Posts Tagged ‘chanting’


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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.


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His Holiness Karmapa accepted a last minute invitation from the President of the International Buddhist Council of India to give his support to a World Peace Prayer ceremony at the bodhi tree on New Year’s Day, specifically to honour those who had died in the recent Mumbhai massacres.

His Holiness and Mingyur Rinpoche sat on cushions in the front row with the Venerable Bhantiji from the Burmese Vihar on the other side. Representatives of the different faiths in India – Jain, Sikh, Hindu, Moslem- and Mr Dorje of the Bodh Gaya Management Committee – were all present.

candle for world peace

The ceremony began with one minute silence for those ‘who are no longer with us on the planet’. In a graceful movement HH Karmapa lit a tall orange candle to spread the light for world peace. ‘Saddhu, saddhu, saddhu’, murmurred the monks.

Theravadin monks chanted the refuge in Pali, an evocative refrain that we hear around the temple morning and evening. His Holiness was then requested to lead the prayers in the Mahayana tradition and suddenly there were the deep sonorous sounds that come from the Himalayas and make your whole body vibrate.

Peace Day Prayer

The Hindu representative chanted ‘Om Shanti’. A sister dressed in white from the Brahma Kumari Society offered a prayer and then a Christian lady clad in a light orange scarf and skirt added her prayers. ‘Amen’ she concluded, and it suddenly reminded me of another country in a completely different world. The President of the Jain Society wearing a business suit added his comments. The Muslim Khan offered an important quote: ‘Saving one person is saving humanity. Killing one person is killing humanity. Therefore the Muslim faith rejects all killing.’

‘The secret of success, concluded the President, ‘is to connect our lives with the divine. If we all do this we can create a world of peace and harmony.’ He read an excerpt from the great Santideva’s poem on the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.

May I be a protector for those without one, a guide for travellers, and a boat, a bridge, a ship for those who wish to cross over.
May I be a lamp for those who seek light, a bed for those who seek rest…
Just as earth and other elements are useful in various ways to innumerable sentient beings dwelling throughout infinite space,
So may I be in various ways a source of life for the sentient beings present throughout space until they are all liberated.

Norma Levine

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On December 28 His Holiness Karmapa joined the Jonang Monlam here in Bodh Gaya, as he does every year. He was greeted by a full ceremonial procession of monks with the music of Tibetan trumpets heralding his presence. Chogtrul Ngawang Tashi Gyaltsen Rinpoche and Khen Choekyi Nangpa Chog Rinpoche, senior masters of the Jonang school, offered white scarves at the temple gates.

His Holiness first entered the temple where he made offerings to the great golden Buddha. A Theravadin monk in saffron robes stood on the platform beside the statue to perform the ritual offering of robes. Leaving the temple, His Holiness did a partial circumambulation of the inner kora entering the Monlam assembly through a small opening opposite the bodhi tree, to ascend a throne facing the tree. The two head Lamas offered a mandala and a Buddha. His Holiness remained on the throne making prayers for about an hour.

The sun warmed up the chill of morning, while prayer flags danced to the rhythm of the Buddha’s breath. (The combination of the bodhi tree, the stupa and Karmapa inspire this kind of poetic rapture.) Before leaving the site, His Holiness did an outer kora followed by the Jonang Lamas, monks and just about everybody else there who could walk.

A Note about the Jonang School radically edited from Wikipedia:

The Jonang are one of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism dating from the 12th century and became renowned with Dolpopa Sherab Gyeltsen. The Jonang school was widely thought to have become extinct in the late 17th century during religious wars. Recently, however, it was discovered that some remote Jonang monasteries escaped this fate and have continued practicing uninterrupted to this day. An estimated 5,000 monks and nuns in 40 monasteries of the Jonang tradition practice today, particularly in Amdo and Gyarong districts of Qinghai and the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The Jonang school has generated a number of renowned Buddhist scholars, like Dolpopa Sherab Gyeltsen (1292–1361), but the most famous was Jetsun Taranatha (1575–1634). Taranatha placed great emphasis on the Kalachakra system of tantra, which became an important part of Gelug teaching after the Gelugpa (i.e. followers of the Gelug) absorbed the Jonang monasteries. Taranatha’s influence on Gelugpa thinking continues even to this day in the teaching of the present 14th Dalai Lama, who actively promotes initiation into Kalachakra.

Interestingly, one of the primary supporters of the Jonang lineage in exile has been the 14th Dalai Lama of the Gelugpa. The Dalai Lama donated buildings in Himachal Pradesh state in Shimla, India for use as a Jonang monastery (now known as the Main Takten Phuntsok Choeling Monastery) and has visited during one of his recent teaching tours. The Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu lineage has visited there as well.

The Jonang tradition has recently officially registered with the Tibetan Government in exile to be recognized as the fifth living Buddhist tradition of Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama assigned Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Rinpoche or the ‘Bogd Gegeen’ of Mongolia (who is considered to be an incarnation of Taranatha) as the leader of the Jonang tradition.

Norma Levine

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Umze Ozer Rabten

(Photo: Monlam’s Chant Master, Umze Ozer Rabten also known as “Umze Bai Karma.”)

Umze Ozer Rabten has been leading the Kagyu Monlam prayers at the Stupa for several years now. Click on the video link to watch an interview with Umze Bai Karma.)

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