The Origin of Kathina – Buddhist Dagblad

The Origin of Kathina – Buddhist Dagblad
The Origin of Kathina – Buddhist Dagblad

Kathina is an annual ceremony in Buddhist countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Lay followers come to the monastery at the end of the rainy season (July to October) and offer all kinds of things to the monks. The most important offering to the monks is the Kathinacīvara: that is the robe (the cloth that monks wear), which is ultimately offered to one specific monk.

What is the origin of Kathina?

In the time of the Buddha, monks traveled on foot through India. In the rainy season, when monks had to walk through the mud, they unwittingly damaged the crops of the local farmers. After these complained about this, the Buddha decided that the monks would stay in one place during the rainy season.

It happened that a group of thirty monks wanted to spend the rainy season near the Buddha. The monks moved towards the monastery where the Buddha was staying. However, the rainy season started earlier than they expected. They couldn’t go on. Therefore, these monks spent the rainy season together in the place where they had arrived at that time. They spent this period in harmony with each other. At the end of the rainy season they still went to the Buddha. Arriving there, they told the Buddha how they had spent their rainy season.

The Buddha praised the monks and the way they spent their rainy season in a good way, sharing and treating each other with kindness. Then the Buddha gave them cloths previously offered to him, which the monks could make into a cīvara (the robe: the cloth that monks wear). The monks were allowed to choose to whom they gave this cīvara.

To make the cīvara, the monks used a wooden frame on which they spread the cloth: the Kathina. The Kathina festival is named after this frame. Later, lay followers took advantage of the Kathina to come to the monastery and offer themselves a cīvara to the Sangha of monks. This special ‘Kathinacīvara’ is offered to the whole Sangha of monks. The monks decide among themselves to whom this cīvara will be given personally.

The tradition

Over the centuries, a tradition has developed around this in Buddhist countries. People come from far and wide to the monastery to offer cīvaras and other necessities for the monks. Although there is only one Kathinacīvara, people are allowed to offer a Cīvara to all monks. Often people also offer up items such as soap, toothbrushes, other care items, and items necessary for the upkeep of the monastery. This tradition is still kept alive today. In this way, people can amass puñña (the pali word for ‘merit’: that is, a good beneficial act, as in this case, giving items, which leads to a good result in the future).

Kathina is thus a very important ceremony in Buddhism: monks are enabled to live their wholesome life, radiant with virtue and meditation, and the lay followers can do deeds that enable them to look forward to beautiful things in the future: such as a good rebirth, joy through letting go and ultimately freedom from all suffering.

Sadu, sadu, sadu!!

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Origin Kathina Buddhist Dagblad

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