photos taken by
Karma Lekcho, Filip Wolak, Liao
Sojong and the alms procession
5.30am and at the Monlam Pavilion, H.E.Jamgon Kongtrul
Rinpoche was giving the Mahayana sojong vows. Meanwhile, at
Tergar Monastery 500 metres away, there was noisy bustle as
laypeople arrived with their food offerings to find a good
place on the circuit for the alms procession. (See separate
The Akshobhya Ritual at the Monlam Pavilion
Report by TseNam
After the alms procession, and the Twenty Branch Monlam,
the main focus of the day’s prayers at the Monlam Pavilion
was the Akshobhya Ritual.
Usually only ordained sangha are involved in these prayers,
although laypeople attend the sessions. Monks and nuns
performed the Akshobhya Self-Visualization, the
Akshobhya Mandala Ritual, and the Reading the Akshobhya
The theme of purification concluded with the recitation of
the Dharani Sutra.
The Akshobhya Purification Ritual and Fire Ceremony
Report by TseNam
This year, the Akshobhya retreatants have returned to offer
the Akshobhya Purification Ritual every evening during the
final six days of Monlam, before offering the final
purification ritual and fire puja on the evening of the 7th
day, which is March 7, 2012.
Before and during the Monlam, the organizers have been
collecting donations to make prayers for the deceased and
those living who are in great difficulty. The Akshobhya fire
ceremony is seen as having a special power to help those who
had died and are in the intermediate state of bardo.
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa performed the
Akshobhya fire ceremony on the evening of the March 7, the
penultimate evening of the Kagyu Monlam. Also present were
the Akshobhya retreatants.
From 4.00pm onwards, a group of monks began preparing the
hearth in front of Tergar Monastery. This year has seen a
change in the arrangements for this ritual. Previously the
first part of the ritual was conducted within the shrine
room itself. No one was allowed inside and devotees had to
glimpse what they could through the windows.
The actual prayer ceremony started at 6.00 pm when His
Holiness arrived and sat on the portico in front of the
main entrance to Tergar Monastery shrine hall, flanked by
the Akshobhya retreatants. A painting of Akshobhya had been
hung in front of the His Holiness’ throne. A table held
rituals and tormas (ritual cakes) necessary for the
Gyalwang Karmapa sat there facing the image of Akshobhya.
The 21 monks, nuns and laypeople who had been participating
in the Akshobhya retreat were seated on the porch around the
Monks were helping with the fire ceremony. Two boxes were
placed near the fire: one contained the names of the
deceased and the other contained those of the living.
As His Holiness and the retreatants said the prayers, the
attendants put the papers with the names of the deceased and
the living in the fire. Monks worked the fire by pouring
melted ghee over it, (clarified butter), and also ensured
that the papers were burned. More sticks were fetched to the
keep the fire going.
Hundreds of devotees and Monlam guests from around the world
took part and witnessed the esoteric ceremony. Guards sat on
the stairs leading up to the temple, ensuring that prayers
were conducted smoothly. No one was allowed to enter the
Often the flames reached high, lighting up the faces of
those witnessing the puja, clearly moved by the power of
Ranged along two sides of the temple, members of the
audience watched the ceremony and listened to the reassuring
and calming sound of His Holiness’ voice. A scattering of
people from around the world and of all colors sat on the
lawns in front of the temple and filled the drive to the
At one point the electricity went off, in the ensuing
darkness, the glow of the fire lit up the evening sky.
Finally, His Holiness led everyone in the recitation of the
six-syllable mantra, Om Mani Padme Hung, with melody,
creating a touching spectacle and a fitting finale to an
elaborate puja which had lasted for more than a month.
Where words fail to communicate, rituals succeed, it seems.
Evening at the Monlam Pavilion
From Tergar Monastery, the sound of vigorous drumming could
be heard, punctuated by the voice of the Gyalwang Karmapa
broadcast over the sound system. Another rehearsal was
under way. His Holiness was checking personally that
everything was in place for the long life offerings to H.E.
Tai Situ Rinpoche and H.E. Gyaltsap Rinpoche the following
morning, and supervising the rehearsal for the Marme Monlam
the following evening.