By Ven. Ingrid Nordzin
For the third consecutive year, His Holiness the Dalai Lama accepted the invitation of the Maitreya Project to bestow public teachings in Bodhgaya, India December 20-27. “This was the smoothest, most harmonious and the most comfortable” event organized by the Project, said international director Peter Kedge.
Lord Buddha achieved his enlightenment here, one of the holiest sites in the Buddhist world, which attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year. Twelve thousand people came to this event, at which His Holiness concluded commentaries on Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life and Compendium of Advice begun last year. At the end of the teachings, he offered a rarely-conferred initiation called The Sixteen Drops of the Kadampas and offered the five lay vows and bodhisattva vows.
Everyone fitted into a huge white tent. His Holiness commented on the fact that the tent looked so simple and plain from the outside, yet upon entering one was struck by the beautifully designed interior: decorations of maroon and golden yellow, pink orchids, cascading down the steps leading to His Holiness’s throne, and the delicate and huge pink and white lotuses, all brought by the faithful Singaporeans in their carry-ons. Tea was served before each teaching: butter tea in the mornings and sweet tea in the afternoons. This was carried in heavy urns by 60 monks and lay volunteers.
During the entire nine days of teachings, Bodhgaya was shrouded in heavy fog, especially in the mornings and evenings. Approaching the white tent, invisible to us from our rickshaw, we would often quote the Heart Sutra: “No eyes, no ears, no nose … no mental consciousness,” adding: “no tent, no His Holiness the Dalai Lama, no teaching … !”
His Holiness gave advice often. To the Chinese community he said: “You must really learn well the situation existing in Tibet. Buddhism has been your tradition for 2,000 years. Inform yourselves. You can help very much as well, and we all need to help in order to bring about changes in the Chinese government. Dharma students in general don’t want to be involved in politics, but if you want to practice Tibetan Buddhism you must be careful to not let Buddhism and Tibetan culture die out in Tibet.” His Holiness encouraged Taiwanese and Hong Kong students to take the opportunity to notify their governments to support the Tibetan issue.
Each day Lama Zopa Rinpoche, showing due deference, his hand held by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and in animated discussion, led the Dalai Lama from his residence to the teaching tent, accompanied by attendants and security. Leading this procession on the first day was Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche, the reincarnation of Lama Thubten Yeshe, whose wish it was to build a big Maitreya statue in Bodhgaya.
Senior lamas from all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism were in attendance, including Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche and Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk of the Sakya order, Ganden Jangste Rizong Rinpoche of the Gelug order, Bokar Rinpoche of the Kagyü order and Gyeltsen Rinpoche of the Nyingma tradition. Also in attendance were the 20-year-old reincarnation of Shantideva (author of the texts His Holiness was teaching) and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s young reincarnation.
Before teaching and upon leaving, His Holiness greeted all the lamas, bumping heads with one of his old teachers in a contest of whose head would be lower. On one of these occasions, after asking who is the tulku of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, from whom His Holiness had received teachings, he almost lifted him off his seat in a strong bear hug!
Simultaneous translation from His Holiness’ Tibetan was provided for Spanish, Hindi, Chinese, English, French and Italian speakers. Most of the 12,000 people were from the Himalayan territories of Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim, with some 2,000 more from more than 30 countries. Wonderful to see were the 3,000 Buddhist monks and nuns of all traditions – a quarter of the entire audience.
Each morning’s session began with prayers chanted in Pali by the local Theravadan monasteries, with different groups taking turns; then in Sanskrit by two monks from Sarnath University, and finally in Chinese by various Asian sangha, mainly Taiwanese. After one of these morning opening sessions His Holiness reminisced about always loving to hear Sanskrit chanting since he was a teenager, joking that he must have “strong karma with Sanskrit.” Actually, His Holiness joked very often during the teachings and was in a splendid mood and good health – we often didn’t get the translation while the Tibetans were highly amused!
Seventy-three filmmakers and photographers had been issued press passes to cover all or part of the event; they unobtrusively filmed and photographed from their seats, having only a few minutes before teachings to jump up and quickly get a few good shots before settling down.
Along with the main event, three highly qualified lamas from different traditions offered sessions each afternoon to review the day’s teachings. Each morning and evening, pujas were conducted at the Maitreya land by the 500 monks and nuns from Kopan Monastery and Khachoe Ghakyil Nunnery in Kathmandu. One night 3,000 extra monks showed up.
Preparations for the event began six months in advance. As always, the Maitreya Project freely offered it to the public, successfully raising the $150,000 (6 million rupees) needed to cover costs. With a sigh of relief Ven. Marcel Bertels, Maitreya’s executive director for India, told us that all costs and even the previous year’s debt were entirely covered with a little left over. Kathrine Carlisle, Ten Hup Chan and Tony Simmons had come up with successful fundraising techniques.
At the end there was a long-life initiation offered by His Holiness and long-life offerings made, in turn, to him. During the Sixteen Arhat Puja, Lama Zopa Rinpoche chanted a verse for each of the auspicious substances and traditional offerings were made by some 80 people.
Early on the morning of December 29 there was a tsog offering puja at the bodhi tree (where the Buddha sat and became enlightened) in front of the Mahabodhi Stupa. Many Tibetans had lined up for hours with khata and incense in hand to catch a glimpse of His Holiness as he walked to the stupa, attended by thousands of Tibetan monks and laity.
On December 30 His Holiness traveled to Sarnath. We were left with gratitude in our hearts and great powerful loving-kindness, and then the fog (of our ignorance) lifted, and occasional sunshine returned to Bodhgaya.Tags: fpmt news, maitreya project