What is the reason for reciting aspiration prayers?
Just as a drop of water that falls into the ocean is not used up until the entire ocean is used up, our merit will not be wasted. Just as a driver steers a car, aspirations can transform the merit we have accumulated into the cause of unexcelled enlightenment. Just as a small seed can produce bountiful fruit when good, favourable conditions are present, even small virtue can grow greater and greater if joined with good aspirations.

What motivation should one have when praying?
The Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu RinpocheIn general, the extent of the intention determines the extent of the result. In particular, our aspirations should be a strong and vast as possible, such as, “May I awaken to buddhahood today!” If we only aspire to minor purposes or our own benefit, the prayer is limited, but if we pray for vast benefit for ourselves and others, unexcelled enlightenment, benefit for beings and Dharma, world peace, and so forth, the prayer is extremely vast. In brief, our prayers must not e bound by our own selfish, temporary intentions; we should pray with the altruistic wish to shoulder the responsibility of helping others.

Why prayer is important for Buddhists?
There is a Buddhist teaching, “Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.” At the beginning of every activity we have a motivation, and at the end we make dedications and aspirations. Whatever we do, it is important for us to have a good motivation when we begin it. This is because whether our actions will turn out good or bad depends upon our motivations. At the end, reciting dedications and aspirations prevents the virtuous acts we have done from coming to nothing. This is why aspiration prayers are considered important.

What is the difference between praying on our own and praying in groups?
The First Statute Karmapa, Dusum KhyenpaWhen one person prays individually and when a group prays together, there is a difference in the power of the prayer. It is like sweeping with a single piece of straw and a bunch of straw. Additionally, when a group recites aspiration prayers together, it brings happiness to the whole group, but single person gathering merit only brings that one person happiness. In particular, when men and women gather and recite aspiration prayers together, the prayers will be fulfilled more quickly because both wisdom and means are present. If the fourfold community of bhikshus, bhikshunis, men who hold the five precepts, and women who hold the five precepts, gathers, any aspirations they make will be fulfilled.

What is the distinction between aspiration and dedication prayers?
A dedication prayer is making an aspiration when there is some virtue to be dedicated. An aspiration prayer is making the wish, “May it be so” although there may be no virtue to dedicate.

Candles for lamp prayerDoes it make a difference where you make a prayer?
It is said that if you make an aspiration while remembering the Lord Buddha with faith at the sacred sites where he took birth, awoke to buddhahood, turned the wheel of Dharma, and passed into nirvana, this will lead to rebirth in the higher realms and purify inexpiable karma. In particular, Bodhgaya is the place where the Buddha tamed the four maras and awakened to buddhabood. So if you do Dharma practice here, you will have few obstacles and accomplish it without difficulty.

What is the logo for the Kagyu Monlam, and what does it represent?
Kagyu Monlam logoThe Gyalwang Karmapa designed this logo in 2007 out of his feelings of closeness with the natural world and of a special connection with the elements. We have used the earth heavily from the time  it formed up to the present. The earth has provided us immeasurable help, but we have not done anything to actually help the earth in return. We never think of loving or protecting the world, and so now we have come to time where the earth is scowling at us. We are approaching a situation where the earth is going to give up on us, but neither the earth nor the beings who live in it should forsake each other. Instead, they should join hands together. As symbol of this, the insignia takes the shape of two hands clasping. Since the Kagyu Monlam is an occasion where we pray for peace and happiness on earth, and for the earth to remain for a long time, this sign is now the logo of the Kagyu Monlam as well a symbol of our affection for the earth and our wish to protect it. Wearing it regularly indicates not only a feeling of a particular connection with the natural elements but also a great affection for the earth. Since both the body and mind are strongly connected to the unaltered, natural elements, it can also provide some protection against dangers form the natural elements of the external world.

Monks prayingWhat is the importance of reciting prayers in Tibetan?
Most of the Mahayana Dharma was written first in Sanskrit, but Tibetan writing was invented for the purposes of translating Buddhism. While Tibetan has a very close affinity to Sanskrit, Tibetan also originated out of the compassionate wishes bodhisattvas have for sentient beings. If one recites prayers in Tibetan, they have great blessings. Another reason to recite in Tibetan in the context of the Kagyu Monlam is that it is easiest if we all recite in the same language.

About the Precepts of Mahayana Sojong
During the Kagyu Monlam, you have the opportunity to take mahayana sojong  vows every morning. Taking the vows is not required, but you may take them if you wish. If you decide to take them, you should observe the eight precepts from the moment you take the vow until the next morning at dawn. The eight precepts of mahayana sojong are:

Not killing, Not stealing, Not engaging in sexual activity, Not lying, Not consuming intoxicants, Not sitting or lying on high seats or beds, Not eating at inappropriate times, Not wearing perfume, jewelry, or ornaments, and not singing or dancing.

Mahakala StatueNot sitting or lying on high seats or beds means not sitting on seats or beds that are fancy, expensive, large, or higher than one cubit (about 38 centimeters). However, there is an exception if there is no place to sleep except on a bed that is too high.
No eating at inappropriate times means not to consume any food from noon until sunrise the next day. You are allowed to drink tea or translucent liquids in which you can see your reflection, However, you may eat if you are sick and you may take medicine. Since the mahayana sojong vows come from the kriya tantra, cleanliness and purity are of utmost importance, You should therefore abstain from eating meat of any kind, eggs, onions, or garlic during the period you have taken the vows.
Not wearing jewelry or ornaments means not wearing jewelry or ornaments that you do not normally wear. If you normally wear a ring, pendant, or other piece of jewelry, you may continue to wear it while observing the vow.