Generating Heat: The Cotton-Clad Procession

On another clear morning, just after the sun rises over the sandy, dry Nairañjanā River bed, the cotton-clad retreat lamas emerge one by one from Tergar Shrine draped in their white cotton cloth and red Kagyu hat. Continuing the tradition His Holiness Karmapa revived at the previous Monlam, retreatants practiced the Yogas of Naropa into the late evenings of the Monlam beginning on February 26. Inside, the windows of Tergar are covered with thick, orange curtains so that the meditators will not be interrupted by spectators, if any should try to peer in. Announcements are made throughout the Monlam requesting attendees to be respectful of the retreatants, since these are secret practices. On the sixth evening, the retreatants practice from eight in the evening all night until six the next morning, emerging in their white cotton cloth, in the tradition of Milarepa.


1. After slowly circumabulating around Tergar in a single-file line, they return to the front of the shrine where they each remove the dry cloth and dip it into the large urn filled with water and yellow and orange carnation flower petals.


2. The retreatants drape the wet garment while generating body heat to dry the cloth in an exercise known as tummo, a meditation practice used for gaining control over the body, found in the Six Yogas of Naropa.


3. Hands on their hips, reciting and eight-line supplication, they process in towards the pavilion.


4. Lay devotees line the path with khatas held out in offering; some manage to balance a khata while taking photos of the procession with their cell phones.


5. Reaching the pavilion, the cotton-clad lamas enter down the red-carpeted center aisle at an intentional pace.


6. Once they reach the stage, they line up in rows seated to Gyaltsap Rinpoche’s left, and take their seats sat facing the other Sangha and recite Offerings to the Gurus. This lineage of great practitioners continues the revival of the cotton-clad tradition.


7. As the session ended, the retreat lamas and gelongs received offerings, and then monks and nuns quickly dispersed through the pavilion distributing the tsok offerings to everyone in the pavilion.



37th Kagyu Monlam Schedule

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Recorded during the 37th Kagyu Monlam, Bodhgaya, India. January 28-30, 2020.