Twelve Years On: The International Tipitaka Chanting Ceremony for World Peace at Bodh Gaya
Twelve years have passed since the International Tipitaka Chanting Ceremony (ITCC) was first held at Bodh Gaya, India. The sacred Bodhi tree under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment is located just behind the Maha Bodhi Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The chanting ceremony takes place under this tree every year from 2–12 December. Consecutive sections from the Pali Canon are chanted each time, with the objective of eventually reciting the entire canon under the tree.
In 2009, during my pilgrimage to India with a Bangladeshi Buddhist family, I was fortunate enough to attend the 5th ITCC. This occasion, according to the organizer, attracted the largest gathering of Theravada participants since the ITCC was launched in 2006. Along with the governor of Bihar and Thailand's ambassador to India, the inauguration ceremony was attended by the supreme patriarchs (sangharaja) of Bangladesh and Cambodia, and senior monks from the sangha councils of India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.
It was truly inspiring to see the all the participants coming together to chant under the sacred Bodhi tree. I still remember sitting with the Bangladeshi sangha only meters away from the tree. Listening to the soft chanting and the rhythm of the voices, I felt a surge of excitement as I saw beautiful Bodhi leaves blowing gently in the breeze above us. It astonished me that a number of participants meditated all night inside the temple and in the park compound, which is located on the left side of the entrance to the main temple.
This year the ceremony was attended by thousands of monks and devotees from nearly 15 countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Thailand. The ceremony was marked by a preceding conference called “Revitalizing the Buddhadharma in the Land of the Buddha,” which was the first Dharma-related conference organised by the ITC ceremony’s sponsor, the Light of Buddhadharma Foundation International (LBDFI), a California-based charity organization.
The first chanting ceremony was held in 2006 (which corresponded with the 2,550th anniversary of the Buddha's life). Bhante Satyananda, a monastic participant, said, “We want that devotees not only from India, but also from across the world to come here to chant prayers. From 250 devotees taking part in 2006, it has now reached up to 25,000.” (Business Standard)
Held on 1 December, the conference explored practical steps to improve opportunities for the training of Buddhist monks and novices. During the event, over 300 Indian monks recited the Patimokkha, the basic code of monastic discipline consisting of 227 rules for fully ordained monks. A special talk entitled “Patimokkha as a way to preserve the Sasana” was given by Ven. Uparatana, who lives in Sri Lanka and the US.
On 2 December, the governor of Bihar, Ram Nath Kovind, formally inaugurated the opening ceremony at a specially erected tent on the Kalachakra grounds. “I am happy to welcome the representatives from Southeast Asia to this holy place. We are honoured as you choose to return to return to our country again and again. I believe your visit would be productive and fruitful,” he said to the assembled guests. (India Blooms News Service)
The colorful opening ceremony was followed by a procession to the sacred Bodhi tree with the attendees, who were clothed in traditional attire. Under the tree the ceremony began in earnest, with participants chanting the Tipitaka. “The messages of Lord Buddha in the Tripitakas are mentioned in the Sutra Vinaya Abhidhamma. [sic] These prayers and chantings [sic] are being held for the world peace as in the Sutra Pitaka, for peace, progress, especially for India’s peace and progress,” said a participant, Ven. Kalyan Priya. (Business Standard)
On 13 December, the coordinators of International Tipitaka Chanting Council organized a 13-km walk along Jethian, a Buddhist site in Gaya district, to Venuban at Rajgir in Nalanda district. The path is believed to be one of the main routes taken by the Buddha while traveling by foot in various parts of India. Thousands of monks and devotees from across the globe took part in the walk.
“In bringing the international sanghas of monks and lay followers together in this way, the foundation has been active in supporting the Buddhist culture of India, and in demonstrating the vitality and relevance of this ancient religion in the modern world,” said Wangmo Dixey, director of LBDFI. “We feel very inspired by the growing interest in the role of India as the homeland of the teachings of the Buddha, and the positive economic, social and political consequences that will follow a full-scale revival of Buddhism in the land of its origin. . . . To see the great country of India playing a role in its development will be a great benefit, both for the region and the entire world.” (ITCC)
The LBDFI also hosts the Tipitaka chanting ceremony at Deekshabhoomi Temple in the city of Nagpur, New Delhi, Sankassa, an ancient city in Uttar Pradesh, Sri Lanka, and the US. In the US, the first ITCC was held in downtown Berkely from 9–11 October 2014. This year the Berkeley-based LBDFI (in association with its sister organizations Dharma College, the Nyingma Institue, and the Mangalam Centers) hosted the 3rd ITCC at Mangalam Center in Berkeley from 29 September–1 October.
Thousands of monks attend 10-day global Buddhist ritual in Bodh Gaya (Business Standard)
International Tripitaka Puja by Buddhists begins at Bodh Gaya (India Blooms News Service)
12th International Tripitaka begins in Bodhgaya (Travel News India)
Light Of Buddhadharma Foundation International (ITCC)
3rd International Tipitaka Chanting Ceremony Berkeley (ITCC)
Mission of The Council (ITCC)