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The Grand Garchen Losar Feast


28 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

Entering the Pavilion one was struck by the long tables framing one side of the entrance, laid with hundreds of impressive terra cotta place settings. Tonight’s program was billed as a Grand Garchen Losar Feast and Chakrasamvara Ganachakra. It certainly seemed like a great feast was in store for all.

At 7:30pm the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa took his seat on a low throne on the stage with a medium-sized Buddha statue behind and above him. Stage decorations consisted of a Losar chema arrangement to his right and a large ram’s head and another Losar chema arrangement to his left. The chema arrangements consist of ornate wooden boxes heaped with tsampa (roasted barley flour); fresh stalks of barley, wheat, and other grains; and butter sculpture offerings Read the rest of this article

The Second Day of Losar: The Great Seating Ceremony


28 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
On the second day of Losar, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa acknowledged all those who share the responsibility, happiness and burden of his Office of Administration, the Tsurphu Labrang, and those who work in organising the extensive Kagyu Monlam. This ceremony, known also as the Row Ceremony because everyone is seated in rows in front of the Karmapa, was a part of the Tsurphu Monastery Losar tradition. It was a blend of a lavish Tibetan style banquet and a carefully executed monastic ceremony.

On the screen, the sky with rushing clouds covered the main wall, creating an impression that this great gathering was being held under the open skies of Tibet and a huge white decorated ram’s head placed in the center, signified auspiciousness for the next year.

The decoration of the Pavilion was much 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

Celebrating the Life of the Eighth Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche: A Ritual of Offerings to the Gurus


19 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
The extensive Ritual of Offerings to the Gurus, always performed on the last day of the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, was composed in 2005 by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. It is a compilation drawn from many famous Buddhist texts. The puja often serves as a memorial to a particular Lama who has passed away, and this year a large portrait photograph of the Eighth Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche was placed centrally below the shrine.

The stage had been rearranged following the Sixteen Arhat and Alms Procession the previous day. Four of the victory banners from that procession remained on the top tier of the stage, and the others were arrayed in the wings. Below them, three tiers of heavily laden offering tables stood to left and right of the pagoda shrine containing the infant Buddha. The bottom tier was replete with Read the rest of this article