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As Tibetan Buddhism develops in the West, the need for authentic teaching and practice centers which can nurture the tradition grows increasingly important. Contributor Ted Arnold of the Namgyal Monastery Institute for Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, New York, writes of a new home for Kalachakra practice in the U.S.
Due to the great kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many thousands of practitioners have been initiated into the Kalachakra tantric system. However, there has been an obvious problem: how to maintain and deepen one’s practice after the initiation? Even with the tireless activities of the late Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche and other kind teachers, there has been no single location where Kalachakra practice can develop and flourish – but this is about to change. His Holiness’ personal monastery, Namgyal Monastery, is well-known as the storehouse of the Kalachakra teachings and rituals, and so it is fitting that its North American branch – Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies – is building The Land of Kalachakra Study and Practice, Du Khor Choe Ling.
Kalachakra is well known as a vehicle for world peace, with its association with the glorious kingdom of Shambhala and its correlation between environmental and individual ‘wheels’ of experience, which are perfected through Kalachakra practice. The teaching was given by the Buddha at Amaravati at the request of the king of Shambhala, and there it was disseminated widely. It was only in the 10th century that the teachings finally returned to India and were transmitted soon after to Tibet, where they became regarded as the pinnacle of Buddhism. Now the precious opportunity for these teachings to become fully transplanted in the West has arrived.
“In January 1974 His Holiness the Dalai Lama bestowed the Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) initiation for the fifth time in his life, and the third since leaving Tibet,” writes Adele Hulse, author of Big Love, the forthcoming biography of FPMT founder Lama Thubten Yeshe. Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive will publish Big Love later this year and has been sharing excerpts from the book on their Big Love blog. The following is from a recent post:
The profound Kalachakra Tantra, a pathway to full enlightenment, contains elements of astrology, medicine, and mathematics. Over 100,000 Tibetans descended on Bodhgaya. They came by train, bus, rickshaw, and on foot from many places inside and outside India: Dharamsala, Darjeeling, Dalhousie, Mysore, and Bangalore; from Ladakh, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, and Tibet, many of them wearing local costumes and jewelry. Tent cities sprang up with bustling restaurants serving all types of Tibetan and Indian food — momos (Tibetan meat dumplings), thukpa (Tibetan meat stew), samosas, chai, and the like — alongside market stalls selling clothes, religious objects, and antiques. It was a scene out of National Geographic magazine.
Several hundred Westerners also poured into Bodhgaya for the initiation. Many of them stayed in the Tibetan tent-restaurants, which allowed people to sleep on the wide benches at night. The hippies in their motley garb mixed easily with the wild folk from the mountains, the men in sheepskin trousers, their long plaits woven with red ribbon. For many Tibetans it was their first sight of the Dalai Lama. They prostrated and cried loudly. All day and all night pilgrims circumambulated the Mahabodhi stupa on its three different walkways, many prostrating all the way around.
Everybody at Kopan who could get to Bodhgaya went there. When asked to explain the Kalachakra initiation, Lama Yeshe became very serious, telling the students this was not something they should take lightly. …
By Alexander Berzin
Often, when people think of the Muslim concept of jihad or holy war, they associate with it the negative connotation of a self-righteous campaign of vengeful destruction in the name of God to convert others by force. They may acknowledge that Christianity had an equivalent with the Crusades, but do not usually view Buddhism as having anything similar. After all, they say, Buddhism is a religion of peace and does not have the technical term holy war. A careful examination of the Buddhist texts, however, particularly The Kalachakra Tantra literature, reveals both external and internal levels of battle that could easily be called “holy wars.” An unbiased study of Islam reveals the same. In both religions, leaders may exploit the external dimensions of holy war for political, economic, or personal gain, by using it to rouse their troops to battle. Historical examples regarding Islam are well known; but one must not be rosy-eyed about Buddhism and think that it has been immune to this phenomenon.
Shakyamuni Buddha was born into the Indian warrior caste and often used military imagery to describe the spiritual journey. He was the Triumphant One, who defeated the demonic forces (mara) of unawareness, distorted views, disturbing emotions, and impulsive karmic behavior. The eighth century Indian Buddhist master Shantideva employs the metaphor of war repeatedly throughout Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior: the real enemies to defeat are the disturbing emotions and attitudes that lie hidden in the mind. The Tibetans translate the Sanskrit term arhat, a liberated being, as foe destroyer, someone who has destroyed the inner foes. From these examples, it would appear that in Buddhism, the call for a “holy war” is purely an internal spiritual matter. The Kalachalcra Tantra, however, reveals an additional external dimension …
By Mary Wellhoner, MD, MPH
A year-long effort to assist with health education for Buddhist nuns has culminated with distribution at the Kalachakra initiation in Bodhgaya of approximately 3,000 women’s health books in Tibetan to nuns throughout Asia, with distribution of another 1,000 copies planned in other areas. The efforts started with Malaysian and American FPMT students visiting Kopan Nunnery in November 2010, hoping to assist with health care and health education for its growing population of close to 400 nuns. We became aware of the book Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, originally published by the Tibetan Nuns Project in Dharamsala, which is a 200-page Tibetan translation of the book Our Bodies, Our Selves, a long-time bestseller on women’s health and self care in the Western world. The Tibetan translation was carefully adapted to be appropriate for Buddhist nuns and contains a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama which emphasizes the importance of health as a shared responsibility and the contribution of Tibetan women to the well-being of Tibetan society as a whole. The book was praised by the Dalai Lama as a “valuable addition to the growing body of modern Tibetan literature that strives to preserve the Tibetan language and extend its use in all fields of knowledge.” Information on women’s health has previously been largely unavailable in the Tibetan language.
Since another printing was needed to supply the almost 500 Kopan and Tsum nuns, in addition to other nuns requesting the books, a cooperative effort was set in motion to gather resources to print sufficient books to supply as many of the nuns in India and Nepal as possible. The original printing of the book in 2006 was funded by a grant from the Global Fund for Women. The current printing of 3,500 copies and purchase of another 700 copies already in print was made possible by generous donation from sponsors in Singapore.
Many dedicated Buddhist practitioners from various lineages around the world have volunteered their time and effort to organize and coordinate this project. The book was reprinted in Delhi under the generous supervision of the Tibetan Nuns Project, and the books were trucked overland to Bodhgaya just in time for distribution at the Kalachakra, where most of the nunneries throughout Asia were represented. Many of the nunneries came with buses or other transportation, which allowed them to carry books back for nuns not in attendance. MAITRI Charitable Trust in Bodhgaya very graciously at the last minute provided a hub for storage and distribution of the books. We are profoundly grateful to the dedicated network of nun supporters who participated in making this remarkable Tibetan women’s health book available to so many nuns. Ven. Lekshe Tsomo of Jamyang Foundation was instrumental in supporting and coordinating the effort. Marlies Bosch, the initiator of the first edition, will be helping distribute the books to remote border area nunneries in Ladakh this summer and will also be teaching women’s health at the nunneries in Ladakh and Zangskar.
Kopan Nunnery was able to transport enough books back to Kathmandu for many of the smaller local nunneries. Future plans include designing a training course in women’s health to be taught by the nurse nuns of Kopan Nunnery to be shared with health leaders of other local nunneries. Other future plans, if funds become available, include possible reprinting and distribution of the English version of the book to aid in language study for the nuns. Our hope is that some of the books may also reach Tibetan women and nuns inside Tibet, and future efforts may also include printing a version of the book suitable for such a distribution.
Dr. Mary Wellhoner is a student of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. She is a practicing gynecologist in Reno, Nevada, where she lives with her husband, George Mars, and two children, Zia and Kai. She recently completed her Masters of Public Health online through Johns Hopkins, focusing on global health.
By Catriona Mitchell
“Should we live with ever-growing mountains of garbage because we are unable to manage the effects of consumerism?” – His Holiness the 17th Karmapa
A site of brutal poverty, pollution, bacteria and dirt, Bodhgaya is arguably one of the most blessed places on earth.
The challenges faced by visitors to Bodhgaya have never been more apparent than at the Kalachakra 2012 initiation, given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama December 31, 2011 to January 10, 2012. The celebration of world peace drew visitors in astonishing numbers to the site where the Buddha attained enlightenment: there are reports that as many as 350,000 pilgrims made their way to a village that’s normally home to 30,000.
People of all nationalities wrapped themselves in blankets against the cold, many in face-masks to keep the dust out. Thousands of monks and nuns came from Nepal, Mongolia, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, Japan, Korea and Thailand. Beggars lined the streets, dressed in rags, clutching begging bowls, some bandaged or on crutches, some so badly deformed they shuffled along on all fours, all without a place to sleep at night. Black hogs, goats, cows and people alike scavenged through piles of rubbish.
Although peace was unmistakably the focus of the event, the environmental consequences of this brief but overwhelming burst of tourism were devastating. Huge numbers of tents were erected to provide temporary accommodation for the masses, and severe strain was placed on the village’s infrastructure. Sewage systems were blocked, water resources drained, and untenable mountains of rubbish built up and were burned on the streets.
While His Holiness has long advocated the importance of environmental protection and several other prominent lamas have become spokespersons for the green movement, raising awareness is no small issue, particularly in such intense and hectic circumstances.
“It was unbelievably crowded,” said Caroline Martin, an American journalist who writes about India and Nepal, on a visit to Bodhgaya for the first time. “Things were really chaotic. During the Kalachakra I basically felt like I was fighting for air the whole time.”
Although confronting for first-timers, the melee was predictable, and methods were put in place well in advance to curb the worst of the problems. The precautions were spearheaded by Sacred Earth Trust (SET), an organization with headquarters in both India and the UK, established to support the environmental protection of sacred sites and UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world. SET has been working since 2009 to address the problems brought on during the tourist season in Bodhgaya.
In preparation for this season’s throngs, 80,000 cloth bags were sewn to be used in lieu of plastic bags, bringing much-needed income to local women; local hoteliers and businesses, monasteries and schools were educated about environmental hazards, recycling and waste disposal; and SET put the word out to Buddhist centers around the world as well as to various media outlets, encouraging people to travel to Bodhgaya responsibly.
Perhaps most importantly, SET went about making changes at government level. In 2009 SET’s UK-based Director Lillian Sum and a team of local and international volunteers successfully campaigned to have all disposable plastics banned from the area by collecting 7,000 signatures in favor of the ban. It was a jubilant moment when the campaign was approved by local government, with new practices being adopted from April 2011.
This campaign was inspired by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, whose winter residence at Tergar Monastery lies on the fringes of Bodhgaya. In recent years the Karmapa has become increasingly engaged with environmental concerns. “As I grew up and began studying Buddhist philosophy and teachings,” he said. “I discovered great harmony between Buddhism and the environmental movement. The emphasis on biological diversity, including ecosystems – in particular, the understanding that animate and inanimate beings are parts of a whole – resonates closely with Buddhism’s emphasis on interdependence.”
A few years ago the Karmapa became aware of various dumping grounds for rubbish in the vicinity of Tergar. It was immediately apparent that plastic was the main pollutant – disposable plastics such as bags, polystyrene plates, cups, and packaging for food and domestic goods like washing powders.
These all-too-common disposable plastics can leach chemicals that are perilous to human health, and contaminate soil when left to decompose for long periods in dumping grounds. When burned, they release chemicals into the atmosphere that contribute to respiratory and other health problems as well as carbon emissions.
The Kalachakra and its accompanying influx of tourists really put to the test the effectiveness of the plastics ban and SET’s efforts to control waste. Three hundred laborers were brought in to work night and day to keep the village tidy, along with 13 supervisors. Close to 50 vehicles were brought in for the purpose of garbage removal. Two hundred dustbins were set in place permanently, and three large permanent garbage dumping sites were created to replace the side-of-the-road dumping grounds.
According to Ven. Tenzin Yangdron, a German nun who lives in Dharamsala and stayed at Root Institute during the Kalachakra, “When I went to the teachings in the mornings, I saw a lot of local people sweeping the streets and collecting garbage. The streets were clean around the temple area. But in the fields, you could still see lots of garbage around the tents. A lot of cleaning was going on, but there was just too much garbage so they couldn’t take away everything.”
Lillian concedes that despite their best efforts, SET’s measures were hopelessly inadequate in the face of the numbers who came for the initiation. “Local government was great during the whole time, keeping the main areas really clean,” she said. “But it wasn’t possible to implement the plastics ban at this time at an event of this size.” This was in part due to the locals’ hesitation for financial reasons. “Most understand the issue, but if they feel it will affect their business, they will not make changes.”
Caroline Martin feels disturbed by the waste problems she witnessed. “Burning plastic every evening around 5 p.m., it’s like a ritual. The burning plastic smell comes up and you have to cover your mouth. The tourists can just come through and grumble about it and leave, but I really feel for the people who live here because they’re being exposed to a lifetime of these burning toxins, and certainly it’s going to limit their life expectancy. I’m not sure what the fumes are, but I get chest pains when I smell them. And it seems like they destroy any kind of healthy environment that could exist.”
Given the amount that still remains to be cleaned up, long after the dispersion of the Kalachakra’s crowds, does Lillian feel that SET’s efforts have collapsed in the face of so many tourists? “We were lucky to have it so clean during the event,” she said. “But now it’s the aftermath and most – if not all – of the support and resources have been reduced back to normal size. Only minimum equipment is available.”
It’s no easy territory to navigate, but Lillian is far from giving up. She’s aware that the government’s implementation of the plastics ban is key, but also that a long-lasting result will only come about through education. SET’s ultimate goal is to encourage local people to take responsibility for the caretaking of their own environment and resources. To this end, SET will facilitate workshops this year that continue to raise the villagers’ awareness about plastic pollution and its effects on land, water courses, human and animal health. Other subjects are on the curriculum too: zero waste, permaculture, how to reduce carbon emissions, green building design, tree nurseries, organic plantations, seed sovereignty, renewable energy, eco-technologies, and the production of cottage handicrafts using waste materials, to name a few.
Good news came on February 4: the chief minister announced that he would continue to support Bodhgaya as a plastic free zone and give funds to develop a solid waste management system. In addition to the workshops, then, SET will be working with the government on setting up a recycling center for the polystyrene and plastic bags which currently aren’t being recycled. Government officials and the heads of the village are also ready to start enforcing the plastic ban, a necessary step at least in the beginning until people really understand how harmful the waste can be.
Sustainable practices such as these are essential for a sustainable future for Bodhgaya. The need for them is all the more urgent due to a decision recently announced by Bihar’s chief minister: a new four-lane road is to be built between Patna and Gaya in order to encourage greater numbers of visitors to Bodhgaya in the future.
Catriona Mitchell is an Australian literary events programmer and producer, as well as a freelance writer on arts and the environment. She has an M. Phil. in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
Sacred Earth Trust is a not for profit organization set up in 2009 to support and encourage the sustainable development and environmental protection of Sacred sites and UNESCO world heritage sites around the world, through working in co-operation with the local, indigenous people and international groups. It has offices in the UK and India.
By Phil Hunt
To arrive in Gaya, India by plane is to perpetuate an illusion that 21st-century technology and methods in other parts of the world will work here in the same way. As the MAITRI Charitable Trust jeep took me out of the airport gate, doors rolled up and diesel engine roaring, we immediately entered rural Bihar, a desperately poor part of India. Ten minutes later we were at MAITRI campus gate, the dogs not barking until they realized a stranger was present. I recognized many from earlier trips, and some seemed more inclined to wag a tail than bark. I knew that after a couple of days even the most frightened or cranky of them would relax.
I spent three weeks at MAITRI in the lead up to the Kalachakra initiation and I wanted to write something about the amazing work that this organization does. One of the problems with MAITRI is that they do so much that it is difficult to condense it all into a short article. Another problem is everyone is so busy trying to carry out the work helping the people and animals of Bihar, that less attention is given to promoting what they do.
MAITRI is 5 kilometers [3 miles] from Bodhgaya and it is not a Dharma center, so few people visit. It is not geared towards international visitors, but aimed at the local population. Its activities are heavily based on outreach, with paramedics and other staff going out daily to run the leprosy, tuberculosis, mother and child, HIV awareness, animal care, and village school programs. I have been out many times in the last 10 years with staff to some really remote villages that have no government services. It is inspiring, but not easy for casual visitors to the campus to appreciate.
Despite its current financial shortfall, MAITRI has been, I believe, incredibly effective. Most of the many programs on director and founder Adriana Ferranti’s 20-year-old masterplan wish list have actually come to fruition or are well developed. That is not to say that it’s easy to have success in India. The Western mentality of “easy, happy, now,” as Lama Yeshe would put it, does not work here. Westerners, such as myself, are used to short timeframes and the use of technology and skilled labor to produce success. In India, however, the entire education system is in crisis and Bihar has some of the most underprivileged communities in the country. If you hope to help, you have to involve the people and involve them in the journey. That requires working at a pace and in a way that the local people can warm to. It also requires discipline and tough love. It is a different culture, and our so-called egalitatrian and democratic systems cannot yet compete with India’s entrenched caste system and rigid family obligations. Its not that change won’t happen, just that it won’t be done to our impatient schedule.
How do you measure success? I think one way is to listen to how local people talk about a project. Many times I’ve seen the warm reaction of locals when they hear that staff are from MAITRI. For example, a policeman near the Kalachakra grounds who was giving the cold shoulder to one of our paramedics as we were trying to set up a stall suddenly turned around when he understood we were from MAITRI and was most helpful. “One of us,” was what he said. “Local.”
Not just local. MAITRI is an organization that has a reputation of following through on things. This is where so many “aid” projects fall down. Money is spent, things are done, but the locals don’t feel any sense of ownership and responsibility to it and sometime later it all falls apart. MAITRI has some very crucial roles where a lack of follow through would spell disaster. Tuberculosis patients, for example, must be carefully followed up to ensure they are taking the full course of drugs, otherwise drug resistance can develop. I have been out with paramedics and seen the attention to detail following their distrubition system and utilizing existing community networks.
Another example of MAITRI’s approach that is designed to engage the community is the Village Schools program. In some of the poorest villages where no government school has been, MAITRI has set up schools. It is a partnership with the community. MAITRI provides the teacher (including the all too important supervision and teacher training), and the community builds and maintains the school and ensures that all children attend. Parents who have been illiterate and who are totally at the mercy of others to look after paperwork for them are seeing their children becoming more self-sufficient. The program has many difficulties, especially in a country where public education standards are failing, but for each individual that learns a little bit more, it makes a huge difference to them.
Although I am nearly at the end of this article and haven’t really started to describe MAITRI. MAITRI is not a project that can easily be quantified, much like India itself. You need to sit and observe. If you just pop in for a short visit, it is just overwhelming: nearly a hundred dogs running around at the news of a visitor, excited and frightened depending on each personality; hospital in-patients shuffling around in various layers of bandages; village mothers in their colorful saris; staff members calling and being called in a place where all electrical communication has failed; jeeps and motorbikes going out or coming in on any number of scheduled and emergency tasks (the paramedics used to go by bicycle for many jobs) – this is the busy appearance of MAITRI.
When you are there for longer you have the chance to see the smiles of the patients warming in the sun by the stupas; the contented sighs of dogs who have found the right position to curl up in; the call of “chai” as the staff take a break; the tap-tap of a computer in the office; the light banter and joking between Adriana and staff during a meeting; the happy cries of the rescued goats going out to graze; Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s recitation of a sutra over the speakers. It is actually a big family and even though Adriana gives the staff a tough time, you also see the mutual affection and the bond they all have with each other. Most of the time it is a very peaceful place and despite the busyness, it has been like a retreat.
Yet there is no escaping the difficulties of trying to do something positive here. I have been here three weeks and there are still so many things I haven’t finished! Simple things. Like taking photos of each of the animals for the records (I managed 30 dogs on the first day and nothing since). I wanted to organize the cleaning of the old bikes to sell. There are some tsa-tsas that I started to paint in 2005 that are still unfinished. So many odd-jobs that I could do, if only ….
“What a realm we live in,” Adriana sighs, “where it takes so long to build something, yet it can be destroyed in a moment.”
It has really hit home to me this time how immense the task is. Not just Bodhgaya, but samsara. From here you look out and there is no hiding it. How can you hope to help in a place like this? The inertia. The karma. Now I understand why the printers don’t work properly, why you have to ask staff over and over for the simplest of things, why the new generator is playing up, why the old bikes have not been put out to sell despite repeated attempts going back five years. To print a page here means pushing against this inertia. Even such a small thing is trying to change the karma of the beings of this place. The poorest of the poor, the outcast among outcasts.
So how does MAITRI do it? How does it manage to get its programs to work? Sure, none of them are running problem-free and exactly how Adriana would like them, but they are actually running. I believe it is pure perserverance matched with careful observation of Indian life. Adriana encourages volunteers to just observe for a few days and see where you can help. This is India. What better way to get in touch with this ancient land? The birth of a flower is not just due to soil, water, sun and air. It also requires time.
Phil Hunt is joint project coordinator for Enlightenment for the Dear Animals, an FPMT project aimed at helping people, particularly Buddhists, to benefit animals. Phil is an archaeologist who works for the Aboriginal Heritage Office in Australia and who has been involved in animal care and rescue for many years.
You can read about how MAITRI’s Adriana Ferranti began her work in India in started this archive interview: “Fulfilling a Lifelong Calling to Heal Leprosy” from Mandala January-February 1998.
The Kalachakra initation conferred by His Holiness the Dalai Lama December 31, 2011 to January 10, 2012 took place in Bodhgaya, India, the sacred city home to the pan-Buddhist pilgrimage site. Cynthia Karena, an Australian Dharma student, attended the event and shared her experience and photos with Mandala.
Catching your first glimpse of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at an event is always exciting; you never tire of it. He sat on the throne at the Kalachakra teaching ground in Bodhgaya in front of a rolling sea of people. The audience was all squashed up, even filling up the walkways and exits.
At least 9000 Tibetans came from Tibet to attend, but people from all over the world also flocked to Kalachakra 2012 in Bodhgaya. One official estimate was 300,000 people, but it looked like far more than that.
There were too many people to fit into the Kalachakra teaching ground this year. People were hanging off the boundary fence around the teaching ground, but most were crammed outside, beginning from the Mahabodhi Stupa down the street around 300 meters [984 feet] away, the closer ones watching images of His Holiness on a huge screen on top of the teaching site.
There was a feeling of anticipation. But isn’t there always at a Dalai Lama event? But His Holiness said there were other beings gathered here, and you could definitely feel that something special was happening. The air did feel electric, although that could also have been the micro-organisms making us all cough.
India is yin and yang; it is wonderful and exhilarating, but also sometimes very difficult, which is a spiritual journey in itself (exploring attachment, ego, renunciation, etc.).
The general aim of the Kalachakra initiation is to ripen the disciple’s mind, empowering them to practice the yoga of the Kalachakra tantra. However, the accompanying visualisations are incredibly complex. I was advised to just believe I was in the mandala. (Clearly my mind is very simple.)
Watching His Holiness and feeling his presence, I tried my best, and eventually had a glimmer of being in the mandala with all these extraordinary lamas and other beings His Holiness mentioned. The energy was amazing. With so many lamas concentrated in one area in the holy city of Bodhgaya, gathered for a Kalachakra initiation, it is not so surprising. But it is surprising to feel it.
Laying eyes on the sand mandala was a quest in itself. I can see the video game now: navigating your way through levels of total madness and chaos to see the sand mandala. Including getting past a crossroads of people – one stream trying to get out, and the other trying to get up on the stage to line up and see the mandala. There would have been gridlock, but all the extreme pushing gave the crowds some forward momentum (and fear). It felt like I was in the mosh pit at the Hammersmith in London seeing Poison Ivy in the ’80s all over again.
Finally in the queue, among the chaos and the exhortations to rush and move on, there was a long moment of calmness in looking at the mandala. The ushers were shouting “look up, look up” so we could see the amazing huge Kalachakra thanka. Another blessing.
On the way out, two feisty old Tibetan women in traditional dress, long grey plaits and with deep wrinkles never looking so beautiful, were steadfastly spearheading their way through not only the security guards but against the stream of people leaving. Never stand in the way of a devout Tibetan and the Kalachakra sand mandala. A security guard grabbed one of the women by the back of her vest, but she wriggled free. The women were running towards the sand mandala as if their lives depended on it. As it turns out, they truly believe having a good next life does indeed depend on seeing the mandala.
On the last day, seeing the strained faces of the oracles in trance while dancing, or rather staggering with support from monks, in front of the stage was incredible. When they threw blessed rice around, I followed the lead of some focused Asian women, and just picked up as many grains as I could; it seemed an important thing to do.
As the Dalai Lama left Bodhgaya, thousands of pilgrims followed suit. The rest of us had to endure the burning of rubbish, including mounds of plastic. Yin and yang.
Cynthia Karena is a member of Tara Institute in Melbourne Australia, who regularly travels to India. She is also a journalist and researcher.
From December 31, 2011 to January 10, 2012, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave teachings and the Kalachakra initiation to over 300,000 people in Bodhgaya, India. High lamas, Sangha and students traveled from around the world to attend this event, which empowers them to practice the yoga of Kalachakra tantra. In addition, many additional pujas, teachings and initiations were given at places like FPMT’s Root Institute, where students were able to receive Dharma instruction from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche and Dhakpa Rinpoche.
Mandala is pleased to share this photo gallery illustrating moments during this special time as seen though the eyes of several volunteer photographers on the ground. (more…)
Bodhgaya, India — January 8, 2012
From Ven. Roger:
They are saying that 400,000 or more people are at the Kalachakra Initiation, among them thousands of monks and nuns. It’s a spectacular sea of red when you look out over the crowd.
Some Tibetans start lining up at 1 a.m. in the morning, 12 hours before His Holiness the Dalai Lama starts at midday. The teachings have been lasting four to six hours. People are crammed in tight. I have Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche (the eight year old incarnation of Geshe Lama Konchog) sitting beside me. He listens on my headphones to the English and the other ear is free to hear His Holiness in Tibetan. Both his hands are busy drawing, using toilet paper delicately balanced on the top of his small thermos. He creates amazing little sketches of the eight auspicious signs and then passes them over to me. I put them carefully in my bag.
Bread and tea are being handed out, young monks come racing into the teaching area real fast! Some monks start skillfully, some not so skillfully, surfing the sea of red, delivering paper cups, bread and tea. It’s hot and stuffy with Tibetan bread everywhere. There are plenty of TVs for people who can’t see His Holiness directly. Outside this massive tent there are thousands of people sitting on the roads. The police have blocked all traffic and rickshaw walas from going anywhere near the teaching site. (more…)
REMEMBERING THE KINDNESS
On June 26, 2011, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke on The Spirit of Things with Rachael Kohn on ABC Radio National. In this 25-minute radio interview (video is also made available), His Holiness talks on a variety of topics: the science of mind, the democratic process within the Tibetan Government in Exile, the institution of the Dalai Lamas, the possibility of a female Dalai Lama, the wish to host the Kalachakra in Tiananmen Square, among other topics.
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