The news is out that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is bestowing the sacred Kalachakra Initiations in the holy town of Bodh Gaya, India, from December 31, 2011. It brought back memories of the Kalachakra there in 1985 that I was fortunate to be present.
First, the schedule of His Holiness on the website of the Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama says the following.
“Kalachakra in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India from December 31 to January 10: During the first three days of the Kalachakra, from December 31, 2011 to January 2, 2012, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, along with the monks of Namgyal Monastery and senior lamas, will conduct rituals which prepare and consecrate the venue. These include chanting of prayers, creation of the sand mandala and other rituals. From January 3 to 5, His Holiness will give preliminary teachings on Kamalashila’s The Middling States of Meditation (gomrim barpa), Gyalsey Thokme Sangpo’s 37 Practices of A Boddhisattva (laklen sodunma), Geshe Langri Thangpa’s Eight verses of Training the Mind (lojong tsik gyema) & Nagarjuna’s The Praise to the World Transcendent (jigten ley deypar toepa). On January 6, the Kalachakra Ritual Dance will be performed by the monks of Namgyal Monastery. His Holiness will confer the Kalachakra Initiation from January 7 to 9. On January 10, a long life empowerment (tsewang) and a ceremony offering prayers for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be performed. “
His Holiness is already scheduled to bestow the Kalachakra in Washington, D.C. in July 2011 and so it is virtually two Kalachakra initiations within a spate of 12 months. The Washington, D.C. Kalachakra will have a flavor of its own and the spiritual impact of the teaching will be a positive one.
Any teaching in Bodh Gaya has a special value and more so with a Kalachakra by the Dalai Lama. Devotees will throng from all over the Himalaya region as well as the world shedding a colorful light on the nature of the congregation. I still remember the Kalachakra that His Holiness bestowed in Bodh Gaya in 1985. Among the more than 200,000 devotees then there were Tibetans, Bhutanese, Ladakhis, Monpas, Kinnauris, Sikkimese and others in all their traditional garments. It was really a “hustle and bustle” place then, as one would say.
Infrastructure was rudimentary. Tents were set up all over the coarse agricultural ground that were matted with straw to accommodate the devotees. Many people cooked in these tents on their kerosene stoves. It is a miracle that no fire disaster took place.
Water supply was from the common public taps. There was dust all over the place and that was the first time I encountered “painters’ mask” that many of the Western devotees were wearing.
The sacred Mahabodhi stupa was in its natural state then and there was no physical barrier nor restriction on devotees offering butter lamps or candles right in front of the entrance and around it. As we went for our koras we could see the walls of the stupas stained with smoke.
At night there were dancing of the traditional Tibetan kind in the different “camps” that were set up. These were also the occasion for the young and the restless to go on their adventures.
Today, some things have changed. There are a lot more hotels in town. Internet is a new development that will provide us with instant gratification for our thirst for information. Many people will be receiving the teachings virtually through their computers. The Mahabodhi stupa is better protected with stricter rules, according to people who have been to Bodh Gaya in recent times.
If you notice, I have said in the beginning of this posting that I was “present” during the 1985 Kalachakra. While I have been blessed to be at such spiritual events it was more in the nature of my work. I cannot therefore claim to have received the teachings. But then, I rejoice in our belief that we get “jinlap” merely being present at such sacred events.