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The Year of the Female Fire Bird Takes Flight


26 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

For the Gyalwang Karmapa, the Tibetan New Year began in the first hours of the day, as he met in the Tergar Monastery shrine hall with tulkus, khenpos, and masters from various monasteries and received their khatas. In return he gave them his blessing and a traditional bright red cord. The monks recited prayers for peace in the world and the flourishing of the teachings as well as the very long life of the Karmapa. Afterward the entire monastic and lay Sangha gathered at 4:30 am in the Monlam Pavilion for a special long-life practice based on the Three Roots Combined, called A Life-Force Indestructible like a Vajra. The practice was led by the Karmapa’s heart son, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, who had bestowed this empowerment the previous day.

In February of 2016 the Karmapa had also given Read the rest of this article

Two Precious Items from the Past


26 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
Bangladesh is connected to two important figures in the history of Tibetan Dharma. Its town of Chittagong (formerly, Chativaho) was home to the mahasiddha Tilopa (10th to 11th century). He is the source of the Kagyu lineage and is considered the embodiment of Chakrasamvara, the main Kagyu yidam deity, whose empowerment the Gyalwang Karmapa bestowed on February 6, 2017 in the Monlam Pavilion. Bangladesh is also the birthplace of Atisha Dipankara (982-1054), the great Kadampa master who, in the latter part of his life, taught in Tibet and had a wide influence on the development of Buddhism there.

Although these days Bangladesh is mostly a Muslim country, Buddhism was the predominant faith in the area up to the 11th century, and today 3 million of its 170 citizens are Buddhist, making it the third largest 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

Gutor Day One: Protector Practices to Prepare for the Blossoming of the New Year


21 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

For over three hundred years, from the time of the Fourth to Tenth Karmapa, the Karmapas traveled extensively in what was known as the Great Encampment. This allowed them to reach disciples all over Tibet with great flexibility and spontaneity. From the time of the Seventh Karmapa (1454-1506), the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo as well took place wherever the Karmapa happened to be on the date for the event. Following in this tradition, the Monlam Pavilion in Bodh Gaya is a flexible, open space that transforms into whatever is needed at the time.

Its latest reincarnation is as a protector shrine or gönkhang, which can be found at most Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, though they are often off limits to the uninitiated. The Pavilion has been magnificently arranged for the rituals of Gutor—six days of extensive Read the rest of this article

Reviving the Tradition of the Cotton-Clad Yogis


19 February, 2017 – Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
The source for all practices and traditions that are followed at the Kagyu Monlam is the Seventh Karmapa, Chödrak Gyatso (1454-1506). In a letter to Minyak Gang Monastery in Kham, Chödrak Gyatso described how to combine the practices of the Six Yogas with the Monlam they were practicing. The letter detailed what to do, which texts to chant, and the practice of wearing the white cloth (ras bud byed pa). Usually the term cotton-clad (ras pa) refers to the followers of Milarepa (Mi la ras pa) who were mountain yogis and yoginis clad in white cloth. The other Kagyu tradition of Gampopa is for ordained monks who wear burgundy robes.

Evoking the tradition of Milarepa, a particular practice of wearing white cloth occurs at the end of a three-year retreat, and also in some monasteries on special days, such as Read the rest of this article