The 2016 North American Kagyu Monlam at Kagyu Thubten Choling Monastery wouldn’t begin to be possible without Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s extraordinary vision and sustained effort over many years, from the purchase of the land and incorporation of KTC in the late 1970s, to the building of the stupa in the early 2000s, to the past decade’s construction of the Maitreya Center as donations came in to complete each stage.
The construction itself was made possible by the Kagyu Thubten Choling Board of Trustees, several inconceivably generous anonymous donors and countless others who contributed over the years, and our project and construction managers, Jim Walton and Butch Sellars.
The decoration of the shrine room was accomplished under the direction of artists Edward Rossel and Tsewang Norbu, with many KTC residents working alongside them plus other helpers who traveled here for that purpose. The 34-foot Maitreya statue, which arrived from Nepal in more than 200 pieces, was assembled by metal worker Gabor Szentermal from Hungary.
KTC residents spent the past year working to finish the interior of the Maitreya Center, including many late-night shifts, while the Monlam organizing team was busy planning the event. Volunteers from our sangha, some traveling from as far away as Canada, Peru, and England, as well as our many U.S. centers, are working behind the scenes every day of the Monlam to make it possible for all of us to sit in the shrine hall and participate in the prayers.
Lama Chodrak, who has been the principal organizer of the main Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya for many years, traveled to KTC weeks before the event to help us get the details right. He is frequently consulted throughout each day, while also participating in the chanting.
The photos above, in random order, are just a small sampling of the many Monlam volunteers and their jobs. Some of the other work happening behind the scenes: tea service volunteers; daily offering of a full tong chu of butterlamps, saffron water, incense and flowers in the butterlamp house, which involves cleaning a thousand butterlamps from the day before, pouring a thousand new ones, and preparing all the offerings; shuttle drivers picking up and dropping off participants at the beginning and end of each day; preparation of meals for hundreds of people; ongoing cleanup and restocking of the dining room; and, last but not least, the maintenance team’s continual work to fine tune air conditioning and keep bathrooms in good working order.
Many of the Monlam staff and volunteers rarely get a chance to sit down in the shrine hall and join in the chanting. We very much appreciate their dedication and hard work.
And we appreciate the chanters as well! Everyone plays an important role in the success of this Seventh North American Kagyu Monlam as we aspire to bring peace and harmony to a very troubled world and free all living beings from the cycle of confusion and suffering.
Posted by Lama Chodron
Note: There is no teaching on Sunday, the final day of the NAKM. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche will bestow the White Tara empowerment at 10:30am. The program will end with the Marme Monlam (Lamp Aspiration Prayer), which begins at 6:00pm, and the day will end with a celebration dinner in the dining room at 7:00pm. If you can’t be with us in the shrine hall, please join us via live stream beginning at 8:00am!
We ran out of time to post highlights of today’s activities, including another wonderful teaching, the Akshobya fire purification ritual to benefit the living and deceased, and bestowal of the Bodhisattva Vow. That will be posted sometime tomorrow.