Singapore I November 07, 2021 I 10.12 PM –
The Annual Kathina Robe Offering Ceremony of Buddha Vihara Society, Singapore held on October 07, 2021 at Chang Clan Association premises in Geylang, Singapore. Brother Tan Kok Ping and Sister Bay Kooi Ngor to transfer merit to Tan Bock Kwee were the main sponsors of the event on this year.
The ceremony had been gracefully organized under the guidance and patronage of the “Sihapura Sanghapati”, The Chief Sangha Nayake of Singapore, Senior Religious Adviser of Buddha Vihara Society, Most Venerable Dr. Galle Udita Maha Nayake Thero. The members of the “Buddha Vihara Society” in Singapore also participated to this grand occasion.
Dedication of Kathina Robe to the Chief Monk was done by the Maha Sangha following the Vinaya Kamma on the boat in the sea of Marina South Pier, 31 Marina Coastal Drive, Singapore. This is very special and it’s the real event. Nowadays it is very rare to see such an event on the water. Legal duty of monks was to dedicate the Robe to the Chief who duly completed the rainy retreat.
The ceremony commenced with Kathina Robe procession and religious observances followed by dana to the monks. More than 07 Venerable Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Sangha from other temples that follow Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana & Tantrayana chapters of Buddhism were among those participated in this grand ceremony.
Most Venerable Dr. Galle Udita Thero organized special Dhamma Talk on this Annual Kathina Robe Offering Ceremony. Most Venerable Dr. Galle Udita Thero specially mentioned on delivering the Dhamma sermon what were the values of Annual Kathina Robe Offering Ceremony. After the Dhamma Talk Atapirikara and requisites were offered to Maha Sangha and food were offered by devotees of Buddha Vihara Society, Singapore.
Especially, Buddha Vihara Society, Singapore has sponsored lights in the shrine of Wijayananda Piriven Maha Vihara in Galle, Sri Lanka in this period.
“Kathina” is a Buddhist ceremony which comes at the end of Vassa, the three-month rainy season retreat for Theravada Buddhists in all over the world. It is a time of giving, for the laity to express gratitude to Maha Sangha. Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks. 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 Monks were 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 Monks 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 most significant part of the ceremony is the offering of a freshly tailored robe called “Kathina Robe” to the Maha Sangha by lay devotes. The Buddhists especially devote this Kathina ceremony day to the practice of Dana, generosity. This is a great opportunity for all to generate merit to improve the quality of their life in this life and future lives.
The Kathina Ceremony of Buddha Vihara Society, Singapore brought many multi-cultural people together as ideal and friendly. Everyone inspired the happy, peaceful and uplifting atmosphere of the ceremony. It is a regarded as a great privilege to sponsor a Kathina Ceremony and it is one of the most meritorious deeds that lay followers can perform.
Wholesome activities and the offering of Kathina Robes
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammaa sambuddhassa
“Punyam ce puriso kayiraa – Kayiraa te tam punapppunam
Tamhi candam kayiraatha – Sukho punyasaa ucchayo”
Brother and sisters in the Dhamma,
Offering of Kathina robes is done in the period between full moon day of October and the full moon day of November. Many Buddhists do their duties during the retreats of monks in spite of difficulties that they face. Those duties actually are called meritorious deeds or Punnya Kamma in Pali language. The Pali poem that I have quoted from Dhammapada deals with the importance of doing meritorious deeds. It says that the man must do meritorious deeds again and again, not only that he has to do them regularly but he must also have some enthusiasm, the interest or eager to do them because accumulation of merit is able to yield happiness according to the Buddha.
Merit in English is the feature that deserves praise but Punya is the good deed that is beneficial to oneself and others and also the deeds that are done in the absence of attachment, anger and illusion. The opposite of Punnya is the Apunya in Pali language. All immoral deeds such as killing, stealing and sexual misconduct are based on three immoral roots namely attachment, anger and illusion. Respectively they are Lobha, Dosa and Moha in Pali.
Mind is related to all Karmas
Mind is the prime cause of all verbal physical and mental deeds. Those bad actions produce nothing but sufferings in the hell, animal world, spirit world and the world of demons. People who follow Taoism offer hell passports to the dead but Buddhists do not need hell passports but they should have heaven passports just like Punya book, the Pinpota that Buddhists used to record all their good actions in the ancient time in Sri Lanka.
Offering Kathina robes
Presently Buddhist people used to offer Kathina robes to monks after the retreat of the monks. Offering of Kathina robe is one of the eight great offerings in Buddhism as the Pali poem says,
“Kathinam ca parikkhaaram – Vaasadaanam ca uttamam
Buddhappamuka sanghassa – Daanam Dhammassa lekhanam
Khetta daanam ca sanghassa – Patimaa karanampi ca
Karanam Vacchakutiyaa – attha punyaani vucchare”
Kathina is an especial robe that is offered to monks who have followed the precepts of the rainy retreats. The Pali word Kathina implies that the merit one accumulated by offering a Kathina is very solid like the earth. It is also unshakable like the Mountain Meru, that is unable to move away by the wind and also it is not able to destroy as that of a diamond rock.
Robe is an embodiment of higher virtues such as compassion, kindness, confidence and truthfulness etc. An ordinary man is transformed into a holy man with those sublime virtues. It is also the banner of Arahants. The value of a Kathina robe is limitless and very precious. Items that are used by famous stars like Michael Jackson and Princess Diana are subject to be auctioned to millions of dollars, therefore the robe of an arahant could be valued to a limitless amount due to the sublime virtues that monks practice.
Dress of a laymen
Dress of a layman is also an ornament. A man or a woman without a dress cannot be beautiful. People wear different kinds of clothes and by different fashions. But the purpose of wearing clothes is to cover nakedness and prevent heat and cold. Civilized people wear suitable garments in proper way in order to make themselves look better. There are extra benefits of wearing a robe by a monk. Robes help monks to prevent from mosquito biting, to prevent from heat and cold and to maintain mainly their precepts. When they wear robes, they reflect the purposes of wearing them and it is a subject of meditation also.
Recommendation of Kathina robe
Buddha recommended monks to have three robes in the beginning. But some of the monks who lived in Paavaa wanted to visit Buddha when He was residing at Jetavana Vihara in Sawatthi. When monks were travelling, they had a lot of difficulties on the way due to heavy rain. Therefore, they could not proceed their journey and stopped at the place called Saaketa. They observed rainy retreat in a monastery in Saketa. They started their journey to visit the Buddha again at the end of the retreat. They could arrive Jetavana monastery after walking many hundreds of miles but still facing problems due to rain and muddy roads to see Buddha. Buddha heard their difficulties upon His enquiries in the discussion with them and then Buddha recommended monks to have extra robe at the end of a retreat namely, Kathina. Since then, offering of Kathina robes was started by the people.
Offering of Kathina robes is to be done by an act namely Sangha Kamma. After people offer Kathina robes, monks have to choose one of the suitable robes to give to the selected a monk that has followed the rules of the retreat. Then monks take the robe to a Seema house where they officially offer it to the selected monk by an act. The formular of handing over the robe to the monk who has duly completed his retreat is recited by two monks for three times after getting the approval from monks after asking for three times. The procedure of legally handing over Kathina robe is done according to the democratic system introduced by the Buddha for the first time in the world. It is understood that Buddha has given a great value to virtues rather than outward appearance caused by the robe.
Benefits of offering Kathina
Kathina robe offering is the only offering that is offered two times. First it is offered to monks by the devotees and then it is offered again to a particular monk who followed the precept of the rainy retreat by the Sangha. Both the Monks and lay people receive benefits of offering Kathina robes.
Laymen who offer Kathina robes are not born in the hell. They are born either human world or heaven. They are also able to become the ruler of the world or the king of the heaven. Karmas that have been committed by an individual contain three stages of resulting. One seventh of javanas in a thought process that constitutes Karma is resulted in this very life. The last portion of the Javanas is resulted in the second life. The five portions of the Javanas in between first and the last out of seven Javanas are resulted any time after the second life until attainment of Nirvana. Whatever Karma that is unable in yielding results in due time is subject to disappear as Ahosi Karma.
Merit of Kathina offering is so powerful that it prevents evil Karma that could result in the hell, animal world, spirit world and the world of demons. Therefore, some of the Karmas disappear when their time expires as the merit of Kathina offering is always fore-running. Those who offer Kathina robes are also become higher officers when they are born in the human world. They also become healthy and handsome. They enjoy happy life and when they meet Buddha in the future. They are able to attain Nirvana by hearing Dhamma at the end. They are also able to become monks as a result of offering Kathina robes.
Design of a Kathina robe
Lay people did not offer robes to monks in the beginning as Buddha had advised them to make robes by themselves by collecting pieces of cloths and joining them. The robe was sewn according to the design of the paddy field of Magadha as advised by the Buddha. Later it was coloured with the water boiled with some barks and stem of some trees like jack fruit or Mahogany trees. This natural colouring of the robes were good for the health and preventing heat of the body. The colour also depicts the doctrine of impermanence. First time Jivaka the physician of the Buddha offered a robe.
Significance of Kathina offering to Sangha
Once Prajapati the foster mother of the Buddha offered a robe to Lord Buddha made by herself but the Buddha refused to accept it and told her to offer it to the Sangha. Then later Buddha explained to her when she offered the robe to Sangha, it was also offered to the Buddha and it was more meritorious when it was offered as a common offering to the Sangha. That is why Kathina is offered to Sangha today. The robe is not suitable to wear by a person who does not follow morality and meditation according to Dhammapada poem.
“Anikkasaavo kasaavam – Yo vattham paridahessati
Apeto dama saccena – Na so kasava marahati”
Devadatta used to wear a very precious robe in front of such great disciples Sariputta and Moggallana. In a previous life pretended like a monk he wore a robe to cut away the tusks of an elephant as the elephant used to respect the monk.
The wearing of the robe is only suitable to the person who is endowed with morality, discipline and truth as explained in the Dhammapada poem.
“Yo ca vanta kasaavassa – Silesu susamaahito
Upetodama sacchena – Save kaasaava marahati”
Eight great offering
Besides the offering of Kathina robes, offering of eight requisites, temples, offering of food to the Buddha and the Sangha, writing of Dhamma books, offering of lands to Sangha, making of Buddha statues or pagodas, making of toilets and bath rooms are the great offerings in Buddhism.
“Kathinan ca parikkhaaram – Vaasadaanan ca uttamam
Buddhappamuka sanghassa – Daanam dhammassa lekhanam
Khetthadaanan ca sanghassa – Patimaa karananpi ca
Karanam vacchakutiyaa – Atthadaanaani vuccare”
Then again Kathina is the best offering as it says,
“Giriraaja samam naasim -Sanghe deti teceevaram
Ekassa kathina daanassa – Kalam naaggati solasim”
Offering of three robes as many as to the size of the mountain Meru is not worth to one part out of sixteen divisions of merit as an offering of a Kathina robe. It is so powerful and effective that it produces abundant merit.
Benefits of merit
“Maanusikaa ca sampatti – Devaloke ca yaa rati
Yaa ca nibbana sampatti – Sabba metena labbati”
Merit creates happiness in the human world, long life, beauty, good health, happiness, wisdom and all necessities. It also creates the heavenly happiness. Not only the happiness in blissful realms but it creates the bliss of Nibbana also. Therefore, let us do meritorious deeds regularly and continuously as it is the way for the happiness.
May the covid 19 and terrorism disappear from the world and may all beings be well and happy. May peace and harmony prevail in the world.
After visit to Singapore
Official Photographs by SSPhotos – Singapore