Great Kagyu Monlam Aspiration, 23rd December


Mahabodhi Temple: Procession of the Kangyur
Just before dawn broke, Gyalwang Karmapa conferred the Sojong vows and gave a short teaching.
The main event of the morning was the Procession of the Kangyur; all 108 volumes of the Sutra and Vinaya were carried by monks in procession around the outer and inner circuits of the Mahabodhi temple. The procession began from the bodhi tree at 7.30am. At its head came the incense-bearing, yellow-hatted chostenpas, the discipline masters, behind them a solitary monk blew a large white conch, which represents the sound of the Noble Dharma. After that came two monks blowing gyalings. Master Hai Tao, a Taiwanese lama, in the ochre robes of the Chinese Mahayana tradition, and the Venerable Hye Neung, Tibet House, Korea, in the long grey robes of a Korean monk, led the next section. They were followed by Mingyur Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and the Gyalwang Karmapa, in that order, wearing their red tsesha which signify high Rinpoches in the Kagyu tradition, and carrying posna (traditional Tibetan incense holders). They were followed by 104 gelongs and the 4 most senior gelongmas, each bearing a volume of the Kangyur, suspended between left shoulder and left palm. Slowly, gracefully, step-by-step, placing stockinged or bare feet mindfully on the stone pavement, the Sangha processed along the side of the Mahabodhi Stupa itself, up the steps and onto the outer circuit. There, thousands of people lined either side of the path, offering katags (Tibetan white ceremonial scarves), incense and flowers, particularly the long stemmed pink lotuses which can be bought from the urchins crowding round the entrance to the Mahabodhi site. In the background, from the area near the bodhi tree, came the sound of the chant master leading a slow chant of the refuge prayer in Sanskrit.
The morning sun shone down brightly on the processing monks and on the crowd, as the procession wound its way the complete length of the outer circuit before returning down the steps to the Mahabodhi temple itself and back to the bodhi tree.
The volumes of the Kangyur were then distributed to the different monasteries and sections of each volume, approximately ten pages, were allocated to individual monks, and the reading of the Kangyur began.
Gyalwang Karmapa visits the Nyingma Monastery: A fter the morning session at the Mahabodhi Temple, the Gyalwang Karmapa visited the Nyingma Monastery which is hosting getsuls and getsulmas (novice monks and nuns) for the midday meal. Gyalwang Karmapa watched as the monks and nuns formed orderly lines as they queued for their lunch. He inspected that day's meal ¨C rice and lentils. He also visited the small clinic, offering Tibetan and allopathic medicine, and talked with the staff. The clinic is being run by Kagyu Monlam medical team: Dr Subatom from Nepal, and a Tibetan doctor Amchi Drubgyu Tendar from Rumtek, Sikkim.
Gyalwang Karmapa eats lunch with the gelongs and gelongmas: During Kagyu Monlam the gelongs and gelongmas have been keeping the Sojong vows, so they do not eat after midday; lunch, their main meal, is served at Tergar Monastery. After the morning session at the Mahabodhi temple, buses transfer the nuns and monks to Tergar Monastery where they gather in the Main Hall, sit in long rows, and observe the new codes of conduct for sitting and eating. A team of Chinese Buddhist volunteers prepares cooks and serves the food each day as an offering and service to the sangha. Today Gyalwang Karmapa joined them for lunch: rice, vegetable tempura, mixed vegetables, French fries, paneer, yoghurt and fruit.
After a hard day working at the camp, the volunteers came to Tergar Monastery to have a group photo taken with Gyalwang Karmapa in the Great Hall. There was some confusion and much laughter when they were ordered to say "cheese" by one of the photographers.
Medical camp: Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps moved back to Birla Mandir in Bodhgaya to conduct a further two days of free treatment.
Akshobhya Fire Puja: This was the conclusion of a week of the Akshobhya Ritual, a powerful purification practice, which Gyalwang Karmapa had been leading each afternoon at the Mahabodhi Temple.
The final ritual ¨C the fire puja ¨C was held in the main hall at Tergar Monastery shortly after 9.00pm, and did not end until 12.30am. Gyalwang Karmapa was Vajra Master. As part of the ritual, the names of the deceased, written on paper, were burnt in a ritual fire. Only a few lamas were allowed to participate in the ceremony, those who had completed the retreat and kept Sojong; other monks and the general public gathered outside and watched through the windows.

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