Mahayana Buddhism encourages the ideal of the Bodhisattva, a being moved by the suffering of all beings who vows to become a Buddha (awakened one) to free all beings and themselves from the wheel of birth, death and delusion. At the end of each rains retreat (a period of 3 months intensive meditation in Buddhist monastic communities), the Kathina robe was offered to the monastic sangha as a mark of good will between householder yogis and monastics.
The Buddha said ‘Those who know the virtue of giving as I do, would not let one meal pass without having offered something’. Generosity and contributing to communal well being is an essential part of Buddhist practice. Contrary to popular notions of Buddhists being ‘naval gazers’, Buddhism recognises the interbeing of all things and that happiness is not just a personal issue, its a communal one. Nor is Buddhism just about stress relief, it seeks to uproot and challenge the ignorance and self clinging that is at the root of all disatisfactoriness.