The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo : Day Six
Kagyu Monlam transfers to the Mahabodhi Stupa
December 26, 2012
Once more some of the teams who support the Monlam had to work late into the night and arrive at the stupa early in the morning so that the site was prepared. By the time the Gyalwang Karmapa arrived before daybreak, new altars and torma had been set out, all the equipment for audio and webcasting had been transferred, and the sangha were sitting in their newly allotted places.
The area under the Bodhi tree was festooned with fresh garlands of yellow and gold marigolds. Fairy lights lit up the banks around the outer kora—the route which pilgrims circumambulate—and a signboard proclaimed "The 30th Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. Sarva Mangalam".
As soon as he arrived, Gyalwang Karmapa went to the shrine room and offered prayers in front of the precious Buddha statue. He then went to the Monlam site under the bodhi tree and conferred the Mahayana Sojong vows. Returning to the shrine room, he offered a set of golden silk robes, [Each day during the Monlam, a new set of silk robes will be offered.] and performed the hair-cutting ceremony for two Taiwanese disciples who wished to take ordination.
Mahayana Sojong at the Mahabodhi Stupa
After Gyalwang Karmapa gave the Mahayana Sojong vows, he spoke once more on the great good fortune possessed by everyone gathered in Bodhgaya for the Monlam. He reminded everybody of the great masters of Buddhism whose heartfelt dream was to come to India to this the most sacred site—the root of Buddhism the central land of Magadha, the hub of the world.
Practising dharma and keeping pure conduct during a degenerate age or in an impure realm is of greater merit because of the number of obstacles which have to be surmounted. We need to recognise this great opportunity and not waste it. Maintaining ethical discipline is the way to attain our aims, and because both men and women are present, our aspirations will be fulfilled more quickly.
Once more, the Karmapa returned to the question "What does it mean to practise dharma?" Reciting texts all day long, prostrating, chanting mantras, making offerings are not dharma activities unless we have pure, unstained motivation, he warned. We need to have the aspiration to benefit all sentient beings, in particular the living and the dead of this world. Although it might be difficult to envisage the suffering of hungry ghosts and the hell realms, we are surrounded by the self-evident suffering of impoverished, destitute and sometimes terrified people, and that of enslaved animals, enduring incredible distress and pain at the hands of humans. In addition, there are those with whom we share a karmic connection: our relatives, friends, teachers and so forth. We need to aspire to liberate all these sentient beings and bring them to enlightenment. This was the first step taken by all the Buddhas.
Aspirations are powerful but only if they are more than words: we should make them from the depths of our hearts. In the end it is all up to us, our responsibility. The Dharma distinguishes between the outer and inner spiritual friend. The outer spiritual friend is anyone who advises us on what is beneficial and what is harmful. But we ourselves are the inner teacher. We need to maintain an inner dialogue, give ourselves advice, and be our own protector, our own refuge.
Instead of the usual Twenty-Branch Monlam, this morning there was a Medicine Buddha Offering Puja, based on a text by the great master Karma Chakme.
See feature for details of this event.