The 26th Kagyu Monlam Begins
04, 2009, report by Karma Palmo,
photos taken by
Karma Lekcho, Karma Norbu
The first day of the 26th Kagyu Sangha Monlam Chenmo began with a quiet,
subdued air. Thick, damp fog blanketed the north Indian plains,
penetrating every part of Bodh Gaya and muffling sound and movement. As
the participants proceeded to the Mahabodhi Stupa, only gradually did
their forms emerge from the silent mist. The closer to the Stupa they
came, the greater were their numbers, until monks, nuns and laypeople
from all parts of the world came streaming through the great gates of
the Stupa complex and began their circumambulation of the ancient site,
murmuring mantras and prayers. An electricity cut made the early morning
seem even more mystical, and the reduced lighting caused the Stupa to
appear floating in space and insubstantial.
Beneath the Bodhi Tree, devotees found their way to their seats and sat
waiting expectantly for the arrival of His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa,
Jamgon Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Thrangu
Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche and
other high lamas. Fragrant incense wafted in the air, every stupa, wall
and railing was decorated with strings of marigolds, and the Kagyu
Monlam Shrine stretched resplendently across the front of the assembly
against a background of draping yellow and blue cloth. Monks and nuns
donned their yellow robes and sat quietly, the disciplinarians guided
people and organized proceedings, the laypeople found their way to their
Finally, the police siren heralded the imminent arrival of His Holiness,
who made his way to the inner circuit and took his place beneath the
Bodhi Tree at a small brocaded table to bestow the Sojong Vows. He spoke
about motivation and the purpose of the Kagyu Monlam, and about the need
to keep clearly in mind the suffering beings of the whole world,
including animals, and to generate a pure wish to liberate them from
suffering and bring peace to the world. He said that to participate in
the Kagyu Monlam with such a great intention would really be a useful
Morning prayers then began with the sonorous chanting of the Refuge
Prayer in Sanskrit, followed by the Heart Sutra and verses of the
Do not do even one misdeed;
Conduct yourself with utmost virtue.
Tame your own mind completely, too.
This is the teaching of the Buddha.
Like stars, or seeing spots, or candles,
Or like illusions, dewdrops, bubbles,
Like dreams or lightning or else clouds,
View all composites in this way.
By this merit may omniscience be attained,
Defeating the enemy, wrongdoing.
May all be liberated from the ocean of samsara,
Turbulent with the waves of birth, aging, sickness and death.
Then began the chanting of the Twenty Branches of the Monlam, composed
by the Seventh Gyalwang Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso, and revised by His
Holiness. As the voices of the participants rose into the dawn sky,
birds began to sing in the Bodhi Tree, and a great wave of energy filled
the space. Steaming pots of Tibetan tea and sweet saffron rice were
served to celebrate the auspicious occasion. The 26th Kagyu Monlam had