The First Shangpa Kagyu Monlam in North America

The First Shangpa Kagyu Monlam in North America


Lama Pat Berube reports on this traditional aspiration prayer festival, held August 1-4 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

I arrived to a warm and sunny Santa Fe and after a brief afternoon rain, the most delightful—almost spicy—desert aroma permeating the air. Many years ago, I lived in New Mexico, and with that wonderful aroma, I relaxed with fond memories of that magical high desert country.

In 1986, the First Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche consecrated the Santa Fe stupa. Within weeks of his arrival, I decided to visit the stupa. The artist, Cynthia Moku, was busy painting yidams on the inside walls with a quality one finds only on the most exquisite thangkas. I was greeted by the resident Lama, Dorje. The ease and quality of his presence left me speechless with a lingering hint of the potential of this path, and so it was a delight for me to return to Santa Fe to attend the first Shangpa Kagyu Monlam in America.

Tai Situ Rinpoche said, “Monlam is aspiration: aspiration of a Bodhisattva to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.” At the Monlam, we recited aspiration prayers to promote harmony and joy for the benefit of all living beings. We are bombarded daily by stories of so much suffering and disharmony in the world. Aspiration prayers are a living blessing that helps to turn the minds of all sentient beings toward peace and harmony.

The prayers we recited every day come from Buddha Shakyamuni and all the great enlightened masters and Bodhisattvas of the past. We are following them by repeating the words of these prayers that are filled with their pure motivation and intention.

In his opening remarks, Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche urged us to firmly establish the mindset of pure motivation and intention before we recited aspiration prayers. Pure motivation requires us to put aside our self concern and work solely for the benefit of others. As in all endeavors, without a foundation of stable intention, we will easily be pulled into discursive emotions and leave our aspirations unfulfilled. Our intention and pure motivation is most important.

Throughout the next four days, our aspiration prayers charged the atmosphere. Joyful affection and good will prevailed. The message of the Monlam is one of loving kindness, compassion and world peace, making this first Shangpa Kagyu Monlam in America indeed auspicious.