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Musical Offerings to the Buddha: The Marme Monlam


January 16, 2014

Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

 

Right on time at 7:30, the Gyalwang Karmapa arrived to take his seat in front of the stage and the light show starts, bathing the stage in indigo blue as the spotlights find the golden statue of the Buddha who seems to float in space. On stage left appear two monks, who will be the MCs for the evening, one for Tibetan and one for English. They open with words of praise, reciting:

    Your orb of wisdom fills the space of all that is knowable; your thousand rays of deeds strike the ground, clearly illuminating all the Buddha’s teachings.
    Precious Kagyu gurus we bow to you in respect.

After this invocation, warm greetings are offered to all the guests, beginning with Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche, the tulkus and khenpos, continuing to the ordained and lay sangha, who have come from around the world.

The Buddha said in The King of Samadhi Sutra that we should always make unsurpassed offerings of fine songs and dance, pleasing and delightful music, and glowing rows of lamps, so performances such as musical offerings and dance are a way to bring pleasure Read the rest of this article

Closing the Mandala

2014.01.15 A
The Final Session of the 31st Kagyu Monlam

January 15, 2014

 

A giant golden Buddha has replaced the thangka of Guru Rinpoche on the stage as the setting for the last day of the Monlam. Sixteen exquisite hand painted Chinese silk lanterns, eight on each side, are the ornaments for auspiciousness to close the mandala. Some of the lanterns have auspicious animals – tiger, lion, peacock, vulture, garuda- and others the 8 auspicious symbols and goddesses. Each cylinder is hanging with long gold decorative strands separated by crystal beads, creating a delicate, twinkling display of abundance.

With a sea of sangha surrounding him, the Karmapa honoured the monastics before going on to show his appreciation of the sponsors. As the main sponsor of this Monlam was Gyaltsap Rinpoche, the Karmapa first presented his entourage with representations of the Buddha in the form of statues and texts.

In the course of the evening, the Karmapa continued his support of both branches of his lineage, practice and Read the rest of this article

In Praise of the Gurus

2014.01.15
January 15, 2014 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

Sessions 1, 2, 3

 

Although still cloudy, the land was clear of mist and fog this morning, when the gong sounded clearly across the Garchen at 3.00am, waking the monks and nuns in order to attend the full-moon day sojong for ordained sangha at 4.00am, administered by Khenpo Lodrö Dönyö Rinpoche. Laypeople began arriving at the Monlam Pavilion two hours later to receive the Mahayana Sojong vows bestowed by the Gyalwang Karmapa.

On the top tier of the stage, the great tormas rose magnificently, set against a translucent blue sky peppered with white clouds, projected on to the new screen background, installed three days ago. This screen will be used for visual effects during the Marme Monlam on 16th January, and stretches the width of the stage, concealing the painting of Mt. Kailash.

The Karmapa sat facing the congregation  on a low seat,  flanked by Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. Behind, a row of Chinese-style festive banners had Read the rest of this article

Invoking the Blessings of the 16 Arhats: the Alms Procession Takes a New Form

2014.01.14
January 14, 2014

Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya

 

The Alms Procession, an annual feature of the Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya, took on a new form and meaning this year when the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa revived another Kagyu tradition, the Procession of the 16 Arhats. Originally, during the time of the 7th, 9th and 10th Karmapas, this procession of the 16 Arhats was held on the final day of the Monlam Chenmo. During the time of the 15th and 16th Karmapas it was held on full-moon day in the first month of the Tibetan year.

The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa has given this tradition new life by incorporating it into the Alms Procession, and he invested his time and energy to ensure that it went well. On Sunday evening, amid much laughter, he personally chose the gelongs who would represent the arhats in the procession. He checked each candidate, made jokes about height and weight, and debated whether an arhat could wear glasses or not. Sadly, because of the Read the rest of this article

Returning the Buddha’s Words to the Source: Kangyur Procession

2014.01.13
January 13, 2014

Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya

Echoes of enlightenment

The morning dawns grey and foggy on the third day of the Monlam, as all gather at the Monlam Pavilion where the Gyalwang Karmapa once more gives the day’s Sojong Vows.

Shortly afterwards he leaves the stage to prepare for the Kangyur Procession, the only major activity of the 31st Kagyu Monlam scheduled to take place at the Mahabodhi Stupa.

2500 years after Shakyamuni Buddha attained awakening beneath the branches of the sacred Bodhi Tree, today the Gyalwang Karmapa returns a complete copy of all the Buddha’s words—known in Tibetan as the Kangyur—to the place of origin, the centre of the Buddhist universe.

These are words born of an enlightened mind that have since spread out in all directions, like golden threads weaving through time and space, and that still linger thousands of years after they were uttered.

Yet the Buddha’s words themselves are merely an imprint, a captured representation of the Read the rest of this article