On 19 February the Gyalwang Karmapa enjoyed a low-key Losar or Tibetan New Year celebration in the sacred place of Bodhgaya. He began the Year of the Wood Sheep with a morning puja, individually blessing all those in attendance, before he joined around 150 close disciples, friends, and locals for a grand Losar lunch offered by Tsurphu Labrang.
After spending the first day of the New Year in the place where the Buddha attained ultimate awakening, on 20 February, the second day of the new year, the Karmapa followed in the Buddha’s own footsteps after enlightenment and journeyed west to Sarnath, to the place where the Buddha offered a Dharma teaching to his first five disciples and thus turned the wheel of Dharma for the very first time.
The Karmapa set off from Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya in the early afternoon and finally reached Vajra Vidya Monastery in Sarnath just as the sun slowly dipped into the horizon, its last rays striking off the curved golden rooftops of the monastery and casting a warm, burnished glow.
Crowds of devotees and well-wishers lined the road leading to the monastery gates as the day’s heat dissipated into the late afternoon, their arms laden with white silk khatas and sticks of fragrant incense. They included local Tibetan and Himalayan devotees resplendent in pristine new Losar silk chupas, a large group of international disciples who had arrived directly from Bodhgaya just moments before, and still others who spontaneously appeared from the nearby ancient and holy city of Varanasi, with the good fortune to be in the right place at exactly the right moment to meet and greet the Karmapa that day.
The Gyalwang Karmapa was received joyfully at Vajra Vidya monastery by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, a senior and highly respected Kagyu lineage guru, who is both abbot of the monastery and the Karmapa’s own main tutor.
The third day of the New Year, 21 February, began with a morning for celebrating the long life of the gurus. A special puja of Amitayus from the Karmapa’s tradition, known as the Long Life Practice Uniting the Three Roots was dedicated to Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche’s long life. It began early in the morning, with the Gyalwang Karmapa arriving around 7.30am to preside. As rays of morning sunshine poured into the shrine room, spontaneously enveloping members of the gathering in haloes of light, Thrangu Rinpoche made tenshuk or extensive long life offerings to the Karmapa. These were then reciprocated by the Tsurphu Labrang, led by Jetsunma Ngodup Pelzom, who offered tenshuk back to Thrangu Rinpoche.
Later that evening the Gyalwang Karmapa and Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche sat side by side and watched as monks of all ages from Vajra Vidya Monastery staged their annual Losar show. The youngest monks offered joyful song and dance performances while the main act was a play in Tibetan opera style, based on the life of Gyalpo Dimey Kunden, a Tibetan prince renowned for his extraordinary generosity. Under an exquisitely decorated pavilion hanging with silken brocades, the monks donned classical Indian-style costumes of lustrous silks, headpieces, and glittering sequins as they performed this story that demonstrates the deep inner richness of the perfection of generosity. The evening ended with gifts from Tsurphu Labrang distributed to the performers as well as to the talented young monks who had won prizes in lively Losar races and games staged earlier that day.