Siddartha’s Intent India, founded by the renowned Bhutanese lama, filmmaker, and author Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, recently offered a new update on the ambitious initiative to illuminate the sacred Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya. Despite delays due to pandemic lockdowns and restrictions in India, the organization announced that the project is now ready to be completed next month.
The sacred endeavor, dubbed “Lighting the Mahabodhi,” is perhaps the most ambitious Buddhist light-offering ever. The objective is to overhaul the temple complex’s aged lighting and electrical systems to create what may be the largest and longest-lasting Buddhist light-offering in history. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche proposed the undertaking in 2015, and in 2017 received approval from the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) and the Gaya District Magistrate.
“We commenced this project in 2019 in the month of March, and it’s now been more than two years,” Prashant V., projects director for Siddhartha’s Intent India, announced on 27 October, during a global gathering to celebrate the Tibetan festival Lhabab Duchen, commemorating the Buddha’s descent from the Trayastrimsa heaven. “Of course, we had planned to finish the project last year, but due to the pandemic we have experienced something like six months of lockdown on the construction site.
“In these past two-and-a-half years, we have already installed close to 1,500 lights in some 40–50 locations in the whole Mahabodhi temple complex. We have laid over six kilometers of electrical infrastructure, and we have installed and set up a brand-new sound system. So we are really eager and excited to confirm the completion of this project by December and to ensure that this precious offering is built to remain for the long run.”
The Mahabodhi Temple, perhaps the most sacred of all pilgrimage sites for Buddhist practitioners, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site marking the place where the historical Buddha attained awakening. There are seven other sacred sites in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, where the Buddha contemplated enlightenment, including the descendent of the original Bodhi tree beneath which Shakyamuni Buddha sat.
Undertaken with funding from Siddhartha’s Intent India and with support from Khyentse Foundation and Vana Foundation, the new lighting system will ultimately be owned by the temple Committee. As well as highlighting the magnificence of the sacred temple and places of worship, the upgrades will improve the safety and comfort of Buddhist pilgrims and has been designed to be adaptable to the specific special needs of the temple and the rituals and ceremonies conducted there.
Siddhartha’s Intent is an international collective of Buddhist groups supporting Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s Buddhadharma activities by organizing teachings and retreats, distributing and archiving recorded teachings, and transcribing and translating manuscripts and practice texts. 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. Vana Foundation states that its vision “is to revive Indian wisdom in contemporary India,” with a focus on Indian wisdom, Indian farming, and Indian culture, and with an aspiration to benefit all, especially India and its youth.
“It has been a great honor for us in Siddhartha’s Intent India to have this opportunity to serve and execute this intention into action,” said Prashant. “We will be looking after the maintenance of the site for another two to three years, so we are very excited, hoping that we all can convene soon, physically, at the Bodhi tree, and experience these sacred offerings, which are born out of our teacher’s vast intention.”
Born in Bhutan in 1961, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is the son of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and was a close student of the Nyingma master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–91). He is recognized as the third incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, founder of the Khyentse lineage, and the immediate incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893–1959). In addition to Siddhartha’s Intent and Khyentse Foundation, his projects 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.
Rinpoche is the author of several books, including: What Makes You Not a Buddhist (2006), Not For Happiness (2012), and The Guru Drinks Bourbon? (2016), and has garnered renown within and outside of the global Buddhist community for the feature-length films he has written and directed: The Cup (1999), Travellers and Magicians (2004), Vara: A Blessing (2012), and Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I wait (2016).
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