China and Neighbourhood

The Kalchakra Pooja at Bodh Gaya: Spiritualism and Nationalism

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The Kalchakra Pooja is supposed to be the most advanced form of Vajrayana practice and is one of the most complex systems in Tantric Buddhism. The present Dalai Lama, the fourteenth is the most prominent Kalchakra lineage holder alive today and has given over thirty Kalchakra initiations all over the world.


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‘Presented as ‘Kalchakra for World Peace’, they attract hundreds of thousands of devotees from all over the world. Kalchakra means Time Wheel derived from Kala in Sanskrit meaning time and Chakra meaning cycle. The Pooja revolves around the concept of time and cycles, from the cycles of the planets, to the cycles of our breath, and the practice of controlling the most subtle energies within the body on the path to enlightenment.[1] It is said that the Kalchakra Pooja was taught by the Buddha himself and was later brought to Tibet by King Suchandra. The Kalchakra Pooja conducted by the present Dalai Lama at Bodh Gaya between 31 December 2011 and 10 January 2012 was the thirty third initiation given by him. It was a mega international event attracting more than 3 lakh devotees from all over the world. The Tibetan Diaspora living in exile in India and elsewhere, and thousands of Tibetans from mainland Tibet and China (who crossed into India giving the Chinese authorities a slip) converged at Bodh Gaya. Apart from spirituality it provided them with a unique opportunity for cultural and social mobilization and most importantly to gather support and create awareness for the movement for Tibetan independence or autonomy.

The Tibetans are a Nation in exile, theirs being a colossus human tragedy.  Everywhere there were posters of poltical prisoners and independence activists inside Tibet who had self immolated themselves protesting against the Chinese occupation and photo exhibitions which are creating awareness about the ‘Free Tibet Movement.’  Press conferences were organized by the independence activists as also Rock Concerts which were used to gather support for the movement.  The Tibetans were very optimistic and hopeful that there would be a political solution which would end their tragedy in the near future. Their optimism flows from their redoubtable faith in Dalai Lama and their strong religious and moral orientation.
 At the Kalchakra, the Tibetan youth were at the forefront doing social service making valuable contributions to its management apart from mobilizing support for the ‘Free Tibet Movement.’ Various Tibetan organizations spearheading the movement had put up stalls from which they distributed pamphlets, posters, and literature associated with their movement. In the course of my interaction with the Tibetan Diaspora I met several firebrand youth leaders who were espousing the Tibetan cause. Tenzin Tsundue is a famous young prolific Tibetan writer and activist who is closely associated with the Tibetan Youth Congress (very important youth organization advocating total independence) and is also the General Secretary of ‘Friends on Tibet (India).His most famous book is Kora, which is a collection of poems and stories, which beautifully capture the pain and anguish of the Tibetans. Tsundue was imprisoned at Lhasa prison for 3 months by the Chinese authorities when he crossed into Tibet from India and was severely tortured. He gained global recognition in 2002 when he scaled 14 floors of a Mumbai hotel to greet Zhu Rongji (then the Chinese Premier) with a ‘Free Tibet’ banner and the Tibetan National Flag. He said that the present Free Tibet movement is more assertive and proactive as compared to the earlier movement which was more passive. The movement for democracy in China as well the unrest amongst the various ethnic minorities gives hope for Tibetan solution as it might lead to a change in the Chinese polity which might adopt a positive attitude for the solution of the Tibetan Question. According to Konchok Yangphal (Executive Committee member of Tibetan Youth Congress), their movement is more radical as it stands for total independence as compared to the softer line of other groups which advocate the middle path of autonomy. Konchok is of the view that the difference of opinion regarding independence or autonomy doesn’t infact weaken the movement but in fact strengthens the democratic ethos of the movement in which there should be scope for mutual adjustment and accommodation over the differences of view points.

Published in Political Reflection Magazine Vol. 4  No. 1

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