2,500-year-old Buddhist ceremony draws crowds in South Tyneside

A special Buddhist celebration which dates to 500BC brought peace and calm '“ and an important robe ritual '“ to South Tyneside.
The monks at the Hebburn centreThe monks at the Hebburn centre
The monks at the Hebburn centre

Members and guests of Hebburn’s Dhammakaya Meditation Centre took part in Kathina Day, which marks the largest alms-giving ceremony in the Buddhist calendar.

It sees devotees make a Kathina robes offer to the Sangha, or monks who have completed the Rains-Retreat practice.

The Kathina ProcessionThe Kathina Procession
The Kathina Procession
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Rains-Retreat, considered similar to the Christian Lent, is the act of remaining in one place for three months and can feature intense meditation.

The robes offering is considered an act of giving safety, modesty and comfort to the monks, with the giver receiving the same benefits in return for their generosity.

It was just one element of a six-hour festival that took place at the Church Street centre.

Centre volunteer Punyar Chitnukulsiri said: “Kathina is the offering of robes to the Sangha, the monastic community or Buddhist monks, who have completed the Rains-Retreat practice.

People at the Kathina ceremonyPeople at the Kathina ceremony
People at the Kathina ceremony
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“This ceremony is a wonderful opportunity for attendees to practice calmness, happiness, peace of mind and also to enjoy the cultural experience.”

There was also a declaration service of being a Buddhist, and the performing of the Five Precepts.

A ceremony of the stained-glass windows installation was also held.

It saw two windows, designed by the Wat Phra Dhammakaya Buddhist monastery in Thailand, put in place in the southern wing of the centre’s temple.

The Kathina Robe Offering CeremonyThe Kathina Robe Offering Ceremony
The Kathina Robe Offering Ceremony
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The centre was partly developed through financial support by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the late chairman of Premiership club Leicester City.

Mr Vichai was one of five people to die when his helicopter crashed outside the club’s ground three weeks ago.

He helped to pay for the centre’s meditation suite and for repairs to the former and adjoining St Andrew’s Church, which is now a Buddhist temple.