[The Maha Maitreya Puja for World Peace led by the Buddha Boy should have already begun by now, after midnight down here in the US, June the 8th morning in Chitwan, Nepal and will continue until 12th of this month. On this auspicious moment, we post this article today by an author who is a professor of art history and who has deep respect for the Buddha Boy of Nepal. There was another Maha Maitreya Puja for World Peace in Patharkot, Nepal Terai this April 2013 in which the author had also taken part. She has observational remarks of the Puja in this article. - Editor.]
By Joan Stanley-Baker PhD*
|The Buddha Boy: Image provided by the author|
The Maha Maitreya Puja for World Peace has begun. Devotees from overseas and Nepal arrive by the busloads, transforming this small rural farm into a bustling festival town complete with giant tour-coaches and tiny street side vendors. Devotees from all over Nepal coming out from their busses after long journeys can buy water, drinks, mala prayer bead strings, and khata.
Different from many group-meditation events enjoying increasing popularity in the West, the Maha Maitreya World Peace Puja is a prayerful occasion, without regular sermons. Mainly manifesting love and devotion, monastics and sangha in loving Maitreya Compassion merge here to become One, and pray for World Peace. In the process, tens of thousands of devotees file past the Guru’s dais for personal blessing. Puja days vibrate with monks’ chanting, music from the double-reed oboe-like ghyaling, the round drum dhengro, cymbals, and the Tibetan long horn, lafa. It is a colourful experience with candles and butter-lamps, flying banners fluttering in the wind, and incense wafting through the breeze.
But inside the covered Puja space, beneath the blue, white, red, green and yellow canopy, the Guru’s dais upon a three-stepped platform is painted in gorgeous images of flowers and lions. The surrounding panels display thangkMaitas of the Buddha Maitreya covered in ash and standing on a lotus in bloom and, next to Maitreya, six buddha-gurus never before heard of in this world, who bring in the new attributes of the new Age. They include Mra Mra Phen Buddha, Bhaitri Guru, Pema Dhakpo Guru, Senghye and Singhi, Singhye Guru, and Dhakpo Guru. The young Guru has brought his own Pantheon.
Many devotees had come after having watched videos of the young monk sitting motionless without any sustenance for days on end, meditating in the hollow of a large pipal tree, the silent days then drawing into months, and years. The penitential meditation began in May, 2005 dedicated specifically to liberation from suffering and ignorance of all breathing beings in this world, including the planet’s flora and fauna. Some people recognized divine attributes after watching the amateur video of the sixteen-year-old monk sitting and dancing in flames that eye-witnesses had seen emanating from his chest. This took place in 2006, a few days after the BBC’s Discovery crew had left, and caused their return to interview the witnesses, and do another four days’ continuous filming of what cold become their world-famous documentary Boy with Divine Powers.
Now in Patharkot the crowds entered the covered area and performed one by one the three prostrations raising joined hands high above the head Tibetan fashion, then touching the eyes, mouth and heart offering their devotion to the Guru in the soul, eyes, speech and heart, they kneel down and prostrate themselves full length upon the make-shift tarp barely covering the newly flattened earth, rising with sand on the forehead. International devotees unused to the exercise simply kneel down in prayerful attitudes, some with legs tucked to one side instead of sitting in half or full lotus position. Everyone sat, sinking deep within to feel the heart’s Guru, and many look in the direction of Guru’s house in anticipation of the beatific arrival.’
Eventually the reed trumpets sound, interrupting the mantra-chanting broadcast. Guru is walking down from his abode up the hill, preceded by the musicians. The congregation rise, craning their necks for a glimpse. The Guru, all in white, is walking swiftly along the narrow path covered with yellow cloth. Young and old monks surround him, musicians in front, and incense carrier holding the smoking censer hanging from three chains, to wave in various directions for ritual purification.
At last! The long, long awaited moment has come. Devotees who have been camping here for days and weeks, can finally behold the actual Guru in person. He enters from the right, walking swiftly to the dais in the centre of the podium. His arms are longer than normal, recalling the standing Maitreya. His long black wavy hair now nearly reaches the elbows. His gait is light and swift, his robes flutter with the hair. Nimbly he takes the few steps up the dais and gracefully sinks to the floor in one single movement, legs folding into lotus position. The space becomes electric, emotions run the gamut from suspiciously curious, often from neighbouring villagers, to profound reverence and devotion, from Nepali and international devotees. The Guru’s radiating energies are felt with surprising force by the more sensitive, some of whom reel, a bit unsteady. The Guru’s appearance can best be described as divine, rather unworldly and seemingly androgynous. The quality of his radiating beauty is both masculine and feminine. Recalling early Gandharan sculptures of the Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru’s face is balanced and dignified, at the same time overflowing with compassion. Both male and female devotees are overwhelmed by the direct sighting of an embodiment of Love: extraordinary qualities of compassion, forgiveness and enfolding of love emanating from the seated figure. One of the more sentient devotees “sees” waves of diamonds cascading down from Guru’s dais fanning out towards the huge gathering, in alternating rows of blue and white diamonds, sparkling as they ripple through the space spreading light, peace and joy, gradually engulfing all present.
After a while, attendants adjust the microphone, and Guru launches the Puja with a few brief statements. He speaks in a gentle voice, the words coming out slowly and clearly. In a few sentences, he introduces the different categories of guru who had come to the world in the past, subtly pointing to his own this time around. There are Marga Guru, (the Guru or Guide of the Way), and Guru Marga, the Way of (all) Gurus. In times past different Marga Gurus have appeared on earth during auspicious times, each showing one Way to liberation with its own rules and methods coloured in a different hue. In time humans have become increasingly estranged from the essence of Truth. Humans have the freedom of choice between Dharma and Sin, and in these times many are moving swiftly toward darkness, without the essence of Truth. Responding to the urgency of these our times, the Guru Marga or the Way of all Gurus – has descended upon the Earth. Yet many humans thinking themselves powerful, have been throwing ridicule and obstacles his way, altogether missing the import of “the Present Guru.” It may be inferred from the Speeches (see Teachings on the right side, www.eTapasvi.com home page), that whilst previous gurus have each been showing a single Way, the present Guru (GuruMarga, the Way of all gurus) will lead all religions and Ways, unifying all sentient beings into the original One Soul that is the Cosmos. Guru does not look at his audience or use any gestures. Moreover he uses the term “humans” instead of “people”. He does not use terms of I, you, we or they, but speaks from a lofty distance where “humans” are but one species in the Cosmos.
Following the brief Opening Speech – the only time Guru’s voice is heard in the entire four days, devotees from near and far file singly before the dais, their heads bowed to receive Guru’ blessing hand, or they hold a long katha scarf above the head, for Guru to place it, with both hands, over their shoulder. Some bring their children to be blessed. Some bring water to be blessed so that it can be given to loved ones in small doses for dilution into ever-expanding Maitreya energy. Some ill or elderly are too weak to walk alone, and approach gingerly, supported by two family members or volunteers. One woman came up the dais unprepared for the force of radiant energy upon seeing Guru up close, gazed at his face and promptly dropped to the floor and fainted. Many seated devotees fix their gaze ceaselessly upon the Guru, tears streaming in gratitude and bliss. Some sit upright in meditation, eyes closed, gazing at the Guru inside.
The monks continue singing prayers to the Seven Deities that Guru had introduced to the world, accompanied by reeds, cymbals and drum working for hours on end. They finally take a break after about four hours, and music switches back to the Mantra Om A-Hung Mahen Yana Guru Pani Siddhi Hung. Although attendants and monks alternately take sustenance, Guru remains motionless on his dais, blessing each and everyone with compassion, without eating or drinking anything throughout the long day. The large throngs of devotees continue to file by (on average some 55,000 per day). The distant ones returning home on the busses right after they receive blessing, the locals going out for food, virtually everyone walks in and out of the giant tent at least twice, usually more times each day. Only Guru remains on his dais, without changing his position.
From near distance, Guru’s face appears serious, calm and detached. Coming up for direct blessing, however, one devotee looked straight up into his eyes and immediately saw them as black tunnels reaching into infinity. Another devotee became weak in the knees almost fainting when, looking up at Guru, she saw two shafts of blue and yellow-green light shoot out from his eyes piercing hers, with a love the purity and magnitude of which she’d never known existed. As if Love could be seen, she felt in that brief moment of lightning recognition, a love that is colossal, and eternal as it shot through her soul and beyond, reaching straight back, through lifetimes past, saying, “I have loved you always.” Such are the dimensions of divine love, enfolding wayward humanity through the ages, steady and unwavering.
It is deeply transformative to come to “know” divine love. It is not only infinite, it is beyond Time. The import of Guru’s Presence, the force of the eternal moment of his being among humans, is too enormous as yet for humans to comprehend. But many at the Puja have an inkling they are sharing an unprecedented experience, and entered an unknown world.
* The author is emeritus professor of art history specializing in Chinese fine arts at Tainan National University, Taiwan. She is from British Columbia, Canada.