December 31, 2009 - Under the Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya
The tremendous efforts undertaken by organizers seeking to fulfill His Holiness’ vast vision for this year’s monlam came to their fullest fruition today, as the 27th Kagyu Monlam drew to a joyful close. From early morning until the deep chill of the night, thousands of disciples who had gathered from all corners of the planet spent the final day of 2009 in the presence of His Holiness. During the first session of the day, students were able to receive Mahayana sojong vows directly from His Holiness, who began by reminding students of the great purpose of taking such vows.
The day included many special events, including two sessions devoted to Guru Puja (lama chöpa) practice using the exquisite text that His Holiness himself compiled. In his customarily inclusive fashion, Gyalwang Karmapa drew on guru puja texts from multiple traditions in his preparation of this new Offering to the Gurus text, published by KTD Publications. During the Guru Puja practice, His Holiness paused to confer bodhisattva vows, following an extended generation of Bodhichitta section included in the text itself.
In a special address to the gathering, His Holiness reiterated his commitment to working for the environment. He noted that like the stage of a theater, this planet can serve as the site for whatever dramas we wish to produce on it, good or bad. However, if the stage is destroyed there can be no performances of any sort.
Gyalwang Karmapa further announced that Kagyu Monasteries this year would be undergoing education in health and hygiene. The program of raising awareness of health and hygiene is not aimed solely at monks and nuns, but is envisioned as a means of improving the level of health in Tibetan society overall. Echoing his earlier comments on the need for Dharma practitioners to take an active role in working for society, His Holiness said monasteries should serve as examples to society, and should acting as leaders in effecting positive changes. This program in health education was one instance where change could be made.
His Holiness concluded the address by expressing his wishes that the New Year be a year of peace, free of prejudice and racism. He offered his prayers for the long life and activities of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for the new Ganden Tripa (formal head of the Gelug order) to have no obstacles for his plans, and for the reinvigoration of the Jonang tradition that once flourished in Tibet but is now in peril.
In a ceremonial expression of gratitude to the kind sponsors whose generosity made these eight days possible, Gyalwang Karmapa evoked Milarepa’s words, that yogi and benefactor go together to enlightenment. During the final session of the afternoon, His Holiness lent his voice in chanting Milarepa’s own aspiration sing to his disciples:
You have been very kind to me.
I have been very kind to you.
May we, master and disciples, equally kind,
Meet in the realm of Abhirati.
In the evening, supremely kind master and disciples met one last time by the bodhi tree for the last session of the day, Marme Monlam the song offering and Lamp Prayer. During this final event of this eight-day festival of prayers, blessings, teachings and the inspiration of aspiring in one voice to enlightenment for all beings, chants were offered in Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Korean and Vietnamese, and rousing choral performances in Chinese and English.
His Holiness lit a flame that was then passed, person to person, until everyone present held a softly glowing light to offer the buddhas—as if this entire international community of practitioners were transferring to others the love and blessings radiating from His Holiness, each giving to the next without losing anything themselves in the process. With this most appropriate act, the vast assembly was bathed in the gentle candlelight, the Lamp Prayer was sung and the 27th Kagyu Monlam drew to its beautiful close.
As the crowd dispersed into the shadowy Bodhgaya night, the long process of carrying His Holiness’ blessings and the transformative beauty of his teachings out into the world and into the New Year had begun.