Most Venerable Dr. Galle Udita Maha Nayake Thero

“Sihapura Sanghapati”, The Chief Sangha Nayake of Singapore, Senior Religious Adviser of Buddha Vihara Society, Singapore


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”

Brothers and Sisters in the Dhamma,

Meritorious deeds:

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 offering

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.

Sangha Kamma

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.

  • The monk who receives the Kathina robe is free to go out without permission of other monks. That is the first benefit of receiving Kathina
  • The second benefit is that he is free to go out without having three robes that have been determined to use.
  • The third is that he is able to accept invitation from laymen against normal procedure.
  • The fourth is that he is able to accept many robes.
  • The fifth is that all the requisites that are brought to temple belong to him. It is understood that the Buddha has made those rules flexible to monks for them to relax at least for five months who receive Kathina robes legally.

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.

Singnificance 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.