Non-Buddhists too attend Kalchakra Puja

Non-Buddhists  too attend  Kalchakra Puja

Caren Chawa, a devout Muslim from Lebanon in West Asia, travelled more than 5,000 km to visit Bodh Gaya in Bihar and attend the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama-led Kalchakra Puja.

The 30-year-old architect from battle-scarred Beirut argued that listening to the spiritual discourse of the Dalai Lama helped satiate her quest for knowledge and peace. ”I experience a strange kind of relaxation at Bodh Gaya,” she said. Chawa was one of the lakhs of pilgrims who had descended on Bodh Gaya from across the globe.

According to the district administration, around two lakh people from over 80 countries travelled to this pilgrim town in January  to attend the 12-day Buddhist festival Kalchakra Puja, which concluded on January 14. Of the two lakh devotees, 23,000 were monks, lamas and nuns. “Around 9,000 monks and other devotees were from Bhutan and Nepal alone,” said Karma Gelek, spokesperson of the Tibetans in India and chairman of the organising committee.

Devotees like Chawa proved that you don’t have to convert to Buddhism to be part of the Kalchakra Puja. “I am a devout Muslim, who offers namaz five times a day and also read aayats (verses) of Quran everyday,” said the Beirut-based architect. She added:  “I don’t have any plan to convert to Buddhism. I am a staunch believer in Islam and Prophet Mohammad who has given us Quran. My hunger for knowledge and love for peace brought me to Bodh Gaya.,” she said.

But then Chawa was not the only devout from a different religion. Hollywood yesteryears superstar Richard Gere was there with his girl-friend. A great admirer of the Dalai Lama, Gere termed the 14th Dalai Lama as “Bhagwan” and those from Tibetans as his brothers and sisters.

Expressing his whole-hearted sympathy with the Tibetans, Richard Gere said, “Despite the restrictions and pressure tactics put up by the Chinese government, most of my brethren have managed to come to Bodh Gaya. I am pleasantly surprised at the doughty spirit of the Tibetans who challenged the Chinese government and made it a point to visit here despite the hardships they would face once they return to their home land. May His Holiness give them enough strength and courage to cope with the situation ahead.”

Showering encomiums on the Dalai Lama, Gere said he was lucky to be in Bodh Gaya to listen to His Holiness during the spiritual initiations and preaching. “The wonderful experience at Kalchakra Puja is beyond explanation. I am overwhelmed as I find myself a bit improved in terms of learning compassion, love and kindness. His Holiness not only taught us love, compassion, commitment and virtues but urged his disciples to imbibe the teachings of Lord Buddha, which, in turn, can change the world and establish a peaceful society,” he said. The Pretty Woman’sactor, while addressing Tibetans, argued that it was high time to recognise the Tibetans and Tibet.

This was followed by an exhibition organised by the Tibetans which depicted the agonies, forced exile of the Dalai Lama and his followers, picture of monks and nuns being disrobed by Chinese troops, besides monastries being overtaken. “The exhibition was crafted to draw the attention of around three lakh Buddhists here about the pain and trauma of the Tibetans in exile,” said Sherab Tse Dor, the Information Secretary of the “Tibetan People’s Movement for Middle Path”, an organisation trying to garner support worldwide to realise the dream of Tibetan Independence.

“Kalchakra Puja brings together people from 80 countries and provides us the platform to share our anguish and pain with the world and unite it with our cause. Over 80,000 pilgrims, mostly from Europe and the United States, have signed a petition this year and the campaign is spreading,” Dor added.

The Dalai Lama, who concluded the 34th Kalchakra puja, worshipped the Kalchakra Mandala and offered prayers to the deities. Addressing his followers, the Dalai Lama urged them to shun the evil within and exert spiritual efforts to reach perfection to attain Bodhisattva, the ultimate truth of life.

When the Dalai Lama was apprised of the Chinese devotees, who defied the diktat of their government to be present there via different countries to avoid official wrath, the spiritual leader said: “One who steps out in pursuit of truth has to face many a challenge in the world. We Buddhist monks have faced lot of troubles in our initial days. Later the Indian government and the world community extended their helping hands.”

Laying stress on the principles of karma, the Dalai Lama said: “There should be mutual relation between thought and action. So think twice before you act, as your actions would decide your future and ultimately your future life – the life after death.” The rituals came to an end on the 12th day of the Kalchakra Puja – the first nine days being dedicated to the Mandala creation and its worship. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar attended the closing ceremony.

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