The Bodhisattva and the Fully Ordained Sangha: Gyalwang Karmapa Has Lunch With His Sangha

January 11, 2014
Tergar Shrine Hall, Bodhgaya, Bihar, India

After the Gyalwang Karmapa's morning talk, the fully ordained sangha walks along the road from the Pavilion, turns right through the tall green gates of Tergar Monastery, and climbs the white marble stairs steps to enter the main shrine hall at Tergar Monastery. As they file in, the discipline master is striking two blond wooden sticks in a sharp and clear rhythm. Waiting inside for the monks and nuns are long rows of yellow rugs with an eight inch vermillion border where at regular intervals, over three hundred alms bowls have been set out together with a bowl for tea, a wooden spoon, and a napkin. Before the guests arrived, thirty monks and twenty-six lay volunteers have already filled the alms bowls with delicious vegetarian food, including potato curry, flavorful eggplant, mixed vegetables, rice, chili, and soup while pieces of fruit have been placed on each bowl cover, which is turned over to serve as a plate.

When everyone has found a place, the Karmapa enters and walks down the main aisle toward a simple chair and a table with small brocade covers that have been made ready for him. He does not sit down, however, but he stands surveying the seated sangha like a father gazing at his huge family. The discipline master hits the sticks together in a descending roll, and young monks move down each of the rows, bowing to lift slightly the vermillion cloth just in front of each monk and nun, thus inviting them to partake of the meal.

Meanwhile, the Karmapa has moved to the side of the hall and sits on the stairs leading up to the level of the large Buddha statue, the central focus of the hall. The Karmapa then moves to the back of the hall and with clear gestures, directs the servers who are offering a second round of food. Coming to the front for a while, he passes down the main aisle to the back and stands before the large, glass double doors, the light pouring in from behind him. He directs the tea servers to pass again among the sangha and offer tea from the long spouts of the round bellied pots. Passing up and down the aisle one more time, the Karmapa holds out his right hand to the discipline master who smoothly gives him the two sticks. Once more the sharp, clear sound of hard wood crackles through the shrine, announcing the end of the meal.

As the sangha chants prayers which include the Heart Sutra and remembering the generosity of the sponsor for the meal, a white offering torma is carried out the front door. The Karmapa offers the assembly a few words of advice and the meal is over. Only then, as the monks and nuns are folding up their yellow chugu shawls and filing out of the hall, does the Karmapa sit down to eat him, the bodhisattva who first took care of everyone else.

2014.1.11 Gyalwang Karmapa Has Lunch With His Sangha  法王噶瑪巴視察僧眾進用缽飯


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