What is the history of the Kagyu Monlam? How did it come about?
The name “Kagyu Monlam” originated five hundred years ago in Tibet when the Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso established an annual prayer festival in order to restore the Vinaya discipline that had grown lax among the sangha, to make offerings to the buddhas, and to inspire sincere faith among those who saw or heard it through the grandeur of the Buddhist teachings and the individuals present. Held during the first lunar month, the month of the Teacher’s miracles, great gatherings of over ten thousand members of the sangha assembled at the Monlam. Under the guidance of the Karmapa, they performed the liturgy of The Twenty-Branch Monlam that he himself had compiled. They prayed for beings to complete gathering the accumulation of merit, to dispel obstacles and unfavourable circumstances, for there to be harmony in the world, and for freedom from all suffering and misfortune. This established the basis for the custom of holding Monlam gatherings that has continued without interruption until the present day.
In 1983, Kalu Rinpoche held a Monlam to recite The Aspiration for Excellent Conduct one hundred thousand times in Bodhgaya at the spot where the Buddha Shakyamuni awakened to complete and perfect buddhahood, thereby planting the seed for holding the Kagyu Monlam in the Noble Land of India. In 2004, the Gyalwang Karmapa took responsibility for the Monlam. Following the example of the dharma activities of the great beings of the past, he restructured the event and compiled a new prayer text, reflecting the splendour of this timeless tradition, making the Monlam ever more glorious, meeting the needs of today’s international Buddhist community as much as possible, and benefiting an even greater number of people.
For more information, please visit the Kagyu Monlam website.