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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

The cloth is carried in procession.

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. Origins: According to the scriptures, a group of thirty bhikkhus (monks) were

The cloth has been received and acknowledged.

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

Carefully layed out and cut ready for sewing.

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.

not to any particular individual. everyone is beginning to settle and at around 10. Although all that is required is enough cloth to make up one robe. Actually. Until recent times finishing always involved dyeing the robe as well. Once the cloth has been offered. The Sangha are not allowed to request the offering. so that the bhikkhus have to formally agree as to which of them should receive the cloth. the entire community tries to take part in the activity of sewing the new robe.Today: The whole bhikkhu community will take part in finishing the robe. and even today. this work may have started as far back as the Kathina of the previous year. according to the Buddha's advice. From that time until now. white cloth is given and whilst some of the bhikkhus are cutting and sewing. it's usually the case that all sorts of things are offered: everything from socks to tools to stamps and winter fuel. About three metres of cloth are needed: enough to make up at least one of the main robes. must be offered to the whole Sangha. 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.30 . lay supporters have made a point of offering cloth at the end of the Vassa. By about 10:00 a. Bhikkhus and nuns from other monasteries will have been invited and be gathering also. so it is important that the initiation of the offering and its organisation be done entirely by the lay people. others are preparing the bath of natural dye. The Ceremony Usually one person has undertaken the task of co-ordinating the occasion. On the day of the festival people begin arriving at the monastery early some may have come the night before. The cloth. sewn and finished before the dawn of the next day. in traditional forest monasteries in Burma and Thailand. it being allowed that this offering can take place at any time during the four weeks following the end of the retreat. it being stipulated that this robe be cut.m.

a meal is offered to the Sangha and then everyone helps themselves to the remainder of the food. 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. So. At this point some of the bhikkhus leave and begin cutting the cloth. The unanimous agreement in silence by the Sangha is strengthened by the collective utterance of "Sadhu" (it is well).m. Part of the acknowlegement of the offering by the two appointed bhikkhus: Kale dadanti sappañña vadaññu vitamacchara Kalena dinnam ariyesu ujubhutesu tadisu Those who are wise.a. generous and free from selfishness give at the appropriate times. Venerable Sirs. In turn they announce the donation of all the Kathina offerings and then nominate one senior and wellrespected member of the community to receive the robe once it has been made up. is an offering of great purity .00 p." The cloth is formally presented to two bhikkhus who have been agreed upon by the Sangha. for our long-lasting welfare and happiness. Then what is given to those who Vipassannamana tassa vipula are worthy and morally sound hoti dakkhina. "May we venerable Sirs. 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.m. present these robes together with the other requisites to the Sangha. This would be done in both Pali and English. About 1. Later. please accept these robes and the other requisites from us.

what is given is of great fruit and those meritorious deeds bring about good fortune in the life to come. With this in mind. Tasma dade appativanacitto and substance. The Buddha.Ye tattha anumodanti veyyavaccam karonti va Na tena dakkhina una tepi puññassa bhagino. vassa or the Rains Retreat began before they could reached their destination. unhappy at not being able to stay with their master. as luck would have it. the monks had to cease all their travel and live peacefully together. It once happened that a group of 30 bhikkus or monks were on their way to the place where the Buddha was based so as to spend their retreat season with their great master. the monks continued with their journey. . on knowing their sad state. the heart is Puññani paralokasmim patittha honti paninan'ti. He also knew that nothing in this world could be as uplifting and cheering as sharing and showing generosity. The monks followed all the rules but were. the monks were to sew a robe using a method which entailed spreading out the the pieces of cloth on a frame and stitching them together. When the period of vassa came to an end. during the three month period of vassa. This frame was known as a Kathina. However. When they had enough cloth. It is from here that the festival draws its name. Thus yattha dinnam mahapphalam in giving. Those who likewise show appreciation or perform acts of service make no lesser offering and they also share in this merit. As per the rules. view a selection of Kathina ceremonies in Western monasteries The Past The festival dates back to the time of the Buddha. knew that something needed to be done to cheer them up. quiet obviously. he allowed the monks to wander completely freely after the Rains Retreat and collect cloth for robes. unbounded.

so the offering has to come from the lay people themselves. When the robe is completed. the ceremonial offreing of the cloth takes place. The entire cutting and sewing has to be completed before the dawn of the next day. the remainder of which is consumed by the rest of the people. the bhikkus get together to make up the robe. The tradition of collecting cloth at the end of the Rains Retreat continues till date. The monks. supporters can make an offering of cloth to the Sangha. the formal Kathina offering ceremony takes place. people begin to pour in large numbers in the monastery. . The Celebration Time The celebration of the Kathina festival takes place during the months of October and November. cannot go about seeking cloth. On the day of the festival. themselves. today. The Sangha.30 in the morning. From the time the vassa comes to an end to the four weeks that follows. At around 1 pm.The Present Kathina. thereafter. announce the name of one senior monk who will receive the robe once it is made up. is celebrated as the largest alms giving festival of the Buddhist world. the sangha is served a meal. Given the fact that the festival holds so much of significance in the life of the Buddhist. it hardly happens that cloth is not offered or falls short for the ceremony. A representative of the lay people leads the group and announces the offering. Sri Lankans and the Thai Theravada Buddhists. The date of the festival varies from one country to another depending upon the rainy season. The festival is most important for the Burmese. By 10. After this. which is then presented to two monks who have been selected by the Sangha.