Tenga Rinpoche (in the centre), Sangter Rinpoche (left), Lama Rinchen (right)
This year, for the first time in history, Kagyu Monlam was organized West from Bodhgaya. For three days, from 9 June 2010, the Benchen Karma Kamtsang Centre in Grabnik hosted over 400 Buddhists from Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Denmark and other countries. There were also representatives of Tibetans, Nepalese and Vietnamese living in Poland.
The Monlam was led by Very Venerable Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche who was accompanied by another Rinpoche from Benchen - Sangter Tulku. Lama Choedrak, the main organizer of the Monlam in Bodhgaya of many years, was a special guest of the first Kagyu Monlam in Poland. In the Sangha there were also numerous lamas and monks i.e. from Benchen and Pullahari monasteries, as well as nuns from the Ningma school living in Poland and representatives of Zen Buddhism.
The first European Kagyu Monlam was preceded by long months of work of all residents of the Centre in Grabnik coordinated by Lama Rinchen. Owing to Beata Stępień, the participants had the Monlam Prayerbook available in Polish. She has translated it into Polish with the thought of pilgrims attending the Monlam in Boghgaya, as well as for this event in Poland.
Two and a half weeks before the event started, monks appointed by His Holiness Karmapa had come to the Centre. They were responsible for making special tormas which embellished the main altar during the prayers. It is worth adding that His Holiness always personally watches over the training of monks, making sure that the sculptures are in best quality. The monks worked from morning till evening and their meticulous work, especially the three huge main tormas depicting the fathers of Kagyu - Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, could have been admired long after the end of Kagyu Monlam.
Each day, exactly as in Bodhgaya, the first point on the agenda was taking sojong vows at 6 a.m. Then the participants recited aspiration prayers chosen by the 17th Karmapa.
On the first day during the first session, with the accompaniment of ceremonial music, the image of His Holiness was placed on a throne thus symbolically emphasising his presence. During the sessions before noon, apart from prayers, Venerable Tenga Rinpoche, talked about the history of monlam and the benefits resulting from participating in it, as well as led group shine and lhaktong meditations giving advice on how to perform these practices.
After lunch, during the third and fourth session, the practitioners were still numerous, despite the early started day. The sessions were accompanied by traditional money offerings to the Sangha. The donors were both Rinpoches, the Benchen Karma Kamtsang Centre in Grabnik, municipal and international centres, as well as private persons. Venerable Tenga Rinpoche gave the Chenrezig empowerment and a tsok puja took place on the last day.
On the second day the participants were able to watch and listen to a message from His Holiness Karmapa to the participants of the Polish Kagyu Monlam. His Holiness underlined that despite of the lack of physical presence, the inner connection between Him and the participants was the most important. He expressed hope that Buddha Sakyamuni's love and compassion would spread owing to the prayers and he said he hoped to attend a Kagyu Monlam in Poland to pray together in the future.
The message from His Holiness Karmapa - see video
On the last day of Monlam, a tsok puja was held and, following the example from Bodhgaya, Marme Monlam, the prayer of lamp, expressing special wishes for the prosperity of the world and Chenrezig practice to the melody composed by His Holiness took place. After the end, the participants walked around the Centre, including the three-year retreat centre, singing 'Karmapa khyenno'.
It is worth mentioning that during the Monlam, meals were prepared in such a way that those taking sojong vows did not have to worry about the food. Although the programme was intense and group prayers lasted from dawn till dusk, in the evenings many participants gathered with Sangter Tulku Rinpoche, who, together with the monks, practiced Cho. We all hope that Kagyu Monlam will be organized more than once in Poland.
Report: Marek; translation: Sandra
More pictures see in the Gallery.