The Kagyu Monlam 2009
Once again this year, between November 27 and December 3, the Kagyu Monlam was held at the holy site of Bodh Gaya. Approximately 5,000 practitioners gathered to join in this outstanding event.
Short history of the Kagyu Monlam
In its most general sense, the Tibetan word Monlam means “making a prayer”. In particular, it also refers to the aspiration of a Mahayana practitioner, known as Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta includes both aspiration and application Bodhicitta. All Bodhisattvas committed to such aspirations will endeavour to benefit all sentient beings without exception and diligently perfect their practice of the seven-branch noble excellent conduct of Samantabhadra. Making such aspiration prayers is very important for every practitioner, whether monk, nun, male or female lay practitioner, from the beginning of the Mahayana path up to the attainment of perfect enlightenment.
Samantabhadra’s King of Aspiration Prayers of the Avatamsaka Sutra states that all the Buddhas of the three times “past, present and future“ will make aspiration prayers in exactly the same way.
The first Kagyu Monlam was held during the lifetime of the 7th Karmapa. The Karmapa is our root guru, the Nirmanakaya of Avalokitesvara (Chenresig), the future Buddha Simha, the holder of the activity of all Buddhas and Vajradhara. The tradition of the Kagyu Monlam was carried forward by the 8th, 9th and 10th Karmapas. Amongst all these Monlams, the most auspicious and largest Monlams ever were held by the 10th Karmapa, Choying Dorje. Together with his root guru, the 6th Shamarpa, he celebrated the Monlam near the holy Mount Kailash, for the benefit of all beings.
After the 10th Karmapa the tradition of the Monlam was interrupted and not resumed until 1996. Ever since, the Karma Kagyu School has continued to hold Monlams, and this year’s Monlam was the sixth one. For the past three years the Monlam has taken place every year and every time more and more practitioners from all over the world gather to participate in this outstanding event. This year more than 3,000 monks and nuns from various Asian countries (India, Nepal, Bhutan etc.) as well as approximately 2,000 lay practitioners from Asia, Europe and America gathered for the auspicious occasion.
As during previous Monlams, the practices were led by Gyalwa Karmapa and Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche. Other distinguished participants included forty incarnate lamas (tulkus), as well as many other high-ranking and accomplished practitioners from various parts of the world.
Apart from reciting the wishing prayers together with the highest lamas of the lineage, the participants in this year’s Monlam also received teachings on the Sangcho Monlam, the King of Aspiration Prayers from Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche. This prayer is the main wishing prayer recited during the Kagyu Monlam.
The Monlam went on for a week, and during the last two days the recitations were done in parallel with the Tripitaka Chanting Council, which unites Theravada and Mahayana practitioners from a variety of countries, including India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and many others. The joint practice proceeded in a smooth and harmonious atmosphere, and both groups found the experience fruitful and enriching.
The benefit of the Monlam
The merit accumulated during a Monlam is immense, and further amplified by the fact that the practice takes place at the venue of Bodh Gaya. The 1,002 Buddhas of our so-called Good Kalpa were and will be enlightened in the holy place of Bodh Gaya. Three Buddhas in the past have attained enlightenment here; so has Buddha Shakyamuni of our era, and in the future another 998 Buddhas will also be enlightened in this very same place. So it is said, that all practitioners who make such aspirations prayers in this holy place will definitely be reborn in the pure lands.
For this reason, the Kagyu Monlam Committee would like to express their appreciation to all the participants from every corner of the world for having joined in this year’s Monlam, and to call upon all our dharma friends to participate in this great event at least one time if not every year, so that they can experience for themselves the power and blessing of this great place.
Report: Ani Rabjam (Rikki Catty)