The first month of Tibetan calendar is a sacred month marked with several religious observances. At Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, from the 8th of Tibetan calendar first month (February 23rd.) to the 18th (March 4th), we begin Monlam Chenmo, the Great Prayer Festival to celebrate Days of Miracles - Chotrul Duchen performed centuries ago by Buddha Shakyamuni, ending with Butter Lamp Festival, Changa Choepa.
Mon in Tibetan means a wish, or aspiration, and lam means a path. Monlam is translated as the path of aspiration or a wish. For 10 days, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery’s main temple will hold morning puja, follows by afternoon puja and ending with evening puja.
This profound and noble tradition was founded by the sage teacher Je Tsongkhapa in 1409. It took place in Lhasa, Tibet. He was immeasurably affected by Lord Buddha’s acts and teachings during the Days of Miracles. He took the opportunity to duplicate the teachings during the New Year, which occurred in the winter when Tibetans were spending their time making merry. Hundreds of thousands of devotees came to participate in the ceremony that included teaching, studying, making offerings, and spiritual retreats with the purpose of paying homage to the gurus as well dedicating their prayers for the benefits of all sentient beings. For Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, Monlam Chenmo has an added significance. In 1472, Gendun Druppa - དགེ་འདུན་གྲུབ་པ།, His Holiness Dalai Lama the First and the founder of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery laid dying. He expressed his last wish to the attending monks that they must continue Monlam Chenmo annually. In addition, he asked that they stay true to their ordination vows, continue their studies and practices, and spread the teachings to successive generations of monks to come.
After Lord Buddha Shakyamuni’s enlightenment, he spent years traveling to teach and share his knowledge with the people. His approach of teaching was practical and individualistic. He taught lessons to match the intelligence of the people, and thus, gave them practical means toward understanding, change and chance of acquiring happiness. It had a profound affect on the people, royals and commoners alike. It changed the context of how religion was viewed and practiced. Countless followers of the traditional religions converted to Buddhism. Their leaders became alarm and pressed the royal patronages to demand Lord Buddha to perform miracles as a way to prove the validity of his teachings. For 15 days, he performed miraculous acts in response to challenges put upon him by leaders of other religious schools.
Lord Buddha Shakyamuni did not wish to employ miracles as a mean of persuasion. To him, the act was an enticement rather than a lasting method or skill for change. During the 15 days when he finally agreed to do so, he used each day not only to demonstrate the power of faith through miracles, but also to teach his doctrines. He reminded the attendees that miraculous acts should be used as a seed planted in the rich mind of individuals in which hard work through studying, listening, contemplation and meditation would eventually led them to discover the truth for themselves.
Through Lord Buddha’s timeless teachings, we are reminded that each of us, endowed with precious life and natural energy, regardless of our physical or mental makeup has the Buddha nature within us. We have the capacity to grow, change and generate good karma in order to attain enlightenment. However, our acts should not be for ourselves only, but also to generate good karmas and bring benefits to all sentient beings.
Thus, beginning with a single seed from each of us, may it be enriched by Lord Buddha’s teachings and our practice to germinate, multiply and mature in order to bring about changes to the world. May each of us, with our loving, kind and compassionate view and act, multiplies by other’s hundreds and thousands of millions prayers, good deeds and wishes, cease all sentient beings’ sufferings and gift them with peace and happiness.