We are pleased to announce that Ajahn Jayasaro will attend the Kathina Cermony on Sunday, October 20th. Since the time of the Buddha, this annual ceremony has taken place during the month after the Vassa Retreat, which is the three-month rains retreat season (the monsoon season in Southeast Asia) for the monastic order. It is the time of the year when new robes and other requisites may be offered by the laity to the monks.
Ajahn Jayasaro will give the Saturday night talk in English on October 19. On October 20, Kathina will commence with the meal offering promptly at 11:00 am. After the meal, the robe-offering ceremony will take place, commencing at 1:00 pm, followed by Dhamma talks by Ajahn Jayasaro in Thai and Ajahn Pasanno in English. Please feel free to join us for this special day. Please contact us if you wish to help with any of the practical aspects of the day, such as preparing the monastery for the event.
If you are interested in viewing a list of the material needs of the monastery, please see the Kathina Dana List.
What Is the Kathina Ceremony? And How Can You Get Involved?
by Jeannie Bendik
Since the earliest days of Buddhist monastic life a three-month Rains Retreat has been observed. During this time that begins with the full moon of July, the renunciants would commit to staying in one place to live and practice together. As the name suggests, the rainy season was a logical time to stop the wandering aspect of the homeless life since travel during this time was so difficult. When this practice period (also called the vassa or pansa) was over, the lay community supporting the monastery gathered to celebrate the completion of the retreat with a festival called the Kathina.
Though the monsoon season affects life less in modern times, the tradition of the Rains Retreat continues. And while summer and early autumn are the driest times in California’s Mediterranean climate, the Kathina celebration at Abhayagiri also marks the end of the Rains Retreat. The Kathina day begins with a traditional meal offering and is followed by chanting and taking the precepts. A Dhamma talk is offered and the celebration includes gifts of supplies that are needed by the community for the coming year. A central gift is the offering of cloth for monastic robes. Traditionally the monastic robes were sewn together from bits of cloth collected from charnel grounds. At some point, a generous supporter decided to offer fresh, clean cloth for a robe, and that continues in the formal part of the Kathina ceremony. Even today, an individual (or sometimes a group) will ask to offer the Kathina cloth. Some years at Abhayagiri the cloth has been offered by the Ft. Bragg lay Sangha, in other years by long-distance supporters from Thailand, and once by the Sanghapala Board of Directors.
If you haven’t attended a Kathina celebration before, you’re in for a treat. I’ve come to think of it as the equivalent of all our lay holidays rolled into one. There is the abundance of Thanksgiving with gratitude for the completion of a long retreat and for having monastics in this country. The chance to gather together with gifts resembles the winter holidays of Hanukkah and Christmas, combined with a kind of birthday anniversary marking another year of monastic life. It’s a particularly joyous time to show appreciation for those who have gone forth into the homeless life and who provide support and inspiration to lay practitioners. It’s especially timely as fall and winter draw nearer, when visitors become less frequent and a full storeroom of supplies is so valuable.
If you are new to the Kathina celebration, you might be wondering how to join in. There are many ways to take part and greatly varying degrees of offering support. For those living near enough to attend in person, there are many tasks to be done ahead of time. The day before, you might find yourself making signs, helping put up awnings, arranging flowers or hanging prayer flags. On the day of the Kathina there are even more ways to pitch in, from directing cars for parking to receiving food, tidying bathrooms to the inevitable clean up. It’s a joy to work together with both lay and monastic community members.
If you can’t attend because of distance or calendar conflicts, you can still take part in the Kathina offering. If you enjoy shopping for a specific item that you know is needed, a Kathina “wish list” is available. Many small and medium-sized gifts can be sent by mail. You can notify a contact person when you’ve chosen what you’d like to give, and they will update the list accordingly, which helps eliminate duplication. Financial offerings are also gratefully received. Abhayagiri has many ongoing expenses. You can designate your gift for general operating costs such as medical insurance or utility bills or earmark your contribution for building projects or publications. Gifts of all sizes and kinds provide needed support and bring much happiness to both givers and recipients.
Whether you are able to come and enjoy the actual day of Kathina or can only participate in spirit, it is a rich experience to lend a hand, in whatever way, to the support of Abhayagiri. The monastic Sangha, as alms mendicants, exists completely through the generosity of lay supporters. In turn, the teachings offered by monastics (both by formal talks and by living example) are given freely. Their generous example helps our dana (generosity) flow out in response. It’s such a lovely circle of giving and receiving between the lay and monastic communities.
I recall a story of several medieval craftsmen working on an enormous church. When asked what each was doing, the first answered that he was building a wall in the nave. Another replied that he was carving a panel for a side door. The wisest worker responded, “I am building a cathedral.” No matter how we give or whether it’s in person or from a distance, we too are “building a monastery.” Please join us in whatever way you can as we celebrate the end of the Rains Retreat, this year on October 20th, 2013.