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Last year, Kadampa Center completed its beautiful Kadampa Stupa. This year, Land of Medicine Buddha is in the process of building a new stupa modeled on the Mahabodhi Stupa in Bodhgaya. Mer Stafford, who with her family was active with Kadampa Center during their stupa building is now living in California and is involved with Land of Medicine Buddha’s project. She wrote Kadampa Center member Christopher Baranski asking him to share his technique for making juniper powder incense, which they used to fill the Kadampa Stupa. Sarah Brooks, spiritual program coordinator at Kadampa Center, got wind of the exchange and thought there might be more people who would want to know how to make their own incense powder and shared the instructions with Mandala.
When asked how he started making the incense, Christopher wrote Mandala, “We had a contest to get juniper/eastern red cedar incense for [filling] some statues and I won with the 2-1/2 gallons [I’d made]. It all took off from there. When I heard we needed six tubs, about 132 gallons for our beautiful stupa, I got busy.
“I feel this gives me a karmic connection with anyone who sees our stupa or uses a statue for a practice. Since a lot of the time I am waiting for the baking of the needles to finish or watching needles whirl in a blender, I am always thinking of more efficient ways to complete the task. I could not have done this without other center members who have helped find eastern red cedar trees, strip needles off branches, load pans, bake, grind needles into powder, and sift.”
You can see more photos of Christopher’s efforts on his Flickr page.
By Christopher Baranski
1) Find eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), also known as juniper. You can’t ever collect enough needles. In this part of the country, juniper is grown as decoration, so it’s not free like the trees, which are spread by birds. Ninety-eight percent of what I have used has come from trees.
2) Strip off just the needles by hand. If some of the smallest branches are mixed in, this is OK.
3) Place the needles in aluminum pans as shown in the photo above on a grill and bake for 1 hour. The temperature and length of time requires some experimentation. I have started placing these on brick tiles so I can turn the grill off after an hour while it continues to dry out. Also, with the pans on bricks, there is little chance the needles will burn. Try to keep temp below 400°F (204°C). My current process is 1 hour at about 300°F (149°C).
The baking can be done inside, but some people can be allergic to this, like my wife!
4) When the needles and twigs are crunchy-crispy, remove from grill, chop up a bit more by hand, and then place in a blender and grind up until it is all powder. I am currently using a 12 ounce plastic soda bottle with the bottom cut off as a safe pusher that won’t damage the blender.
5) I sift the powder with a wire mesh colander with holes a bit larger than a window screen. This removes the large twig pieces that can either be discarded or dumped back into the blenders to be ground up more.
For more information on stupas, visit FPMT Education Services’ stupa resource page.
Building a large holy object, like the 18-foot tall Kadampa Stupa now finished at Kadampa Center in North Carolina, requires a tremendous amount of work and dedication from many.
Lead volunteer David Strevel carefully documented every stage of the process of building this stupa. Please enjoy a photo gallery of some of the major milestones along the way to completion.
Learn more about FPMT Charitable Projects and all of the beneficial activities which they support. You can find further information about FPMT spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche and his beneficial activities by visiting Rinpoche’s webpage, where you will find links to Rinpoche’s schedule, new advice, recent video, photos and more.
While in Leeds, UK, in early July, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and members of Jamyang Buddhist Centre Leeds visited the stupa located in the Himalayan Garden on the Harewood House estate. Rinpoche made sure to circumambulate the stupa while visiting.
“Every day, when sentient beings see stupas and statues, this plants the seed of enlightenment. It is said that even dreaming of a stupa plants the seed of enlightenment. This is mainly due to the power of the holy object,” Lama Zopa Rinpoche instructs in “The Incredible Blessings and Benefits of Holy Objects.”
Rinpoche has offered much advice on practices concerning stupas. FPMT Education Services has created a webpage dedicated to sharing this advice on stupas, which includes “Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Advice for Circumambulation” and a translation of “Padmasambhava’s Instruction on Offerings to Stupas.”
Video recordings of Rinpoche’s teachings in Leeds, UK, are available at:
More information, photos and updates about FPMT spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche can be found on Rinpoche’s homepage. If you’d like to receive news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche via email, sign up to Lama Zopa Rinpoche News.
A Land of Calm Abiding is a 485-acre (196-hectare) wilderness ranch in Big Sur, California and is dedicated to supporting long-term solitary retreats. Director Ven. Lhundup Chonyi (Patricia DeVoe) recently reported to Mandala some of the progress the center has made since June 2013.
In less than a year, our Enlightenment Stupa was completed with the motivation that it would become “a wish-fulfilling jewel.” On June 1, 2013, with 25 people present, the stupa was consecrated and dedicated to the long life of Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Built within park-like surroundings, it is located near the entrance gate welcoming and blessing everyone who comes.
Nine months later, all eight of us who now live on the land, came together outside of the front of the main house and participated in a naga puja along with a consecration for the wonderful and completed water feature. With its bubbling sounds of water cascading down the eight steps and entering into the pool at the bottom, it creates such a pleasant and relaxing presence.
Rejoicing continues as the staff here, who were committed to setting aside two months for being in retreat mode, completed this challenge March 26, 2014. Each of us experienced this time in different ways and all three of us are unanimous that it changed our lives and perspective, affecting our minds and bodies, as well as enhancing our prayers and practices. By actually stopping and gradually moving into retreat mode regardless of what “needed to be done,” we emerged with a greater sense of meaning and confidence that we can actually serve residents on the land in a more healthy and spiritual manner.
All five retreat cabins are now occupied with meditators committed to accomplishing long retreats. Needless to say, there is a calmness that pervades throughout the land.
Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and of activities, teachings and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche visited Sarnath, India, in March 2014. Sarnath is the location where Buddha Shakyamuni first taught Dharma and is one of the four major Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
While at the deer park at Sarnath, Rinpoche made prayers at Dhamek Stupa.
In 2013, Rinpoche translated “Padmasambhava’s Instruction on Offerings to Stupas,” which details the benefits of prostrating to, circumambulating, making offerings, and offering service to stupas. The text, which Rinpoche would like to be used far and wide, is available from FPMT Education Services as a free booklet in several downloadable formats in English as well as in Italian.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an organization dedicated to preserving Mahayana Buddhism through offering the Buddha’s authentic teachings and to facilitating reflection, meditation, practice and the opportunity to actualize and directly experience the Buddha’s teachings. Sign up to receive news and updates.
Every day, Sangha at Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s residence in Aptos, CA, make three long life and 13 Mitukpa tsa-tsas as well as three small Kadampa stupas which are filled with a roll of the Four Dharmakaya Relic Mantras. These are dedicated to any person who is sick with prayers that they may immediately recover, be liberated from samsara, and may achieve enlightenment quickly. In addition, on the eighth day of the Tibetan month, three Eight Medicine Buddhas tsa-tsas are also made. On the thirtieth, one 12-inch (30-centimeter) tall Padmasambhava tsa-tsa is made.
After the tsa-tsas and stupas are made they are used in other stupas that many people circumambulate when visiting Kachoe Dechen Ling. All the stupas and tsa tsas that are made are utilized in this way, given to others to use, or they go inside larger stupas that are being built. As each tsa-tsa is an image of a buddha it is created and cared for with utmost respect at all times.
You can offer any amount to the daily holy object creation at Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s residence.
By Ven. Shravasti Dhammika
During Buddhism’s period of glory, the Indian state of Bihar was literally dotted with stupas. Some marked places where events in the Buddha’s life had occurred; others, at important monasteries or population centers, enshrined relics of the Buddha or of famous saints. While a few are remarkably well preserved, most are little more than grassy mounds, many with Hindu temples on top. Traveling through Bihar I located the remains of at least forty stupas although there could easily be two or three times more than that. Here are the stories of five of the more interesting and accessible ones.
Lauriya Nandangar: The small market town of Lauriya Nandangar in the far north of Bihar is situated on what was once the main pilgrims’ road from Pataliputra (now Patna), the capital of King Ashoka’s empire, to Lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha. Ashoka marked all the important stops on the way with large stone pillars – the one at Lauriya Nandangar is the only one that stands in its original position, still unbroken and crowned with its capital. Behind the local sugar mill, one and a half kilometers from the pillar, lie the ruins of perhaps the biggest stupa ever built in India. Rising in a series of round, square and polygonal terraces, it is now only 24 meters high, but it has a circumference measuring nearly 457 meters. A small stupa was found deep inside, next to a page of Buddhist scripture dating from the fourth century C.E. Why was Lauriya Nandangar graced by both a pillar and such an enormous stupa? As with so many Buddhist sites, all records have been lost and we are left with a mystery. …
The Stupa Fund recently offered US$2,000 for a marble stupa at IMI House, the khangtsen for FPMT Western Sangha at Sera Je Monastery.
The Benefits of Building Stupas
- Help purify their mind
- Help collect merit, which is the cause of all happiness and all success
- Help heal their body and mind through purification specifically due to the power of the stupa, meditating on and seeing the holy object
- Help to preserve Tibetan Mahayana culture
When Ven. Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche visited the site of Tse-Chen Cho-Khor Ling in Bendigo, Australia, where a giant stupa, the exact size and design of the famous Gyantse Kumbum in Tibet, will be built, he talked about how to accumulate merit through the way we approach stupas. This is an edited excerpt.
In order to accumulate merit in relation to a holy object we need the appropriate representations of the Buddha’s body, speech and mind. By prostrating and making offerings to a picture or statue of the Buddha, a representation of the Buddha’s body, we accumulate the same merit as if we were making all these actions in front of the actual Buddha himself. Likewise, by behaving with respect toward a Buddhist text, a representation of the Buddha’s speech. Stupas represent the Buddha’s mind.
Before passing into parinirvana the Buddha said, ”When I pass away you can use my relics, whatever remains of my body, and erect a stupa in a special place. Then you can treat that place, that stupa, in the same way as you would treat myself.” So, in following the tradition, you can see how great stupas were established in places such as Bodhgaya, India.
When one decides to build a stupa it’s important to know that the vastness of merit accumulated is multiplied by the number of molecules that make up that monument. Also because the motivation to build one is at the level of the Great Scope, which includes every sentient being, it’s as if you’re multiplying the number of molecules to the number of sentient beings in existence.
One should erect a stupa with a proper motivation, always considering the wellbeing of sentient beings who all undergo numerous sufferings — both environmental and individual. A stupa is built because so much merit is accumulated with respect to it that eventually it has the power to clarify and purify all that suffering.
In the King of Prayers, it says, “In every atom are buddhafields numberless as atoms, each field is filled with buddhas beyond conception, and each buddha is surrounded by myriad bodhisattvas.” So in every molecule, in every atom, you have millions of buddhas and bodhisattvas, who are physically present and whose minds are also there. …
Rising 26 meters (85 feet) above the bushlands of central Victoria, Australia, the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion has grown well past the half-way point. Project Director, Ian Green told Mandala magazine during a phone call in January, “We have another 20-21 meters (66-69 feet) to go to reach the complete
Mandala reports in the April-June 2014 print issue, “Most recently the steel framework for the two-story high bumpa was erected on top of the six-level concrete structure. The bumpa level of the stupa will contain the stupa’s collection of holy relics. It will also be the highest level that the general public will be able to visit and take in the impressive view of the area. More progress will be made between now and September 2014, when the Great Stupa hosts the CPMT meeting, which will bring FPMT representatives together from around the world. Following the week-long meeting, Lama Zopa Rinpoche will present a month-long course inside the Great Stupa, beginning on September 25 .”
In January Ian Green announced, via Twitter, “All walls of Great Stupa of Universal Compassion are now complete and we have started on many of the doors. The large holes are for windows.”
Please rejoice in this amazing progress!
Lama Zopa Rinpoche recently finished a brand new translation of a teaching on the benefits of offering to stupas, Padmasambhava’s Instruction on Offerings to Stupas. The monumental work took Rinpoche more than two months to complete in 2013. The text, which Rinpoche would like to be used far and wide, details the benefits of circumambulating and prostrating, making offerings and offering service to stupas. It begins:
King Trisong Detsen requested, ‘Hey, Great Master, what are the benefits of prostrating to, circumambulating, making offerings, offering service and so forth to the great stupa, which in nature embodies all the buddhas of the three times?’…
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In my mind, one of the beauties of Buddhism is that it offers us a practical training for our mind. It does not say, ‘Bodhicitta is fantastic because Buddha said so!’ Instead, it gives us the methods for developing such an attitude and we can then see for ourselves whether it works or not, whether it is fantastic or not.
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