The fog was thick at 5:30 am as the shadowy figures on the road made their way to the stupa; even with a torch it was hard to see more than a few meters ahead. A new bright red gate enclosed the area to the site with prayers in many languages hanging from it. Overhead the trees splashed large drops of condensation muddying the narrow paths to the seating area. Let’s say the whole place was dripping with atmosphere.
His Holiness Karmapa entered at 6 am, just before dawn and performed the rituals shown to a representation of the Buddha. He bathed and offered cloth to the small golden statue of the Buddha, centrally featured in a special shrine behind his throne.
He began his address with a brief reminder that our aim this year was to radiate peace and loving kindness throughout the world.
‘My wish’, he continued, ‘is that this monlam becomes a mandala of love and compassion’.
After he gave the Sojong vows, the Umdze led the refuge prayer in Pali, a haunting melody that feels linked to the roots of India; followed by the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit and the refuge prayer in Tibetan.
The elaborate tormas on the shrine showed the lineages of all the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, though the emphasis was on Karma Kagyu with separate tormas for Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa.
‘The lineage refuge tree involves many different schools’, said His Holiness. ‘It’s not just our lineage, nor our root and lineage lama. We have to have confidence in them but also in all lineages. That’s why we made lineage tormas of all the schools, to represent that. It’s not just decoration or artistic work. We have to carry harmony, broadmindedness and non-sectarianism, not just here but when we go back to our homes as well. We have a great opportunity to work for all beings.
During this monlam we made a mandala of stones from the seven continents. Since we are praying for peace for the world, it’s appropriate to bring stones and dedicate our prayers to people all over the world. On the red gate there are prayers in four languages. We have to understand the hopes and wishes of people from different countries. We received poems from people going through fear in Tibet. We need to make a special prayer and aspiration for them. We should pray for the welfare of animals and all the parents of the world.
Many things are happening in the news. We should not see it as just a news item. It should not be like looking at a film, or reading a story. We need to feel it in our body and in our own life. Generate unbearable compassion.’
Then His Holiness guided us in a brief meditation on the golden Buddha, just as if he had been there sitting in front of us under the bodhi tree, radiating the immeasurable aura of perfect enlightenment.