KATHINA CEREMONY 2017
Kathina is a Pali word referring to the wooden frame used to measure the length and width by which the robes of Buddhist monks are cut. As the legend goes, thirty bhikkhuswere journeying with the intention of spending Vassa with Gautama Buddha. However, the rains began before they reached their destination and they had to stop at Saketa. According to Buddha’s guidelines for Vassa, mendicant monks shouldn’t travel during the rainy season as they may unintentionally harm crops and/or insects during their journey.As such, the monks had to stop.
The bhikkhus passed their time together without conflict and practicing Dhamma so afterwards, the Buddha rewarded the monks by demonstrating a way to practice sharing and generosity. A lay disciple had previously donated pieces of cloth to the Buddha, so the Buddha now gave the pieces to the group of monks and told them to make it into a robe and then offer it as a gift to one of them. A frame, called a Kathina, was used to hold the pieces while they were being made into one robe.
The Kathin Festival is a traditional Buddhist festival celebrated by villagers in Malaysian and Thailand. Colourful parades and offering ceremonies at the end of monks’ retreat at local temples. On Ok Phansa day of the full moon, villagers and city dwellers will go to their local temple for prayers and paying respect to the sacred. Ok Phansa is also the beginning of a 30-day period of merit-making which affords a special opportunity for prayers to Buddha and for the presentation of gifts to the monks for preserving the faith. This 30-day span of merit making and religious gift giving is referred to as Thord Pha Gathin.
Thord Gathin takes its name from the “laying down” of new robes to the monks. The offering of new, saffron robes to the monks is particularly meritorious and important. Other gifts to the monks may include basic utensils, toiletries, writing materials, and food. Gift-giving is an act of appreciation and gratitude to the monks. Individuals or community groups (such as a village) may perform them. Many villagers combine efforts by collecting cash donations for the maintenance of their local temple. Such donations are vividly arranged on a “money tree” which looks rather like a colourful Christmas tree bedecked with banknotes as the “foliage”. The money tree is ceremoniously paraded to the temple, led by a team of drummers and musicians, with the villagers carrying their own individual gifts on trays bringing up the rear. In this way at Thord Gathin, the lay-people of Thailand reaffirm their faith and, in a joyous fashion, bring gifts to Buddha and his servants.