before the 29th Kagyu Monlam, the Gyalwang
Karmapa gathered the monks and nuns together in the Monlam
Pavilion to remind them of procedures and behaviour for
Sangha attending the Monlam, and to check how well they
remembered the correct way to do things.
The Sangha sat
in straight-backed rows, waiting patiently, their yellow
(yellow prayer robes) folded neatly and placed as required
over their left shoulders. The young rinpoches sat in the
front rank on the right. Nuns sat on the left and monks
mainly on the right, though some were positioned behind the
nuns. In front of them, on the Monlam stage, monks, nuns and
lay volunteers were working quietly and efficiently, putting
the finishing touches to the two Monlam altars and the great
clusters of flowers which decorate each level of the stage.
test”, as it is called, began shortly after 8.00am.
Approximately 2000 monks and nuns gathered in the pavilion.
Gyalwang Karmapa took his seat in the aisle, facing the
stage and gave a short introduction to the review,
explaining the sections to be examined. He then stepped up
on to the stage and demonstrated the procedure for receiving
and carrying the kangyur. Pieces of paper containing the
names of all the monasteries and nunneries were placed in an
almsbowl and His Holiness took lots to see who to call
forward to be tested.
First to be
tested were two batches of gelong, fully ordained
monks. With some trepidation, they walked up the steps onto
the stage and stood facing the mass of monks and nuns.
section of the test was concerned with treating the robes
with respect. First the monks showed that they were wearing
the sen (maroon shawl) correctly, then that they knew
the complicated procedures for handling the chögö
(yellow prayer robe worn by novices), namchar (mullti-patch
yellow robe worn by fully-ordained monks) and dingwa
(maroon cloth used as a ground covering). They switched them
from one position to another in order to either put them on,
take them off or carry them correctly – dingwa on the
left shoulder, chögö
folded over the dingwa, and namchar rolled and
carried in the crook of the left arm.
In the second
section the monks had to put on the robes. As gelong
they wear both chögö
and namchar. The dingwa, partially folded, was
placed on the cushion. Then the namchar was placed on
the dingwa. The chögö
was carefully unfolded, brought in line with the sen
and wrapped around the upper body and over the right
shoulder. Then, as these were fully ordained monks, they
took up the namchar and added it as the final
covering to their upper body robes.
In the third
section the monks had to complete kneeling prostrations
while wearing full robes and saying the refuge prayer.
In the fourth
section they had to sit cross-legged on the dingwa to
receive food. Having unwrapped their teabowls, they placed
them correctly on the dingwa and recited the blessing
for food. They then had to demonstrate how to receive the
almsbowl with both hands. As gelong they will eat a
specially prepared lunch each dayn during the Monlam in the
shrine hall at Tergar Monsatery.
Karmapa interrupted the test at this point to show everyone
how a monk or nun should eat with awareness, unhurriedly and
in a dignified manner, chewing the food quietly, rather
than noisily chomping their way through the meal!
In the next
section of the test they had to don and remove the
tse-sha, the yellow pointed hat which gelong
wear—and some had trouble correctly centering the peak!
Then they had
to demonstrate that they knew how to receive the kangyur,
the sacred text of the Buddha’s teaching, handed over
respectfully at shoulder height and received with both
hands. It then had to be carried balanced correctly on the
left shoulder resting in the palm of the left hand,
supported by the right. The gelong then practiced walking in
procession while His Holiness beat time on a small bell to
establish a steady, measured pace.
everything had to be done in reverse as first they removed
and folded the namchar, followed by the chögö
and lastly the dingwa, carefully rearranging the
position of everything, step by step.
batch of monks, young getsul—novices—prompted some
laughter from the audience, and some playful humour from
the Gyalwang Karmapa. Less sure than the gelong, the
novices were more self-conscious and often out of step with
each other but their test was much shorter, and, in the end,
they warranted a round of applause from the audience. The
fourth batch to be tested were novice nuns—getsulma—who,
though shy at first, competently completed the routines.
fifth batch came up on stage—seven young rinpoches, who had
the additional challenge of demonstrating kneeling
prostrations starting from a standing position. To the
delight of everyone, they did very well. First and foremost
was the youngest one, twelve-year-old Drupon Dechen Rinpoche.
The other young rinpoches towered above him. Short and
stocky, his sen and chögö
seemed almost as big as he was, but he skillfully tackled
all the parts of the test successfully, and often ahead of