On March 24, the Abbey joyfully celebrates kathina (pronounced kuh-teen-ah). Established by the Buddha, the ancient ceremony of kathina is a time to rejoice in the virtue created by the sangha during the monastic retreat (varsa) and the ending ceremony (pravarana).

This year, the Abbey combines our kathina celebration with our annual End-of-Retreat celebration. Everyone is welcome to attend.

KathinaLay people in procession with offerings fro the sangha.

Kathina is widely celebrated in Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia. Traditionally, to generate merit or good karma, lay followers make offerings of the four requisites—food, clothing, medicine, and shelter—to replenish the monastery’s supplies after the long monastic retreat.

Historically, the kathina is especially for the offering of monastic robes. At the time of the Buddha, cloth was hard to come by. In addition, monastics’ robes were usually worn out after the retreat time. The kathina rituals include offering a  “robe of merit,” a new robe given by the laity to the sangha. The sangha, in turn, gives the robe to the monastic who needs it most.

In Asia, the kathina is a huge community festival. One of the Abbey’s Theravada friends told us they sometimes even have an elephant in the parade of offerings! Ingenious Abbey friends created a moose placard to lead our offering procession, a Northwest twist that replaces the elephant.

On Kathina & End-of-Retreat Day The sangha receives the robe of merit.

Beginning at 10 am, we’ll have a brief orientation in Chenrezig Hall. Then guests line up in front of Chenrezig Hall with offerings in hand. Chanting the Buddha’s mantra, they process up the hill to the Meditation Hall, where the fully ordained monastics are already in position for formal ceremony.

From there, a lay delegate ceremonially offers the “robe of merit.” The most senior monastic present accepts it on behalf of the sangha community. Then the lay people adjourn to another building while the sangha gives the robe to the selected nun or monk. Finally, everyone comes together for a joyful dedication of merit.

After a vegetarian potluck lunch, we’ll begin the End-of-Retreat Lama Chop puja and thank our volunteers.

Want to know more?

Ven. Chodron explains the history and meaning of kathina, then leads a beautiful meditation on rejoicing in this video talk.

Additional kathina videos include Ven. Tarpa’s expression of appreciation. Ven. Semkye also shares what kathina means to the Abbey community.

Community needs are posted on our Wish List if you’d like to make a kathina offering. (List will be updated by March 10.)

See photos of Kathina 2016.