The Special Kagyu Monlam: An Overview

February 10 – 17, 2022

 

The last Kagyu Monlam Chenmo in Bodhgaya was held in the Spring of 2020. Since then, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has not been possible to bring monasteries, nunneries and lay people together for this annual prayer meeting dedicated to world peace and the well-being of all sentient beings.

Some years ago now, the tradition of webcasting the Kagyu Monlam from Bodhgaya began, so that an international audience of monastics and laypeople could participate. During the pandemic, the Gyalwang Karmapa has extended this use of 21st century technology to maintain connections across the Karma Kamtsang and unite monastics and laypeople worldwide.
In January 2021 there was no Monlam as such, but the Gyalwang Karmapa led eight days of “Aspirations to End Adversity”. Also, during 2021 he gave three sets of teachings over the internet and a dedicated team of translators made these teachings available in both European and Asian languages. In January/February 2022 there were ten days of teachings on the Mind Only tradition.
Now, in February 2022, at the time when we would have gathered in Bodhgaya, His Holiness organised a Special Kagyu Monlam involving all the monasteries and nunneries of the Karma Kamtsang and open to lay followers worldwide. The Karmapa linked with the monasteries, nunneries and some dharma centres via Zoom, and there was a daily webcast open to everyone.
Sponsors from Taiwan donated special computer projection screens that made it possible for all the monasteries and nunneries to participate.

For six days, from February 10th –15th, the Karma Kamtsang monasteries and nunneries and some dharma centres each hosted their own Monlam, following the schedule of prayers laid out in the Monlam Book. They set up special altars with extensive offerings of tormas, fruit, food and butter lamps and decorated their shrine halls with banners.

In Bodhgaya, Monlam staff and monastics prayed and made offerings at the Mahabodhi Stupa.

Each day at 2:30 pm IST over Zoom, the Gyalwang Karmapa connected with the monasteries and nunneries and led them in the guru yoga practice of Karma Pakshi. Dharma friends from around the world were able to join in this guru yoga via the webcast.

On the seventh day of the Special Monlam, following the usual pattern of the Monlams in Bodhgaya, the Lama Choepa was held. The webcast extended over two sessions. The first was primarily the Lama Choepa—Offerings to the Gurus— a ritual composed by the Gyalwang Karmapa himself in 2005. Each year, the puja is dedicated to a particular teacher or Buddhist lama who has done a great service to Buddhism. This year the Offerings were dedicated to the Vietnamese monk the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh and the great Tibetan lama, His Holiness Dodrupchen Rinpoche.

In the second session, after the conclusion of the Lama Choepa, the Gyalwang Karmapa outlined his plans for future internet gatherings, and for upcoming teachings and gave some general advice. He then recited the Great Aspiration Prayer. Everyone joined in with the aspiration prayers for auspiciousness which always bring the Monlam to its conclusion. The monks and nuns donned their yellow tsesha (the pointed pandita hat) and vigorously waved their khatas.

During the Bodhgaya Monlam there is usually a special event on the eighth day, a ceremony or an empowerment, followed in the evening by the Marme Monlam, the Lamp Prayer. In keeping with this tradition, on February 17th a new ritual—The Thousandfold Offering to Devi Marichi— composed by the Gyalwang Karmapa, was performed and webcast.
Finally, the monasteries and nunneries held their own celebratory Marme Monlams

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37th Kagyu Monlam Schedule

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