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A Journey of Awakening: My Experience at Kathina in Sri Lanka

Explore the timeless traditions of Kathina, a cherished Buddhist ceremony that unveils the beauty of selfless service and generosity. In this blog, I invite you to join me on a heartfelt journey at the Ranagirilena Arayana Forest Monastery in Sri Lanka – a sacred pilgrimage filled with peace and profound wisdom.

“Kathina is a time-honored event celebrated during Vassa, the three-month rainy retreat during which dedicated monks retreat to their monastic residences to deepen their meditation practice and strengthen their spiritual connection.”

On July 16, 2023, a date forever etched in my heart, I had the extraordinary honor of receiving a special invitation to host Ranagirilena Arayana Forest Monastery in the enchanting land of Sri Lanka on the auspicious occasion of Kathina. As I embarked on this spiritual journey, I could not help but marvel at the significance of this revered Buddhist tradition.

Kathina is a time-honored event celebrated during Vassa, the three-month rainy retreat during which dedicated monks retreat to their monastic residences to deepen their meditation practice and strengthen their spiritual connection. It is a time of profound introspection and growth for the monastic community, and I was honored to be a part of it.

As we approached the tranquil monastery, set amidst the lush greenery of Sri Lanka’s natural beauty, we were welcomed with boundless warmth and love. The monks and the entire monastic community greeted us with open arms and welcomed us as like-minded people embarking on a common journey of selfless service.

For this special occasion, the monastery had invited 35 esteemed monks from different parts of the world. These forest-dwelling monks had dedicated their lives to the pursuit of higher spiritual realization, and it was our privilege to offer them 35 robes, traditional herbs and leaves, brooms, toiletries, and other essentials as an act of dana paramita – the virtue of generosity.

With hearts full of gratitude and humility, we participated in the Kathina ceremony with deep reverence. As the 35 monks descended from their secluded retreats and gracefully entered the temple grounds, the atmosphere was infused with an ethereal sense of spirituality. It was an impressive sight – a manifestation of devotion and commitment to the path of enlightenment.

The highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of the Atapirikara, a revered symbol of monastic life, to each of the monks. As we presented these sacred objects to the venerable souls, we felt a deep sense of honor to be part of a tradition that has existed for more than 2500 years, promoting unity, compassion, and spiritual growth.

In my own spiritual journey, I have been blessed with various teachings from different directions – the loving wisdom of Christ, the profound philosophy of yogic self-realization, and the ancient wisdom of Chinese Confucianism and Lao Tzu. But on this auspicious day, I felt an extraordinary resonance with the timeless teachings of Lord Buddha.

Inspired by the profound truths of Buddhism, I took refuge in the noble Triple Gem – the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the monastic community). It was a heartfelt commitment to embody the virtues of mindfulness, compassion, and selflessness at all times – qualities that would guide me on my personal journey of growth and my mission to serve humanity as a meditation coach.

The meaning of the Kathina ceremony goes far beyond material gifts. It symbolizes unity and support between the laity and the monastic community. For centuries, lay people have generously offered food, robes, herbs, medical supplies, brooms, shampoos, and other essentials during the vassa to support the spiritual efforts of the monks. It is an expression of the aspiration for enlightenment and betterment of all beings.

As my wife Allyson and I bid farewell to the tranquil monastery, we took with us a deep sense of fulfillment and spiritual nourishment. Our hearts were filled with boundless love and gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this sacred ceremony.

With great anticipation and joy, we await our return in November to complete the three-month Vassa observance and close the circle by presenting the Kathina robes to the noble monks. This trip has reminded us of the deep interconnectedness of all beings and strengthened our commitment to serve others as meditation teachers with love, compassion, and wisdom.

In the tranquil atmosphere of Ranagirilena Arayana Forest Monastery, I found a sanctuary of spiritual wisdom that guided me on my path of growth and service. The Kathina ceremony was not just a ceremony, but a transformative experience that enriched my understanding of the oneness of all life and the power of selfless giving.

With a heart full of gratitude and a mind uplifted by the blessings of this profound event, I bow in reverence to the timeless teachings of Lord Buddha. May they continue to guide me on my path of self-discovery, compassion, and service to humanity. Now that the Kathina ceremony is over, I carry within me a deep sense of purpose, inspired to share the wisdom of this sacred tradition with the world.

May we unite in the spirit of Dana Paramita, the virtue of generosity, to support one another in our spiritual growth and spread light and love to all and may our journey of selfless service and spiritual awakening pave the way for a more compassionate and enlightened world.

Michael Teh, 31st July 2023.

Michael Teh is a meditation coach devoted to a personal mission of awakening more people to higher consciousness. He teaches self-realization through meditation, qigong, yoga and philosophy.

Michael Teh Signature Workshop: The Essence of Life Series explores meditation as a powerful tool to realize our true potential. Michael has designed multiple workshops in this series to support his participants’ self-realization journey. Workshop Series 1 is currently running every few months on-ground in Kuala Lumpur, titled “Knowledge of The Self and Fundamentals of Meditation”.

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