The Year of the Earth Mouse 2135 will be celebrated on Thursday, February 7 2008. The Tibetan New Year marks the beginning of a period when Tibetans ring in the new year by making extensive offerings and doing special prayers and practices to eliminate obstacles. Lama Tsong Khapa held the first Great Prayer Festival in 1409, it was a two-week long festival of prayers and teachings that was attended by hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.
The most special day of Monlam is on the full moon, the Day of Miracles (Feb 20). Here is a description:
Day of Miracles at Shravasti –Where the Buddha performed Great Miracles
“When the time came for the contest, the Buddha cast a mango seed on the ground; instantly the seed took root, and a great mango tree arose to shade the hall. After defeating the six philosophers and converting them to his teaching, the Enlightened One performed the Great Miracle of the Pairs.
“Standing in the air at the height of a palm tree, flames engulfed the lower part of his body, and five hundred jets of water streamed from the upper part. Then flames leapt from the upper part of his body, and five hundreds jets of water streamed from the lower part. Then by his magic power, the Blessed one transformed himself into a bull with a quivering hump. Appearing in the east, the bull vanished and reappeared in the west. Vanishing in the west, it reappeared in the north. Vanishing in the north, it reappeared in the south. … Several thousand kotis of beings, seeing this great miracle, became glad, joyful, and pleased.” ~ Mahavastu
Another of the four places common to the buddhas of this world is Shravasti, the site regarded as their chief residence and the place where the holders of erroneous doctrines are publicly defeated. Some accounts say this was accomplished by debate, others by miracles; perhaps there were both. The leaders of India’s six main philosophical schools had challenged the Buddha to a contest of miraculous powers many times as he wandered through the surrounding kingdoms. Finally, in his fifty-seventh year he accepted at Shravasti. King Prasenajit built a hall especially for the event; in it seven thrones were erected. On the first day of spring, the six other teachers took their seats and Shakyamuni came to his, flying through the air. He sent forth fire and water from his body and the hall was destroyed, then reformed as a transparent palace. Planting his tooth-pick in the ground, he caused a great tree to spring up, fragrant and fully laden with flowers and ripe fruit. He multiplied his body infinitely, filling all space with buddhas expounding the Dharma. These and many other miracles he performed and in eight days utterly defeated his opponents, whose followers adopted the buddhist doctrines. For a further seven days he continued to show miracles and give teachings to the great assembly.
Extracted from “The Eight Places of Buddhist Pilgramage”, by Jeremy Russell. Found in the readings for Discovering Buddhism, module 14 and also on the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive website:www.lamayeshe.com.
For an excellent reference on the history of the Great Prayer Festival and how it’s celebrated at Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Kopan Monastery in Nepal, please read: http://www.kopanmonastery.com/downloads/monlam2008info.pdf
How Can You Celebrate Monlam?
According to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the karma associated with doing practices and prayers during Monlam is multiplied a thousand-fold — if not a million fold!
- Recite the Golden Light Sutra (http://www.fpmt.org/golden_light_sutra/) and join us for a reading on February 9 at 12:15 pm at the Unitarian/Universalist Church in Reston.
- Take the Eight Mahayana Precepts (ideally daily from February 7 to the day after the Day of Miracles on February 21 (http://www.guhyasamaja.org/teachings.html — look for the section on the Precepts — the precepts should be completed before sunrise, but that’s easy this time of year because sunrise is so late — 7:15 am!)
- Honor all your daily practice commitments
- Join us at our Monlam celebration on February 24. http://www.guhyasamaja.org/calendar.html#monlam