Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sacred Robe Offering: Kathina 2012 (video)

Ven. Karunananda, Ph.D., Ven. Bibekananda, Dharmachari Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha under the Bodhi tree, Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Monastery, Crenshaw Bl. (WQ)
The sacred saffron kathina robe, Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara, Los Angeles, California, 2011 (Wisdom Quarterly).
The offering (dana) of the sacred robe is an annual event, traditionally held in October. It marks the end of the three-month Rains Retreat or Vas. During this time Buddhist nuns and monks retire to their hermitages to engage in intensive meditation, study, teaching, and other practices for rapid spiritual advancement.

Buddhist History
One one occasion, in ancient India, monks took up residence practicing sane-austerities for the rainy season. At the end of their seclusion, they set out to visit the Buddha, who was residing in distant Savatthi.

Their travel was arduous. At times, they had to endure inclement weather. At the end of their long journey, one of the monks was soaking wet as he approached.

Seeing him, the Buddha requested monastics to accept additional robes for their hardship. One robe in particular, the special kathina robe, was to go to a monastic who had successfully completed the rigors of the Rains Retreat. (At this time those in robes are not allowed to travel or venture from the nunnery/monastery for overnight trips; instead they stay in one place and meditate in a loosely cloistered setting).
Thereafter Buddhist devotees have provided hermitages with a specially made robe, which is awarded to the one who has most successfully completed the Rains Retreat.

This robe is revered as the most important for a monastic to receive AND the most meritorious for a devotee to give.

Whereas the monastic who receives the robe gains five mundane benefits, the donor of the robe accrues a tremendous amount of merit (anisangsa, punya). The Pali word for the robe is kathina, Bengali kathin.
It means hard [to come by], firm, steadfast -- indicating the greatness of the merit, which is difficult to obtain and is a firm and reliable source of spiritual as well as material benefit unshakable in the face of minor bad karma.

Traditionally, devoted Buddhists undertake to strictly observe moral and ethical precepts during the period of the retreat culminating in the sacred ceremony. However, even the simple act of participating (attending in approval of this gift) they are able to share in the remarkable merit of this special gift-giving.
  • California Bodhi Vihara will celebrate the Sacred Robe Offering Ceremony today, Nov. 3, 2012 in Long Beach. Moreover, various Theravada temples throughout Los Angeles and the country are holding this ceremony as they end their Rains Retreat observance. (Contact local temples for dates).
Buddha, Lahore Museum (
What would make the offering of this robe so meritorious? If the monastics were to practice sincerely, practice diligently and mindfully in accordance with the Dharma, some would be sure to gain mundane and supramundane attainments, such as the Eight Meditative Absorptions (jhanas) and the Eight Path-and-Fruition consciousnesses. These latter attainments are the penetrating insights that lead to enlightenment by stages from stream-entry to full realization. Giving to someone who has attained any of these is extremely meritorious, each more rare and powerful than the previous one. There is great merit in giving to anyone who emerges from the first absorption. But the merit of giving to one who has gain full enlightenment is uncountable, off the scale, so precious as to be considered beyond reckoning.

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