What is Kathina?
Kathina, in Pāḷi, is a peaceful gathering after monks spent three months of meditation in rain retreat. When the Vassa ends, devotees may offer the Kathina cloth to the Saṅgha, and the cloth will be ceremonially presented to the nominated bhikkhu in a formal Saṅgha act (Saṅgha-Kamma).
Kathina is organized by lay devotees for the Saṅgha. The highlight is offering Kathina cloth as a way of expressing gratitude to the Triple Gems, and it also shows good interaction between the Saṅgha members and devotees.
Kathina Ceremony’s Origin
According to the third book of the Vinaya Pitaka (Vin III. 351ff), Mahavagga, at one time thirty monks of Pava were on the way to see the Lord Buddha who was staying at Savatthi in Jetavana, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.
They were all forest-dwellers, all almsmen, all wearers of rag-robes, all wearers of the three robes. As vassa was approaching, they were unable to reach Savatthi in time; so they entered vassa at Saketa.
Then after the vassa, the monks continued on their journey to Jetavana, Savatthi, where the Lord Buddha was staying. It was raining and the waters were gathering, while swamps were forming.
By the time the monks arrived at their destination, their robes were drenched and they were exhausted. Having greeted the Lord Buddha, they sat down at a respectful distance. Now it is the custom for the Buddha to exchange friendly greetings with in-coming monks.
So the Lord Buddha said to these monks: “How are you keeping, monks? Did you have enough to support life? Did you spend a comfortable vassa in unity, being on friendly terms and harmonious? And you did not have difficulty with alms food, did you?” “Things did go well with us, Lord Buddha. We had enough to support life, Lord Buddha. We spent the vassa in unity, being on friendly terms and harmonious, Lord Buddha. And we did not have difficulty with alms food,” answered the monks.
They then related what had happened to them when they were on their way to see the Buddha since the beginning of vassa. Then the Lord Buddha, on this occasion, having given Dhamma talk, addressed the monks, saying: “Monks, I allow monks who have completed the vassa to spread the kathina.
And thus, after the vassa ended, lay people may offer the kathina cloth to the saṅgha, and the cloth will be ceremonially presented to the nominated bhikkhu in a formal Saṅgha act (Saṅgha-Kamma).
Significance of Kathina and meditation
During Buddha’s era, most of the Saṅgha members are on the go. They only temporarily settle down during rain retreat. Hence, this creates an opportunity for monks to stay together.
These beneficial conditions enhance each other’s progress in the Dhamma. Hence the dāna and services made by public is even more significant. Serving the Saṅgha seems is serving others in order to let the Saṅgha members can practice and preach Dhamma without trouble, in fact, it is protecting one’s own Dhamma practices, and prolong the Buddha Sāsana.
By knowing more about Kathina and meditation, this helps to increase one’s interest in meditation. May you be blessed in the Dhamma.
Eight Ways to Support the Saṅgha
According to Vinaya Pitaka (Vin.Mahāvagga.VIII Civarakkhandaka), once in the Buddha’s time, Visākhā ask permission for eight boons from the Blessed One after meal offering in her mansion, there are:
1. Bestow robes for the rainy season on the Saṅgha,
2. Bestow food for in-coming Bhikkhus
3. Bestow food for out-going Bhikkhus
4. Bestow food for the sick
5. Bestow food for those who wait upon the sick
6. Bestow medicine for the sick
7. Bestow a constant supply of congey
8. Bestow bathing robes for the nuns
Thus, the Blessed One inquired her why she requested for thus. Visākhā answered:
1. Nakedness is objectionable. Thus I have the desire to provide the Saṅgha with special garments for use in the rainy season, all my life long.
2. An in-coming monks, not accustomed to the roads, not accustomed to the resorts for alms is still walking for alms when he is tired. But having eaten my food for those coming in, then when he is accustomed to the roads, accustomed to the resorts for alms, he will walk for alms without getting tired. Thus I have the desire to provide the Saṅgha with food for in-coming Bhikkhus, all my life long.
3. An out-going monks, while looking about for food for himself, may be left behind by the caravan, or if he set out tired on a journey he may arrive at the wrong time at the habitation to which he wishes to go. But having eaten my food for those going out, he will not be left behind by the caravan, nor will he set out tired on a journey and so he will arrive at the right time at the habitation to which he wishes to go. Thus I have the desire to provide the Saṅgha with food for out-going Bhikkhus, all my life long.
4. If a monk who is ill does not obtain suitable meals, either his disease will grow very much worse, or he will pass away. When he has eaten my food for sick, the disease will not grow very much worse, he will not pass away. Thus I have the desire to provide the Saṅgha with diet for the sick, all my life long.
5. A monk, who tends the sick, looking about for food for himself, will bring back food for the sick after the sun is right up and he will miss his meal. But having eaten my food for those who tend the sick, he will bring back food for the sick during the right time and he will not miss his meal. Thus I have the desire to provide the Saṅgha with food for those who wait upon the sick, all my life long.
6. If a monk who is ill does not obtain suitable medicines, either his disease will pass away. When he has made use of my medicines doe the sick, the disease will not grow very much worse, he will not pass away. Thus I have the desire to provide the Saṅgha with medicines for the sick, all my life long.
7. Congee was allowed by the Blessed One at Andhakavinda when he had its ten advantages in mind. Thus I have the desire to provide the Saṅgha with congee, all my life long.
8. There was a case where nuns bathed naked together with prostitutes at the same ford of the river Aciravatī. Lord, these prostitutes made fun of the nuns. Lord, these nuns, being made fun of these prostitutes, became ashamed. Impure, Lord, is nakedness for women, it is abhorrent, it is objectionable. Thus I have the desire to provide the Bhikkhunī-Saṅgha with dresses to bathe in, all my life long.
Then, the Blessed One inquired what were the advantages in asking for the eight boons?
‘Bhikkhus who have spent the rainy seasons in various places will come, Lord, to Sāvatthi, to visit the Blessed One. And on coming to the Blessed One they will ask, saying, “Such and such a Bhikkhu, Lord, has died. Where has he been re-born, and what is his destiny?” Then will the Blessed One explain that he had attained to the fruits of conversion, or of the state of the Sakadāgāmins, or of the state of the Anāgāmins, or of Arahatship. And I, going up to them, shall ask, “Was that brother, Sirs, one of those who had formerly been at Sāvatthi?”
‘If they should reply to me, “He had formerly been at Sāvatthi,” then shall I arrive at the conclusion, “For a certainty did that brother enjoy either the robes for the rainy season, or the food for the in-coming Bhikkhus, or the food for the out-going Bhikkhus, or the food for the sick, or the food for those that wait upon the sick, or the medicine for the sick, or the constant supply of congee.” On my calling that to mind, delight will be born; from delight, joy will be born; because my mind is joyful, my body will be calm; with the body calm I will experience ease; because I am at ease my mind will be contemplative; this will be for me growth as to the five faculties, growth as to the five powers, growth as to the seven factors of enlightenment. These, Lord, were the advantages I had for asking those eight boons of the Blessed One.’
Therefore, the Blessed One admits Visākhā for eight boons. Visākhā is a good model for female disciple. She possesses firm confidence on Triple Gems and lives on the fruits of conversion. Kathina ceremony is a ceremony organized by lay persons for the Saṅgha. This is the most precious opportunity for us to do Kathina robe offering to the Saṅgha.
Dhamma Hearts Empowering Actions
The purpose of propagating Dhamma is to allow more people to have the opportunity to be relieved from suffering. Buddha expounded the Dhamma on both sides of the Ganges River for forty-five years in order for all beings to benefit from it. The existing and continuity of the true Dhamma has allowed us, from different walks of life to gather together to learn and to grow with one another. In the course of listening, learning, practicing and realizing the Dhamma, we have plenty of opportunities to accumulate wholesome kamma. We can see the selfless dedication of the Saṅgha, as well as the laities who have been devotingly serving the Dhamma. We rejoice in their dedication as their selflessness has provided us an opportunity to experience the true knowledge of the Buddha’s teaching, be inspired and be grateful to the Triple Gems. May all the benefits that we have gained from the Dhamma empower us with actions to benefit more beings in the future.
Time is changing, the needs of the people have also become very complicated. How can everyone from different walks of life benefit from the Dhamma and enhance their lives? Tusita Dhamma Propagation Ecosystem is established with this intention in mind. We hope that those who step in can upgrade themselves and benefit from the precious and profound Dhamma.
In the Dhamma propagation ecosystem, babies, children, youngsters, elderly, chronic patients and etc, regardless of which stage of life they are in, can upgrade and purify their lives perpetually. Likewise, in this inter-influencing ecosystem environment, we do not need to have wealth or special skills to be able to contribute. As long as we are willing, we can unleash our talents. We can bring light, warmth, comfort, strength and hope to others.
We welcome you to join us to make this aspiration come true, whether to be a beneficiary or a benefactor. Let us together learn and grow in the Dhamma.
Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!