China / Society

Panchen Lama's guru offers grand Buddhist ritual

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-06-03 01:22

XIAHE, Gansu - Thousands of pilgrims gathered Saturday on a grassland near a monastery town in northwest China to attend a four-day Buddhist ritual, known as Kalachakra, offered by the 11th Panchen Lama's guru, senior Tibetan monk Jamyang Gaytso.

"We expect more than 100,000 Tibetan Buddhism devotees to turn out during the ritual," said a spokesman of Xiahe county, Gansu province, home to Labrang Monastery -- one of the six major Gelugpa monasteries in China. "Not just Gansu, people from neighboring Qinghai and Sichuan provinces are also coming."

Kalachakra, which means the wheel of time, is a key ritual of the Gelugpa sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. The ritual, if offered by senior monks, often draws a huge crowd.

Amid rain, the 83-year-old guru gave Buddhist teachings in Tibetan language for hours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the first day. He sat at a center stage surrounded by circles of crimson-robed Tibetan monks and devotees who listened, meditated, and prayed. Some used mobile phones, cameras, and recorders to record the teachings.

Jamyang Gyatso, a native of Xiahe, entered Labrang Monastery at the age of eight. He earned the Gesi title, bestowed only to masters of Tibetan Buddhism, and was chosen in 1998 to guide the Buddhist studies of the 11th Panchen Lama. The guru offered Kalachakra initiation to the Panchen Lama, then 12 years old, at Zhaxi Lhunbo Monastery in Tibet in 2002.

Words of the Saturday's ritual has been circulating on the Internet for a week, as many Tibetan scholars and religious leaders relayed the news on their Sina Weibo microblogging accounts.

"It is an opportunity that can not be missed. Best regards to my guru," said Jompo Rinpoche, a senior monk in Xigaze, Tibet.

"It is a blessing to attend the ritual," said Lobecheri, a monk who came to Xiahe with a dozen monastery fellows from Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai. "If I missed the Kalachakra, I would be very sad."

As pilgrims came, tents dotted a 10-km stretch of the grassland, typical for the Tibetan nomads, though some set up their tents on flat-bed trucks to avoid the rain-soaked ground. "My family will sleep on the truck tonight. No problem for us. We feel honored to be here already," said Namgachi, a young herder.

"The government stands ready to provide help for pilgrims coming to temporarily live on the grassland," said Wang Yan, deputy head of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture government which administrates Xiahe.

Local officials say they have set up medical care booths, deployed seven trucks carrying clean drinking water, and installed about 30 pre-fab toilets on the grassland. More than a hundred traffic police are also mobilized as more and more pilgrims are arriving by car.

"We are more experienced, because a number of key religious activities are held here every year," said Tserangji, deputy head of Xiahe county government. "Large religious gatherings with more than 10,000 turn-out were held as usual this year and all went on well."

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