The annual procession of the Cotton-Clad, those who have completed a three year Karma Kagyu retreat, takes place on the final morning of the Monlam. During the Monlam, the retreatants practice in seclusion in the heavily-curtained, Tergar Monastery shrine room each evening, until the culmination is an all-night practice which begins at 8.00pm on the sixth day. On the seventh day, the yogins emerge from the shrine room, dip their thin cotton robes into a tank of cold water in order to demonstrate their proficiency in ‘tummo’, the generation of inner heat, and process to the Monlam Pavilion.
This year, shortly after the Monlam assembly began chanting the Offering to the Gurus, the retreatants appeared. A great cauldron of cold water covered in flower petals awaited them. They drenched their white cloths in the water and then, donning them, proces to the pavilion. At the invitation (the Chendren), they entered the pavilion and took their seats on the stage. It was apparent to all from their now-dry cotton cloths that they had mastered the practice of tummo, and they inspired everyone to practice, reminding us to have confidence in the dharma, which produces genuine results.
1. Drupon Dechen Rinpoche tests the water tank and finds it appropriately cold.
2. The incense bearers help in many ways, from tossing flowers into the water tank to holding retreatants’ hats as they don the wet robes.
3. The yogins leave the Tergar shrine room.
4. The retreat master of Rumtek monastery leads the procession of yogins. He is the first to dip his robes.
6. The retreatants wear ceremonial undergarments, including the meditation belt.
7. The retreatants stay in meditation as they don the robes.
8. The robes are very cold.
10. The yogins circumambulate Tergar on their way to the pavilion.
11. Periodically, they stop to display their drying robes — testifying to their mastery of tummo.
13. Waiting for the procession
14. An aerial view
18. The crowd following the yogins after they pass — devotion, respect, aspiration
19. Entering the pavilion
20. His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche and the rest of the assembly welcomes the retreatants
21. The robes are dry