Kalimpong, 17th May 2011: Vaishakha Day (Buddha Purnima) commemorates three major events in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha: his birth, enlightenment and passing from this life to final Nirvana. It is a very propitious day for Buddhist communities.
This year, Buddha Purnima, the anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni fell on 17th May, 2011 according to Tshrphu Calendar followed by Karma Kagyu sect of Buddhism and this day is observed as a national holiday in India.
HH the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje celebrated Buddha Purnima among his followers and devotees in Kalimpong, from 15th May to 17th May, 2011. The Rinpoches, learned monks, nuns, devotees and followers of Buddhism from different parts of the world gathered there to commemorate this auspicious occasion in a three-day celebration at Shri Diwakar Buddhist Institute (a Buddhist Monastic Institute of higher learning) at Kalimpong.
HH the Gyalwa Karmapa, who is the first consciously reborn master (tulku) in Tibetan Buddhism, is the head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu lineage. He is thus one of the most important lineage holders of the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. According to a nearly 1000-year-old tradition of the Karma Kagyu Lineage successive incarnations of Karmapas and Shamarpas recognise each other. The present Karmapa was recognised by the Shamarpa at the age of 11, in accordance with the tradition.
Thousands of devotees came to Kalimpong from different parts of the world – in particular from the different regions of the Himalayas – to take part in the celebration; and the locals enthusiastically welcomed His Holiness back to Kalimpong with a great deal of warmth and devotion.
The sound of gyalings (a Tibetan musical instrument), drums and cymbals made the ambience divine. The constant chanting and the prayers recited to spread compassion and goodness to all beings filled the atmosphere with a strong positive verve.
Speaking on the occasion, HH Gyalwa Karmapa also emphasised the auspiciousness of the event and talked about the benefits of the dharma – the Buddha’s teaching – in creating peace and harmony in the world. He expressed his wish that the Buddha dharma might prevail in our world, for the benefit of all beings, as well as his hopes and aspirations for world peace.
Pujas of praise to Lord Buddha and the Sixteen Arhats were accompanied by different musical instruments. The entire atmosphere was highly energetic and spiritually captivating.
Further highlights included two sessions of teaching and an empowerment by HH Gyalwa Karmapa, as well as lively spiritual debates between students of Vikrama Shila Buddhist Institute at Pokhara, Nepal, and Shri Diwakar Buddhist Institute in Kalimpong, open to the general public and also attended by His Holiness the17th Gyalwa Karmapa along with the Rinpoches, Khenpos, lamas, monks and nuns.
On the final day of the three-day festival thousands of followers of the Karma Kagyu order of Tibeten Buddhism participated in a procession for World Peace across Kalimpong town. As a special highlight and culminating point, a four-storey-high thangka of Buddha Shakyamuni was displayed on Kalimpong’s sports grounds. The hand-stitched image of Lord Buddha is 45 feet high and 30 feet wide. Offerings had been arranged in front of this representation of enlightenment, and all the devotees were given the opportunity to pay their respects to it and receive its powerful spiritual blessings.