Yesterday we had Thot Kathin or Kathin Ceremony at our local temple, Wat Greensboro of North Carolina.
Dork Champee, I’ve not seen one in a long time. The aroma is incredible and it’s one of the offering flowers.
In most Southeast Asia countries, where Buddhist monks live in one place for 3 months known as Punsa or Rain Retreat, and after the three months of Retreat observance, people have a very grand festival of offering food to the monks in various Wat (Temples), each Wat could only Thot Kathin once a year. At this same time, they prepare special yellow robes that are offered to the Sangha .
This special yellow robe offering is called the Kathin Offering Ceremony. It can be done only during the period from the end of the Rain Retreat to the first day of the Waning Moon of the 12th Lunar Month, which means only within 29 days after Ork Punsa. There must be at least 5 monks for a Wat to Thot Kathin, and in the United States, it’s hard to have that many living in one Wat, but we have 6 monks at our Wat for the Kathin Ceremony. This year we have a Kathin Samakee, which means that it’s being hosted by many and not just one person, we had the Khmer, the Lao, and the Thais and raised over $10,000.
This is a related post of Ork Punsa and Thot Kathin that I wrote in August 2007.
Boun Souang Heua is a part of Lao tradition for many generations, but most younger generations forget as to why we celebrate the festive event, and it might be that the event of Dragon Boat Racing is internationally recognized, well known to all, and has an interesting myth and legend that surround the history of the event. As for our Boun Souang Heau, we also have our history and reasoning behind the event as well, it is held the day after Ork Punsa.
As we all knew that Buddhism is the official religion of Laos, and many religious events are more or less celebrated nationwide. One of the most notable celebrations is at the end of Lent or the Rains Retreat called Ork Punsa. Punsa is the period of three months during which the Buddhist monks are obliged to stay in the monasteries. The end of the Rains Retreat marks the occasion for the monks throughout the country to receive new robes and other necessities in an annual presentation ceremony called Thot Kathin (merit-making ceremony).
According to one of the monks at our local Wat (temple), in Laos, people would choose which Wat they want to Thot Kathin, the temple then place a Kathin flag as an announcement that the Kathin event is to follow. Assuming if there were no flag in front of Wat, then the villagers would join in to Thot Kathin called Kathin Samakee.
Today was Ork Punsa at our local temple Wat Greensboro, also known as Greensboro Buddhist Center, but tomorrow is the day that marks the conclusion of the Rains retreat. The tradition of Buddhist Lent or the annual three-month Rains Retreat known in Laos and Thailand as Punsa, which dated back to the early Buddhism in ancient India, this is the time where monks spent three months of the annual rainy season in permanent dwellings. This is to avoid unnecessary traveling during the period when crops were still new for fear they might accidentally step on young plants. According to our sermon today, in the ancient time, the Lord Buddha left earth for 3 months to visit his mother up in heaven, he wanted to show his gratitude by chanting for her during this Lent period, and the day of Ork Punsa was the day that he returned to earth, and all the people came to greet him. It is also considered inauspicious to get married or move house during the Lent period, but after Ork Punsa, the calendar is open for weddings.
As I’ve mentioned before, according to our Buddhist belief, Tuk Badt or Alms giving is believed by many that it’s a Boun (merit making) of life, that they’ll live a long and healthy life, which technically speaking, by Tuk Badt, they’re offering foods to the monks to sustain their livelihoods.
Today’s Alms giving is called Tuk Badt Tayvo, its an old Thai tradition of Alms giving where the Buddhist worshipers would lineup and the monks come by to collect Alms, I’m not sure if it’s called the same in Lao. This made me think of the time that we lived in Kamphangphet, Thailand, we would Tuk Badt Tayvo with rice grains, and dried foods that way it would not get spoiled because there were long lines of Buddhist worshipers and hundreds of monks collecting Alms, it’s a beautiful sight to witness and to take part in the ceremony.