America Burma Buddhist Association

Ashin Pyinnya Thiha   

            AKathina  Ceremony


               Ashin Pyinnya Thiha

The celebration of the Kathina was carried out from the time of the Buddha. The ceremony is only concerned with Vinaya and Sangha, but without the lay people's participation it impossible to be performed. To hold the Kathina ceremony someone must voluntarily offer a robe to the community of Bhikkhus. It means that Bhikkhus should not give any hint to lay people to offer robes for the purpose of holding a Kathina ceremony. And then Robes should not be offered before the day of the Kathina ceremony. After Bhikkhus receive a Kathina robe, they must perform the ceremony within twenty-four hours, otherwise the robe is not allowed to be a part of the ceremony. Holding the Kathina ceremony, Bhikkhus can have a permission not to follow some Vinaya rules for five months. I will tell you this matter later. First I would like to let you know the reason why the Buddha allowed Bhikkhus to hold the Kathina ceremony.

What one should seek for?

After the Buddha stayed at Benares for long time, he started his journey for Uruvela. On the way, he turned off from the road, and approached a grove. Having plunged into the grove, he sat down under a tree. At that time, a group of thirty young men, with their wives, were amusing themselves in the same woodland. One of them had no wife, so a prostitute was brought along for him. Then while they were heedlessly amusing themselves, the woman, taking their belongings, ran away.

To search for her, the thirty young men were roaming about the grove. Instead of finding her, they saw the Buddha sitting under a tree, seeing him, they approached the Buddha and asked, " Lord, have you seen a woman?"

The Buddha asked, "Young men, what have you to do with a woman?"

They replied, " Lord, with our wives, we were amusing ourselves in this woodland; one of us had no wife, so a prostitute was brought along for him. Then, Lord, as we were heedlessly amusing ourselves, the woman ran away taking our belongings. That is why, we are trying to seek her in this woodland."

The Buddha asked, "What do you think of it, young men? Which is better for you, that you should seek for a woman or that you should seek for the self?''

They deeply pondered the Buddha' question, and answered, " Indeed, Lord, it is better for us that we should seek for the self."

"Well then, sit down young men, I will teach you the Dhamma " the Buddha said.
Saying' "Yes. Lord," the thirty young mem sat down at a suitable place, and listened attentively to the Buddha's teaching.
The Buddha gave a series of graduated talks to them, that is to say, a talk on giving, a talk on moral habits, a talk on heaven, a talk on the sufferings of following sensual pleasures, a talk on the nature of impermanence, saying that: "whatever is of the nature to occur, is also of the nature to cease."

Having seen the Dhamma, attained the Dhamma, known the Dhamma, plunged into the Dhamma, the thirty young men spoke thus to the Buddha: "Lord, may we receive ordination?"

"Come, monks," the Buddha said, " The Dhamma is well delivered; to finish all suffering, practice it diligently." So, in this way the thirty young men became monks. And then they went to a forest, and practiced meditation.


Which is the greater?

One day, they came to Rajagaha to see the Buddha. When the Buddha met then, he knew that the Bhikkhus had not yet been freed from fetters, and surveyed whether they could be liberated from fetters at this very sitting if he gave a Dhamma talk. And then he said, " Bhikkhus! The beginning of one's life cycle is unfathomable. The earliest point of beings cloaked in illusion, tied by craving, cannot be revealed.

As to that, what do you think Bhikkhus? Which is the greater? the blood that has flowed by the loss of your heads as you were in such a long life cycle, or the water in the four oceans?"

 "Learning from your teaching, we know that greater is the blood that has flowed by the loss of our heads as we were in such a long life cycle than the water of the four oceans," they answered.

 The Buddha said, "Well said! well said, Bhikkhus! Greater is the blood that has flowed by the loss of your heads as you were born as oxen, as buffaloes, as rams, as goats, as wild beasts and so on in such a long life cycle greater than the water of the four oceans.

Greater is the blood that has flowed by the loss of your heads when you were seized as robbers or as village plunderers or as highwaymen than the water in the four oceans.

Bhikkhus! you have been suffering ill; you have been suffering pain; you have been suffering disaster for such a long time. It is a right time for you to break free from the fetters, to lose all passion for worldly things."

The Bhikkhus took delight in the Buddha's teaching. During the Dhamma talk, the hearts of the thirty Bhikkhus, without any grasping, were set free from the fetters.
( Nidans Book, Thirty only, KS 2, Pg 126)

Other Bhikkhus were amazed at the thirty Bhikkhus' freedom from fetters saying how bright their insight knowledge was. When the words came into the Buddha's ear, he told an old tale as follows:


The past story of the thirty Bhikkhus

Once when Bramadatta was king in Benares, the Bodhisatta was conceived by a wild sow. In due time, she gave birth to two male piglits. One day she took them and lay down in a pit. An old woman came back home from the cotton field tapping the ground with her stick. The sow heard the sound, and in fear of death, left her young and fled.

The woman saw the young pigs, and feeling towards them as her own children, she put them in her basket, and took them home; then she called the elder Mahatundila, the younger Culatundila, and reared them like children. In time, they grew up, and became fat. When the old woman was asked to sell them, she answered, "They are my children. I won't sell them."
On a feast-day, some fellows were drinking strong alcohol, and when they had finished eating their meat, they considered where they could get more: finding out that there were pigs in the old woman's house, they went there, and said, "Mother, take this money and give us one of those pigs."

She refused saying; "Enough, young men: are there people who would give their children to buyers to eat their flesh?"
The fellows said, "Mother, pigs cannot be children of men, give them to us": but they could not get them, though they asked again and again. Then they made the woman drink strong alcohol.

 After drinking strong alcohol, she said, "I cannot give you Mahatundila, take Culatundila."

The drinkers asked, "Where is he?"
"There, he is in that bush," the woman replied.
"Call him," they said.
"I don't see any food for him," the woman said.
One of the fellows went to buy a cup of rice, and gave it to the woman.
She took it, and filled the pig's trough which stood at the door. Thirty fellows stood by with nooses in their hands.
The old woman called, "Come, Culltundila, come."
The elder pig, Mahatundila, hearing this, thought,"All this time mother has never given the call to Culatundila, she always calls me first; certainly some danger must have arisen for us today."

And he told his younger brother, "Brother, mother is calling you, go and find out. But be careful.
Culatundila went out, and seeing the men standing by the trough, he thought, "Death is coming upon me today." and in fear of death, he was so shocked. When he came back to his brother, he could not contain himself but reeled about shaking.

Mahatundila, seeing him, said, "Brother, you are shaking today watching the entrance: why are you doing so?"
Culatundila explained what he had seen as follows: "Brother, there is something wrong today, I fear. The trough is full. My mother is near by, and men, nooses in their hands, are standing there. To eat appears dangerous."

When the Bodhisatta heard his brother, he considered the Ten Perfections. Setting the perfection of Love before him as his guide, he uttered these words: - "Brother, the purpose, for which my mother rears us, has today come to its fulfillment. Do not grieve. You fear, and look for aid. But, helpless, where can you flee? We are fattened for the sake of our flesh; Eat Tundila cheerfully. . Plunge bravely into the crystal pool. Wash all the stains of sweat away. Apply wonderful perfume; its scent never can decay."

Culatundila, hearing him, thought, "My brother says so to me: but it is not our custom to plunge into the pool, to wash away sweat from our bodies by bathing and to get new perfume. Why does he say so to me?"

He asked, "Brother, I don't quite understand what you mean. Please explain to me what the crystal pool is; what the stain of sweat is, and what the powerful perfume is.

The Bodhisatta said, "Then listen carefully dear brother! The law is the crystal pool. Sin is the stain of sweat. Virtue is the powerful perfume."

Because of the Bodhisatta's words, the thirty fellows became sober, and throwing away their nooses, they listened to the law, and the woman's drunkenness left her also.

The thirty drinkers became Bhikkhus in the life-time of the Buddha. The thirty Bhikkhus lived as forest dwellers. They lived by going on alms-rounds. They always wore the three robes: under robe, outer robe and double robe.
The reason for performing the ceremony

These robes were made of cloth from rubbish heaps and cemeteries. We can imagine how heavy these robes were. One day, they went to Savatthi city to see the Buddha, but they were unable to reach Savatthi in time for the beginning of the rains retreat. Therefore, they had to spend their rains retreat at Saketa on the way to Savatthi. They were longing to see the Buddha thinking: " The Buddha is staying close to us, about forty-five miles from here, but we are not getting a chance to see him."

As soon as their rains retreat finished, they set off on their journey to Savatthi. The rainy season had not completely finished yet, but they did not worry about the rain. Unfortunately they caught the heavy rain on the way. While it was raining, while waters were gathering, while swamps were forming, with drenched robes, they approached Savatthi. They were very tired. But their tiredness could not prevent them from going to the Buddha.

They went to the Buddha as soon as they arrived in Savatthi. After paying respects to him, they sat down at a suitable place. As a friendly greeting, the Buddha asked them whether all went well with them, whether they had enough to support life, whether they spent a comfortable rains retreat, whether they had not gone short of alms food and so on. They told the Buddha their story, and the weariness of carrying the wet, muddy and heavy robes throughout the journey.


The benefit of performing the Kathina ceremony

 Then, having given a Dhamma talk, the Buddha addressed the Bhikkhus as follows: " I allow you to make up a Kathina-robe when you have completed the rains retreat. Five things will be permitted to you when the robe has been made up: (1) going to families for alms without having asked for permission from fellow monks, (2) going somewhere without wearing all three robes, (3) having a group-meal, (4) keeping as many robes as you require, and (5) having a right to share the robes offered by lay people to the monastery where you live."

According to a monastic rule, after a monk has received an invitation to a meal, he should not go out without telling one of his fellow monks. And then it is improper to invite four or more monks to a meal by telling the name of the food. For example, "Please Bante, come to my house for fish and chips or bread and butter and so on." Monks also should not ask people in this way. We should know why the Buddha laid down the rule.The reason was that when the Buddha stayed at Veluvana monastery in Rajagaha, Devadatta his brother-in-law was also a monk. He was not receiving enough support from lay people. So, he went to lay people’s houses together with his followers, and asked for particular food. For example, he might have asked for curried chicken and rice. People complained about this because monks should be content with what they are offered. When the Buddha came to know about this, he laid down the Vinaya rule; If the invitation is issued in an improper way, no more than three monks should go together. But if they go, and have the food separately, they are not going against the Vinaya rule. When monks feel ill or when people offer robes or when monks sew robes or when monks go on long journeys by land, sea or air, then monks are allowed to ask for what they need.
After holding the Kathina ceremony, monks are allowed to go to families for alms without having asked for permission, to go somewhere without wearing all three robes, to have a group- meal, to keep as many robes as they require, and to have a right to share the robes offered by lay people to the monastery where they live." This is how monks benefit from the Kathina ceremony.

Make effort to follow the words of Bodhisatta

By participating in the ceremony, lay people also will gain great merit because they can offer monks material and spiritual support. The Buddha pointed out the fact that the beginning of our life cycle is unfathomable. We have been suffering ill; we have been suffering pain; we have been suffering disaster for such a long time. Now we have a chance to try to realise Nibbana. To be free from all sufferings, we should follow Bodhisatta's words: plunge into the crystal pool, to wash away sweat from our bodies by bathing and to get new perfume, that is to say, we should practise the seven factors of enlightenment or meditation.

Of the seven, the first aspect is awareness; the second is investigation into truth; the third is joy; the fourth is energy; the fifth is tranquility; the sixth is inner stability and the last one is equanimity.
Within the seven factors of enlightenment, there are two groups. One is active, the other is passive. The active group consists of investigation of truth, joy and energy; the passive group consists of tranquility, inner stability and equanimity. In the state of enlightenment, we can see a balance, a harmony between the active and the passive. Among them, awareness is the only key to balance the two sides of enlightenment. Awareness means meditating on the functions of mind and body. When we meditate, the practice will wash away our mental defilement such as greed, anger, illusion, conceit and so on. And then our morality will be pure. Peace will be in our mind forever.

May all of you build up morality, concentration and wisdom, and then may all of you attain inner peace!



The Benefits of Kathina Robe Offering


      >  Without any disturbance the donor can go anywhere.


      >  Without any burden, the donor can enjoy everyday life.


      >  Without worry, the donor can eat any kinds of food.


      Without any danger, the donor can own many properties and


      >  His or her belongings are safe.




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