Session 1 of the KAGYU MONLAM
The weather is
continuing to be kind to the Kagyu Monlam this year, and Day
Five began under a clear sky. His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche
bestowed the Sojong Vows on the participants, who gathered as
usual under the Bodhi Tree, and then moved to his own seat when
the recitation of the Three Daily Observances in Sanskrit began,
followed by the 20-Branch Monlam.
The sonorous sound of
Sanskrit chanting under the venerable Bodhi Tree somehow speaks
of an ancient time when the Buddha himself was on this earth.
The thangka that His Holiness Karmapa commissioned of Buddha
Shakyamuni and his five disciples beneath a younger Bodhi Tree
in a typical Bihar landscape, hangs each year beside the broad
trunk of the Tree, so that it is easy to imagine Buddha
Sakyamuni himself present, and gracing the gathering.
The Sutra of Remembering
the Three Jewels begins like this:
I prostrate to all the
buddhas and bodhisattvas.
In this way, the
Bhagavan Buddha is the tathagata, arhat, completely perfect
Buddha, the one with awareness and conduct, the sugata, the one
who knows the world, the unsurpassable, the charioteer who tames
beings, the teacher of gods and humans, the bhagavan Buddha … He
is adorned by the excellent signs. The flowers of his marks are
in bloom. His behavior is always appropriate. The sight of him
is never disagreeable. He delights those enthusiastic with
faith. His wisdom is beyond indimidation. His powers are beyond
oppression. He is the teacher of all beings … His pristine
wisdom is immeasurable. His confidence is inconceivable. His
speech is utterly pure. It is melodic. One is never satiated by
the sight of him … He has fully cut through the knots. He is
utterly liberated from all affliction. He is liberated from
craving. He has crossed the floods…
And so the eloquent
praise of the Buddha continued. Then the Dharma and Sangha were
similarly praised. Finally several traditional verses were
Do not do anything
that is wrong.
with the utmost virtue.
Completely tame your
This is the teaching
of the Buddha.
A dawn chill touched
everyone before the sun rose, and monks and nuns wrapped their
dagams around them, while the laypeople were also rugged up
warmly. As on other mornings, as the sun’s first bright rays
shone on the assembly, the tea monks arrived to fill hundreds of
proffered teabowls and then distributed Tibetan breads from
large wicker baskets.
After breakfast, and
with renewed energy, the Twenty-Branch Monlam chanting began,
and continued along with other prayers, until a short break at
8.30am, after which His Holiness Karmapa arrived for the second