Bodhgaya is a special place of power, in particular when it fills with the energy generated by practices and blessings.
Earlier this year, during the Kalachakra 2017, walking from the hotel to the Kalachakra grounds, a leaflet on a market stall caught my attention.
It advertised an exhibition being held at the Mahayana Hotel, on the road to the main temple, entitled “Milarepa” 1 Jan to 20 Feb 2017, with an entrance fee of 150 rupees.
An exhibition about Jetsun himself, a first of its kind.
Greeted by an image hanging over the door, Milarepa in his most famous posture, sitting at ease with a hand over his right year, the exhibition hall was simple, almost bare, as Jetsun would like.
It contained mostly large prints of photographs hanging from walls, showing caves and places where Jetsun lived, meditated and preached.
Walking along the walls towards the left, images of caves, the triangular field owned by his family, to the tower Jetsun himself built when practicing (and being beaten up) by Marpa, which is still standing. Rocks, peaks and valleys.
Those blessed by the Guru, know that his presence is very much alive and guides us towards becoming more compassionate human being to this day, yet the exhibition brought us closer to his life. Like a very special Kora, step by step, photo by photo, seeing with eyes the places that most of us have just seen in our hearts when reading about his life, songs and stories, helped us strengthen the connection.
I walked around the exhibition three times, with reverence, slowly breathing the air through my nostrils, as if breathing the very essence of Dharma.
Even more incredible treasures awaited inside, a simple inner sanctum within an circle of partitions, were the actual Mila’s relics.
Approaching them with a mixture of incredulity, hurry and utmost reverence, a bunch of artifacts sourced from the monastery which now sits at the Lapchi Cave, were on display.
In a glass box, a tiny, almost invisible bundle of coarse hairs so close that visitors could touch the glass box with their forehead and even kiss it if they wanted to. A fragment of Marpa shoe (the same shoe that kicked Jetsun someone suggest), a statue that did not burn when the monastery where it was sitting in was consumed by fire, and other not clearly labelled bits, that could have been a stone or lingam of sorts. Circle them many times, I thought.
I went as close as possible to take some photos, and finally got hold of Lama Dawa, who curates the exhibition and was glad to chat and answer questions, Lama Dawa said that pictures were collected over the years during pilgrimages, that photography nowadays gives us the opportunity to bring to the world glimpses of remotest places, and for the Dharma community nothing could be more special than seeing with their very own eyes the locations they only heard of from books and stories.
It makes them more real. Although they often depict little more than piles of stones scattered around steep valleys and with gorgeous mountain backdrops, they make us ‘see’ what otherwise may sound to many as myth.
Startled visitors mostly Kalachakra participants, gazed deeply into the photographs, looking straight at the miraculous life and teachings of the Guru.
But the relics, I asked Lama Dewa, can they possibly be real? They are real, he assured, loaned by Lapchi monastery for the exhibition, and one of its best kept secrets , as far as he knows.
Lucky Visitors who had the good karma to meet with this opportunity to be in the venerable presence, wept and were touched.
The exhibition will be out again, in Singapore and then who knows. Hopefully many will be blessed with this incredible experience of sharing some memories of Mila ever so present and guiding us today.
Discussion with Lopen Dawa Dhondup about Milarepa Exhibition in Bodhgaya.
The Karmapa Visits the Milarepa Exhibition and Friends of Kagyu Monlam Members’ Lunch at the Mahayana Hotel