“The Noble monk’s banner is the robe which is dyed by the stain of the bark of the black banyan tree.”
— Thag 17.1
Giving as a Community
Robe Offering Ceremonies (or ผ้าป่า “Pah Bah” in Thai) are a beautiful and significant way to financially help the monastics meet their material needs and/or fund special projects for Clear Mountain. Sponsoring such a ceremony is an especially sweet way to fulfill a need for the monastics. If you are interested in sponsoring a Robe Offering Ceremony or want to learn more, please contact us at [email protected].
The Kathina and Robe Offering Ceremonies are the primary events initiated and organized by the lay community in support of monasteries. The Kathina festival which takes place after the end of the three-month Rains Retreat can only take place if there are five or more bhikkhus or bhikkhunis (monks or nuns) present, and as such, Robe Offering Ceremonies evolved as a way for lay communities to provide impromptu support for smaller groups of monastics.
The story goes that the Buddha allowed the monastics to search for cloth with which they might make themselves a replacement robe or repair an old one. Gradually a custom evolved in which lay people, knowing the monastics’ needs, would purposely hang material in a tree in the forest within which a monastic lived, so that the monastics would ‘find it.’ Hence the Thai name for the ceremony: “Pah Bah” or “forest robe.” The custom then advanced so that not just pieces of rag or cloth were left for the monastics, but whole made-up robes as well. Eventually lay communities started coming together to offer meals and other requisites to the monks and nuns, and in this way the Robe Offering Ceremony has evolved.
It is in this spirit and with this history that supporters of the Clear Mountain project will similarly have the opportunity to support the monastics through an annual Robe Offering Ceremony. Typically, one or more individual, family, or group will step forward to initiate a Robe Offering Ceremony and to “sponsor” the event. These members of the community champion the event among their friends and relatives, spreading the word and getting the wider community excited and engaged. As a community, this is a wonderful opportunity to come together in offering food, cloth, and other requisites in celebration and support of the monastics, their practice, and their service to the community.
Everyone is welcome to attend and participate in all or any part of the Robe Offering Ceremony festival! And everyone should also feel free to offer food at the potluck, and participate in the joyful feast!