The annual Akshobhya Retreat begins at Tergar Monastery, Bodhgaya
19 November, 2013, Bodhgaya
Each year an important part of the International Kagyu Monlam is the Akshobhya ritual, which usually takes place on the penultimate day of the Monlam, and every year a small group of chosen, dedicated practitioners take part in a special, preparatory retreat, held in the small shrine room on the roof of Tergar Monastery, opposite the living quarters of the Gyalwang Karmapa.
This year’s retreat, composed of thirty-three practitioners drawn from European centres, North America, Asia, including two Rinpoches, and senior members of Tsurphu Labrang, will last for forty days rather than the usual four weeks. Retreatants received the empowerments for the retreat on 18th November and the retreat proper began on the 19th November. It will finish on 28thDecember. During this time, retreatants will complete six practice sessions daily, starting at 6.00 am each morning and extending until 8.30 pm in the evening, and recite the Akshobhya dharanai mantra 100,000 times. They will also receive private teachings and instructions from the Gyalwang Karmapa each day. His Holiness is giving these teachings in Tibetan, Chinese and English, so that everyone can understand.
When the retreat finishes, the retreatants will join in all the pre-Monlam activities including the special Guru Rinpoche Tse Chu, the Monlam itself, and finally, will form the group which supports the Gyalwang Karmapa’s activities during the fire ritual which concludes the day of Akshobhya rituals on 14th January , 2014.
Akshobhya Buddha is one of the five Dhyani Buddhas. In Tibetan he is known as Mitrugpa, the one who never becomes disturbed by anger or aggression. According to the story, Mitrugpa was originally a devout practitioner, a gelong, who asked, “What is the most important thing to do in order to attain enlightenment?” and the answer given was, “Don’t get angry! Don’t let your mind be disturbed!, and so he vowed “From this moment on I will never get angry with anybody,” and hence he became known as Mitrugpa – the undisturbed – until, eventually, he became the Buddha Mitrugpa.
According to the Buddhist teachings the present age is one of degeneration when all beings in the cycle of existence (samsara) are suffering because of negative thoughts and actions. The Akshobhya ritual is a very powerful purification practice done for the benefit of all sentient beings. It can liberate not only the practitioners themselves from the fear of an unfortunate rebirth, but other beings as well. The Buddha Akshobhya promised that the merit generated by reciting 100,000 of his long dharani mantra and making an image of him could be dedicated to other people, both living and dead, and this would assure their release from lower states of existence and rebirth in spiritually fortunate circumstances.
The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa has commended this practice as very suitable at a time when negative forces are increasing in the world.