December 31, 2011- Sarnath, Varanasi.
December 31, 2011 – While the Gyalwang Karmapa’s primary focus during this stay in Sarnath is to engage in intensive Mahakala practice in a retreat setting, he paid an auspicious visit on the last day of the year to the Dhammekh stupa in Sarnath. As the site of Lord Buddha’s first teaching, the stupa marks one of the holiest sites for Buddhists of all traditions.
Approaching the site solemnly, His Holiness first passed among the remains of the many great monasteries and temples that once made Sarnath a vibrant center for Buddhist study and practice. He then circumambulated the Dhammekh stupa, and engaged in meditative prayer. In the company of a large retinue of monks and nuns, His Holiness the Karmapa recited prayers and praises to Lord Buddha, including the Praise to the Twelve Deeds.
In ancient times, the site was renowned for its herds of deer, co-existing peacefully with the sages and ascetics practicing in the park. As such, it became known as Deer Park. Tibetan monasteries to this day are traditionally marked by a wheel flanked by two deer, a reminder of the momentous event that took place on this site millennia ago, when Lord Buddha first began teaching the Dharma that had set him free and that countless others would then use to free themselves from suffering over the centuries.
In gentle homage to that history—and as an act of generosity—His Holiness detoured to a section of the park that is still home to deer, pausing to give food to them.