinaya Pitaka. While the Buddha was dwelling at JetavanaVihar in Shravasti, a group of thirty monks visited the Buddha after the three-month rains-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 Kaṭhina ceremony with the following such rules:

– Only those who have successfully completed the rains-retreat can accept the Kaṭhina robe.

– The period of the offering is only one month, from the middle of September-October to October-November (lunar month), and contemporary Assayuja to Kattikā (full moon of the Buddhist month).

– When the Kaṭhina robe is offered to the Buddhist Saṅgha by lay followers, a group of monks (not less than four monks) will officially hand over to a selected monk by performing some Buddhist ritual activities (Vinaya rules).

– A monk who has received the Kaṭhina robe, is not allowed to receive the Kaṭhina robe a second time in the same month period.

– Whoever observes rains-retreat from the later (pacchimikā) time, also not allowed to receive the Kaṭhina robe. Only those who have entered the rains-retreat from the earlier (purimikā) time, are allowed to receive it.

– The proper time to give the Kaṭhina robe is from sunrise to dawn the next day, and in modern time it is calculated as twenty-four hours.

Kathina Ceremony

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