26th Kagyu Monlam at a Glance
A drop of water which falls into a great ocean will neither be exhausted nor cease to exist until the end of the universe. Likewise, a virtuous root dedicated toward attaining enlightenment will neither be exhausted nor cease to exist until you reach perfect enlightenment.
– The Sutra spoken by Noble Inexhaustible Intelligence
The International Kagyu Monlam is an eight day Buddhist prayer festival held annually in Bodhgaya, the place of Buddha’s enlightenment. His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, head of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, presides over the festival, supported by many leading Rinpoches from the Kagyu tradition, including H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, H.E. Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Ven. Zurmang Garwang Rinpoche, Ven. Kalu Rinpoche, Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Ven. Mingyur Rinpoche.
In the words of His Holiness:
Kagyu Monlam is an avenue whereby we can spread, at times of great need, the genuine spirit of love and compassion to all the people of the world, like a great ripple, first in Bodhgaya, then in Bihar, and so on. As we continuously offer these prayers for world peace, it is our intention and our wish that peace and happiness extend to all.
This year’s Monlam has several special features which reflect His Holiness’ concern to develop peace, harmony and understanding between different peoples and religions, making it a truly international festival.
THE MONLAM PRAYER BOOK IN EIGHT LANGUAGES
This has now been translated from the original Tibetan and published in Hindi, Chinese, English, French, German, Korean and Spanish.
A MANDALA CONTAINING STONES FROM 101 COUNTRIES
A specially constructed mandala shaped altar, with Mt. Meru at the centre, has been filled with pebbles from all five continents of the world and 101 different countries, symbolizing the earth and all her peoples. Bringing the pebbles together symbolizes bringing together their minds and wishes. The collection also includes two meteorites. There will be a special blessing ceremony to bring peace and happiness and well-being to all corners of the globe. The mandala will then be dismantled , the stones packed into special individual boxes, and the boxes distributed to foreigners attending the Monlam, who will take them back to their countries. So the stones will once more be dispersed to all five continents, carrying the blessings with them.
THE MAIN ENTRANCE GATE
This year’s entrance gate is constructed from wood and covered in colored cloth. The five colors of the cloth – white, green, yellow, blue and red – are known as the ‘wisdom’ colors. Each represents one of the five Buddha families. Suspended from the gate are banners of the mantra: Om Pemo Uni Kha Bema Le Hung Phat. This mantra has powers of purification so that all who pass through the gate during the Monlam festival will receive some spiritual benefit.
ASPIRATION PRAYER BANNERS
These have been hung along the stone palisade near the back gate. They show aspirations from all over the world: in Tibetan, Chinese, English, French, German, Spanish and Korean. His Holiness’ intention is to raise awareness of how people of different cultures have different concerns, hopes and aspirations.
ASPIRATION PRAYER GATE
The rear entrance to the Monlam enclosure is through a Japanese style red Tori gate, hung with aspiration prayers from around the world, in different languages.
BUTTER SCULPTURES REPRESENTING ALL TRADITIONS OF TIBETAN BUDDHISM
The butter sculptures on the right show the great Kagyu founders, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, but this year , the ones on the left show the great masters of other Tibetan Buddhist lineages – the Nyingmapa, Sakyapa and Gadenpa (Geluk) traditions. This symbolizes the essential unity of Tibetan Buddhism and the interrelationship between the different schools.
TEACHINGS FOR EAST AND WEST
The growing international importance of Kagyu Monlam is highlighted by the inclusion of more Buddhist teachings this year. Last year Gyalwang Karmapa gave teachings to foreigners only over three evenings. This year he has extended his teaching schedule. Before the Monlam, His Holiness accepted a request from the Taiwanese Hwa-Yue Foundation to give three days of teaching on Teachings of the Lineage Masters. More than 1500 people attended these teachings. After the Prayer Festival His Holiness will give a further three days of teaching, entitled Living the Dharma, this time to a predominantly Western audience. More than 1500 people are expected to attend.
FOOD OFFERINGS FROM EIGHT COUNTRIES
The tsog this year comes from different countries: a cane sugar, milk and nut sweet from India; potato chips from the USA; milk toffees from Germany; croissant from France; ginseng tea from Korea; tsampa from Tibet; mochi rice cake from Taiwan; dried fruit and nuts from Spain. Ten thousand special bags of tsog have been prepared for distribution at the end of the Monlam.