Myanmar Buddhists Turn the Kathina Robe Ceremony into a Celebration
Theravada Buddhists all over the world celebrate the Kathina Robe Festival every year. It’s generally held in the month of November. But, in Myanmar the ceremony has taken on some traditions that make it Myanmar’s own celebration of the spirit of giving.
The traditions stem from a specific rule laid out in the Buddhist Vinaya, the list of rules all Buddhists must adhere to in order to maintain the precepts of Buddhism. This rule addresses the act of donating cloth and other non-food items.
The Kathina Tree
The rule specifically states that only one donation can be made by a single Buddhist. The way the Buddhists of Myanmar have gotten around this rule is that they typically form teams. These teams can be composed of residents of a single neighborhood or an entire village.
The teams all construct what they call Kathina ‘trees’. These trees are composed of numerous articles of cloth and household items such as cleaning products. The trees are formed into elaborate shapes and each tree is considered to be a single donation.
The Kathina Tree Parade
Each team takes pride in their tree. They dress in matching colorful uniforms and form a procession in the morning hours on the day of the Kathina Robe Ceremony and parade their trees along city streets all over Myanmar.
The destination of every parade is the local Buddhist pagoda or temple. Once they arrive at their destination, an army of volunteers is on hand to break down the Kathina trees into their individual donations and divide up the donations between the Buddhist monasteries.
The Logic behind the Kathina Trees
The donations are intended for the 93 Buddhist monasteries all across Myanmar. By creating these trees, the Buddhists of Myanmar are able to increase their donations, and in turn, provide enough donations to satisfy the needs of the thousands of monks all across Myanmar and all without violating the rule concerning donations in the Vinaya.
They have successfully turned an altruistic act into a singular traditional celebration that is enjoyed by Buddhists and tourists alike and greatly appreciated by all the Buddhist monks in Myanmar.