A highly anticipated event in the Buddhist world right now is the 33rd Kagyu Monlam. It will be held in February 2016, in Bodhgaya, India. H.H the XVII Karmapa, the head of the Kagyu sect will teach the chapter on mandala offerings from The Torch of True Meaning as well as on the Kadampa master Potowa’s Long Soliloquy . The main Kagyu Monlam(prayer) will be held for a week from February 16 to 22. You may check the schedule here.
For a first timer, this may well be your week of Buddhist Sabbath , a break from your routine, your debut into the framework of Tibetan Buddhism, where you may levitate in the lull of Buddhist prayer hum while being harnessed by the vibrations of pure energy.
Monlam is a great prayer festival, traditionally held in Tibet. Kagyu is one of the major sects of Tibetan Buddhism, completed by Nyingma, Sakya, Geluk, Jonang and Bonpo. Gampopa is the main founder of Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. He was the student of Milarepa, who was the student of Marpa “The Translator”(1012-1099).
Kagyu is best known for its system of meditation and practice called Mahamudra.
The celebrated Prayer Festival was revived in India in 1983 by the profound effort of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche. Kagyu Monlam, at this time in history of Tibetan Buddhism is being held in Bodh Gaya, India and it has come a full circle and home as Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. The prayer festival was initiated three hundred years back, by the 7th Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso, the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, and the 10th Karmapa Choying Dorje.
The XVIIth Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, was born in 1985 in the Lhathok region, and escaped to exile and reached India on Jan 5, 2000, at the turn of the new millennium. He has grown to shoulder more responsibility of the spiritual event. As the Monlam became more elaborate over the years, H.H the Karmapa has asserted the need to maintain the substance of it and introduced new codes of discipline for Kagyu Monlam in 2004 and promoted more secular approaches keeping in mind devotees of all sects and nationalities. He said “Generally speaking all the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism are interconnected with each other and have their roots in Vajradhara. To provoke differences among each other will weaken the samaya bonds between them”
The chief purpose of Monlam is to come together in prayers for the well being of all the sentient beings and to practice true Dharma in the degenerate times.
It is an annual event that is preceded by months of preparation that entails meritorious activities like chanting, religious dance, initiation, art and mandala.This event has also served as a forum for discourse on Environmental conservation, Vegetarianism, Gender equality and other Social & ethical issues that H.H the XVII Karmapa and other Buddhist religious figure promotes.
The 34th Kalachakra initiation will be held in Jan 2017 in Bodh Gaya , it attracts the biggest number of Buddhist devotees from world over and is the kumbh mela of Tibetan esoteric Buddhist teaching offered to general public. But it will be held in Jan 2017 where as the 33rd Kagyu Monlam is just round the corner and while we are talking about festivals, allow me to say that this might be the Latitude for the Glastonbury of Kalachakra and frankly, we can always use more.
Tags: Meditation, Tibet, Buddhism, Travel, karmapa, kagyu monlam, prayer festival, bodh gaya, tibetan, milarepa, tormas, mahamudra, situ rinpoche, pilgrimage, Buddhist teachings, lama dance, cham, great monlam festival, tantric