Friday, December 23, 2016

KAṬHINA CEREMONY 2016 - article

On Saturday of 12th November 2016, I attended a Kaṭhina Ceremony. It is the second most important festival in Buddhist countries of Theravāda tradition, right after Vesākha. It takes part every year in the time of four weeks after the end of vassa (the rains retreat). It is related to an ancient Buddhist tradition of giving a robe and the four requisites to bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs.

I have been very much looking forward to this special day and for a long time I had marked it in my diary as the bright spot of my hectic and fast-moving weeks to come. I attended Kaṭhina a few times before, but this time the ceremony took place in the newly reconstructed ārāma. I see this place as an oasis of pure energy, where my mind can relax, slow down and recover.

Once we arrived, all of us participated in a preparation of dāna for Venerable bhikkhunī and a rich refreshment for all the lay practitioners. This time, the attendance was not as plentiful as on Vesākha and it took place in a more intimate atmosphere. To me, it was even more intense.

After Buddha pūja and taking refuge in the Triple Gem, we had an unique opportunity to make an offering to bhikkhunī Visuddhi with food and gifts. After that, the lay people also participated on the abundance and generosity of us all who helped to prepare the food. A lunch, a cup of tea, talking with friends – that was a pleasant time spent with like-minded people in the ārāma.

The main afternoon program started in the great meditation hall, where we were reciting together
with bhikkhunī Visuddhi parittā (protection) and the dedication of merits - anomodanā. Venerable unrolled a white thread to which we were all holding on to so that it did not touch the ground. The thread is an integral part of this ritual. As soon as the recitations were finished, the thread was rolled back on the spool and venerable bhikkhunī cut the thread into smaller strings and tied them around lay practitioners’ wrists. It serves as a protection and a reminder of the Triple Gem. To me, the recitations are pleasant and energizing. Sometimes I recite together with the rest, other times I just close my eyes and let the melody and rhythm sink in.

The ritual of tying a thread around a wrist (pirit nul) is beautiful and strong. I like it a lot. I wear the string even several months, until it falls apart. It always reminds me protection and the Triple Gem – The Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha. 

In the following afternoon program, there was a Dhamma talk, when bhikkhunī Visuddhi was narrating in a very absorbing way about the Kaṭhina holiday in Buddhist countries, its meaning and importance of giving a monastic robe. She was telling us about her strong intention to establish this tradition also in the Czech Republic and allow us, the lay people, to take part on this celebration in a Buddhist ārāma. After the Dhamma desanā, there was time for our individual questions that concerned mainly carrying over the teaching into our everyday lives. 

In conclusion of the Saturday afternoon, there was a time also for joint meditation mettā and calming of our mind. In the darkening meditation room, in quietness, alone with myself and in the same time connected to all other beings. There are moments, when I can strongly and consciously connect with the good in myself and cultivate my kindness and compassion.  The practice of mettā is very powerful and it helps me to better cope with difficult situation and deal with emotions in everyday life.

I was leaving Prostejov to go back to Brno when it was completely dark, but the peace, mettā  and immense gratitude for the possibility to be here, was still glowing in me. I am so grateful to being able to spend time in ārāma, to practice and personally experience the power of The Triple Gem – The Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha.  I would like to express my big thanks and gratitude to bhikkhunī Visuddhi and all people that took part on a creation of this wonderful meditation space.

Hanka Formankova

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