30th December – Bodhgaya.
At 7:30 in the morning a procession of monks in golden ceremonial hats set out from Tergar Monastery to the Monlam Pavilion carrying a plain wooden palanquin with a precious statue of Pema Gyalpo, one of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. The statue is a terma treasure revealed by the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, the father of the second Jamgon Kongtrul. Four men in brocade costumes, two in white and two in dark blue, held the palanquin. They marched slowly with regal pomp while the horns announced the arrival of the sacred image contained within a bejewelled reliquary. When it arrived at the tiered stage, the Karmapa walked down the steps with a ceremonial scarf to greet the precious image. With exquisite care he placed it just below the golden Buddha at the top of the stage. This moment of heartfelt devotion captures the relationship between the Karmapas and the Jamgon Kongtrul lineage: father and son, guru and disciple from lifetime to lifetime.
The stage was set under the Karmapa’s meticulous supervision for a spectacular program commemorating two hundred years of the Kongtrul lineage. A blown-up photograph of the sacred handprints of the first Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodro Thaye, predominated centre stage with two other portraits, of the second and third Kongtruls, decorated with flowers and the seven offerings. One thousand butter lamps were flickering on the steps of the stage.
The ceremony was designed both to commemorate the lineage and honour the succession. The previous or third Jamgon Kongtrul died in a tragic car accident only twenty years ago and his representation onstage made the event a memorial ceremony. His devotion to the 16th Karmapa was a teaching beyond words. He served his Guru with body, speech and mind until the Karmapa’s death in 1981 and beyond. In 1992 he died in a violent accident at the age of 38. As one of the four pillars strengthening the Kagyu lineage, it weakened the school for many years. The wounds left by the sudden passing of this beloved master have now been healed by his successor, who at 17, today took his place amongst the glorious Kongtrul reincarnations.
While the assembly of monks chanted devotional prayers to the guru, composed by the first Kongtrul, four dancers from Rumtek and four from Ralang Monastery performed a deftly executed dance known as Great Gratitude, to honour the kindness of the Kongtrul masters.
This Lama Dance is another terma based on Guru Rinpoche’s life story and was revealed by the terton Guru Chowang , a contemporary of the 6th Karmapa. The costumes and the jewellery for the dance were borrowed from Gyaltsab Rinpoche.
During the mandala offering ceremony the Labrang or administration, many of whom had served the previous reincarnation, formed a procession that went from outside the Pavilion to the stage. Headed by the General Secretary Tendzin Dorje, the meditation master and the younger brother of the previous Jamgon Kongtrul, they made offerings symbolizing body, speech and mind. Monasteries from all over India, and the worldwide Jamgon Kongtrul centres moved slowly towards the stage in a seemingly endless outpouring of deep devotion.
Some of the invited guests who came to honour the 4th Kongtrul were Thrangu Rinpoche, Karma Kenchen Rinpoche, Ayang Rinpoche, Orgyen Tulku Rinpoche Tobgya-la Sadutsang, and the Hong Kong actress Faye Wong.
After the audience had been served tea and saffron rice, Ringu Tulku read a short biography of Lodro Thaye which he had composed. The Monlam chant master sang a doha composed by the second Kongtrul; while a song of praise to the third Kongtrul’s devotion to the 16th Karmapa, composed by the 17th, was offered by Suja School in Bir. To the slow, haunting melody of Tashi Shok – May all be Auspicious – the palanquin was brought out and the Karmapa once again placed the statue lovingly into place as the procession returned ceremoniously to Tergar.