Many people have been thrilled by the pageantry of the North America Kagyu Monlam - the beautiful offering sculptures (tormas), the brocades, the huge butter lamps, the flowers - but one question reigns supreme: what is the symbolism of the crested yellow hats worn by the ordained sangha at various points in the puja?
First of all, the hats are worn at several special points in the puja: when the Buddhas and enlightened beings are invited to be present, and when auspicious prayers are recited at the end, among others.
But for the symbolism, we asked Karma David Choepel, Thrangu Rinpoche's translator, who has been the many Monlam events around the world.
"The Yellow Crested Hat is just loaded with symbolism," Karma Choepel says. "The golden color is symbolic of the golden form of Shakyamuni Buddha. The many threads on the crest of the hat represent the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha."
But what about that unusual crested shape?
"Oh, I'm not quite sure about that," Karma Choepel said. "But you have to remember that the Greeks did come to Kashmir in the 3rd Century!"
Photo Credit: Stephanie Colvey
Writing: Lama Kathy Wesley