The annual Robe Offering (Kathina) ceremony is celebrated in Burma on the full moon day this month, falling on November 24th this year. Considered the largest alms giving festival in Theravadan Buddhism, the ordained are offered robes by the lay sangha. (For more information on the Kathina Ceremony, click here).
The Burmese government newspaper New Light of Burma had a vague entry about the celebration: “pagodas, stupas and religious buildings were packed with devotees and pilgrims and they performed meritorious deeds.” Contrast it with what the media outside of Burma is reporting - that security has tightened once again around Shwe Dagon Pagoda, which was the center of the monk-led protests in September. From the Democratic Voice of Burma (based in Norway): A sign has been put up over the entrance to Shwe Dagon pagoda saying that people must bring their identity cards to enter the pagoda grounds. While this rule was not enforced for all visitors, monks’ documents were checked by the guards. “They didn’t really check everyone for [ID cards], although they were checking on monks. Monks who were unable to show any identification were not allowed to enter the pagoda,” said a local visitor. Security was also tightened inside the pagoda, and government guards were positioned around the pagoda grounds.
Which to believe???
Ordained Buddhist monks and nuns who wear the robes represent the Sangha, the third component of the Triple Gem (also known as the Three Precious Jewels). When one takes refuge in Buddhism, one takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Sangha represents the Buddha’s disciples worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.
On the occasion of the Robe-Offering Ceremony to the Sangha, we wish to honor all ordained monks and nuns for keeping the teachings of the Buddha – who said “I am awake” – alive in the chaotic world of today.
In closing, Buddhist Relief would like to share the traditional Theravadan Refuge Vows (in Pali):
Buddham saranam gacchami
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Dhammam saranam gacchami
I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Sangham saranam gacchami
I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.
Check out this website for more information on the Triple Gem.