October 26th – Pavarana Day
This is the official end of the Rains retreat for monks. For 3 months each year the monks stay in one temple or designated area without leaving over night other than for very special reasons, including to visit sick relatives or monks, help a monk who is in danger of disrobing, or to teach laypeople Dhamma. Even then, they only leave for a maximum of 7 days. This custom predates Buddhism, and the story goes that the laypeople complained to the Buddha that his monks were trampling their newly planted crops, prompting him to call for the monks to observe the Rains retreat period as other Samana did at the time. The time is often used in programs of Buddhist study for new monks, as many come to ordain for the period, or for Vinaya study.
This year the Lunar calendar has the end of the Rains (called ‘Pansa’ in Thai, or Vassa in Pali) on the 26th October, and the next morning the monks are officially free of the travel restrictions The day is called “Pavarana Day”, and Pavarana means ‘to invite’. In this instance it means to invite ones fellow monks and nuns to admonish oneself. After everyone is done admonishing each other forgiveness is given, thus one can say that Pavarana day is ‘forgiveness day’. The next morning many monks leave the temple to visit family or move to a new residence.
The exit of the Rains period is also a time when the Buddha allowed monks to keep extra cloth, cloth which is offered by the laypeople for the departing monks. The offered cloth is kept for a limited period, and then sewn up into a new set of robes and offered to a ‘worthy’ monk – usually the abbot. This ceremony is called “Tort Pha Kathin” in Thai – Tossing of the Kathina Cloth. It is called ‘tossing’ because in the early days of the Buddha, the monks would not accept new cloth from laypeople, but only rags that they found discarded along the road or charnel grounds. Thus the people would throw the cloth over bushes and tress along side the roads where the monks would walk almsround. It is essentially the same ceremony as “Tort Pha Ba” which can be done anytime. Each monastery arranges this festival on a convenient day sometime in the few weeks after the end of the Rains.
The word ‘Kathina’ itself refers to the wooden frame that hold tight the saffron clothes enabling monks sew them firm and neat. Kathina tradition was originated during the Lord Buddha’s time. It first happened when a group of 30 monks were on the way to meet Lord Buddha.
Unfortunately, they got stuck on the way in the rain. Through the muddy passage, their robes were dirty and shabby with mud. As a result, Lord Buddha granted permission for monks who completed their 3-month rains retreat to have a new set of saffron, so called “Kathina.” The period permitted is within one month after the lent period ends. Thus, Kathina is a time-limit opportunity for the robe offering