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By Ven. Sarah Thresher
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been staying at Root Institute in Bodhgaya, India. Rinpoche has been engaged in many practices during Losar and the two weeks that follow. Ven. Sarah Thresher has been participating in these virtuous activities and shared this report.
Losar started very early morning with Yamantaka and Palden Lhamo prayers before dawn. Dagri Rinpoche stayed over at Root Institute to join Rinpoche for the prayers. Before dawn the monks served early morning Tibetan tea and kapse [fried bread].
After breakfast people began arriving for the long life puja for Lama Zopa Rinpoche requested by Dagri Rinpoche and Root Institute. Representatives from various Indian centers and the two Maitreya Projects – in Bodhgaya and Kushinagar – led Rinpoche into the gompa. Rinpoche went first to offer body, speech and mind to the decorated throne of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and then the throne of Lama Yeshe. This Losar was the 30th anniversary of Lama Yeshe’s passing away.
Dagri Rinpoche and Keutsang Rinpoche both took part in the puja along with several rows of monks from Sera Je Monastery. Even though Bodhgaya is not busy now, the gompa was full with people showing up from all over to pray for the guru’s long life. Following the tsog offering, Rinpoche took the microphone and began teaching. First he explained how important are these 15 days of Losar – the days that commemorate Buddha displaying miracles to subdue the Tirthika teachers – because at this time merit multiplies many 100 millions of times. Rinpoche commented that for “lazy” people like himself, it was an opportunity to make up for all the lost time of the rest of the year when no practice was done.
Rinpoche then continued with a beautiful talk about the qualities of Lama Yeshe and the importance of the guru. He quoted Padampa Sangye who advised, “Cherish the Guru more than the Buddha and realizations will come in this lifetime.” Rinpoche described some of the obvious qualities of Lama Yeshe – his always-loving aspect that attracted everyone to him, his humility, his wisdom – and explained that Lama was known by all to be a great scholar. Rinpoche then mentioned that Lama Yeshe was also a great yogi who had the tantric realizations of clear light and illusory body but that he hid these profound practices by meditating while lying down during his regular afternoon “nap.” Rinpoche said that whatever benefit the FPMT had been able to offer and however much we ourselves had been able to learn and practice, it was all due to Lama Yeshe’s kindness because it was Lama who set up the organization.
Then Rinpoche praised the director of Root Institute, Ven. Trisha, for her devotion to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and compassion, which meant the center was harmonious and able to benefit sentient beings greatly.
Following the puja, lunch was offered on the lawn and the three lamas sat outside for a long leisurely lunch discussing Dharma.
In the afternoon, Rinpoche went to the Mahabodhi Stupa around 4 p.m. and stayed until 9 p.m.! This was the first day of the 15 days of thousands of light offerings made at the stupa by Root Institute, so Rinpoche first blessed and offered the lights. He then taught on motivation and how to circumambulate and led the group around the stupa before going to offer robes and bowls of fruit and flowers to the main Buddha statue along with Dagri Rinpoche and Keutsang Rinpoche. After making offerings and prayers in the main shrine, the three lamas sat under the Bodhi Tree, where they recited many more prayers and took the bodhisattva vows.
Rinpoche continued circumambulating while reading 40 pages of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Interpretable and Definitive Meaning (Lekshay Nyingpo) until the battery ran out on the flashlight. Along the way more and more people joined the circumambulation and Rinpoche would give spontaneous teachings. He pointed out one place where he used to sit and recite many prayers in the past. He also taught a young Tibetan girl who was prostrating around the stupa by doing short prostrations on the benefits of the full-length prostration.
As we were leaving the stupa, a beggar who had polio and could not walk came up to Rinpoche. Rinpoche asked him some questions and then began giving a long teaching (translated into Hindi by one of the students). He told the story about a boy in Nepal who had no arms but had managed to overcome his disability and graduate from Delhi University. Then Rinpoche taught the very essence of Dharma: how it is the mind that creates our sufferings and problems and the mind that creates happiness, therefore it is so important to transform the mind. And how positive actions bring happiness and harmful actions bring suffering. A crowd of Indians and beggars gathered around listening to Rinpoche’s skillful teaching. I have never seen any other lama teach the beggars in Bodhgaya before and this young man was obviously amazed by all the attention he was receiving.
Read more from Ven. Sarah Thresher on Rinpoche’s activites during Monlam.
Learn more about Lama Zopa Rinpoche, spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), and Rinpoche’s vision for a better world. Sign up to receive news and updates.
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Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.
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