It was the rainy season after the Buddha preached his first discourse to the five ascetics of Isipatana and due to the rains his preaching tours were cut down and he followed the ancient practice to spend the rainy season "Vas" in one place of residence carrying out his work on the Dhamma. However, as time goes by, this ancient practice was not observed by some erring monks and they wandered about defying the elements and inviting unwarranted remarks. The Blessed One therefore laid down the precept of observing the "Vas" retreat during the "Vassana" season. It was a period for monks to recuperate after months of travelling about teaching the dhamma and to spend time in quiet and serious meditation, give dhamma talks and help laypeople and junior monks in spiritual development.
From the time of the Buddha and even until now the "Vas" period remains unchanged for Theraveda monks regardless of geographical and climatic differences. According to the "Vinaya" monks may not break "Vas" except that he may leave the "Vas" dwelling under specified circumstances and must always return before seven days. If he does not, it is an offence for he has broken his "Vas".
The place where "Vas" is observed should be conducive to spiritual and mental development of the monk as one of the main object of observing "Vas" is to practice meditation besides the opportunity of preaching the Dhamma more often to lay devotees. The layperson should take the opportunity of "Vas" period to discuss and learn the "Dhamma" with the monks.
The three months seclusion of monks for the rainy season ends with the "Pavarana" ceremony which is preceded by the "Uposatha Kamma" during which monks establish their "Purisuddhi" (Purity of conduct) and individually declared their shortcomings before their fellow brother monks and seek absolution. The Vinaya rules are not meant to punish but to rehabilitate an erring monk. They are reminders to the sangha to live within the framework of the "Vinaya". The monks who have establish their "Purisiddhi" are worthy of our veneration and worthy of receiving our dana. Lay devotees gets the chance to show their respect and support of the Buddha-Sasana during the "Kathina" Ceremony. The "Kathina" ceremony shall be performed by monks when they have completed their "Vas". The ceremony of giving the "Kathina Robes" is called "Kathina-pinkama".
The offering of this special robe started during the time of the Buddha when some monks after observing the three months rain retreat were going to the Monastery at Savatthi where the Buddha was staying were thoroughly drenched and soaked to the skin by a heavy downpour and taking into consideration their conditions he prescribed that the "Kathina" ceremony shall be performed by monks when they have completed the "Vas". After the "Kathina" ceremony monks may go out for alms to houses of people who have not invited them. They may go for alms collection without wearing the three sets of robes and move in groups of four or more. They may possess as many robes as they wanted and whatever the number of robes that the monks had receive shall belong to them.
It is the custom in Theravada countries to inform the lay devotees of the day on which the "Kathina" ceremony is to be held so that they may participate with offerings of robes sponsorship or other requisites. The distribution of the robes received by the monks from the lay devotees are entirely a matter for the sangha members. The "Kathina" ceremony promotes the interdependency of the sangha and the laity. It is an important merit making event for Buddhists following the Theravada Tradition.
Note: According to Bhikkhu Thanissaro in "The Buddhist Monastic Code" (Part One: The Robe-cloth Chapter)
End-of-vassa & kathina privileges. The fourth lunar month of the rainy season -- beginning the day after the first full moon in October and lasting to dawn of the day following the next full moon -- is termed the robe season, a period traditionally given over to robe-making. In the early days, when most bhikkhus spent the cold and hot seasons wandering, and stayed put in one place only during the Rains, this would have been the ideal period to prepare robes for their wandering, and would have been the ideal time for lay people who had come to know the bhikkhus during the Rains to show their gratitude and respect for them by presenting them with gifts of cloth for this purpose.
During this robe season, six of the training rules -- Nissaggiya Pacittiya 1, 2, & 3; Pacittiya 32, 33, & 46 -- are relaxed as a privilege for bhikkhus who have observed the three-month rains residence (vassa), to make it more convenient for them to make robes. Also, any cloth accruing to a particular monastery during this period may be shared only among the bhikkhus who spent the Rains there, and not with any incoming visitors.
If the bhikkhus who have spent the Rains in a particular monastery number five or more, they are also entitled to participate in a kathina ceremony in which they receive a gift of cloth from lay people, bestow it on one of their members, and then as a group make it into a robe before dawn of the following day. (Kathina means frame, and refers to the frame over which the robe-cloth is stretched, much like the frame used in America to make a quilt.) After participating in this ceremony, the bhikkhus may take advantage of the above-mentioned privileges for an additional four lunar months, up to the dawn after the full-moon day that ends the cold season in late February or early-to-mid March (called Phagguna in Pali).
1. The Rains Residence 
From "Lay Buddhist Practice", Bhikkhu Khantipalo,
This is a period of three months when bhikkhus must reside in one place and cannot wander, though they may undertake all their usual duties provided that they do not take them away from their monasteries overnight. In special circumstances they may even be absent from the monastery or residence where they have vowed to keep the Rains for as long as seven days. As bhikkhus do not withdraw more than usual at this time from involvement with lay people, unless they are devoting all their time to meditation, it is better to translate vassavasa literally as "rains-residence" rather than "rains-retreat."
The rains residence was instituted by the Buddha to prevent bhikkhus traveling during the Rainy Season of India and S.E. Asia, and so damaging the crops, and the living creatures which are abundant then. No doubt he considered their health as well when he laid down that bhikkhus must spend the rains with four walls round them and a roof over their heads.
From the beginning this was a time when a bhikkhu could live near a teacher, a senior bhikkhu who had specialized in meditation, in the Discipline, or in the Discourses. He had the chance then to make intensive efforts and learn whatever the teacher taught. After the Rains, especially in the early days when bhikkhus mostly wandered and had few monasteries, the teacher might receive an invitation to go elsewhere and the settled association with pupils would be broken. And then during the Rains there are fewer visitors to the quieter and more secluded monasteries so that more intensive efforts are possible at this time.
In Buddhist countries this is still the time for intensive activity: the meditator meditates more and undertakes more of the austere practices; the student of books makes more effort to master his studies; the teacher-monk is more active in teaching Dhamma and the writer in writing. In some countries this is the time when many laymen, mostly the young, get temporary ordination as "Rains-bhikkhus" (fewer women also become nuns for some time), usually for about four months, after which they disrobe and return to the layman's state. They are honored by others with the name "pandit" (a learned man) for the learning and good conduct that they have acquired in the monastery and benefit their families and society in general by bringing this knowledge back with them. This general intensification of activities in the Sangha leads lay people to consider what they can do during this period.
Usually a lay person on the day of entering the Rains makes a vow or vows to practice in a certain way during the three months of the Rains-residence. This vow may be told to a senior bhikkhu or it may be kept private but in any case it is made in front of a Buddhist shrine. This is something which could be done by any one who wanted to tighten up on practice for the duration of the Rains-residence. The content of the vows vary with one's character, country and circumstances. Below are a number of typical vows made by lay people on Rains-entry day, some of which could be practiced by isolated Buddhists:
During the Rains I shall give almsfood to bhikkhus every day.
I shall give up smoking while the Rains are on.
For the Rains, I shall chant morning and evening service every day.
I shall go to the monastery to hear Dhamma on every holy day (i.e., 4 days a month).
While the Rains are on I shall not take any intoxicants, or see or hear any form of entertainment.
During the Rains I shall undertake the Uposatha precepts on each Full Moon day.
For the whole Rains I shall practice meditation twice a day.
Each holy day during the Rains I shall keep the Eight Precepts and meditate twice, each time for an hour.
The vows must be practicable. It is no good making vows, perhaps quite exalted ones, which are out of one's range and only another extension of one's ego. A person who practices the Dhamma for a while gets to know his strength and weaknesses and will know therefore what it possible for him to undertake. At the end of the Rains, having accomplished one's vows without a break, one feels that something worthwhile has been done. And sometimes these temporary practices have a lasting effect -- the smoker does not go back to tobacco, or the meditator finds that his practice goes so much better that he continues to sit twice a day, and so on.
During the Rains residence, some lay people in Buddhist countries undertake one or two of the austere practices which were allowed by the Buddha for bhikkhus. It is not possible for lay people to practice most of them but Acariya Buddhaghosa in his "Path of Purification" (Visuddhimagga) has written there (Ch. II para 92) that they can undertake the One-sessioner's practice and the bowl-food-eater's practice. For an isolated Buddhist who goes out to work, even these two could not be practiced.
The One-sessioner's practice means eating one meal in one session a day. Practiced strictly a person does not even drink foods (such as milk and milk beverages) at other times but having sat down eats enough to last for twenty-four hours.
The Bowl-food-eater's practice is undertaken when a person does not have many plates and dishes but puts all the food to be eaten on one vessel -- the sweet with the main part of the meal, though without necessarily mixing them.
Both practices are good for limiting greed for food, for fine flavors and desires for fine textures, etc. Food is taken by such lay people as a medicine which is necessary to cure the disease of hunger. It is not used for the satisfaction of sensual desires. Particularly for greed characters (in which greed or desire is the strongest of the Roots of Evil) such restraint can be valuable.
And if during the Rains one cannot do anything else, at least one should at this time practice dana to the best of one's ability and in whatever personal ways it is possible to give. Impersonal giving, for instance, having amounts stopped out of one's wage packet, should be avoided as there is little or no good kamma made in such ways. It may be that giving time and sympathy with the effort to help others may be more effective than giving money or goods. The Rains traditionally is the time when lay people have the chance to increase their practice of dana and even though one may not live near to the Sangha there are still plenty of opportunities for giving.
1. This should not be called "Buddhist Lent"! There is no basis for comparing Christian Lent with Buddhist Rains-residence, as they do not spring from the same religious ideas, nor have the same purpose, nor apply to the same people. [Go back]
2. Vassa and Kathina in Sri Lanka
From: "Buddhist Ceremonies and Rituals of Sri Lanka", A.G.S. Kariyawasam
The Vassa, a three-month rains retreat, was instituted by the Buddha himself and was made obligatory for all fully ordained bhikkhus; the details are laid down in the Mahavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka (3rd and 4th chapters). The retreat extends over a period corresponding to the North Indian rainy season, from the day following the full moon of July until the full-moon day of October; those who cannot enter the regular Vassa are permitted to observe the retreat for three months beginning with the day following the August full moon. From the time Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda, the observance of Vassa -- Vas in Sinhala -- has been one of the mainstays of monastic life in the island. During the Vas the monks are expected to dwell permanently in their temples and suspend all travelling. If unavoidable circumstances necessitate travelling, they are allowed to leave their residences on the promise that they will return within a week (sattahakaraniya). On the first day of the retreat the monks have to formally declare that they will dwell in that manner in the selected monastery or dwelling.
The Vassa is also a time for the lay Buddhists to express their devotion to the cause of Buddhism by supporting the Sangha with special diligence, which task they regard as a potent source of merit. It is customary for prominent persons to invite monks to spend the Vas with them in dwellings specially prepared for the purpose. In this latter case the host would go and invite the monk or monks formally. If the monks accept the invitation, the hosts would prepare a special temporary dwelling in a suitable place with a refectory and a shrine room. On the first day of the Vas they would go with drummers and dancers to the monastery where the invitees reside and conduct them thence in procession. The hosts would assume responsibility for providing all the needs of the monk or monks during this period, and they attend to this work quite willingly as they regard it as highly meritorious. If no special construction is put up, the lay supporters would invite the monks to observe the retreat in the temple itself.
At the close of the Vas season, the monks have to perform the pavarana ceremony. At this ceremony, held in place of the Patimokkha recitation, each monk invites his fellows to point out to him any faults he has committed during the Vas period. On any day following the day of pavarana in the period terminating with the next full-moon day, the kathina ceremony is held. Different monasteries will hold the kathina on different days within this month, though any given monastery may hold only one kathina ceremony. The main event in this ceremony is the offering of the special robe known as the kathina-civara to the Sangha, who in turn present it to one monk who has observed the retreat. The laity traditionally offer unsewn cloth to the monks. Before the offering takes place, the robe is generally taken, with drumming, etc., around the village in the early hours of the morning. Once the robe is given to the Sangha, certain monks are selected to do the cutting, sewing, and dying of the robe -- all in a single day. Public contributions are very often solicited to buy the robe if it is not a personal offering.
This ceremony, which is performed with keen interest and devotion, has today become an important occasion of great social and religious significance for the Buddhist laity. This seems to have been so even in historical times when many Sinhala kings made this offering with much interest and devotion (e.g. Mhv. xliv,48, xci, etc).
3. Kathina Robe-Offering Ceremony
Bhikkhu Dhammasami, U.K., 1977
Today we have been engaged in a series of programme that are part of Kathina robe-offering ceremony. It is important that we understand about what we are doing -- in this particular case, about Kathina ceremony; to be aware of some thing we are undertaking is Buddhist way of doing things which is technically called Right Understanding. There is more chance for Right Understanding when Right Mindfulness is present.
So today it is nothing but appropriate for us to reflect on the practice of Kathina -- the Theravada traditional robe-offering ceremony.
The word 'Kathina' is Pali in origin. It means a frame used in sewing robes those days in India. However, before we talk about this Kathina let us look at some other monastic practices related to it so that we can understand Kathina ceremony in a broader perspective.
PRACTICE OF RETREAT
Kathina ceremony is necessarily a monastic one, supported by the generous devotees. It is essentially connected to the three months retreat that ends on 16th this month. (October, 1997)
We need to discuss about Buddhist Monastic Retreat as a background before we actually take on Kathina issue. Buddhist retreat came into existence as a result of complaint made by the people. Jaina monastic order was already practising this Vassana Retreat practice before the Buddha made His follower Bhikkhus do the same. The people expected monks, both Buddhist and non Buddhist, to stay in one place at least for a certain period. They complained that the monks were moving from place to place all the time without a permanent dwelling. During rainy season, the monks did damage the plants and crops. The Jaina monks and other mendicants observed a treat during rainy season staying in one place for a period. People were wondering why the disciples of the Gautama Buddha did not do so.
This prompted the Buddha to lay down a rule that Buddhist monks should observe Retreat and stay in one place for three months. People wanted them to do that during rainy season and it became known as Rainy Retreat (Vassana). But strictly speaking the three months retreat can now take place at any season -- maybe in winter or summer, although almost all have been observed during rainy season according to meteoric calendar in India.
The period is the same -- three months. This practice has been mostly observed during rainy season because the people wanted the monks to do so in ancient India -- that is mainly, as I said earlier, for agricultural reason.[*] There were no high ways during the Buddha's time. One had to across farm lands to travel. Therefore, this practice has its relevance in that 6th century BC Indian society.
Nevertheless, even in India at that time the approval of the three months retreat practice was by no means limited to the agriculturists. It was seen as a means to spiritual progress as well. That was why during the time of the Buddha itself, Bimbisara, the King of Magadha sent an envoy to the monks asking them to come and observe a retreat in his kingdom. But it happened to be in summer and the monks first didn't accept it. Instead they referred it to the Buddha, who then relaxed the rule by adding that a monk could make a retreat during summer provided it is the wish of the ruler of the land. Therefore, the monks can also observe this practice of retreat in any other seasons other than rainy one if there are circumstances we have just described.
Before this rule was there, the monks including the Buddha Himself travelled around the year and they still did so for nine months after the rule was laid down. Travelling and meeting people at different places is a kind of missionary life that the Buddha envisaged. It helps the monks not to be attached to dwelling places and people. It enables them to render their service to as many as possible. It frees them from a huge burden of constructing, maintaining and developing a big temple or monastery. It helps the teachings to spread everywhere as they travel. Travelling made them encounter with different cultures. It gave them an understanding of real nature of life. Roaming around empowers them to endure hard life. When you have to move from one place to another almost all the time, you do not gather things. You start gathering things only when you have the idea to settle. Since they wander most of the time their way of thinking, their attitude towards life and their spiritual practices are very pragmatic, realistic and are based on facts.
You can see now some development was taking place in monastic life. With this Rainy Retreat (Vassana) practice coming along, the monks got a bit comfortable shelter. The devotees who approach them can enjoy the opportunity of learning the Dhamma from the monks: they have regular and appropriate receivers in performing their act of generosity. Therefore, the benefit of the three months retreat is mutual. (Samyutta Nikaya)
I think that with the introduction of this Vassana practice, Buddhist monastic life came to balance its way of life. Brahmanism has secular lay life as its core while Jaina monastic life encouraged no shelter whatsoever such as a place for three months retreat. Buddhist Vassana practice could be viewed as middle way in this context.
A monk can choose his own time to start Rainy Retreat. There are two commencing dates different from one another exactly a month. But he is entitled to receive Kathina-civara (Kathina-robe) only if he starts his retreat with an earlier date -- not the later one. This is quite important condition required of a monk to be entitled to Kathina-robe. Within three months retreat he must not break the rule of retreat by spending nights somewhere else without a valid reason consented in the Vinaya (Buddhist Monastic Disciplinary Rules). If there is emergency reason to travel, he can do so even during the retreat.
To make the offering of robe especially valid as Kathina-civara these rules are much essential. Failing to comply with either of the two conditions will affect the validity of Kathina-robe. Invalid Kathina-robe, of course has more to do with the monks than the devotees. Though the devotees got the same merits whether the Kathina-robe is considered valid or not, the monks will lose the advantages associated with Kathina.
It means they will get the robe but he can not enjoy five relaxations on Vinaya that come necessarily with the validity of Kathina procedure. Once being offered a valid Kathina-robe in this way during this particular one month's time the monks can remain without following five of the 220 disciplines -- known as 'Vinaya Sikkhapada' for four months starting exactly a month after the end of the retreat. This is something about Retreat which is a precondition to Kathina-robe offering.
The second important procedure that must be done before Kathina ceremony is Invitation Ceremony (Pavarana). This is again purely monastic practice.
Invitation means at the end of retreat the monks must get together and invite one another to point out at one's fault if they have seen it themselves or have heard from some one or are just in doubt. This would help them in purifying themselves. A Bhikkhu has to be open to any criticism from his colleagues regarding his behaviour. He can not say, "Is it your business?" or "This is my life".
Being open was a way of life the Lord Buddha led. The monks have to be sensitive to a complaint made by the people in order to win their respect and in order to encourage them to learn the Dhamma. They have to be sensitive towards the remarks made by their fellow monks. This, according to the Buddha, could maintain both unity and purity in the Buddhist Monastic Order. It could also help keep the Monastic Rules and Regulations (Vinaya) alive. It is a kind of check-and-balance system between individual Bhikkhus as well as between the seniors and the juniors. This is exactly the core of Monastic Discipline as much as of the Teachings.
Every fortnight there has to be a meeting between the higher ordained ones, known as Bhikkhu (monks) or Bhikkhuni (nuns) in the case of ordained female. In that kind of assembly, a learned monk recites the 220 rules to the monks. Before he recites there has to be a procedure of confession, which means every individual has to inform the Sangha of the offense he has committed. This kind of confession can clear him from 203 kinds of offenses out of 220. Confession can psychologically relieve someone who has committed a grave evil like patricide. The story of King Ajatasattu who killed his father is an example. He could not sleep until he confessed his sin to the Buddha. Confession did not put his sin away but practically relieved him from psychological burden.
In being open to others the Buddha Himself was the best example. At every fortnight meeting the Lord Buddha would start inviting anyone present there to point out His fault if any. He encouraged people to be open making Himself the subject of openness. That must be the reason why people felt so close to Him. They did respect Him for a reason. They spoke so openly their opinion to the Buddha. They knew well that the Buddha did not take their offense.
Venerable Sariputta, the most important figure apart from the Buddha would ask the monks to point out his fault too. In this way, the invitation was to be offered by any monk present. Actually, what we call Arahat means the one who has no longer secret. He is perfectly open to anyone especially regarding his behaviour.
The Buddha wanted His disciples, at least those who have been ordained, to be as close as possible in their spiritual quest helping one another along the way. The only way of doing it and maintaining it is to practice to become increasingly open to each other that we no longer have anything to hide. Public morality can be maintained in this way. Therefore, we can say that monastic life is where one has least privacy.
This Invitation Ceremony is so important ceremonially as well as spiritually. Without this there can not be a proper Kathina robe-offering -- it may become only ordinary robe-offering with whatsoever no advantage on the part of the monks themselves.
The two ceremonies -- the Ceremony of Invitation and that of Offering Robe -- mark the termination of the Retreat.
Now let us pick up our main topic 'Kathina'. We may well imagine a situation during 6th BC where any advanced textile technology hardly known to the people. The monks had no choice but to do the sewing the robe and giving it a dye themselves. The Buddha asked them to help one another using the best technique then available. Some made a frame while some went out in search of needle and thread. Some sew pieces of clothe to make it a robe while others prepared for another process of making fire and getting a suitable colour ready. Dying a robe was extremely difficult because they had to boil the bark of the tree to get the colour they wanted. Just imagine how the monks were busy to get a robe done. It was a hard life collecting pieces of cloth from different places such as rubbish-heap, cemetery, and streets to get it sufficient for a robe. Ordinary life was at that time reasonably hard especially regarding clothes; the monks were no exception; they had to struggle for a robe.
But this became a kind of practice that trained monks to depend on themselves, to live in simple way creating no burden to the lay community and to be content with basic needs.
Though we could say that this practice would reflect the economic reality in India those days, when the Lord Buddha declared this practice it was automatically adopted as a social norm among the followers. Those monks with well-to-do family and royal family background were no exception. They all adopted the practice. As we all know the majority of the immediate disciples of the Buddha came from either royal families or families of noble background They were in comfort to ignore this practice of making a robe in such a difficult process. Instead, they took it as a way of life with a great honour. This humbleness and contentment clearly indicate high spiritual achievement.
The Buddha recommended this practice to be observed at the end of the Retreat because monks can still be found in a large number in one place at this time and they could help one another.
Once entitled to Kathina-robe, a Bhikkhu is permitted to ignore some five minor rules. The relaxation is mainly felt on travel and invitation for alms-giving. Normally a Bhikkhu, senior or junior has to inform his fellow Bhikkhu living in the same temple before he goes out. He can choose not to do it when he has received Kathina-robe. Usually he has to carry all the three pieces of robe wherever he goes. He can now leave one behind if he wishes after he has been offered Kathina-robe. He certainly has less restriction on travel. He can also accept as many robes if offered during the period of four months. Monks on the usual occasions are not supposed to accept food offered by someone using the terms of layman culture, the words normally employed by people in their social interaction. But once offered Kathina-robe(s) a Bhikkhu can receive such food given to him in that way.
This Kathina ceremony is, as far as I can see, recommended by the Lord Buddha mainly for the welfare of the Sangha (the Community of monks). The Lord Buddha did take into consideration how the Order He founded could survive. After the Mahaparinibbana (the Great Passing Away) of the Buddha Himself, the whole responsibility of both perpetuation and propagation of His Teachings would certainly fall on the Sangha. Therefore, the continuity of the Sangha means the continuity of the Dhamma itself. Moreover, after His Mahaparinibbana, we could see the Buddha Himself only once we see, understand and realise the Dhamma. This was the case even when the Buddha was still alive for He declared that one really sees Him only once one sees the Dhamma. Now we can see the logic behind the recommendation of this Kathina ceremony -- how it is important for the cause of Buddhism itself.
The Buddha did not start preaching to every one before He had had the Monastic Order well established. After His Enlightenment, He made a long journey to Benares -- a journey that took Him more than a week -- just to convert a group of five ascetics and made them a monk. He knew very well that all the five had a very high possibility of becoming a monk and forming the Order.
He continued focusing on establishing the Order until He became confident that the Order has been well established and was capable of helping Him to propagate the Dhamma. His teachings spread far and wide after He passed away. Despite the fact that the Buddha was no longer with us, the geographical expansion still took place in a greater scale. The Buddha Himself would have definitely foreseen this great service of His disciples that He put a lot of effort to establish the Monastic Order (Sangha).
The Monastic Order was firmly established when the Buddha had ordained sixty men -- all of whom came from either royal family or that of nobility. Missionary work in its true sense started only then with sixty deputies, despatching them to different directions asking two not to go in the same way.
The implication here is that the existence of the well-established monastic order is extremely essential if we are about to get the teachings of the Buddha across the people. The Arahat Mahinda simply had this in mind when he told King Devanam Piyatissa of Sri Lanka (3rd BC) that the Sasana (Buddha's Dispensation) will get rooted on Sri Lankan soil only when a Sri Lankan native monk has become well versed in Monastic Rules (Vinaya). [**]
There was a time in the West when European Buddhists used to consider that monkhood is nothing more than to set an exemplary life and to spread the words of the Buddha does not depend on the existence of Monastic Order.
Let us look at this attitude carefully from Buddhist History. Let us not forget to use our common sense. History always shows that the Buddhist Monastic Order was at the core of the matter -- whether Buddhism was on the decline or progress. The monks have to share more responsibility -- sometime for the degeneration and sometime for the growth. It is in the best interest of the whole Buddha's Sasana that Buddhist Monastic Order is properly maintained, purified and well supported. The Bhikkhus dedicate their whole life to the cause of Sasana -- studying, training, meditating, preaching, and writing about the Buddha's Dhamma.
In this respect, we should be encouraged to see the Amaravati Monastery (Theravada Forest Tradition) and its branches doing very well with the sons and daughters of the United Kingdoms at the helm. In other European countries, the natives have not been very successful in furthering the Dhamma despite having produced several distinguished Buddhist scholars.
In contrast, if I understand the situation correctly, the United Kingdom has been well ahead of other European countries in both academic field and monastic life. We owe a lot to the most venerable monks of true missionary spirit from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma and other countries that we have made our way far in this new land. I am speaking about this just to remind ourselves that the Sangha of 19th and 20th century also deserve to be called a devout and true follower of the Lord Buddha. They -- like the late Venerable Narada of Vajirarama, Colombo and Venerable Dr. H. Saddhatissa -- should be credited for what we are here now. Venerable U Setthila (Thittila) of Burma who arrived here in England during World War II and Venerable Ajahn Chah, Thailand's best know meditation master of our time must not be forgotten for their great service rendered to the cause of Buddha Sasana in this United Kingdom.
Together with ceaseless support on the part of the devotees, the successive Kathina ceremonies held every year in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and other countries have enabled the monks to carry on their missionary work far and wide. The Kathina ceremony we are celebrating today will have the effect just as well like that.
[*] Mahavaga Pali, Vinaya Pitaka
[**] Mahavamsa / Samantapasadika commentary