The stage at the Monlam pavilion is set with exquisite attention to detail for the Muni Trisamaya Vyuha empowerment of Buddha Shakyamuni. A gold leaf pagoda with wind chimes hanging in each corner, and golden auspicious symbols embossed on green panels, contains the mandala of the deity. Large ornate carved offering bowls sit on its rim. At centre stage is a floor to ceiling appliquéd Buddha Shakyamuni thangka. Behind that to the left is a smaller golden statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. A screen with the kings of the four directions painted in the Chinese style is placed at the forefront of the stage so that preliminaries for the empowerment can be conducted in private. From the ceiling inverted silken petals drape the overhead lights like chandeliers. Garlands of marigolds hang from horizontal ceiling banners. The assembly of more than four thousand monks and nuns in golden prayer shawls stretch out like an undulating sea. Behind them sit nearly four thousand laypeople.
While the gyalins announce Sakya Trizin’s entrance, the Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche enter quietly from the side and stand waiting for HH Sakya Trizin, who is ushered in by a regal monastic procession. He sits behind the Chinese screens to prepare the initiation. The monks chant ‘Namo Shakya Munaye’. HH Karmapa then unveils the masterpiece, a majestic golden throne with golden carved Ashoka lions on black panels at the base, and wide steps as if leading to Akanishta heaven. He inspects it to see that it is set up properly.
All the masters prostrate three times to the Buddha and HH Karmapa escorts his illustrious guest to the throne. His own low throne is to the side of Sakya Trizin’s. To the Karmapa’s right are the two royal lineage sons and to his left are Jamgon Kongtrul and Gyaltsap Rinpoches. The entire assembly then rises to prostrate in perfect unison to the sound of the vajra master’s gong.