Monastery storing up robes

Hi , is there a limit for monastery on storing robes ? Is it a must or necessary to hold kathina robe offering festival each year as it seems nowadays bhikkhus didnt wear old and torn robes ? Some monastery appears to turn the event objective into collecting more money and requisites where the interest is more than imparting Dhamma to lay people .

Hi @vijja, As far as I understand it, at our local Thai monastery most of the robes that are presented at Kathina, and on various other occasions, such as funerals, are simply brought out of the back room for the occasion, and, in fact, are often presented by several people in turn. However, you’re right that these are actually important fund-raising events — the trust that runs our monastery has a substantial mortgage.

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Not as far as I am aware of. Individual monastics have limits of robes/cloth of each type they can store.

If more than 5 bhikkhunis or bhikkhus stay in a monastery for the Rains Residence then Yes. The vinaya allows for a kathina ceremony. The monastics who perform that ceremony then get Kathina privileges for the next 4ish months. See BMC for an overview of Kathina and End of Rains privileges

Wearing torn robes isn’t allowed, but wearing patched robes seems quite common. I have a handful of patches on my robe and know many bhikkhus and bhikkhunis who wear patched robes.

Historically, Kathina was an opportunity for the lay people to make a generous donation to the Sangha. It wasn’t ever marked particularly as an occasion for the giving of dhamma by the monastics. These days robe cloth is quite cheap, but running a monastery can be quite expensive.

In the time of the Buddha a robe might cost a year’s wages and this value would be offered. So if you think about it that way, the lay community offering the equivilant of a year that much money at this kind of event doesn’t seem out of keeping with it’s historical origins.

This might seem a little odd at first. But if you consider that monastics can’t receive money, then the robes are a ‘gift voucher’ where the money to offer them has been placed with a lay steward. Supporters get to offer something of value by hand to the monastics and also support them with what the community is really in need of.

The robes which are offered on festival days at the monasteries I’ve stayed in are ones set aside for this ‘gift voucher’ purpose. Most of them are funny sizes, or otherwise not suitable for our community. We keep a standard of a certain colour range which is not generally available in robe packs. We also try to wear cotton robes as they are safer for bushfire season and easier to dye when they fade. If someone wishes to offer robes for us to wear we have suppliers who our store-keeper will connect them with so that they can offer cloth which is appropriate. We have a donor, who has long since passed away, who’s robe cloth offering is used for making our monastic jackets/shirts and lower-robes and we all can recognise those bolts of cloth as ‘Aunty Xxxx’s cloth’.

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Well, it’s only a must/necessary if the monastics want to get the kathina privileges.

But it’s correct that there is no limit in the Vinaya on how many robes can be stored by a community. Remember, the Vinaya doesn’t prevent every bad action. Usually the limit is simply the size of the store and how conducive the climate is for storage.

Well, monasteries don’t exist without material support. Except for the ideal monasteries in our imaginations. :wink:

In theory the time for Dhamma teaching would have been over the previous three months when the monastics were in residence. Then the offerings at kathina are the laypeople’s obligation of mutual support after the monastics have already fulfilled theirs.

In general, I recommend not being judgemental about how monasteries are run. If the way it is managed is not inspiring, then go somewhere else before criticizing things we may not understand.

I can also add one more perspective… In some situations, especially in Buddhist majority countries, when people see monastics in a monastery wearing patched old robes, it may inspire them even more to donate new robes which… aren’t needed because the monastics are wearing old robes. So then you end up with even more robes because either people like to donate to “monastics with few wishes” or they have the hope to replace the monastics’ old robes. So there is no perfect solution.

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It’s not strictly necessary to hold kathina, not all places do it. I had heard that Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya doesn’t- the bhikkhus found it disturbed their meditation. According to tradition, kathina was only instituted in the later part of the Buddha’s life- before that there was no kathina.

There may also be some cases where it’s not possible to hold kathina due to there being no donor or no quorum.

I can’t speak for everywhere, but the main kathina robe has actually been used at every kathina I’ve attended.

The material circumstances of Buddhist communities can vary- there are some monastics that live in absolute poverty, some communities are better off. I’m happy that we can have institutions like kathina to support the sangha in any case.

Some comments on what I have personally seen around kathina fundraising (I hang out in places where monastics don’t use money):

Not every cost in maintaining a monastery may be readily apparent to a casual visitor (but likely very apparent to the committee). On the whole, I think it’s better that costs can be met through voluntary donation at events like kathina, rather than being passed on via “user-pays” systems like charges for services. Kathina fundraising is also a mercy to the committee, as it is one of the few opportunities they have to involve the broader community in what they are doing.

Some of the convoluted kathina “fundraising”/robe sale systems we see today are mostly a product of modernisation. Buddhism developed in a simpler society, where “meeting people’s needs” really just meant giving cloth and candles. So some parts (emphasis: not all) of the Buddhist community are heavily socialised to not give money. I recall reading an anecdote from earlier decades in Laos where a bhikkhu had told the lay supporters during the desana that they needed money for the electricity bills and not parikkhara- the lay supporters flipped out that the bhikkhu was asking for money (not saying this was technically correct, but the key point here is, asking for money for electricity: an important concept that may have been missed by the traditionally-minded donors, despite the fact the donors likely had electricity themselves.)

For the group of donors with this mindset, it’s actually much easier for the committee to reach them by just onselling material requisites like robes as a fundraiser, because giving material requisites is what they understand. It’s a kind of compromise approach to modernity that works for some organisations that means they can still function without the donors having to give in completely and just give cash directly to bhikkhu/nis in lieu of requisites. It can also help breach the knowledge gap between the committee (who want to pay bills etc) and the donors (who in many cases just want to do what is traditionally considered meritorious) without offending people’s feelings or losing customs. Thus, the problem of the bhikkhu from the anecdote is solved and everyone gets to save face.

So yeah. Whatever aspects of the way that some places do kathina might appear strange, they are still probably better than the alternatives. It’s hard to know unless you have a long-term relationship with a group. Some groups might be materialistic, but there are many groups (at least in my country) just trying to support the monastery.

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What funny is as noticed , normally people are very defensive as though their whole being getting attacked .
Dont always think negatively on people whenever bringing up a topic , by thinking other as being judgemental or criticising . It may just a way to analyse how is thing going on , as plain as that . No hidden agenda . One could think it positively , that if there is anything can be improved from the monastics side and the lays also , should be taking into consideration for Buddhism betterment as a whole . Take example if as a monk , say you saw that many monasteries turning the Dhamma into a kind of “business” venture doing instead of giving more teachings to lay people , seeing that wouldnt it brings you something to contemplate and perhaps some reflection why Buddhism has deteriorates into such state ? What then if the whole of monastics can come together could offer to make a change and lay people can be of help too . Isnt that being much more encouraging and uplifting .

I can’t possibly imagine how what I wrote could be considered “very defensive” as though my “whole being was being attacked.” LOL.

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I agree.

It is best to not assume that you know the emotions of the person on the other keyboard. Reading emotions from text is hard: even for a native English speaker!

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