By Margaret Johnston
The Third North American Sakya Monlam for World Peace was hosted by the North American Sakya Monlam for World Peace Foundation and facilitated by the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism with the full cooperation of the Tibetan Association of Washington and their leaders. This historic event was held from July 12-14, 2019 at the Lynnwood Convention Center in Lynnwood, Washington, just north of Seattle, under the auspices of the central Great Sakya Monlam Foundation whose involvement and support are as always greatly appreciated.
His Holiness the 41st Sakya Ghongma Trichen Dorjechang Rinpoche and His Holiness the 42nd Kyabgon Trizin Rinpoche presided over the ceremonies of this non-sectarian prayer festival for world peace. Many high lamas of the Sakya tradition were in attendance including their Eminences Khöndung Avikrita Rinpoche, Khöndung Abhaya Rinpoche, Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche, and Her Eminence Jetsun Kushog Chimey Luding as well as many Tulkus, Khenpos, and Lamas from various traditions who came from far and wide to participate in this auspicious event.
The Monlam Prayer Festival opened with a welcome ceremony for their Holinesses Ghongma Trichen Rinpoche and Kyabgon Trizin Rinpoche by the assembly of their Eminences the Khöndung Rinpoches, Her Eminence Jetsun Kushog Chimey Luding, as well as the monastic and lay congregation. Devotees welcomed the procession of high lamas and their entourage with khatag offerings and traditional Tibetan songs and dances auguring auspiciousness. The program began with a mandala offering by Khen Rinpoche Jampa Tenphel, the President of the North American Sakya World Peace Foundation and resident lama of Sakya Monastery, Seattle. Monlam aspiration prayers were led by His Holiness the 41st Ghongma Trichen Rinpoche and His Holiness the 42nd Kyabgon Trizin Rinpoche followed by supplication prayers to the Five Founders of the Sakya tradition, prayers to the lamas of the Sakya lineage, and Supplication for the Quick Return of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Dorjechang Rinpoche. The prayers continued with numerous recitations of the Aspiration of Samantabhadra by all attendees.
The Butter Lamp Offering Prayer composed by His Holiness the 41st Ghongma Trichen Dorjechang Rinpoche concluded the prayer service.
The morning of day two was centered on the third parinirvana anniversary of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Dorjechang Rinpoche. Their Holinesses Ghongma Trichen Dorjechang Rinpoche and Kyabgon Trizin Rinpoche unveiled “The Life and Legacy of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Dorjechang”, a photo essay book documenting His Holiness’ journey to the west and creation of the Sakya Monastery in Seattle. The book was sponsored by the North American Sakya Monlam for World Peace Foundation and edited by Adrienne Chan, Coren Lindfield and John Connolly of Sakya Monastery. The beautiful hardcover book was distributed to all attendees. The remainder of the morning and afternoon sessions continued with recitations of the Aspiration of Samantabhadra prayer for world peace and again concluded with the newly composed Butter Lamp Offering Prayers.
In the evening, a Gratitude Dinner was held at the Lynnwood Convention Center honoring their Holinesses Ghongma Trichen Dorjechang Rinpoche and Kyabgon Trizin Rinpoche, their Eminences the Khöndung Rinpoches and Her Eminence Jetsun Kushog Chimey Luding. Also present were members of both the Dolma Phodrang and Phuntsok Phodrang families, Tulkus, Khenpos, lamas, generous sponsors, artistic performers, and volunteers. Also in attendance was the Consul General of Canada, Mr. Brandon Lee, and his wife Giovanna as special guests. The volunteers who worked hard to bring the three-day event to fruition were especially honored during this Gratitude Dinner with gifts and commendations for their hard work and dedication. A sumptuous dinner catered by the convention center was accompanied by traditional Tibetan music and dancing performed by local Tibetan children and artistes.
The last day’s schedule began with the formal transfer of monlam committee members and their positions followed by a ceremony to inaugurate the Fourth North American Sakya World Peace Monlam Organizing Committee. The Aspiration of Samantabhadra prayer chanted by all attendees concluded the morning session.
The final afternoon began with a ceremony of appreciation for all the generous sponsors of the monlam as well as a farewell ceremony for the Third Monlam Organizing Committee who finished their three years of service. Khen Rinpoche Jampa Tenphel gave a gratitude speech thanking all American and Canadian committee members involved as well as all the monlam volunteers. This was followed by a Rigsum Gonpo Empowerment (combined empowerment of Manjushree, Vajrapani, and Avalokiteshvara) with dharma teachings by His Holiness Ghongma Trichen Dorjechang Rinpoche. His Holiness welcomed all those gathered at the convention hall as well as those watching live from afar with warm greetings. His Holiness stressed the importance of praying for all sentient beings, all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the ten directions, constantly praying for the benefit of all. His Holiness said the world is very small and that we as Mahayana practitioners need to pray for the limitless sentient beings to be free from suffering, the causes of suffering, and to receive true happiness. The limit of sentient beings is equal only to the limit of open space, no exceptions including those close to us, far from us, known and unknown to us, so that we all will be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. All sentient beings which include those who are friends as well as enemies. But in reality every sentient being in one lifetime or another have been our kind mothers who have helped us and protected us from many dangers. So it is our duty now to give them our love and support and to always think about all sentient beings of the six realms, especially those experiencing great sufferings, and try to practice with great merit. Then we dedicate whatever practice we are doing to attain full enlightenment for all sentient beings. His Holiness requested that we keep these thoughts in our minds while receiving this profound empowerment. Concluding this precious teaching, all attendees had the opportunity to present a khatag offering to His Holiness the 41st Ghongma Trichen Dorjechang Rinpche with deep gratitude in having received the triple empowerment, dharma teachings, and his precious blessings.
The third and last day of the third North American Sakya Monlam for World Peace in Seattle concluded with prayers for all sentient beings. During the course of the three-day event, the North American Sakya Monlam for World Peace provided accommodations, food, and transportation for all the gathered monastic sangha with the support of generous sponsors. The Sakya Monastery and the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang were blessed to help facilitate and help organize this wonderful prayer festival where we had the largest ever gathering of Khöndungs (Khön lineage holders) in the west, which included all the five sons and grandsons of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorjechang Rinpoche. The large gathering of the monastic and lay sangha filled the space with prayers of aspiration and many blessings. The large gathering of dharma practitioners, all focused on the common purpose of praying for the benefit of all sentient beings and for world peace at large, was an uplifting experience and people left the three-day event with smiles on their faces which in itself was a great achievement.
The Fourth North American Sakya Monlam for World Peace will be held at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium & Convention Center in San Francisco, California from July 17 -19, 2020.