Last October, my family and I hosted the Kathina ceremony and presented the Royal Kathina to the monks of Wat Dallas. We joined members of North Texas’ Thai and Buddhist communities. Many of us wore traditional Thai dress, with my family wearing royal yellow.
To be asked to present the Royal Kathina is a once-in-a-lifetime privilege that few Thais enjoy. To have this privilege is a huge honor for my family and me, and we are truly grateful.
Why the Kathina ceremony is important to Thais
The Kathina ceremony holds an important place, not just in the Thai cultural calendar. It’s part of an ancient festival that the Buddhists of Southeast Asia observe. The ceremony always falls at the end of Vassa, the region’s three-month rainy season.
Buddhist monks cannot travel during Vassa. According to tradition, Gautama Buddha himself has forbidden it because they may harm insects and crops by accident on their journey. Thus, they had to stay put in one place during the entire rainy season.
Legend has it that a group of monks wanted to spend Vassa with the Buddha. Unfortunately, the rains began pouring while they were still on the road. So, instead of proceeding, they decided to spend the next three months in meditation. Pleased with their actions, the Buddha rewarded them with cloth pieces, which they put together on a wooden frame and made into a single robe. The group gave the robe to one of their company as a gesture of generosity and in the spirit of sharing. The wooden frame is called a kathin; it’s from this wooden frame that the Kathina got its name.
For the Buddhists of Thailand, the Kathina ceremony became a time for making merit. It’s also a time for expressing gratitude to the monks for their spiritual work. Laypeople gave the monks essential items such as food, medicine, toiletries, and writing supplies. The central part of the ceremony is the presentation of the saffron cloth, which will be made into robes.
In Thailand’s royal temples, the King himself or his designated representative from the Royal Family present the cloth to the monks. This cloth is called the Royal Kathina. The Royal Kathina that my family presented came from the royal temples, blessed by the King himself.
The Kathina ceremony at Wat Dallas is a social-distancing yet soul-feeding affair.
In previous years, the Kathina ceremony at Wat Dallas easily attracted crowds of 500 or so people. This year, however, only around a hundred attended the ceremony because of the coronavirus situation. Everyone wore face masks and observed social distancing.
Although there were fewer people around for the event, we could feel the community’s warmth and spirit of generosity. We were able to raise more funds for the temple this year than in past years.
Funds raised during the Kathina ceremony are usually allocated for the temple’s maintenance and utilities. However, a couple of years ago, the tornado that hit Dallas badly damaged the Wat Dallas cultural center. The community decided to tear the building down because it had asbestos. The cultural center is an important part of Wat Dallas. It’s a place where our community members can feed their soul by learning Thai language, culture, dance, music, and traditions.
We need to raise more funds for the center. You can learn more about the Kathina ceremony and the fundraising efforts at the Wat Dallas Facebook page. I invite you to donate if you can.
Khob khun ka.
Images: Wat Dallas | Facebook