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Historic Red Crown Ceremony in Bodhgaya

During the break, after the smoke offering Massing Clouds of Amrita had ended on Sunday morning, the stage needed to be cleared and rearranged in order for Gyaltsab Rinpoche to bestow the Red Crown ceremony and the Long Life Empowerment of the Three Roots Combined. His Holiness the 17th Karmapa personally took charge of arranging Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s throne with great respect and care; he had received the Empowerment of the Three Roots Combined from Gyaltsab Rinpoche when he bestowed the Treasury of Precious Terma, or Rinchen Terdzo empowerments some years earlier.

Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s throne was placed directly in front of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s high throne. To the right, on an elegant golden table covered with brocade, sat a delicately wrought silver pavilion.

At last the stage Read the rest of this article

The Last Day of the Tibetan Year Begins

26 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
The final day of Gutor for the Year of the Fire Monkey began at 4 in the morning when the stars were still out and the air had a chill in it. People were huddled in down jackets or wrapped up to their eyes in a thick woolen shawl. Jalings from behind the stage announced the Karmapa’s arrival, and after three bows, he took his seat on the black and gold throne to preside over the puja. One could often hear his voice blending in with the chant master’s.

The first text was the short Mahakala practice known as the Cinnabar Mahakala since the first parts to be chanted were marked off in a brilliant red from the long text Burning Up Hostility by the Sixth Karmapa, Thongwa Dönden. At the end of this came a short section known as Receiving the Siddhi. At this time the Nyingzuk, the huge main torma sculpture that Read the rest of this article

The Mahakala Night

25 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
The night session of the Mahakala puja started at 11 p.m. The pavilion was covered in deep blue drapery inscribed with golden, fiery imagery allusive of the brilliant wisdom blazing through emptiness. The blackened atmosphere of the interior blended into singularity with the quiet night outside.

Along with 5,000 monks and nuns in their usual places, about 300 determined lay practitioners remained to practice throughout the night. This night’s ritual text is called the Abridged Incinerating the Hostile (Dang ba rnam sreg las btus pa), also known as the Golden One. Rather than inducing sleep, this kind of night, with the powerful sounds of chanting and drumming, was meant to evoke lucidity and wakefulness.

Below the main statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, statues of Mahakala, Mahakali and Dorje Lekpa Read the rest of this article

The Great Cham Dance

24 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

The ritual preceding the Cham—an offering of the Fifth Shamar’s abridged form of the Sixth Karmapa’s text Incinerating the Hostile—began at 11.00pm on the 24th February. Vigorous chanting accompanied by the beat of both large temple drums and  hand-held drums, punctuated by a crescendo of cymbals, gyalins, great horns and the wailing of kanglins [thigh-bone trumpets] could be heard all night across the vast grounds of the Garchen, the Monlam Pavilion and Tergar Monastery.  Finally, at 5.30am the ritual finished, exactly on time.

The stage was set for the next major event of the Gutor, the great Cham dance.

On one level this ritual dance, unique to Tibetan Buddhism and performed only by monastics, might seem a colourful spectacle set to a strange Read the rest of this article

Gutor Day Four: Great Encampment Mahakala Puja, Day 3

24 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
After only a few hours of sleep, rinpoches, lamas, khenpos, monks, and nuns reassembled in the Pavilion in the middle of the night to begin the third day of the Great Encampment Mahakala pujas. There was a surprising chill in the air at 2 am as they started the medium-length text, the Abridged Incinerating the Hostile. For the previous two days, the longer version of this text had been used by the main assembly, while relay teams of young monks did something else: one group chanted Mahakala’s mantra in an unbroken stream, while another sang his kangwa (prayer for fulfillment of impaired samaya) over and over. Chanting continuously in this way throughout the breaks and overnight, the two teams of young monks performed the task assigned to them by the dorje lopon (vajra master). Incidentally, the Mahakala text used Read the rest of this article