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The 29th Kagyu Monlam entrance gates

4 March, 2012

The main entrance gate to this year’s Monlam stands simply and modestly, spanning the roughly paved  road from Tergar Monastery to the Monlam Pavilion. The gate consists of three square bamboo towers, covered in white, brown and orange cloth and topped by a blue roof.  Each tower is decorated with a large bunch of artificial roses at each of its four corners. The spans between the towers are hung with ‘prayer flag” style banners.  Each banner bears repetitions of the dharani mantra:


In total there are 800 repetitions of the mantra written on the gate.

Known in Tibetan as the gtsug tor dri med  ( the immaculate ushnisha), this mantra is  written over  the entrance to temples because of  its great powers of purification. This is the third year in succession that it has featured on the Kagyu Monlam entrance gate. The intention is that all who pass through the gates during the Monlam festival will receive spiritual benefit. It is said that one repetition of the mantra can purify the negative karma accumulated in 1000 lives.

There are two further gates. The smaller gate is the pink, wooden torii-style gate which usually stands at the back entrance to the Mahabodhi stupa. As this year’s Monlam has been relocated to the Monlam Pavilion, the gate now stands on the verge in front of the main gate to the Pavilion itself. 

The final gate is the central entrance to the Monlam Pavilion itself. This stone-effect brick and concrete structure has been freshly painted in dusky pink and is reminiscent of the palisade architecture at Buddhist sites. Across the top of its single span is a simple plywood cut-out greeting written in Tibetan which declares: Welcome to Kagyu Monlam.

Last year the Gyalwang Karmapa explained his reasons for using the gtsug-tor-dri-med:

The main purpose for which this gate has been made…….[is} for the inner meaning, the blessings. We have affixed important dharani mantras to the gate so that it serves two functions as people pass back and forth underneath. Its blessings purify particular obscurations, and also assist in the two accumulations [of wisdom and merit].

Report by Jo Gibson, photos taken by karma Lecho




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