Showing posts from February, 2017

The Grand Garchen Losar Feast

February 28, 2017 Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

Entering the Pavilion one was struck by the long tables framing one side of the entrance, laid with hundreds of impressive terra cotta place settings. Tonight’s program was billed as a Grand Garchen Losar Feast and Chakrasamvara Ganachakra. It certainly seemed like a great feast was in store for all.

At 7:30pm the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa took his seat on a low throne on the stage with a medium-sized Buddha statue behind and above him. Stage decorations consisted of a Losar chema arrangement to his right and a large ram’s head and another Losar chema arrangement to his left. The chemaarrangements consist of ornate wooden boxes heaped with tsampa (roasted barley flour); fresh stalks of barley, wheat, and other grains; and butter sculpture offerings mounted on gold plaques. These arrangements symbolize prosperity and abundant harvests in the year to come and are standard Losar decorations in monasteries. A row of yellow stage lights beamed down upon…

The Second Day of Losar: The Great Seating Ceremony

February 28, 2017 Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

On the second day of Losar, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa acknowledged all those who share the responsibility, happiness and burden of his Office of Administration, the Tsurphu Labrang, and those who work in organising the extensive  Kagyu Monlam.  This ceremony, known also as the Row Ceremony because everyone is seated in rows in front of the Karmapa, was a part of the Tsurphu Monastery Losar tradition. It was a blend of a lavish Tibetan style banquet and a carefully executed monastic ceremony.
On the screen, the sky with rushing clouds covered the main wall, creating an impression that this great gathering was being held under the open skies of Tibet and a huge white decorated ram’s head placed in the center, signified auspiciousness for the next year.
The decoration of the Pavilion was much simpler as the focus shifted to the performances on the stage where rows of traditional benches were set up, like an unfolded fan, for the staff to be…

The Year of the Female Fire Bird Takes Flight

February 27, 2017 Monlam Pavilion, Bodh Gaya

For the Gyalwang Karmapa, the Tibetan New Year began in the first hours of the day, as he met in the Tergar Monastery shrine hall with tulkus, khenpos, and masters from various monasteries and received their khatas. In return he gave them his blessing and a traditional bright red cord. The monks recited prayers for peace in the world and the flourishing of the teachings as well as the very long life of the Karmapa. Afterward the entire monastic and lay Sangha gathered at 4:30 am in the Monlam Pavilion for a special long-life practice based on theThree Roots Combined, calledA Life-Force Indestructible like a Vajra. The practice was led by the Karmapa’s heart son, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, who had bestowed this empowerment the previous day.
In February of 2016 the Karmapa had also given this empowerment, and at the time commented on its importance for his Kamtsang Kagyu lineage. The short lineage is traced back to a text based on the pure visions of th…

The Arya Kshema Incense Project Continues for a Second Year

February 26, 2017

Monlam Pavilion — January 22nd - February 19th, 2017

Last year 17 nuns from different Kagyu nunneries were the first cohort to join a special workshop in which they learned how to make high-quality Chinese incense. This year the focus changed to producing high-quality Tibetan incense using traditional methods, and the training period, previously three weeks, was extended to four.  Ten nuns from last year’s training and five new students came to study this skill with Tibetan Doctor Dr Dawa, assisted by Ru-Ruei Chung, a professional Chinese incense maker from Taiwan who taught the course last year.
The project was based in a large airy room at the back of the Monlam Pavilion, and the nuns wore overalls, facemasks and gloves for protection against the dust and to keep the environment in which the incense is being made as clean as possible.
The first part of the process was the hardest. All the ingredients had to be ground by hand using traditional methods. For the first nin…

Two Precious Items from the Past

February 26, 2017 Monlam Pavilion, Bodh Gaya

Bangladesh is connected to two important figures in the history of Tibetan Dharma. Its town of Chittagong (formerly, Chativaho) was home to the mahasiddha Tilopa (10th to 11th century). He is the source of the Kagyu lineage and is considered the embodiment of Chakrasamvara, the main Kagyu yidam deity, whose empowerment the Gyalwang Karmapa bestowed on February 6, 2017 in the Monlam Pavilion. Bangladesh is also the birthplace of Atisha Dipankara (982-1054), the great Kadampa master who, in the latter part of his life, taught in Tibet and had a wide influence on the development of Buddhism there.
Although these days Bangladesh is mostly a Muslim country, Buddhism was the predominant faith in the area up to the 11th century, and today 3 million of its 170 citizens are Buddhist, making it the third largest religion in Bangladesh. Over 65% of the Buddhist population is concentrated in the Chittagong region, which was home to Tilopa.
HH Sanghanayaka …

Historic Red Crown Ceremony in Bodhgaya

February 26, 2017 Monlam Pavilion — Bodh Gaya, Bihar

During the break, after the smoke offering Massing Clouds of Amrita had ended on Sunday morning, the stage needed to be cleared and rearranged in order for Gyaltsab Rinpoche to bestow the Red Crown ceremony and the Long Life Empowerment of the Three Roots Combined. His Holiness the 17th Karmapa personally took charge of arranging Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s throne with great respect and care; he had received the Empowerment of the Three Roots Combined from Gyaltsab Rinpoche when he bestowed the Treasury of Precious Terma, or Rinchen Terdzo empowerments some years earlier.

Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s throne was placed directly in front of the Gyalwang Karmapa’s high throne. To the right, on an elegant golden table covered with brocade, sat a delicately wrought silver pavilion.

At last the stage was set, the gyalings blew, and the sangha returned from the break to take their seats. After several minutes, the Gyalwang Karmapa led an elderly Theravadin mon…

The Long Life Empowerment of the Three Roots Combined

February 26, 2017 Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya

The Long Life Empowerment of the Three Roots Combined is one of the practices associated particularly with the Karma Kamtsang, and this is the second successive year that the empowerment has been given.  Last year, His Holiness the Karmapa himself gave the empowerment, but this year it was given by Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, who originally gave the empowerment to His Holiness when he bestowed the Treasury of Precious Terma, or Rinchen Terdzo empowerments some years ago.

Before the empowerment began, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa made an elaborate body, speech, and mind offering to Gyaltsab Rinpoche. For this offering the Karmapa descended from his throne and Gyaltsab Rinpoche also came down from his throne to receive the offerings. It was a moving moment, when the two stood face to face, while the beautiful ritual offering prayer resounded in the background. After the offering was complete the Karmapa bowed deeply and reascended his throne. At this …

The Last Day of the Tibetan Year Begins

February 26, 2017 Monlam Pavilion, Bodh Gaya

The final day of Gutor for the Year of the Fire Monkey began at 4 in the morning when the stars were still out and the air had a chill in it. People were huddled in down jackets or wrapped up to their eyes in a thick woolen shawl. Jalings from behind the stage announced the Karmapa’s arrival, and after three bows, he took his seat on the black and gold throne to preside over the puja. One could often hear his voice blending in with the chant master’s. The first text was the short Mahakala practice known as the Cinnabar Mahakala since the first parts to be chanted were marked off in a brilliant red from the long textBurning Up Hostilityby the Sixth Karmapa, Thongwa Dönden. At the end of this came a short section known as Receiving the Siddhi. At this time theNyingzuk, the huge main torma sculpture that represents Mahakala, was carried by several people to give its blessing, first to the Dorje Lopon who has guided the pujas during the entire tim…