The Chronological Order of the Annual Monastic Activities
Note: the dates and months indicated are according to the Tibetan lunar calendar.
1st month of the Tibetan lunar calendar:
After completing the prearrangement on the first moon day, sacred musical instruments are blown thrice from the rooftop of the monastery on the first day at 1 a.m., which is considered as the first notice for the monks. Another round of the same call is made at 2 a.m., which is the wakeup call and similarly, again at 3 a.m., the same call is made which is the call for assembly. The nine rounds of blowing of the musical instruments are called Tashi Gutsak. In due course of time, everyone has to assemble at the vestibule in traditional attire. After that, the portrait of His Holiness the Karmapa is ceremoniously brought into the main shrine. Rinpoche is seated on the throne while the monks offer mandala (universal offering) to Rinpoche. This is followed by receiving blessings from Rinpoche and everyone needs to be seated as per the row assigned. The daily prayer begins which is followed by a slow recitation of Shomo Yarshok; the dialogue between Je Gampopa and the three Khampa yogis, extracted from the text known as Kagyu Gurtso.
Then, traditional butter tea along with dresil (boiled rice mixed with sugar, butter and dried fruits) and other eatables are served. The day comes to an end with the prayer of auspiciousness. It is customary that the monks and devotees seek blessings and greet Rinpoche on that very day.
On the 2nd and 3rd day, the main prayer flags at the courtyard are hoisted. During the first three days’ Losar, the monks are engaged in celebrating the occasion in the monastery. Then on the 4th and 5th day, they get time to celebrate Losar with the members of their family.
On the 6th, everyone has to report to their respective monastery as usual. On the 7th, the prearrangement of the following puja needs to be done. The puja continues for five days from the 8th of the month. The Tsedrub Sangwa Duepa (Practice of the Secret Gathering of Long Life) by Terton Ratna Lingpa (a treasure revealer), is held.
On the 14th, 15th and 16th, hundreds of devotees including local residents and Tibetans participate in the three-day fasting practice. The fasting practice is usually done according to Gelongma Palmo’s text composed by Khenchen Tashi Woeser.
From the 18th, the recitation of 100 million Mani mantras (Avalokiteshvara) and Ami Deva (Buddha Amitabha) mantras are done on an alternative basis every year. The whole arrangement needs to be managed by the local management committee of Sonamling Tibetan Settlement, Choglamsar, Leh-Ladakh.
On the 30th or the new moon day, a thousand Ganachakra offering is made and the puja comes to an end.
2nd month: On the 1st day, the grand ritual of Sur (both Karsur and Marsur) is performed at Shitvana Crematorium followed by a three-day puja of Phagmo Lhanga Drubgyud Sangchen Nyurlam composed by the 6th Karmapa Thongwa Dhonden.
3rd month: The ritual of Karma Lingpa’s Shitro (peaceful and wrathful deities) discovered by Terton Karma Lingpa is performed for a week and some supplementary pujas are added.
4th month: Several pujas are held this month. They are the Chod Tsok Rinchen Trengwa Puja (the Cutting-off Ritual) composed by the 4th Karmapa Rolpe Dorje, Kagyu Gurtso compiled by the 8th Karmapa which is held on the 15th full moon day and the Choechod Rabsel compiled by Situ Chokyi Jungne, which is held on the 30th.
5th month: A five-day puja of Pema Benza (Padma Vajra) composed by Yonge Migyur Dorje are performed with some additional pujas. On the 10th of the same month, Yonge Drolod Tsasum Tsokgya Puja is performed.
6th month: The sacred Kangyur will be read for three days and the summer picnic for monks begins which is then followed by Garsang Yishin Wangyal (Purification Puja). Then, three days of Medicine Buddha Puja compiled by Ragasya from Khenchen Bodhisattva Thugdam (Khenchen Bodhisattva’s Mind Essence) are carried out. A three-day puja of Lhamo Pal ki Yangkyap (the Fortune Summoning Ritual) composed by Kongtrul Yonten Gyatso will be done on an auspicious day.
7th month: Puja of Denchok Lhanga Ngontok (Chakrasamvara Five Deities) composed by 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje is held for three days. After that, comes the three days puja of Tungwa Shagpa (The Confession of Downfalls) known as Ta-Phag Yishin Norbu Chidrub (Combined Practice of Hayagriva and Vajravarahi) which is referred from the sacred scriptures of the Buddha and compiled by Ragasya.
8th month: Karma Pakshi Ladrub (Karma Pakshi’s Lama Practice) which was received by Yonge through his pure vision is done to commemorate the Parinirvana of Chime Rinpoche. The annual great Mahakala Puja begins from the 22nd followed by Vajra dance on the 28th and 29th of the month. On the 30th is the conclusion puja followed by the grand Fire Puja.
9th month: Commemoration of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa’s Parinirvana is held on the 8th followed by the Puja of Milai Ladrub (Mila’s Lama Practice) and Dhagpo Kagyu Chiyi Ladrub (the General Dhagpo Kagyu Lama Practice). Kunrig Puja (Buddha, the All-Knowing One/Vairochana) Namdrol Gochen (the Great Way of Liberation) composed by the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje according to the tradition of the great translator Chag Lotsawa is conducted for three days.
10th month: Five days of Mitrugpa Puja Ngonge Shingen (Buddha Akshobhya Practice) composed by Shamar Chokyi Wangchuk according to the tradition of Jowo Je are held this month. Then, Gyalwa Gyatsho Tharpe Lamchen Puja (Essence of the Ocean of Buddhas’ Great Path to Liberation) composed by the 6th Karmapa Thongwa Dhonden from Rechungpa’s Thugdam (Mind Essence of Rechungpa) is conducted for three days.
11th month: On the 3rd day, Dhagpo Kagyu Ladrub Puja (Dhagpo Kagyu Lama Practice) is conducted to commemorate the Parinirvana of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa. In the same month, when it coincides with the winter solstice, nine days of Tordok (Torma Offering) of Gonpo Chag Zhipa Puja (Four–Armed Mahakala) which was composed by Palchen Gala is carried out. This puja is followed by the winter Fire Puja, Garsang Yishin Wangyal.
12th month: A three-day puja of Lama Choepa (Guru Yoga) Ritual composed by the 14th Karmapa Thegchog Dorje known as Yeshe Choktsol Dreltshe Dhonden Geleg Palki Jungne is conducted followed by Drolma Yuldog (Tara the Subduer of War) composed by Kongtrul Yonten Gyatso, Gyashi Puja and the Heart Sutra Puja. Besides that, on every 10th of this month, both Ja-Tson Konchog Chidu (Gathering of Jewels) and Guru Ladrub Thinlay Dringpo (Guru Rinpoche Practice) are held on an alternative basis.
On every 29th, Gon Treng Minub Tengyal, composed by the 15th Karmapa Khakyab Dorje and Dangwa Namseg, composed by Je Dhonden and compiled by Shamar Konchog Bang are held on an alternative basis.
On every 15th full moon and new moon (namgang): Domsum Puja (Three Vows) is conducted.