What's your favorite Monlam prayer?
"The King of Aspiration Prayers. It's the principal prayer of the Mahayana tradition. That's why we recite it so many times [in the Monlam prayer event]. Of all the prayers the bodhisattvas make, of all their aspirations, this one summarizes them all. It is the sublime speech of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, who was renowned for the strength and power of his aspirations. We're praying to be like him, to have our aspirations be like his."
-Lama Zopa Borodin, Albany Karma Thegsum Choling
Rain, Rain, Go Away ...
During morning prayers, participants in the shrine room might have smelled something burning. There was a good reason: three Tibetan tradesmen from New York City were having their own private smoke offering puja in an effort to stop the rain that had been drenching the mountain for more than 12 hours.
The workers - Dah Dak, Gon Dak, and Loga - had spent the last few months doing painting, floor finishing, and other tasks at KTD, working for Construction Manager Patrick Cliett. Before the Monlam, the three men spent several hours laying gravel in the courtyard for the floor of the Monlam prayer tent. They were getting ready to go home, and decided to do a smoke offering ritual (or "sang" puja) to ask for an end to the rain that had flooded part of the tent floor the night before.
"They were burning incense in the [sang burner] by the door to the Tara Shrine room," said Bill Skinner, a security volunteer who observed the prayers. While the incense burned outside, the workers stood in the doorway to the main shrine room, reciting the Tibetan chants they obviously knew by heart.
One even walked to the front door of the monastery and put his hand out occasionally to see if raindrops were continuing to fall, Bill said.
At last, the rain began to taper off. The puja had been a success.
After the sky had cleared and their work was done, they ate their lunch and headed for home.
Prayer quote of the day:
"Through my endurinng morality,
"Discipline, and austerity: and through my having
"Worshipped the buddhas of the ten directions,
"May the Dharma blaze for a long time.
(From the Dharma Blaze Aspiration, quoted by Lord Atisha in his compendium of the sutras).
Photo credit: Stephanie Colvey