Kathina Robe Offering Ceremony
The Kathina Robe Offering Ceremony is one of the most significant traditions of Buddhism. With origins dating back to the Lord Buddha’s time over 2,500 years ago, faithful Buddhists from around the world attend their favorite temples every year to make merit during this annual event. Each temple is permitted to organize their respective Kathina Ceremony on one day during a month-long period that follows the end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat between the 1st day of the 11th waning moon to the 15th day of the 12th waxing moon.
The Rains Retreat is a three-month period where monks will stay in one place to focus diligently on their spiritual practice. This intensive period of training inspires the lay people to come and support the Sangha to applaud their self-purification efforts. Since Buddhists believe that the purity of the receiver increases the merit generated by the act of generosity, the merit resulting from Kathina robe offering is immeasurably large. This is one of the many reasons why the Kathina ceremony is so popular and is typically the largest ceremony of the year for temples in countries like Thailand.
The historical background of the Kaṭhina robe offering
While the Lord Buddha was dwelling at Jetavana Temple in Shravasti, a group of thirty monks were traveling from Patha to visit the Lord Buddha. After stopping mid-journey to observe the three-month rains retreat at Saket, which was approximately 96 kilometers away from Shravasti, they hurried off to see the Lord Buddha. However, the rainy season had not yet ended by this point.
Thus, the roads were muddied by the rain water which made travel quite difficult. By the time they reached Jetavana Temple, the monks went to see the Lord Buddha with worn-out, mud-splashed robes. After seeing this group of monks and the poor state of their garments, the Lord Buddha decided that from that point on, monks who observe the three-month rain-retreat are eligible to receive a new robe from the faithful laypeople. This is the situation that led to the creation of the Kathina Robe offering ceremony that has remained intact until this day.
Result of merit from Kaṭhina robe offering
For lay people – lay people who offer the Kathina robe or participate in the ceremony will receive great merit.
For the Sangha – according to Vinayapitaka, a monk who receives the Kathina robe will also gain a great amount of merit.
Result of merit from Kaṭhina robe offering for participating lay people and monks can be summarized as follows:
1.They will be reborn into a wholesome family with right view, honor, and fame.
2.They will be reborn with a whole and healthy body.
3.They will be reborn with radiant and beautiful skin and a bright and happy mind.
4.They will have ample wealth and will not have to suffer to earn their wealth.
5.They will be able to utilize their wealth well to make more merit in preparation for their next lives.
6.When they pass from this world, they will go to heaven at the minimum.
Why does Kaṭhina robe offering result in great merit?
The additional reasons why the Kaṭhina robe offering can result in great merit are its requirements and limitations, which also differentiate this deed from other wholesome deeds.
1.Time limitation: The Kathina robe must be offered within one month after the end of Buddhist’s Lent. Thus, it is a time-limited offering.
2.Offering limitation: The offering must be for the whole Sangha and not for a particular monk like some other offering.
3.Limited number of times: The offering happens only once for each temple each year.
4.Receiver limitation: For a temple to receive the Kathina offering, there must be at least five monks who observe the three-month rain-retreat at that temple. The 5 monks must receive the robe offering together.
5.Specific deadline: For the monk who is nominated to receive the robe, he must perform Kathina Khandhaka within that day and cannot postpone the ritual to the next day or any other day.
6.Specificity of the offering: The Kathina robe must be one of the three robes for monks.
7.Lord Buddha’s wish: Kathina robe offering came from the wish of the Lord Buddha himself. All other types of offering, for example: the rain-shower robe, originate from the wish of laypeople who asked the Lord Buddha for permission to make such an offering.
8.Special merit: The merit from the Kathina robe offering benefits both lay people who offer the robe and Sangha who receive the offering and rejoice in its merit.
We can see that the Kathina robe offering is a special merit with many requirements that make it quite unique for both giver and receiver. Not only this, but it also provides a large benefit for the temple that conducts the ceremony. Due to the popularity of the Kathina ceremony, this event typically is capable of raising a large amount of charitable donations which can be used for temple maintenance and upkeep. This will help to make the temple in question more suitable for the monks to live and for laypeople to come and learn and practice the Lord Buddha’s teachings into the future.
Activities on Kathina Robe Offering at Wat Phra Dhammakaya
For the Dhammakaya Temple, the Kathina robe offering will take place on Friday, November 19th, B.E. 2564 starting from 9:30 in the morning. In the past, a large number of devotees traveled to the temple from all over the country and even from overseas to take part in the event. However, in light of restrictions on large gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dhammakaya Temple will not be welcoming visitors in person but will instead hold the ceremony live via the online meeting application ZOOM. In this way, people can attend the ceremony from anywhere in the world by simply logging in and turning on their camera. Those who join will be displayed side-by-side on a large monitor at the temple that will be showcased during the live broadcast. This will create a feeling of unity as if we were all able to physically attend the ceremony together. The merit and inner peace generated by all who participate will bring both benefit to each individual’s life and play a part in solving this global crisis. Invite a friend and come join us on Zoom to be a part of this special event!