The Significance of the Kaṭhina Robe Offering

 Kaṭhina Robe Offering

Kaṭhina Robe Offering

The three-month rains-retreat seclusion of Buddhist Saṅgha concludes with the pavāraṇā (invitation) ceremony, which is in turn followed by Kaṭhina robe offering festival. It is a traditional ceremony and ancient custom mostly found in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Today, the Kaṭhina robe offering is a large, annual festival where Buddhists get together and celebrate the day by offering monastics gifts, such as robes and alms.

Kaṭhina means “hard”, “stiff”, “difficult”, etc. The word Kaṭhina denotes a cloth offered to the monks annually after the end of the rains-retreat (vassāvāsa). It also refers to a wooden frame used by the monks in sewing their robes. However, the word mostly denotes the robe, cīvara in pali, known as Kaṭhina cīvara. The character of the material used symbolizes the cīvara, which is one of the four requisites of a monk. The Kaṭhina robe is offered to the monastic Saṅgha by lay followers. Apart from the lay followers, monks, nuns and novices also can offer to the Buddhist Saṅgha.

The historical background of the Kaṭhina robe offering is mentioned in the Vinaya Pitaka. While the Buddha was dwelling at Jetavana Vihāra in Sāvatti, a group of thirty monks visited the Buddha after the three-month rains-retreat. The Buddha asked them about their retreat and noticed their worn out robes. It is said that at the time, monks used to wear sewn pieces of cloth collected from different places such as cemeteries, streets, rubbish-heaps, etc. To rectify this, the Buddha granted permission to celebrate the Kaṭhina ceremony …
– Venerable BD Dipananda

Ven. BD Dipananda is a young Bangladeshi monk awarded BA (Hons) from Calcutta University, MA from Pune University in India and MBS (Master of Buddhist Studies) from the University of Hong Kong. Currently he is pursuing a MPhil degree from the University of Hong Kong and he is the News and Social Media Editor at BDI.

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– Posted by CFFong