1st day to 7th day of the 1st Tibetan Month: ( New Year Holiday )
Tibetans consider the New Year an auspicious day. A few days before the New Year, monks whitewash their houses and decorate their homes and altars. They wear new robes and celebrate the first day of New Year with prayers and a puja. The monastery canteen prepares special meals, and the monks enjoy seven days of holiday.
8th day of the 1st Tibetan Month: Great Prayer Festival (Monlam Chenmo)
The Great Prayer Festival came into being when Lord Buddha reached the age of 58. At that time, there were two hundred thousands fully ordained monks residing at a place called Betubhanam (Tib: Woemetsel). Buddha went to a place called Veshali (Tib: Yangpachen) and eventually arrived in a place called Shabati (Tib:Nyenyoe). According to Vinaya text, Lord Buddha performed miracle deeds only
on the eight day; but according to Dharma Muko Sutra, Lord Buddha performed the miracle deeds on the first day of the 1st Tibetan Month. On each of those days he performed a perfect deed: some of his followers developed Bodhichitta; some reached Arya ground; some attained the four Fruits; and some accumulated sufficient merit to take rebirth in the god and human realms. This affected immeasurable beings in positive way. Therefore the king, ministers, patrons and faithful introduced the tradition of offering on the occassion of the Great Prayer Festival. The tradition eventually arrived in Tibet, and Tibetan leaders, masters and people made rich offerings for this occasion.
There is a prophesy in the King’s Testament:”Then, a Bhikshu bodhisattva who made rich offerings, take rebirth in the east. He practice Tantra and become a great Yogi. The great holy being [Tsongkhapa] also known as firm in essence, change the face [of Sakaymuni in the form of Enjoyment Body] and engage in offering. Those who make rich offerings to him, will be spiritual being of Arya. He is none other than Lord Tsonkghapa.”
Lord Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) restored the Ladhen temple and its holy objects. At the age of 53 he adorned Jowo and Shakyamuni etc, with high-quality crowns, cloths and ritual substances. From the first to the fifteenth day he made elaborated offerings to the holy objects and assembled monks, and gave alms to the poor people. A number of people were led to the paths of liberation and enlightenment.
In the year 1409 AD, Lord Tsongkhapa established the Great Prayer Festival in accordance with the one in India. At that time, he had a pure and noble dream: a number of people appear from the vicinity of Lhasa. They ascended into the sky without hindrance. When asked, they said they were proceeding to the Brahma world because they made offerings to Jowo.
At one point a prophecy predicted that a statue of Shakyamuni would leave for the Naga Land. To extend the time before the statue would leave, Lord Tsongkhapa transformed the face of the statue in the form of Emanation Body (Nirmānakāya) into that of the Enjoyment Body (Sambhogakāya) with golden crown. Having made offerings before thousands of monks, Lord Tsonkghapa dedicated the prayer towards the flourishing of Dharma and the happiness of all living beings. The 4th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Gyaltsen, led the Festival in Lhasa for six years after 1613. The scholastic Geshes from three monasteries during this time took part in debate sessions, gathering thousands of monks. In a morning debate session, the Gaden Tripa (head of Gelug Tradition) gave teachings mainly related to Deeds of Lord Buddha. Geshe Lharampas are awarded their rank based on their expertise on the five main texts. The debate in the evening is on Valid Cognition, the Vinaya and the Treasure of Abidharma. These days, on the first day of Great Prayer Festival, the disciplinarian reads the monastic code of conduct and explains the rules of the Festival. Monks offer six pujas a day, reciting the prayers with melodies. The Festival is to remember the kindness of Lord Buddha and Lord Tsongkhapa, as well as to plant seed of happiness in minds of all living beings. Many devotees patronize the event to accumulate merit.
15th day of the 1st Tibetan Month: ( Choe-nga Choepa)
This day is a special occasion; and it is called Miracle Festival. This celebrates one of the four great deeds of Lord Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelug Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. On this day, devotees gather in the Assembly Hall to see the five offerings in the form of colorful, adorned ritual cakes made of butter.
In front of the offering, lay people perform Tibetan round-dancing as an offering, and other devotees make other offerings and pay their respects.
17th day of the 1st Tibetan Month: (Invitation of Maitreya )
When the Buddhism founded by Lord Buddha comes to end, Maitreya Buddha will appear in the world to found a new form of Buddhism. As the auspicious sign for Maitreya’s Buddhism to appear swiftly, Lord Tsongkhapa established a festival of inviting Maitreya Buddha. As part of this invitation, the monastery puts the statue of Maitreya on public display.
The statue is placed on a throne which is balanced a top two long poles. Four monks lift the poles to their shoulders and carry the statue through the monastery premises. Monks in two lines carry aloft spiritual umbrellas and substances, walking behind the statue. On the occasion, monks and devotees offer ceremonial scarves (or khatas) and pray to meet Maitreya’s teachings in the future. And it is the end of the Great Prayer Festival.
29th day to 30th day of 1st Tibetan Month
On the day the monk who is conferred Tsokram Geshe, take part in graduation ceremony.
11th day and 12th day of the 3rd Tibetan month
The monks who are conferred on Lingsel Geshe conduct Geshe Ceremony in the monastery.
16th day of 3rd Tibetan Month
Annual Debate Examination
4th day of 5th Tibetan Month
Parinirvana of Khedrup Tenpa Dargye, the author of our monastic texts
15th day of 5th Tibetan Month: (Zamling Chisang Day)
On this day monks perform the puja of Kangso of Dorje Shugden, Achema and so on. Dorje Shugden is the Dharma protector of the Gaden lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
20th and 23rd of 5th Tibetan Month
Monks who are conferred on Rigram Geshe are celebrating Geshe in the monastery.
16th day of 6th Tibetan Month
During Summer Retreat, which lasts approximately two months, both Bhikshu (fully ordained monks) and novice monks make pledges to an appointed master to observe the rule of Yarne (or Summer Retreat). One rule is to abandon any harming to animals, including ants. Another is to refrain from plant cutting. One-foot long sticks are distributed to each monk, and these sticks are collected, to count the number of Bhikshu and novice monks who made pledges to the Summer Retreat. During the course of the retreat, no monk can go outside the boundary of approximately one kilometer. To travel beyond one kilometer requires permission from the retreat master. Summer Retreat lasts until the end of the Tibetan seventh month. The next day is the week long holiday called Gyayel.
8th of 7th Tibetan Month: (Summer Oral Exam)
The monastic university has 14 debating classes, and each class takes the oral exam on the five main texts. The individual who memorizes the complete text called The Essence Teaching of Interpretable Words, which has 114 folios,receives respect and acclaim; and he is given a cup of tea and a cushion during the exam. And young monks are examined, not on these texts, but on the daily prayers.(Summer Oral Exam)
25th to 28th of 7th Tibetan Month: (Rigchung Degree Ceremony)
The monastery confers the Rigchûng degree, based on marks obtained over a three-year period of examination on the text Perfection of Wisdom. The grades are based on eight treatise topics in the text: 1) Path of Preparation, 2) Triple Refuges, 3) Thought of Enlightenment, 4) Dharmachakra, 5) The True End, 6) Sutra and Shastra (Treatise), and 7) Exposition on Maitreya.
In continuation of the laudable tradition, those students who attained the pinnacle of the text through diligent hearing, contemplation and meditation enjoy the spiritual fruit. Two Rigchung ceremonies are conducted each day of this ceremonial period, one in the morning and other by noon. Based on a subject he has been given, the candidates composes thesis. The respondent and questioner adorned in full monk robes and yellow hats,then debate. The respondent recites his thesis, and after that the questioner begins to debate. The questioner participates in elaborate disputation by employing reason and citations of the highest standard. And the hour-long debate(s) take place in Assembly Hall before a gathering of monks. There is a saying that those who accomplished Rigchung ceremony are entitled for seats in Tushita – the heavenly abode of Lord Maitreya.
1st day to 7th day of the 8th Tibetan Month: (Gyayel Holiday)
The Summer Retreat comes to an end, and Gyayel, a week-long holiday, begins. Many students and philosophy masters engage in retreat during this time. And a number of students spend their time reading the autobiographies of great masters, along with spiritual chornicles.
11th day of the 8th Tibetan Month: (The Medicine Buddha Festival)
The month-long Medicine Buddha Festival is one of the most important festivals held in Serpom Monastery. Medicine Buddha is the Buddha of healing and medicine. As a Bodhisattva, Medicine Buddha, accompanied by his two attendants Suryaprabha and Candraprabha. made 12 remarkable vows to heal and protect people.
During the Festival, hundreds of monks perform pujas three times a day for a week for the wellbeing and prosperity of all living beings. The prayers of Medicine Buddha (Tib:Sangye Menla) are very powerful for healing physical illness and purifying negativities. The practice also develops healing powers for both oneself and others. As the Festival is an object of accumulating merit and purifying negativities for all, the public is welcome to take part to sponsor Medicine Buddha prayers.
20th to 21st of 9th Tibetan Month: ( Lingse Geshe Ceremony)
22 day of 9th Tibetan Month: ( Lhabab Düchen )
Lhabab Düchen, is one of the four important events of Lord Buddha. It is the day when Lord Buddha descended to earth from Tushita. His purpose to come to the world is to liberate living beings from Samsara. On the day monks engage in virtuous activities and prayers.
8th day of the 11th Tibetan Month: ( Winter Oral Exam)
20th to 23rd of 11th Tibetan Month:
Lharampa Geshe Ceremony. Monk students who studied the five main texts and who passed the four years exams for Geshe Lharampa are conferred on Lharam Geshe.
25th of 11th Tibetan Month: ( Maitreya Buddha Offering Festival.)
The Prayer Festival known as Maitreya’s Great Puja is held for a week. Khedrup Rinpoche is a emanation of Maitreya, the fifth Buddha, whose texts we study in the monastery. The monastery celebrates the Festival largely to appreciate and recall the kindness of Khedrup Rinpoche. According to a scripture, Maitreya prayed: “Those who engage in offering – when I first develop Bodhichitta – will be the principal disciples of my teachings the day I attain enlightenment in the future.”
Placing his right hand on their heads, Maitreya also predicted that those who take rebirth as his disciples during the flourishing of his teaching would attain Bodhichitta, relish Mahayana Buddhism and attain Buddhahood quickly. The Festival is thus intended to causes Buddhism to flourish and to develops happiness in the minds of living beings, including the patrons of our monastery. During the Festival, eight different prayers with uncommon melodies are recited, starting at 2 AM and ending at 10 PM. And anyone can sponsor a puja on this sacred occasion.
25th day of 12th Tibetan Month: (Gunsol)
On this day monks perform the puja of Kangso of Dharmapala Dorje Shugden, Achema and so on. Dorje Shugden is the Dharma protector of the Gaden Nyengyu lineage of Buddhism.