The gates to the stupa entrance for the Kagyu Monlam have a subtle pagoda effect with wind chimes marking each section. At the top is the Monlam insignia which symbolizes two hands clasping, “showing our affection for the earth and our wish to protect it.
“Since both the body and mind are strongly connected with the unaltered natural elements,” Karmapa explains in the brochure, “it can probably also provide some protection against dangers from the natural elements of the external world.” In bold striking strokes the Tibetan mantra OM PEMA UNIKA VIMALAI HUNG PHAT hangs at the top of the gate as protection so that all who walk underneath receive the benefit.
Tormas of the 8 Karmapas from Dusum Khyenpa to Mikyo Dorje form the center-piece of the shrine, each one an exquisite butter sculpture in seven sections with an Indian mahasiddha, one of the Karmapas, his disciple, a tableau from the Buddha’s life and a Hindu god.
This year HH Karmapa is teaching the The King of Aspiration Prayers which he said the Buddha taught in 21 days. He described it as ‘the best of Mahayana sutras’.
From my notes:
The 7 branch prayer, he maintained, is the best way to gather merit and is one of the most important practices we can do. In fact it is the main practice of the bodhisattvas in the pure realms. But we have to do prostrations with body, speech and mind completely engaged. If our mind is not focused on our prostration it is not a real prostration. When we have prostrated and offered, then we can rejoice. We have become an appropriate vessel to receive the dharma so that the Buddhas can then turn the wheel of the dharma. Buddhas do not do anything that is not meaningful. If even a few people practice the seven branch prayer wholeheartedly, the Buddhas will remain and not pass away.
As an example of the power of praising the Buddha, HH Karmapa told the incredible, true story of a pig farmer/butcher. At the time of his death a monk came to him and explained the power of karma. When the pig farmer died he raised one hand to his heart in praise of the Buddha. Sometime later everyone in his family dreamed the same dream. They all saw the butcher in their dream and he was telling them he would be reborn as a piglet with a human hand. He was asking them to protect him. Three days later a piglet was born with a human hand.’ This is the benefit of raising a single hand in praise of the Buddha’, Karmapa said.
Because the number of beings in the universe is as infinite as the number of buddhas, their aspirations come together. Compassion needs to be massive, vast, inconceivable. We need to arouse a sense of compassion that will go to all the atoms of all the beings of all the universes. That’s how we have to think about it.
We need to praise and encourage all the beings in the universe. Only when we do this are we practicing the dharma, otherwise we are worshiping a god. ‘Think downwards, not upwards’. We need to respect all the beings of the world, and the slightest virtue they may have. Then we are prostrating to all the buddhas of all the directions.
We’ve come to this sacred place of the bodhi tree to pray for the happiness of all beings. We see dogs whose limbs are broken, who are bitten by insects, who have no one to take care of them. They don’t have a chance to feel one moment of peace in their bodies. If we remember them we become diligent in our practice. Just as all the buddhas and bodhisattvas have undertaken hardships, so should we. Milarepa spent a long time practicing so that all beings in the future would not have to suffer too much in their practice.
At this opening of the 28th Kagyu Monlam, similar to the ceremony of Karmapa 900, the antique statue of Dusum Khyenpa was carried in a wooden palanquin to mark the occasion. When the Karmapa left the bodhi tree, the statue of Dusum Khyenpa went before him, carried in monastic procession. The message seems to be that this is the year to remember the greatness of the lineage and remove all obstacles.
The Kagyu Monlam Website team has posted again a wonderful slideshow of the first day of the Kagyu Monlam. Please click on the image below to open it.