Kathina celebrations in Asia
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 retreat. The kathina rituals include offering a “robe of merit,” a new robe that lay people formally offer to the ordained sangha. The sangha, in turn, gives the robe to a 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, an American Pacific Northwest twist that replaces the elephant.