Contributed by Allan Crouch
Photos by Lekshay Muller
The 17th Sakya Monlam, also known as the Great Prayer Festival, is held every year for ten days in Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. All of the fours traditions of Tibetan Buddhism have a Monlam Festival which are held at different times. This year’s Sakya Monlam was from November 25th, 2008 until December 7th, 2008. It was held at Tashi Rabten Ling, a Sakya monastery built by His Eminence Chogye Trichen.
The 2008 Sakya Monlam, for world peace, was a particularly auspicious occasion as it was the first time His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya had been able to attend since its inception outside of Tibet in 1993. Also in attendance were HE Avikrita Sakya, HE Abhaya Sakya, HE Asanga Sakya, Dagmo Jamyang, Dagmo Lhanze, Chime Tenzin, and Adrienne Chan. The program was led by His Holiness Sakya Trizin and was attended by at least 4500 tulkus, monks, nuns and lay practitioners from all over the world including Tibet. Because of the added presence of all four lamas of the four Sakya traditions, the 2008 Monlam is said to be one of the highest attended in its 18 year history. As Lekshay Muller indicated, “There was an added level of bliss at this year’s event in great part due to the significant added presence of the Phuntsok Phodrang.” One of the primary sponsors for the last four years are the paternal relatives of Dezhung Rinpoche IV, Yustang Lodro (uncle) and Tselhamo (grandmother).
Each day, all would gather and recite many prayers including the Sixteen Arhat prayer and especially the Aspiration of Samanthabhadra prayer. The Aspiration of Samantabhadra was recited 25 times a day for world peace and the benefit and happiness of all sentient beings. This is in addition to numerous mandala offerings throughout the 10 days. The Sakya Monlam concludes on the 10th day with long life blessings and thanking of all the sponsors and contributors.
His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya took particular delight in participating in this elaborate annual event with the sole purpose of rendering prayers for the benefit of all living. Dagchen Rinpoche and entourage will attend the 2009 Sakya Monlam in November. The anticipated attendance for 2009 or 18th Monlam (50th enthronement ceremony for H.H. Sakya Trizin) is expected to be as much as 6000.