In December or January of every year, hundreds of disciples of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism come together to share aspiration prayers in holy places throughout India, in what is called the Kagyu Monlam. This is one of the most significant events in the Buddhist calendar.
Since 1996, the Kagyu Monlam has taken place in Bodhgaya, in India’s north-east Bihar state. Bodh Gaya is the place where the Buddha achieved enlightenment and is the main pilgrimage site for Buddhists of all traditions.
Thaye Dorje, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, has been leading the aspiration prayers since 1996, accompanied by other Buddhist lamas. Karmapa’s late teacher, the 14th Shamarpa Mipham Chokyi Lodro, also led the prayers with Karmapa until his passing in 2014. The effect of reciting an aspiration prayer in the presence of such great bodhisattvas just once is more powerful than reciting it a million times on your own.
Monlam – the path of aspiration
The Tibetan word Mon-lam can be translated “Path of Aspiration”. Many aspiration prayers are recited during the Kagyu Monlam. The main prayer is what is known as the “King of Aspiration Prayers” or “Samantabhadra Wishing Prayer”. It is part of a large collection of the words of the Buddha preserved in the Kanjur.
The King of Aspiration Prayers centers around the supremely altruistic wish that we attain enlightenment in order to lead all beings to enlightenment. When everyone gathered at the Kagyu Monlam recites the prayer, its power is increased a hundred thousand or more times. This contributes to the well-being and spiritual development of all sentient beings and helps them reach enlightenment.
You can also buy a copy of the King of Aspiration Prayers with commentary by His Holiness the 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche from Bird of Paradise Press.
Karmapa Healthcare Project at the Kagyu Monlam
Each year, the Karmapa Healthcare Project runs a medical and dental camp at the Kagyu Monlam.