28th December – Bodhgaya.
Early morning, Tergar Monastery
4.45 am. From the Garchen a steady stream of spectral figures emerges on to the road. The monks and nuns are making their way to the Mahabodhi stupa, two kilometres away, for a special full-moon-day Vinaya sojong, scheduled to begin at 5.00 am. Laypeople are usually not allowed to be at this bi-monthly ritual of purification of downfalls and restoration of vows and precepts which only monks and nuns attend.
Mahayana Sojong at the Mahabodhi Stupa
The Gyalwang Karmapa gave the Mahayana Sojong vows, followed by a short talk on the importance of aspirations and dedications.
A short teaching by the Gyalwang Karmapa
During the previous seven days of the Monlam, the assembly has employed body, speech and mind to make aspirations for the benefit of all sentient beings and the Dharma. Now is the time to gather together the merit generated and dedicate it for all sentient beings that they may move along the path towards enlightenment. There are two sides to polishing the two accumulations: aspiration and dedication. Our aspirations should not be limited but rather be bold, vast and profound, especially as we are gathered in Bodhgaya, the centre of the world, where all 1002 Buddhas of this age will attain enlightenment.
The Buddha nature is present in all sentient beings —we all share that same nature and are part of the same mandala. All of the virtues of body, speech and mind generated should be dedicated to enlightenment. This is the special feature of the Mahayana path, that we dedicate everything with pure motivation for the benefit of sentient beings. Infinite sentient beings are afflicted by suffering; we should take this burden on ourselves, and always bear it in mind. The generosity of the sponsors made Monlam possible. We should not forget them.
For the living, we should pray that their wishes may be fulfilled, and for the dead that they may be freed from the fearful appearances of the bardo.
Here at the Monlam in Bodhgaya, all the harmonious conditions exist for the practice of Dharma and the benefit of beings. It’s not a matter of merely one or two people but of thousands, both men and women, gathered together. In addition, keeping ethical discipline means that aims can be achieved more quickly, and many people are also taking Mahayana Sojong. Under these conditions it is our responsibility to seize this great opportunity and not to waste it by procrastinating and saying, “I’ll focus on Dharma later..”.
“Now, on this seat..” Gyalwang Karmapa emphasised, is the time to practise. As the Khadampa masters taught, intention and action must go together or else, at the time of death, we will be full of regret at wasting this precious human life.
In front of the small shrine containing the Infant Buddha statue, Gyalwang Karmapa stood to make the offerings on behalf of the assembly. He offered incense in a small burner, formed his hands effortlessly into flowing mudras of welcome, and, during the branch of ablution, used a beautifully engraved golden ladle to pour perfumed water over the statue three times. He dried it symbolically with a khatag and then held up a golden silk cloth as adornment, concluding with the mudra for anointing.
Sessions Two and Three
During session two and the beginning of session three the Karmapa and sangha performed the Lama Choepa [Offering to the Gurus] especially dedicated to Tenga Rinpoche, one of the Karmapa’s tutors, who died earlier this year. A large photograph of Tenga Rinpoche was displayed on a special shrine to the left of the Infant Buddha shrine
“The best offering”, the Karmapa noted, “is the offering of the practice”.
“The activities of the Buddha’s body, speech and mind isn’t something I need to talk about,” he continued. From the time of the 16th Karmapa till now Tenga Rinpoche was the Vajracharya. He knew the details of all the practices, taught very widely and held the authentic practice lineages. Because of his great activities when he went into parinirvana he went into a special tukdam and inspired many people to practice the dharma.
“His reincarnation will come soon and take up his activities and will go on working for the benefit of all beings. We should pray for that”.
“The collections of requests for the new reincarnations are many. I will read out only what I have written myself. It’s called: Quickly Come”.
The text, which was distributed across the gathering, is beautifully printed and decorated with the 8 auspicious symbols in colour; and recited to the melody of Calling the Guru from Afar.
The last session always contains aspiration and dedication prayers, a speech by the Gyalwang Karmapa, and finally, prayers of auspiciousness.
The concluding prayer, written by the Fourth Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso, ends:
A blaze of good fortune, the ornament of the world!
In the realm and kingdom of the land of Tibet,
To the north of th eLand of Snows,
May the teachings of the Practice Lineage flourish!
May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
We ask that the world be made happy!
and that last line sums up the heartfelt aspiration and purpose of the Monlam.