Posts Tagged ‘mahabodhi’

This morning His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa visited the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, the very spot where Buddha Shakyamuni attained supreme enlightenment. His Holiness first entered the main shrine room and made prostrations to the great golden Buddha. After traditional offerings and prayers His Holiness accepted the invitation by Khenpo Tsoki Dorje, the abbot of Ngawang Thubten Choling Monastery in Bodhgaya, and joined the annual Monlam conducted by the Bhutanese monastery. He was greeted by a ceremonial procession of monks His Holiness and sat under the bodhi tree leading the prayers for an hour. As word of His Holiness’s visit to the temple spread quickly in Bodhgaya, more and more devotes joined the assembly. Traditional Bhutanese rice and tea was offered to the gathering and Khenpo’la expressed his gratitude to His Holiness. Thereafter His Holiness left the temple grounds followed by many smiling faces.

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What an inconceivable blessing to witness the presence of this wonderful master at this most holy site.

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His Holiness Karmapa seemed to be at the peak of his power when he concluded the Monlam, speaking with confidence to the entire assembly of monks and lay people. ‘Thank you to the sponsors, Gyaltsap Rinpoche and others. I express my heartfelt gratitude. You have done great aspirations and prayers for all in this great sacred place, so thank you all.’ He also thanked the volunteers who worked for the Monlam.

Recapping the results of the past year, he remarked that many of the monasteries had made their assemblies free from meat; and regarding the environment, ‘people are making attempts to do projects’.


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During the Monlam, His Holiness Karmapa gave us some fascinating insights concealed inside the main teachings, so I collected some and strung them together like pearls to share with you.

The Buddha designated 16 Arhats who would live until the Buddha Maitreya comes and appear as monks to protect the dharma. During the 11th century Atisha made a practice of the 16 Arhats according to the Kriya Yoga Tantra system.


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For several years, His Holiness Karmapa has been reading the life story of Milarepa at the Monlam and commenting on it. Here are some of the remarks I jotted down from the teachings given here and there.

Some great masters didn’t do much study outwardly but they received experiential teachings. They understood what to practice by direct understanding. They can give teachings through their body language. This is the lineage of experience, of realization. We must understand and practice that instruction through our master. We can receive the experience of the nature of the mind through devotion to the Lama; or we can conceptually understand it and practice it. We have to study the biographies of the great masters of the past. One great Nyingmapa Lama said, ‘When the great disturbances come, only Shantideva (Guide to the Bodhsattva’s Way of Life) and the songs of Milarepa help.
Are we following them or are we a disgrace to them?


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Photos by Karma Norbu

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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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Watch videos on right.

Heading inside Hotel Mahayana

(Photo: His Holiness with Lamas from Zongkar Choede Monastery to inaugurate the 8th century Tibetan artifacts.)

Kora around the Bodhi Tree

(Photo: Circumambulating the Bodhi tree with Mahabodhi Temple management Monk in Charge.)

Making offerings

(Photo: His Holiness makes offerings inside the Main Stupa.)

Photos by permission from the Tsurphu Labrang and Kagyu Monlam photographers.

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