PICS: JAMES GIAMBRONE
At least 400,000 people gathered this week in Bodhgaya to participate in the latest and possibly largest Tibetan Buddhist Kalachakra initiation, a ceremony dedicated to world peace.
The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize has given the Kalachakra 32 times in nine different countries since 1954. This year was marked by the attendance of many Chinese Buddhists as well as Tibetans who were granted visas for the event.
Presented in words, painting, sand drawings, and dance forms, the six-colour Kalachakra mandala is a meditational guide. It encompasses the Buddhist ground truth that the self has no inherent and independent existence, realisation of which can unlock immense creative power.
It also guides the development of bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. The Dalai Lama lightly suggested that bodhicitta also makes practical sense, as giving up Rs 100 for oneself to gain at least Rs1,000 rupees for self and others would make great business sense as well.
The event re-assembled the Tibetan diaspora, Buddhists from across greater Asia, and thousands of others under the blue and white ceilings of a huge tent. At each day's close most devotees struggled to straighten legs that had been crossed for four to five hours, while children ran about in excited release from their struggle to stay still, and elders snoozed against bamboo corral rails.
Tech savvy monks captured and broadcast the live event on mammoth LCD screens. Twice daily, volunteers delivered hot tea and flat breads across an appreciative crowd. Outside the tent more pilgrims sat in orderly rows along the streets working prayer beads.
Nearby, high lamas led prayers at the holy Mahabodhi Temple, a World Heritage Site, commemorating the place of Prince Siddhartha Gautama's enlightenment into Buddhahood.
At his nearby monastery, the Karmapa, a young Kagyu sect leader with a powerful presence, gave early morning talks with a Zen-like ring, on aligning right intention, firm concentration, and strategic aim for better navigation through a busy and distracting world.