By Thilak S.Fernando - Nov. 1997

Kathina or the Vassana ceremony in the Buddhist calendar is an auspicious event affording Buddhist devotees a rare opportunity of offering a Kathina Robe to the Sangha, who have been observing the Rainy Retreat ( Vassana ) for three preceding months. This special robe is stitched at the temple premises on the day it is offered to one or two chosen monks after a short ' official' deliberation among the other participating monks at the Kathina ceremony on that day. The Kapparukka or the wish-fulfilling tree is a tradition brought forward from the time of the Buddha, during the Kathina ceremony. This is normally set up a few days prior to the actual ceremony where devotees can make offerings and donations to the Sangha.

Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre held their eighth Kathina ceremony this year on 25th and 26 October, when five monks observed the Vassana Retreat. A special feature of this ceremony was the observation of an ancient tradition of paying obeisance to the past twenty eight Buddhas including, the last, The Gautama. As the name itself suggests, it was known as Ata Visi Buddha Puja where twenty five individual devotees undertook to worship their individually chosen Buddha's in the midst of normal religious chanting and paritta desana.

On the 25th, the Kathina ceremony kicked off with the Ata Visi Buddha Puja and Maha Pirith and on the day of Kathina ceremony ( 26th ) devotee Susantha Gunasekera who undertook to offer the Kathina Cheevara ( Robe) brought the cloth from his residence in a traditional procession, as early as 6 a.m. From the time it was brought to the Temple, after the Gilan Pasa Pooja and Dana, the devotees got down to stitching this special Robe, which went on till 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon. During the process anyone who wished to participate in the stitching was given a chance to make at least one or two stitches to the Robe, as it was considered as one of the most sacred forms of worship to get merits transferred to oneself.

At 3 p.m. Gunasekera offered the Robe to the Sangha who in turn, after religious chanting, conferred among themselves to elect a suitable monk, out of the five who had observed the Vassana Retreat, to hand over the Robe according to Buddhist Vinaya (Rules). Ven Aturupana Wachissara received the Kathina Robe this year and delivered an informative sermon (as part of the ritual) explaining the effects and benefits accruing to both the clergy and the laity from offering of a Kathina Robe.

As an added bonus to the ceremony this year, an enlightening speech delivered by Dr. Dala Bandara, Head of the Dept of Sinhala, University of Kelaniya, on the subject, ' deteriorating Sri Lankan values' ( Pirihi Yana Sinhala Sara Dharma) enlivened the audience which had been spiritually charged on this day from 6 a.m. Finally, Paritta Chanting and Punnanyumodana by the venerable monks concluded yet another year's Kathina ceremony at the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre at Kingsbury.

Kathina is a common ceremony to all Buddhist institutions the world over, but by living in the West and making an effort to maintain the same old traditions and moreover to educate the second generation of Buddhist children born to Sri Lankan parents in the UK about Sri Lankan traditions as well as religious and human values and and make the young active participants from a very early age is recognised as a dovted and a dedicated attempt successfully and constantly performed by the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre in London.