Stupa (Chorten in Tibetan which means "the basis of offering") is an important religious monument in Tibet. This unique religious architectural form expresses significant religious symbolism and presents Buddha's physical presence. It generally consists of three parts; a whitewashed base, a whitewashed cylinder and a crowning steeple or shaft. The square base foundation, representing the Buddha's lotus throne, symbolizes earth, the state of slidity and five forces (faith, concentration, mindfulness, perseverance and wisdom.) The four stepped base may or may not have openings. Above the base is a square or hexagon four stepped pedestal which represents The Buddha's crossed legs. Seated on the base is the cylinder, representing his torso. This symbolilses water, the state of fluidity and seven essential conditions of enlightenment: concerntration, effort, equanimity, flexibility, mindfulness, joy and wisdom. Sometimes a stupa has a shield like grillwork in one face. This allows relics of high lamas, statues and other items to be put inside. Between the cylinder and the crowning steeple, three is a square box, called Harmika, which represents the Buddha's eyes. It is considered to be the residence of the gods, symbolizing the eightfold noble path. The crowning steeple, the Buddha's crown, is usually hand - made of brass and/or covered with gold leaf. It is segmented into 13 tapering rings, a parasol and a twin symbol of the Sun and the Moon. Those rings, representing fire and the thirteen steps of enlightenment, successively symbolize ten powers of the Buddha and three close contemplations. The stylized parasol, representing wind, wards off all evil. At the top of the steeple is the twin symbol of the Sun and the Moon, which represent wisdom and method respectively. A flaming jewel may be found on the top of the twin symbol, symbolizing the highest enlightenment.
Stupa or Chaitya, which represents the Buddhist Universe, is the Buddhist sanctuary, sometimes square and sometimes round, with spires or steps on the capital. A Stupa is a tower or steeple erected atop Hindu and tibetan Buddhist temples. The stupa is a symbol for the elementary organization of the universe according to Hindu cosmology. Each spire or step represents a heaven, the uppermost protion being a point which is supposed to be the highest peak of Mount Sumeru, a mythical mountain whence the Bodhichitta loses itself in sunya. It is composed of four parts (from the base, up), symbolizing the five tattwas, or elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. On the four sides of the Stupa or Chaitya the figures of four Dhyani Buddhas; Akshobhya, Ratna Sambhava, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi are placed. The place of Vairochana is in the centre. In some Stupa or Chaitya Vairochana is placed to the east along with Akshobhya.
HISTORY OF STUPA:
It is well known that stupas are older than Buddhist tradition. In prehistoric times they were just a mound, tumuli a place to bury important kings away from the village. Twenty-five hundred years ago, at the time of Shakyamuni Buddha's death, a change came about in the way stupas were regarded.
The Buddha requested that his relics be placed in a familiar stupa, but with a shift in emphasis. Instead of being just a place of honor where the bones or relics of a cremated king were placed, the stupa was to be located at four corners (i.e., a crossroads), to remind people of the awakened state of mind. So stupas evolved from mounds of dirt (In Sanskrit stup means "to heap up, pile, raise aloft, elevate"), to a king's burial tomb, to a religious monument.
Around the time of the Buddha's death, stupas began to be no longer used as a shrine to the dead, but to honor the living; to remind people far into the future that they, while living, have the seed of enlightenment. A stupa is calling to you, and you are the stupa. Its stability and reverence is based on compassion--to project the mind of the teacher as example, for the benefit of future generations.
According to Indian Mythology; The stupa is probably derived from a pre - Buddhist burial mound. The oldest known prototypes (c.700 BC) are the enormous mounds of earth at Lauriya Nandangarh in NE India, which were the burial places of royalty. The wooden masts embedded in the center of these mounds probably carried the umbrellas that served as a symbol of royalty and authority; early Buddhists appropriated not only the royal symbol of the stupa but also used the umbrella as a symbol for the Buddha. The Emperor Asoka was the first to encourage the building of stupas. The earliest mound forms that can properly be termed stupas, those at Sanchi and Bharhut, are hemispherical masses of earth raised on a base and faced with brick or stone. The structure is surrounded by a processional path, the whole being enclosed by a stone railing and topped by a balcony. Though in its development the stupa often became elaborate and complex, in its purest form the plan consisted of a circle within a square. Many of the most significant monuments of the Buddhist world are stupas, and they can be found in every country in which Buddhism has been practiced. Some examples are the Thuparama dagoba (244 BC) in Sri Lanka, Borobudur in Java (8th or 9th cent. AD), and the Mingalazedi stupa in Myanmar (AD 1274). In East Asian Buddhist architecture, the function of the stupa has been taken over by the pagoda.
STUPAS ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE:
- To inspire people to seek a peaceful and spiritual path.
- To help explain Buddhism to anyone interested.
- To be a pilgrimage place for Buddhists from around the world.
- To provide a refuge of peace and serenity for all and especially those in need.
- To be of service to as many beings as possible.
USE OF STUPA:
Stupas always house items that Buddhist hold sacred. Sutra scripts, Buddha statues, Tsa - Tsas, hair clippings, fingernails, relics and cremation ashes of saints are usually enshrined in stupas along with jewels, herbs and other objects. They are sometimes used as tombs in which mummified bodies of high lamas are buried.
Stupas may also be built in commemoration of high Lamas as a sign of merit accumulation, or for their funerals. Building a stupa and any other work done on it are considered of work of the highest purity and merit. Buddhists always show their devotion by circling the stupa clockwise. Doing this can also accumulate merit. The size and style of stupa may passes, to portable ones many Tibetan people carry with them as sacred objects and amulets.
A stupa is intended to stop you in your tracks. It is an architectural representation of the entire Buddhist path. The body, speech, and mind of an enlightened teacher is contained therein--a reminder of a timeless quality which one senses in old monuments. The Tibetan word is choten, meaning a receptacle for offerings and implying support for lay people to express devotion and connection to the Buddha mind.
STUPA WE OFFER:
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