Monlam is an annual event of collective aspiration for the world and for the enlightenment of all beings. Communal prayers help to overcome obstacles to peace and generate conditions for all beings to live in harmony.
Kagyu Mönlam originated in the 15th century by the Seventh Gyalwang Karmapa, Chödrak Gyatso, as a gathering for followers of the Kagyu lineage. In 1983, H.E. Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche re-established Mönlam at Bodhgaya, with about forty participants, mostly monks and lamas from the Sonada monastery. Originally this Monlam was three months long. One hundred thousand King Prayers were collected by the group and tsok was offered daily. A main intent was generosity to those in need, and to this end the participants offered food to the homeless every day.
The Mönlam continued until Rinpoche’s Parinirvana in 1989 when his heart son, Bokar Rinpoche, continued the legacy of the previous Kalu Rinpoche. H.E. Tai Situpa, Gyaltsam Rinpoche, and Jamgon Kongtrul (H.H. the Karmapa’s heart sons) were also important participants. In 2004, Bokar Rinpoche passed and Mönlam has continued under the guidance of His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, becoming increasingly non-sectarian, following the Rimé movement of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and other teachers in the 19th century, with all Tibetan Buddhist lineages represented.
In 2008 H.H. the 17th Karmapa invited H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama to join in the Monlam and all monasteries began gathering in Bodhgaya. Mönlam became a large, international gathering including prayers for world peace. North America, Canada, and Europe have been involved every year. Additional Mönlams sponsored by the various Buddhist lineages have sprung up all over the world.
In 2014, H.E. the 2nd Khyabje Kalu Rinpoche, tulku of the first Kalu Rinpoche, began Shangpa Monlam in France, continuing the tradition of his predecessor. Rinpoche has kindly bestowed the honor on KSK Buddhist Center to host the first North American Mönlam in Santa Fe.