Thrangu Monastery Canada, Richmond, BC
June 29, 2019
As he did on the first day, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche gave the sojong vows this morning. After the recitations in Sanskrit, which included going for refuge and the Heart Sutra, the participants turned to the extensive Ritual of Offering to the Gurus. This ceremony is performed at the end of the Kagyu Monlams to express a boundless gratitude to the teachers. Gampopa has said, “If you do not receive the guru’s blessings, you will look at the essential nature of the mind but not see it. You will grasp but not realize it.” Mokchokpa stated, “Wherever I am, I’m never separate from the appearance of my guru, so it seems that buddhahood in a single lifetime is on its way.”
Offering to the Gurus is divided into twenty branches, similar to daily practice during the Kagyu Monlams. These branches include blessing the place of practice, visualizing an infinite palace along with extensive offerings, inviting the field of accumulation (realized beings, such as the buddhas and bodhisattvas), refuge and bodhichitta, rejoicing in everyone’s merit, requesting the buddhas to teach and remain, dedication, and finally prayers for auspiciousness.
The language of the text is poetic and evocative, creating a jeweled landscape resonant with birdcall and the sweet sound of tiny bells. In the presence of greatly realized beings one can attain full awakening in such a place. The way into this realm is through the three gates of liberation—the realization of emptiness, freedom from grasping onto the characteristics of things, and freedom from wishing or expectations.
During this practice, the actual offerings also were also abundant. Feast offerings (tsok) were distributed to everyone in environmentally conscious cloth bags and the dedications included the well-known verse from the Way of the Bodhisattva:
Like the earth and other elements,
Like ever-present space, may I be
The ground, sustaining in infinite ways
The lives of all sentient beings.
The next practice was the Thirty-Five Confession Buddhas, also known as the Sutra in Three Sections, which is very familiar to the ordained sangha because it is the Mahayana purification practice they often perform. Here in the shrine hall of Thrangu Monastery
Canada, the main statue of the Buddha is flanked by impressive statues of these thirty-five Buddhas, making their presence visual. The morning session ended with the famous prayer of the Buddha for his Dharma to blaze throughout the world for eons.
As they have during lunchtime on all five days of the Monlam, the nuns and monks gathered in rows under a white peaked tent set up in a courtyard just behind the shrine hall. They chanted the traditional offering of the meal, expressing their gratitude, and then the individual servers knelt in front of each monk and nun to offer them their bowls, which they received with palms joined and a bow. Lay people ate outside under the shelter of spacious tents. All leftover food was gathered and offered to the homeless in Vancouver.
After lunch, a long-life ceremony was performed in gratitude to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, who was offered the representations of body, speech, and mind as well as the eight auspicious substances, the seven articles of royalty, and the eight auspicious symbols. As a gesture of thanks to the main sponsors, they were invited to sit near Khenpo Rinpoche and receive the blessings of these articles as well.
The Secretary of Thrangu Monastery, Acharya Tenzin Yonten, then gave his heartfelt thanks to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche, and all the other lamas, ordained sangha, and lay people who had come to participate in the Tenth North American Kagyu Monlam. He observed that it is not just one monastery that makes an event successful; it is due to many centers and members of the sangha working together in the harmony of interdependence.
Numerous people had worked behind the scenes, facilitating the smooth flow of the days, which were also webcast to the world. Lama Yonten expressed the joy and honor it was to participate in the activities of His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa that manifest through the Kagyu Monlam. Finally, he thanked people for coming with devotion and pure faith in the Karmapa to attend the Monlam and engage in this wonderful event for benefit for all beings.
Afterward Dungse Lama Pema, the head resident lama at the monastery, came to the front of the hall and gave out beautiful statues of Chenrezik to the main sponsors and people who had helped make the Monlam possible—the lamas, heads of the Dharma centers, and the sponsors. The long list began with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, and included lamas, nuns, and monks from all over Canada and the United States as well as India, Bhutan, Nepal, Korea, Taiwan, and Holland. The main sponsor, Eva Lau, who is a
director of the monastery and long-time student of Thrangu Rinpoche, was also thanked.
Then the volunteers who had worked long hours were called forth. They had helped with cooking and offering the meals, making and serving tea, taking care of the shrine hall, overseeing the website, taking videos and photographs, working in the gift store, and looking after the parking and maintenance at the monastery. It took more than an hour of continuous lines to give recognition to all who had so generously served.
Finally, the sangha recited together the Tashi prayers, which sent all the goodness accumulated in the past days of practice into the world for the benefit of others. Flowers petals filled the air and a waving sea of white katas propelled the aspirations out into space.