A New Edition of the Monlam Prayer Books
This year will see revised editions of the Monlam Prayer Books in eight languages: English, Chinese, Polish, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Korean. All the books now share the same formatting and also the same cover design though in different colors. One of the main reasons for a third version of the text is that previously, the prayers were divided into two books, a main Monlam Prayer Book and a Supplement. A great advantage of the new edition is that one single volume contains all the texts plus corrections and additions.
In the books from all the eight languages, His Holiness has universally added: the twenty verses that were missing from Tsangpa Gyare's Aspiration for the Seven Spiritual Trainings; A Prayer to the Bodhisattva Lineage by the Seventh Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso (from the original Twenty-Branch Monlam he himself compiled); and a new praise from the Martsang Kagyu (sMar tshang), one of the eight younger lineages. (This one should not be confused with that of Marpa the Translator, which is spelled differently, Mar pa). The new praise was written by Marpa Sherap Yeshe and called The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel. With this addition, the Monlam Book now contains praises from all the four elder and eight younger lineages of the Kagyu.
For the benefit of those who have not memorized some of the basic prayers, the new books also include The Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche; the two Short Prayers for Rebirth in Dewachen; The Aspiration of He Who Accomplishes the Truth (a compilation of verses by the Seventh and Eighth Karmapas); and the mandala offerings as they are done at the Monlam with the various endings, such as requests for teachings, empowerments, and long life.
These new books are on sale at Monlam this year. In the listing of page references for the chanting, pages in both the new and old books are given, so it is possible to use the previous editions, however, they will lack the new prayers found in the recent one. These new editions will also be available in some of the home countries of these languages, especially those where the international Kagyu Monlams are held.
In the second edition of the Kagyu Monlam Book, the Karmapa wrote eloquently about the purpose of the chanting during Monlam:
Central to the Monlam―what gives it power and plants the seeds of future results―is the recitation of aspirations and prayers…. Recitation is a deeply cherished Tibetan tradition, for it is believed that reciting the words of the Dharma has the power to refine one's visualization and train one's mind. This is why in most Tibetan monasteries the monks practice chanting and reciting all day long….
I make the aspiration that when you recite during the Monlam, each word may first arise in your heart and then emerge from your mouth. I pray that every letter and syllable become a golden image and that every word fill the entire world. May all the sounds of lament and war as well as the poisonous winds in the environment be dispelled. May these words of love and compassion blend with the innate goodness of every single being and coalesce into one powerful force. Like the light of the sun, moon, and stars, may love, compassion, and wisdom shine forth.