Reflections on the robe | Daily News

Reflections on the robe

The rain retreat, having commenced in Esala, comes to an end in Vap. It is time for Buddhists to celebrate with much grandeur – spiritual grandeur. In Pali Katina means ‘unbreakable’.

Modern days do not have a proper rain calendar. But we are always fond of following the traditions, hence the rainy retreat, no matter whether rains come or not.

The Buddha, along with his disciples, initiated the rain retreat – vassana. Monks, especially higher ordained, are expected to follow the discipline code in a strict sense. How this ritual came to be is interesting.

When the Buddha’s monk disciples used to walk even in the rainy seasons, it was a good point for the non-Buddhist sects to attack the Buddha. That the Gautama’s followers kill thousands of living beings in the rainy season. When monks stayed indoors and meditated, people mistook it. They thought monks suffer a lot, and reported this to King Bimbisara. The good-hearted king invited the Buddha and his followers to his city of Rajagaha.

It was the custom of the Buddhist monks to roam for their alms. This was so even during the rainy periods. This had been, as usual, criticised by the non-Buddhist sectors especially Jains. Their complaints were that the Buddhist monks walk on the lawns and crops. Jains believe destroying plants too is a sinful act. They also opined that during the rainy season, many insect-like creatures come to the ground, and monks’ roaming affects their life. Any being, including even birds, will remain indoors during this season, while the Buddhist monks still roam here and there giving a cold shoulder to natural norms.

The Buddha listened to this, surprised them by ruling that the monks should stay indoors in the rainy season and named it rain retreat. It means vas in Pali, because viseema is dwelling in English. The retreat lasts for three months. The vas actually starts in Esala, which is called pera vas, and what happens in Nikini is called pasu vas. This paved the way to a strong bond between the monks and laypeople, as they get to meet oftener.

This period is considered utmost sacred. Many meritorious activities such as discussion and meditation are carried out. Whenever a layperson builds a new house, h/she invites the Buddhist monks to spend a while during this season.

Offering a katina robe or being engaged in a katina activity is considered a great merit, which will yield results in this existence itself. It is considered as one of the eight great meritorious activities.

Add new comment