Sitting on meditation pillows in front of saffron-robed monks, with gifts at their feet and prayer flags adorning the walls, devotees filled the North East Community Centre in Regina on Sunday to commemorate Kathina, a traditional Buddhist robe offering ceremony.
For the second year in a row, the Dhammanjali Meditation Centre in Regina celebrated Kathina, an ancient ceremony dating back to the time of the historical Buddha. The ceremony provides opportunity for lay Buddhists to offer robes and other necessities to the monastic Sangha, or community, as a conclusion to Vassa, a traditional monastic retreat which coincides with the annual rainy season in Southeast Asia.
Bhante Debongshi, head of the Dhammanjali Meditation Centre since its creation in 2016, said celebrating Kathina in Regina is different than in Asia.
“Here, more liberal, as in we’re more collective,” said Debongshi who grew up in Bangladesh, and learned English after his native tongue. “Back home it is really community based . . . meaning traditional. Here, more people from different background so here a little bit more inclusive than back home.”
While numerous people bowed reverence to Debongshi, including children stopping their playtime to honour the monk, Debongshi discussed the importance of the centre’s diversity.
“We are very happy and so joyful with each other,” he said. “So in that way this is one of the great ceremonies that we perform today.”
Monica Antonowitsch, administrator of the centre, said Sunday was her first Kathina celebration.
“I found it to be a culturally inclusive, diverse, event that brought a lot of joy to people,” said Antonowitsch, adding that the aspect of generosity the ceremony promoted helps her spiritual life.
“It just made me more deeply aware of the Buddha’s code of discipline . . . and how it’s still being practised up until today left a spiritual imprint upon me. Not only is it a traditional thing, but the idea of generosity and gratitude remains as its theme.”
Since its inception in 2016, the Dhammanjali Meditation Centre has grown steadily and promotes other events. The centre also celebrates Buddhist events such as the Buddha’s birthday in May, retreats throughout the year and weekly meditation classes that are open to all. Diversity and inclusiveness remain an integral part of Debongshi’s idea for the centre.
“The teachings of the Buddha is universal,” said Debongshi. “We can clean our body with water and many things, but there is no one thinking of how to clean the mind. So if your mind is not pure, we cannot enjoy the life of happiness, freedom, and inclusiveness.”