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Compassion in Action – Blankets for Those in Need

6th Jan – Bodhgaya.

When teaching on compassion, the Gyalwang Karmapa has continuously emphasised that feeling compassion towards other sentient beings was not enough. Our compassion has to be turned into action. As temperatures dipped to freezing point and below across North India, the Gyalwang Karmapa bought and distributed over a thousand warm blankets to Bodhgaya’s poorest.

Several thousand people from Bodhgaya and nearby villagers, mostly women with small children, queued for hours at the gates to the Monlam Pavilion before the scheduled time of 3:00 pm. The Gyalwang Karmapa then spent nearly an hour inside the Monlam Pavilion personally handing out the thick woollen blankets to each delighted recipient. Their stressed and worn faces lit up as they received the Gyalwang Karmapa’s gift, together with his compassionate blessing.

Later, as they dispersed across the surrounding fields clutching their new blankets, their delight could be clearly seen on their smiling faces. Later that evening, Read the rest of this article

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Day Two

22nd December – Bodhgaya.

The work of the Kagyupa International Monlam Trust
The annual Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya is organised by The Kagyupa International Trust, a charitable organisation registered in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India.

Although its main activity is the Monlam festival, it also organises various charitable activities within the Bodhgaya area to coincide with the festival. These have included free medical camps, food for the poor, distribution of blankets and rice to the poor, and work to improve the environment.

Early morning at Tergar and the Monlam Pavilion
At 4.00 am promptly the wake-up gong resounded across the Garchen, followed shortly afterwards by a loud broadcast of the Gyalwang Karmapa chanting Milarepa’s aspiration prayer. The monks stirred and stumbled and coughed their way into the day.

Once more, a heavy mist lay over the land as ghostly people made their way to Mahayana Sojong at 6.00 am in the Monlam Read the rest of this article

The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo Begins

21st December – Bodhgaya.

Early morning at Tergar and the Monlam Pavilion By 5:15 am long lines of people, nuns, monks and laypeople, had formed along the road from the pavilion as far back as the main gates of Tergar monastery. The morning was dark and chill but they waited patiently to pass through the stringent security checks. Although it now has a greater capacity than last year, the vast space of the Monlam Pavilion filled steadily. Seats to left and right of the central aisle were allocated to nuns and monks respectively. The rinpoches, tulkus, khenpos, and some gelongs were seated on the stage. A space near the front was reserved for international sangha, and other designated areas were allocated to members of Kagyu Monlam, VIPs, and special guests. Clad in their distinctive yellow panelled waistcoats, disciplinarians patrolled the rows of monks and nuns.

At 6:00 am promptly, the gyalings sounded, and led by an incense bearer and monks playing the gyalings, Gyalwang Karmapa arrived on the stage and Read the rest of this article

The Alms Procession

This year, for the first time, the ceremony was not held at the Mahabodhi stupa but transferred to Tergar Monastery and the Monlam Pavilion. It was also brought forward to six o’clock in the morning. The procession replicates the alms round from the time of Lord Buddha, a tradition which survives still today in some countries.  Buddhist monks and nuns set out each morning with their bowls to collect whatever food is given them by the villagers or townspeople.

By 5.15am the first laypeople had already begun lining up along the route, guided by Kagyu Monlam volunteers, easily recognized by their emerald green volunteer vests. The alms round is conducted in silence so people were encouraged to chant the refuge prayer.  After Mahayana sojong at the Read the rest of this article

The Kangyur Procession at The Mahabodhi Stupa

For five days this year’s Monlam had been held at the Monlam Pavilion, two kilometers from Bodhgaya, so it felt strange on the sixth day to be in Bodhgaya, standing at the entrance to the Mahabodhi stupa grounds at five o’clock in the morning once more.  Strange, but also very comfortable, like coming home. This ancient site radiates a pervasive feeling of sacredness, as if the broken stones themselves are a repository for two thousand years of devotion, hope, and trust in the way of the Buddha. Sitting under the bodhi tree, waiting for the Gyalwang Karmapa to arrive, people commented that they missed being at the stupa. However, for once, laypeople were able to sit where the novice monks and nuns would have been sitting, closer to the shrine, His Holiness and the bodhi tree, rather than crowded Read the rest of this article