The Gyalwang Karmapa shares his vision for the Kagyu Monlam in members' audience on Christmas Eve
December 24, 2012
Winter’s cloak descended on Bodhgaya several days ago when it wrapped the town in a dense and bone-chilling morning fog. This sudden drop in temperatures may have reminded international attendees that they had forsaken the holiday season in their home countries in favor of attending the Kagyu Monlam in India. But if any of them felt nostalgia for dim sum, plum pudding, or holiday cheer, you couldn’t detect it on their faces as they waited eagerly in a winding queue on the lawn of Tergar Monastery: for what better way for the 750-plus Kagyu Monlam members to spend Christmas Eve than with the glorious Gyalwang Karmapa in an hour-long audience, embraced by his warm, loving, and compassionate presence.
Karmapa began the audience by giving a transmission of the four-armed white Chenrezig practice and the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM. Then he expressed his delight that everyone was able to come and personally join in the 30th Kagyu Monlam.
As in previous years, the Karmapa reminded the group that the revival of the Kagyu Monlam in India was due to the profound noble activity of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, as well as the dedicated work and resolve of the many others who offer support and sponsorship annually. He said that this has allowed the Kagyu Monlam to take its place on the world stage as a major spiritual event, important in both appearance and substance. Besides being webcast live from India, the Kagyu Monlam’s scope has expanded as it has become an annual event held in many countries around the world.
But such growth is fraught with the possibility of danger, warned the Karmapa, and as the Monlam becomes more elaborate its essential purpose might become distorted or lost over time. He urged the members to pay attention to this and to remember that the main function of the Monlam is to inspire a wholesome and virtuous outlook in people and to lend confidence and strength to their individual dharma paths. This is his vision for the Monlam, he said, and it should not be compromised.
He added that this vision is in accordance with the noble aspirations of the great buddhas and bodhisattvas, and that among these aspirations there are two types: those that can be realized and those that cannot. For instance, one can aspire to become a buddha and achieve that aim, but the wish to take on the suffering of all sentient beings and to share one’s experience of virtue and well-being with everyone is probably not possible. But regardless of whether our aspirations are truly attainable or not, he stressed that it is important to make our minds infinitely spacious, and replete with the attitude that if there comes a time when we can take on the suffering of others we should do so without hesitation.
The Karmapa also reminded the members to look around them and become aware of unbearable suffering others beings experience on a daily basis. For example, billions of creatures in the animal realms are suffering constantly, primarily because of us. We should feel overwhelmed by the fact that they are completely without protection and we should determine to eliminate their suffering whenever possible. He added this profound piece of advice: we should cherish others more than we cherish ourselves.
The Gyalwang Karmapa then thanked everyone for their ongoing support of the Monlam. He joked that he had attempted to become a member of Kagyu Monlam himself but since he had not kept up with his membership dues, he had not been issued a membership card this year. And he playfully thanked the organizers for this.
The Karmapa told the Kagyu Monlam members that he took their membership as a gesture of support to him personally and as an indication that they all share his aspiration and resolve for the Monlam to continue indefinitely. And finally, as a fitting conclusion to this special Christmas Eve audience, the members were invited to go up one by one to receive a personal blessing from the Gyalwang Karmapa and a small gift from all of the Kagyu Monlam organizers.