Sunday, October 24, 2010

History of the Buddhist "Kathina" Festival

Thai Buddhist shrine room with golden Buddha (

The rains retreat period has just ended worldwide. Buddhist monastics are emerging from months of intensive practice and teaching. And with the culmination of this annual "lent" like period comes the offering of a very special robe, which the Buddha reputedly singled out as an extraordinary offering.

England's Chithurst Buddhist Monastery explains the meaning behind this celebration. (Check local Theravada temple schedules all around the country for nearby ceremonies).

In the Buddha's time, because of the rainy season in India, the Sangha were obliged to stay in one place [as was the Indian custom for all wandering ascetics]. The season lasted three months, and the period became known as the Buddhist Rains Retreat (Vassa).

Once, a group of monks were on their way to spend the Vassa with the Buddha. But they were overtaken by the season and had to stay where they were. When they reached him and told their story, the Buddha rewarded them for their joyful, patient endurance by permitting them to gather cloth for robes and to offer the finished robe to a deserving monastic among them.

The frame on which the pieces of cloth were spread and stitched was called a Kathina [sturdy, durable, strong]. This tradition of offering cloth during the month after the end of the Vassa continues.

At Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, for the past several years, cloth has been offered to the Nuns’ community as well and is formally presented to the nuns at the same time as the cloth to the monks. More>>

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