December 24, 2009 – Under the Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya
As His Holiness moved through the dawn mist yesterday to take his place under the graceful branches of the Bodhi Tree, the long-awaited 27th Kagyu Monlam was officially underway. The theme for this year’s prayer gathering is “gratitude,” and this theme was surely reflected in the hearts of the thousands of disciples who managed to bring together the conditions to be present in Bodhgaya after this year of economic turmoil.
The Gyalwang Karmapa opened Kagyu Monlam by offering the 24-hour Mahayana Sojong precepts to the immense gathering of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. His Holiness has noted in the past that aspirations made by men and women together are more powerful and carry greater effects, as are the aspirations made by people holding vows. As such, the Mahayana Sojong ceremony is a particularly appropriate way to open Kagyu Monlam, since it allows monastic and lay to observe pure ethical discipline and so to strengthen the power of the prayers they make throughout the day.
During the second session of the day, His Holiness continued the reading transmission of The Life of Milarepa that he had begun in previous years. This year he will conclude that transmission, and in honor of that, the Monlam will be followed by the performance of a play composed and directed by His Holiness himself, depicting Milarepa’s biography.
With simultaneous translation into nine languages, Gyalwang Karmapa took the opportunity to comment on Milarepa’s life, noting that Milarepa’s renunciation was greatly fueled by the suffering he had experienced in his earlier life – the suffering he underwent at the hands of his aunt and uncle, as well as the hardships that he endured in his efforts to receive Dharma teachings. This shows us what a powerful teacher our suffering can be, and its value in producing renunciation. Without suffering, His Holiness said, there is no renunciation.
Following a practice he instituted last year, the teachings session concluded with a meditation guided by His Holiness himself. For many practitioners, the opportunity to meditate in the presence of this extraordinary spiritual master has become yet another of the many highlights of the Kagyu Monlam.
Those not able to attend in person may add their aspirations from afar by logging into the live webcast of this year’s Kagyu Monlam. For details, see the Kagyu Monlam website.