Q 1) Why Kathina Robes only offered between the days following the full moon of October to the full moon of November?
Q 2) Seems like most temples having it on 16th October. How is the date chosen annually?
Q 3) Why Kathina Robes are offered to the Sanga and not to any individual monks?
Q 4) What are the 5 Kathina benefits for monks?
Q 5) Why these 5 benefits for monks only for 5 months?
Q 6) It's mentioned benefits for donors are in every existence? Does this mean donors will get these benefits in this life and future lifes? If so, why monks only benefit for 5 months and donors in all lifes?
Q 7) Any evidence to prove that donors do get these 5 benefits? Somehow I feel the benefits stated are a little bit exaggerating. :-p
Answers many be found in the following. :)
At the time of the Buddha, the Kathina season began at the end of rains-retreat and it lasted for one month (as it is today). The early Kathina was simply a robe-making activity of the monks. During the three months of rains-retreat, pieces of cloth would be collected by the monks. At the end of the rains-retreat, the primitive monks celebrated the Kathina by making a Kathina robe with their combined effort from the pieces of cloth collected. Thus, the robe should be a common property of the monks. A worthy monk among the monks would be nominated to receive the robe. It is believed at that time the lay devotees did not participate in the monks' Kathina celebration (robe-making activity). This explains why there is no evidence to prove that donors do get Kathina benefits. In the Theravada Tipitaka texts, Kathina benefits for lay devotees are not found!
One month Kathina season is ascertained according to the Vinaya and it cannot be changed. But any day of the month can be chosen to conduct Kathina celebration.
With or without Kathina celebration, during the Kathina season (one month), monks are entitled to enjoy the five Kathina benefits. The period of Kathina benefits is extended from one month to five months by celebrating Kathina. By enjoying the Kathina benefits, monks do not need to practice some Vinaya rules. This period (1 or 5 months) of release should not be very long.
Kathina benefits for monks are:
(1) going to families without informing other monks in their vicinity;
(2) going on tour without carrying the heavy double-layered robe;
(3) having a group meal, (group meal is food accepted in improper way. For example, when a lay devotee offers food to a monk it should be said: "I offer this alms-food" or "This is alms-food" so that the food is properly accepted. Similarly to be said: "alms-cake, alms-apple, etc" by adding the formal term "alms".);
(4) using as many robes as one desires;
(5) sharing the robes of Kathina benefit among the particular monks who are entitled to enjoy the Kathina benefits.
As said earlier, Kathina benefits for lay devotees are not found in the Theravada texts. Thus, Kathina benefits for lay devotees are assumed and often exaggerated too much.
Here is an assumption: According to the Bhojana Sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya, one who donates alms-food donates the following five elements - life, beauty, happiness, strength and wisdom. In return, the donor gets the same benefits - “life, beauty, happiness, strength and wisdom.”
Similarly, Kathina donors offer the five Kathina benefits to monks by making Kathina donation and thus there should be corresponding Kathina benefits for them.
The donor of Kathina robe donates monks these five chances: the chance to go round without informing other monks, the chance to go round without carrying the heavy double-layered robe, the chance to eat group meal (explained above), the chance to use or keep extra robes, the chance not to share the robes of Sangha’s property with other monks who do not participate in the Kathina.
As such, the donors of Kathina robe will enjoy these five corresponding benefits:
1) there will be no disturbance and danger wherever they go;
2) their belongings will not be destroyed by enemies even when the belongings are away from them;
3) they will have plenty of sumptuous food and will not have poisonous food;
4) their property will be kept safe even if being left forgotten for a long time;
5) they will gain greater profits than others on their commercial undertakings including winning lottery.
Ashin Htavara (Norway)