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Lighting the Mahabodhi


By  Shyamal Sinha
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche was born in eastern Bhutan in 1961 at a place called Khenpajong. At the age of seven he was recognized, by Sakya Trizin, as the third incarnation  of the founder of Khyentse lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Khyentse Foundation, founded by the renowned Bhutanese lama, filmmaker, and writer Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, has provided a one-year progress update on its ambitious project to illuminate the sacred Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, India, with a state-of-the-art lighting system. The foundation has reported that full funding for the aspirational initiative has been achieved, voicing expectations that the project can be  completed on schedule and within budget, with a grand Light Offering Ceremony planned for October.

“In the past year we have offered to Buddhism’s most sacred shrine 3,000 meters of double-walled corrugated pipes, 400 energy-efficient LED lights, 100 meters of LED strip lights, 60 poles for post-top lights, 125 manholes and covers, and 16,000 meters of electrical cables and fire-retardant wires, for which we dug 2,500 meters of trenches,” the Khyentse Foundation announced. “All this and very much more adds up to a high-quality, state-of-the-art, ecologically sound new electrical and lighting system for the site where the Buddha attained enlightenment.” (Khyentse Foundation)

The project, dubbed “Lighting the Mahabodhi,” and undertaken with funding offered by Siddhartha’s Intent India with support from Khyentse Foundation and Vana Foundation, is perhaps the most ambitious Buddhist light-offering ever. The objective of the initiative is to overhaul the temple complex’s aged lighting and electrical systems to create what might be the largest and longest-lasting Buddhist light-offering in history. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche proposed the initiative in 2015, and in 2017 received approval from the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee and the Gaya District Magistrate. The project was officially launched on 26 March last year.*

The Mahabodhi Temple, one of the most sacred of all pilgrimage sites for Buddhist practitioners, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site marking the place where the historical Buddha is said to have attained awakening. There are seven other sacred sites in Bodh Gaya, including the descendent of the original Bodhi tree beneath which the Buddha meditated.

Despite delays to the work at the temple complex due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the foundation expressed confidence about completing the project within schedule.

“If everything goes well, a grand Light Offering Ceremony is planned for October in which we will offer the entire project, complete with brand new, world-class electrical infrastructure and 600 new lights illuminating every part of the temple complex, to the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee, which runs the temple,” Khyentse Foundation stated. “We aspire that that the lights will symbolize a new way forward for the world—peaceful, harmonious, prosperous, and at one with nature.” (Khyentse Foundation)

Founded in 1986, Siddhartha’s Intent is an international collective of Buddhist groups  supporting Rinpoche’s Buddhadharma activities by organizing teachings and retreats, distributing and archiving recorded teachings, transcribing, editing, and translating manuscripts and practice texts, with a global community committed to continual study and practice. Khyentse Foundation was established by Rinpoche in 2001 with the aim of promoting the Buddha’s teaching and supporting all traditions of Buddhist study and practice. The foundation’s activities include major text preservation and translation projects, support for monastic colleges in Asia, a worldwide scholarship and awards program, the development of Buddhist studies at major universities, training and development for Buddhist teachers, and developing new modes of Dharma-inspired education for children.

“In this dark and bleak time, I want to thank everyone who has given time, money, ideas, rejoicing, and well-wishes to this Mahabodhi lighting project, which is very well under way and will come to fruition soon,” Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said in April. “I have not the slightest doubt that we will soon celebrate overcoming this present darkness by coming together in the very near future under the Bodhi tree where the four mighty ones realized the truth, where 996 more will realize the truth, and where we—those who are connected to this tree—will also realize the truth above this very vajrasana.” (Khyentse Foundation)

Born in Bhutan and now largely based in Himachal Pradesh, India, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche gives teachings all over the world. He is the son of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and was a close student of the Nyingma master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–91). Rinpoche is recognized as the third incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–92), founder of the Khyentse lineage, and the immediate incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893–1959). Rinpoche’s projects also include 84000, a non-profit global initiative to translate the words of the Buddha and make them available to all; Lotus Outreach, which directs a wide range of projects to help refugees; and more recently The Lhomon Society, which promotes sustainable development in Bhutan through education.

“To the most venerable Triple Gem, we take refuge and offer our most precious and beloved possession—our mind that always illuminates,” said Rinpoche. “We offer too all that shines and illumines—from the mighty Sun and Moon to the smallest dust particle. And thus, we offer here also our fabricated lights to illumine the sacred Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya.” (Khyentse Foundation)

In 2001 Khyentse Foundation was founded by Dzongsar Khyentse. It is a non-profit organization with the stated goal “to act as a system of patronage for institutions and individuals engaged in the practice and study of Buddha’s wisdom and compassion.