The significance of KATHINA
During the Buddha’s time, there was a group of 30 ascetic bhikkhus who went to pay respect to the Buddha. At that time the Buddha was staying at Savatthi in Jetavana, Anathapindika’s monastery. The rainy season set in before they could reach Savatthi so they had to stop and observed the Vassa (Pali for rains retreat) for 3 months.
At the end of the Vassa, the ascetic bhikkhus resumed their journey while rain was still pouring and had to walk on muddy roads. When they arrived at the Buddha’s residence and they were drenched and weary. Their robes were dirty and stained. Having paid respect to the Buddha, they sat down at a respectable distance. The compassionate Buddha, always concerned about the welfare and happiness of his disciples, asked how they fared during the Vassa. They related what happened to them during their journey. After hearing their difficulties, the Buddha allowed the Kathina ceremony when the bhikkhus have completed their observance of vassa.
Kathina is held only once a year. It is an auspicious occasion for lay devotees to practice generosity (Dana); by supporting the Sangha who have completed the observance of vassa with the necessary requisites. The offering of robes and requisites should be cultivated as a virtue to help us reduce selfishness and craving. When the practice of dana is not tainted with craving, pride and wrong view, it amounts to Dana Parami (perfection in dana). By performing dana in this way, this become one of the conditions for the attainment of Nibbana – cessation of all suffering. (Besides the practice of dana, courageous effort should also be made to practice Sila – “observance of morality” and Bhavana “mental training” for the benefit of oneself as well as others.)
On this auspicious occasion, lay devotees should perform the dana with faith and joy. Before giving, feel glad at heart; in giving, the heart is satisfied; and the heart is uplifted when dana has been performed. Then proper aspiration should be made for progress in the Dhamma, realizing the Four Noble Truths and attain the highest spiritual goal – Nibbana.
All the offerings received on that day will go to the Sangha. The members of the Sangha have the discretion on how to use these offerings. They could offer the extra requisites to other monks, for charity, for temple’s maintenance or any other cause that deems fit.
May all living beings tread on the Noble Eightfold Path, realizing the Dhamma and live in peace and happiness.