- News / Media
- Mandala Magazine
- FPMT News
- Important Announcements
- Lama Zopa Rinpoche News
- RSS Feeds
- Social Media
- Videos, Photos, & Publications
- Education News
- Prayers & Practice Materials
- Mantras and Sutras
- Death and Dying
- Teachings and Advice
- Holy Objects
- FPMT Service Seminars
- Offer Your Support
- Buddhism FAQ
- Spiritual Guides
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama
- Lama Thubten Yeshe
- Lama Zopa Rinpoche
- Rinpoche’s Teachers
- Resident Teachers
- Touring Lamas
- Shugden/Dolgyal Information
- Make a Donation
- Charitable Projects
- News about Projects
- Other Projects within FPMT
- International Office Activities
- Give Where Most Needed
- About FPMT
- Join Friends of FPMT
- Osel Hita
- International Office
- Regional & National Offices
- Statements of Appreciation
- Volunteer & Jobs
- Annual Review
Reproduced with permission from Tashi Delek May/Jun 2015
In the courtyard of a family home in central Singapore now stands a gleaming stupa of the long-life deity Namgyälma. The golden 1.6-meter [5.2-foot] tall stupa is surrounded by eight smaller white Enlightenment stupas. This unique collection of holy objects belongs to Tara Melwani, Amitabha Buddhist Centre (ABC) member and former regional coordinator for FPMT centers in Southeast Asia. The Namgyälma stupa has come into being through advice that Tara received from Lama Zopa Rinpoche. A stupa, which represents the holy mind of the Buddha, holds inconceivable benefits. That a large-sized stupa has emerged in a private courtyard is a great blessing for its residents as well as the community. What does it take to create a stupa of this scale from scratch in one’s own home? Tara shares her story with us:
A few years ago, our precious holy guru was in the living room of my home. He started talking about the benefits of building a stupa. He spoke at length, then walked to the courtyard, pointed, and said it would be very beneficial to invite a Namgyälma stupa there. I sincerely thought Rinpoche was joking! In my deluded mind, only Dharma centres build stupas, not homeowners!
About a year later, Ven. Roger, Rinpoche’s attendant and CEO of FPMT Inc., wrote to me to say that Rinpoche found it strange that I hadn’t written to him to share any updates regarding the stupa. My heart stopped. I thought: “This is serious.” In a flurry, I apologized profusely to Rinpoche via Ven. Roger and promised to get on it immediately. Ven. Roger suggested I contact Garrey Foulkes, manager of the Garden of Enlightenment at Chenrezig Institute, Australia. Garrey was very kind and extremely understanding of the daunting task ahead and assured me that he would look after the project for me. Garrey came up with the drawings for the site, the size of the base pedestal and the size of the stupa.
I was worried how my mother would react to Rinpoche’s advice about inviting a stupa home. After all, she is Hindu and I live in her house. To my immense relief and gratitude, she replied that if Lama Zopa Rinpoche thinks it’s beneficial, then go ahead!
Simultaneously, I turned to Hup Cheng [ABC’s president] for advice on where to order the stupa. He suggested I see Khen Rinpoche Geshe Chonyi personally and seek his advice. Khen Rinpoche was very kind and contacted Ven. Tenpa Choden, Kopan Monastery’s manager, and placed the order through Ven. Tenpa Choden based on Garrey’s measurements. The stupa order was in a queue and took over a year to build and complete.
From time to time I would receive e-mails from Ven. Tenpa Choden asking what materials I would like the stupa to be built of. I replied: “If Lama Zopa Rinpoche were ordering the stupa, what material would he like?”
He asked me too, how many precious stones would I like on the stupa? I replied: “As many as Lama Zopa Rinpoche would like!”
He also asked, how would I like the stupa finished? I asked him: “If it were Lama Zopa Rinpoche, how would he like it finished?” He replied, fully plated gold. So I replied: “Let’s follow what Lama Zopa Rinpoche would like.” That’s how my decisions were made!
The eight smaller stupas and auspicious signs around the pedestal came from Garrey’s workshop at the Garden of Enlightenment. The crates of stupas, rolls of mantras and auspicious signs from Nepal and Australia arrived during October and November 2014.
The courtyard we have is quite deep to step into from the corridor. My contractor suggested we raise the ground by over a foot to make stepping into the courtyard to circumambulate easy from any point. I showed Lama Zopa Rinpoche all the plans during his visit, which he approved. Rinpoche also suggested building a pavilion over the courtyard to protect the stupa from the rain. Renovations took two-and-a-half months to complete.
Khen Rinpoche then arranged for two experienced Kopan monks, Geshe Lhundrup Sherab and Ven. Rabjor, to come to Singapore to assemble and fill the stupa. It was unexpected and auspicious that causes and conditions came together for both Yangsi Rinpoche and Khen Rinpoche to consecrate the stupa together during Yangsi Rinpoche’s teaching tour [in March 2015].
I never asked anyone for anything, so I was deeply moved and astounded when Ven. Tenzin Namjong from Sera IMI in India generously presented a stupa with three blood relics of Shakyamuni Buddha, three hairs from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, and a piece of yellow robe from the previous Ling Rinpoche. Ven. Sarah Thresher also generously sent over small statues, stones, twigs and earth from holy places she had been to in Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Rajgir, and Maratika, and blessed rice from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Friends and family made generous offerings too. Nano reels with millions and millions of the Four Dharmakaya Relic mantras made by a supplier in Arizona, United States, were also put in. A set of the short, medium and extensive Prajñaparamita sutras also went into it. ABC’s Executive Committee generously offered 12 miniature Kadampa stupas. Hup Cheng offered 25 kilograms [55 pounds] of semi-precious gemstones. I included 12 sets of the Kangyur and Tengyur nano disc sets available at ABC.
One of the ingredients required was soil from the houses of holy and rich people. I shared my dilemma with Denise Macy, center director of Land of Medicine Buddha in California, who is building a replica of the Mahabodhi Stupa there. She kindly sent me a package of mixed soil she had received from many holy places including the houses of rich Google executives!
Reflecting on the kindness of so many people – family, friends, Sangha – who contributed to the stupa really makes me deeply feel a sense of gratitude and understanding that this stupa is really not “mine,” but that everyone involved since its inception has helped to make the stupa what it is.
From the very start, my motivation and dedication for building this stupa has been single-pointedly directed to the very, very, very, healthy, stable and extremely long lives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, for all their holy wishes to be fulfilled, for the flourishing of the Dharma and for the benefit of all sentient beings. It is my heartfelt offering to them and how auspicious that it is completed in time for His Holiness’ 80th birthday in July.
Building large stupas is part of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Vast Visions for FPMT.
FPMT Education Services makes available a variety of resources for people interested in the history and construction of stupas.
“Especially important is the benefit to others from these holy objects,” Lama Zopa Rinpoche said regarding the benefits of building a stupa. “Because we can’t see the Buddha now directly, this is something substantial that we can see, a manifestation of Buddha’s holy mind. It becomes so easy for us to purify and create merit with such holy objects. Even insects are able to purify negative karma and collect merit and create the cause to achieve enlightenment.
“The dust, rain, anything that touches the stupa and then touches others is the cause of purification, and helps us achieve a higher rebirth. Anyone who sees, touches, dreams of, or thinks of this stupa plants the seed of enlightenment and becomes meaningful to behold.
“In the Buddha’s teachings, it says that the benefits of making holy objects are like the limitless sky. The very essence of this is the benefits that Buddha explained to King Indrabodhi, which is: however many atoms there are inside the stupa or statue of Buddha, that many lifetimes will you be reborn as a king, human, or in the deva realms. You also create that many causes of perfect concentration, including shamatha and different levels of meditative states of the form and formless realms, as there are atoms in the statue or stupa. Also, you create that many causes to achieve the Aryan path and that many causes to achieve enlightenment. …”
More information, photos and updates about FPMT spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche can be found on Rinpoche’s webpage. If you’d like to receive news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and FPMT via email, sign up to FPMT News.
Ven. Tenzin Legtsok, an American monk in his 12th-year of geshe studies at Sera Monastery in India, discusses the power of stupas and other sacred objects in Mandala‘s newest online feature: “How Do Holy Objects Work?” Ven. Legtsok begins with an explanation of a common teaching story about a fly benefiting greatly by unintentionally circumambulating a stupa.
“The story, told in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, is about an old man named Shrijata who wanted to leave his home and take ordination. Venerable Shariputra refused to give Shrijata novice vows, explaining that he didn’t have the roots of virtue to be able to keep ordination. Shrijata was utterly disappointed. Shakyamuni Buddha saw the situation through his clairvoyance, appeared to Shrijata and told him that he does have the roots of virtue to take ordination, but that this virtue is so subtle that Shariputra could not see it. This virtue, the Buddha said, was created in Shrijata’s past life when as a fly – following a cartload of dung – he unknowingly circumambulated a stupa.
“… But a question remains: how does an inanimate object – no matter how sacred – affect sentient beings regardless of their motivation? This is not so easy of a question to answer. If you’re in doubt that the Buddha taught this, the idea is reiterated in the King of Concentrations Sutra, where it says that even looking upon a drawing of a stupa with a mind of anger creates the cause to see millions of buddhas in the future. Similar statements are made in other sutras – such as the Sutra of Golden Light or the Sanghata Sutra – about how hearing merely a few lines from these sutras purifies negative karma collected over eons and helps a practitioner accumulate inconceivable amounts of merit. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has explained that such effects are due to the power of prayer. ‘It’s like mantra,’ Lama Zopa Rinpoche says. ‘A mantra has power because a buddha blesses it to have power. A mantra is powerful because a buddha makes it powerful. This [ability], the power of prayer, is one of a buddha’s 10 powers.'” Read more …
In case you missed last month’s online feature, “A Many-Splendored Thing: Anne Carolyn Klein on the Transmission of Tibetan Buddhism,” you can read it now. If you like Mandala’s online features, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work as well as the education programs of FPMT.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, through the Animal Liberation Fund, recently offered US$1,000 toward the building of a stupa for rescued race horses in Italy. These perfectly healthy horses were slotted to be put to death as they are no longer considered useful as race horses. Due to the kindness of a non-profit animal sanctuary, Aquila Nera, sixteen horses can now live the remainder of their lives freely roaming open land, listening to mantras, and creating merit by grazing around the new stupa.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche was extremely pleased to hear about the work being done for these animals. In a letter to managers of the sanctuary, Rinpoche praised their efforts:
Thank you for your letter informing me about your project saving horses.
Seeing the photos I think it’s really great, the horses look happy and are
enjoying. I am especially very happy with your idea of building a stupa for
them to circumambulate and generate lots of positive karma. It’s a cause for
them to meet the Dharma so that sooner or later they can be free from the
oceans of suffering forever and achieve the peerless happiness of
I need to especially thank you and all your family who help them, who help
the horses to purify their negative karma created since beginnings time and
help them achieve peerless happiness. So for these reasons I am extremely,
extremely happy with what you are doing.
You are welcome to offer any amount to the Animal Liberation Fund so that offerings such as this can continue.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has given extensive advice on how to benefit animals.
You can watch a video of Lama Zopa Rinpoche blessing these horses in Italy.
By Ven. Tenzin Legtsok
Photo caption: Lama Zopa Rinpoche making offerings to the Mahabodhi Stupa, Bodhgaya, India, February 2015. Photo by Ven. Thubten Kunsang.
Recently, a Dharma friend asked me a question which comes up often in relation to holy objects such as stupas, sutras, and mantras. “So, there’s a story in the lam-rim about a fly unintentionally going around a stupa and as a result having the root of virtue required to take ordination as a novice monk in a future lifetime,” he begins. “How could it be that virtue was created in that fly’s mental continuum when the fly had no positive motivation?” he asks. “And if that root of virtue arose in the fly’s mind solely due to the power of the stupa, doesn’t that mean the stupa’s power to benefit sentient beings exists from its own side and so is inherently existent?”
The story, told in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand,1 is about an old man named Shrijata who wanted to leave his home and take ordination. Venerable Shariputra refused to give Shrijata novice vows, explaining that he didn’t have the roots of virtue to be able to keep ordination. Shrijata was utterly disappointed. Shakyamuni Buddha saw the situation through his clairvoyance, appeared to Shrijata and told him that he does have the roots of virtue to take ordination, but that this virtue is so subtle that Shariputra could not see it. This virtue, the Buddha said, was created in Shrijata’s past life when as a fly – following a cartload of dung – he unknowingly circumambulated a stupa.
According to the Buddhist philosophy of the Middle Way clearly expressed by Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti and Lama Tsongkhapa, it’s argued that nothing exists inherently or totally independent of other things, from its own side. Even if the virtuous imprint that arose in that fly’s mental continuum as a result of going around the stupa was not dependent whatsoever on the fly having a virtuous intention or positive motivation, still the fly had to go around the stupa for that imprint to be produced. That particular root of virtue couldn’t have arisen in the fly’s continuum if it hadn’t gone around the stupa.
Lama Tsongkhapa wrote in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim Chenmo), “Those who enjoy the fruits of the innumerable collections amassed by the Teacher need not have accumulated all of the causes of these effects, but they do need to accumulate a portion.”2 So, it’s argued that the fly created a portion of the cause to enjoy the results of the merit collected by past buddhas simply by going around the stupa. Thus, the resultant virtuous imprint that arose in the fly’s continuum was a complex dependent arising connected to the activity of past holy beings and did not arise solely because of the physical stupa, although it did play a part. Even the physical stupa itself is not inherently existent because it exists in dependence on parts, such as its four sides; in dependence on causes and conditions, such as the people who built the stupa and the material it was made from; and in dependence on mental imputation, the label “stupa” being applied appropriately to the base for this label.
But a question remains: how does an inanimate object – no matter how sacred – affect sentient beings regardless of their motivation? This is not so easy of a question to answer. If you’re in doubt that the Buddha taught this, the idea is reiterated in the King of Concentrations Sutra, where it says that even looking upon a drawing of a stupa with a mind of anger creates the cause to see millions of buddhas in the future. Similar statements are made in other sutras – such as the Sutra of Golden Light or the Sanghata Sutra – about how hearing merely a few lines from these sutras purifies negative karma collected over eons and helps a practitioner accumulate inconceivable amounts of merit. Lama Zopa Rinpoche has explained that such effects are due to the power of prayer. “It’s like mantra,” Lama Zopa Rinpoche says. “A mantra has power because a buddha blesses it to have power. A mantra is powerful because a buddha makes it powerful. This [ability], the power of prayer, is one of a buddha’s 10 powers.”3
The power of prayer or aspiration (mönlam gyi wang in Tibetan) is one of many qualities of the wisdom truth body (jñana-dharmakaya) enumerated in chapter 8 of Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamayalamkara). Lama Tsongkhapa describes this quality as follows, “Because they accomplish just as they wish, they have power over prayers included.”4 In short, this means that buddhas have achieved the power to accomplish whatever prayers they make. Lama Tsongkhapa adds that this ability is the result of joyous effort – the fourth of the six perfections – because in the past as bodhisattvas they never stopped striving for the welfare of sentient beings.
One might counter argue, “How could buddhas have the power to accomplish whatever they pray for? They pray for all sentient being to be free from suffering yet countless sentient beings still suffer.” The buddhas’ having achieved the power of prayer is similar to their having achieved the perfection of generosity. That a buddha has completed the perfection of generosity doesn’t mean that they have eliminated all poverty in the world, but instead, that they have perfected the attitude wishing to give whatever they possess for the welfare of others.5 Similarly, achieving power over prayer does not mean that a buddha’s prayers are all immediately fulfilled exactly in accordance with their aspirations, but that from the buddha’s side there is nothing more that could be done to fulfill their prayers. All the incredibly vast oceans of merit that a buddha has accumulated previously as a bodhisattva on the path and as a fully enlightened being has been dedicated toward the fulfillment of their prayers and continually functions to fulfill these intentions. What remains undone is only from the side of sentient beings. Shantideva made a prayer in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:
If in those who encounter me
A faithful or an angry thought arises,
May that eternally be the source
For fulfilling all their wishes.6
Bodhisattvas create unimaginably huge collections of merit and wisdom on the path to enlightenment through their practice of great compassion, bodhichitta and the six perfections. By dedicating all of this positive energy toward fulfilling the welfare of sentient beings, they make it possible for us to enjoy a portion of the fruits of their virtue, what Lama Tsongkhapa’s quote above was about. Thus, the force of bodhichitta, the two collections of merit and wisdom, prayers from the side of enlightened beings, and from the side of ordinary sentient beings like us, the condition of encountering sacred objects – even without a virtuous motivation – together create the possibility for us to easily accumulate virtue, purify negative karma and plant the seeds for liberation and enlightenment. This is one way that stupas, mantras and other holy objects are imbued with power, which is the common answer to the questions about the unintentionally virtuous fly.
This ability that stupas, statues and scriptures have to almost passively plant seeds of virtue and enlightenment in the minds of sentient beings makes it obvious what an incredibly skillful means it is to build such holy objects, especially when we consider how hard it is to create causes for liberation from samsara and complete buddhahood. In his discussion of the second noble truth about the origins of suffering, Lama Tsongkhapa makes the very sobering point that without actual renunciation, bodhichitta, or wisdom realizing emptiness, except by the power of exceptional objects in relation to which we create actions, all our virtuous actions contribute to further wandering in cyclic existence under the control of karma. Lama Tsongkhapa says:
… you might not have acquired, through extensive meditative analysis of the faults of cyclic existence, the remedy that eradicates the craving for the wonders of cyclic existence. Also you might not have used discerning wisdom to properly analyze the meaning of selflessness, and might not have become familiar with the two spirits of enlightenment [conventional and ultimate]. Under such circumstances, your virtuous activities – with some exceptions on account of the field’s power – would constitute typical origins of suffering, and hence would fuel the process of cyclic existence.7
For most sentient beings, it is rare to have a truly virtuous thought arise and actual renunciation, bodhichitta and the wisdom realizing emptiness are unheard of. Even among those fortunate enough to aspire to these attitudes, most do not have a clear idea what they are and exactly how to cultivate them, or, although intellectually understanding them, do not actually generate these realizations in their mindstreams. In short, for most of us it is incredibly difficult to generate an actual cause for liberation and enlightenment. The big exception is “on account of the field’s power,” which is to say that in relation to exceptional objects such as the guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and the holy objects representing these, we can easily create causes for nirvana and the state of omniscience. If by just seeing such objects with a mind of anger plants the seeds for all the realizations on the path to enlightenment, as indicated in the King of Concentrations Sutra, then there is no need to mention the far reaching benefits of viewing such objects with a mind of faith, making offerings, constructing and paying homage to these objects in various ways. Through the power of prayer of extraordinary beings, holy objects provide unique opportunities for sentient beings of all levels of intelligence, from the tiniest insects to the most brilliant humans and gods, to easily create causes for liberation and enlightenment and enjoy a share of the positive effects of the buddhas’ two collections of merit and wisdom.
Two objections can arise from our common understanding of the general characteristics of karma and they are important to consider. The first is how can a negative attitude such as anger or craving produce a happy result such as seeing millions of buddhas or taking ordination if karma is certain, in the sense that every experience of pleasure must have arisen from a previous positive karma that is its cause, and every experience of suffering must have arisen from non-virtue. The second is how can we experience the results of positive karmic actions created by others such as buddhas and bodhisattvas if we do not experience the effects of karmic actions we did not commit.
In general, one karmic action can be very complex, arising from a collection of positive and negative causes and producing a variety of results, some pleasant and others unpleasant. For instance, when someone gets angry and insults us and we patiently respond with genuine kindness and concern, we create a positive karma. Although the karmic result of this will be a pleasant experience, one cause of that experience is the anger of the person who insulted us. In the case of someone scowling at an image of a buddha with anger, they will definitely suffer as a result of this action because it is motivated by an afflictive emotion. However, due to the power of the object, an incredibly virtuous object in this case, they will also experience a positive result of that action. The negative result arises primarily due to their negative attitude, whereas the positive result arises primarily due to the power of the particular object, such as a buddha image that is able to produce a positive result for the reasons given above.
In response to the second objection, it’s true that we don’t experience the results of karma created by others with whom we have no relationship whatsoever. However, in some cases, we can experience the results of karma created by others when we form a karmic link with them. For example, when a group of people collectively do an action, like saving the lives of 100 fish, each member of the group accumulates the karma created by the group. In the case of the lucky fly discussed above, it created a karmic link with enlightened beings by going around the stupa. That small action enabled the fly to experience a portion of the positive results arising from the buddhas’ infinite collection of merit and wisdom. In short, the help enlightened beings extend to us is like a hand reaching down to help us climb out of a hole: if we don’t extend a hand up for it to grab onto, we can’t benefit from it.
The Buddha famously said to analyze his teachings like a goldsmith analyzes gold:
Like gold [that is acquired] upon being scorched, cut, and rubbed,
My word is to be adopted by monastics and scholars
Upon being analyzed well,
Not out of respect [for me].8
We should not throw skepticism to the wind and blindly believe whatever we see in the Buddha’s teachings. That wouldn’t provide a firm foundation for our spiritual development. However, we also need to avoid scornfully dismissing the possibility that sacred objects and beings can have an enlightening influence on us in ways we cannot readily explain. This could close avenues of possible benefit to us which at the time we can’t fully appreciate, and lead us to create the heavy negative karma of abandoning the Buddha’s teachings.
The subtle workings of karma are among the most difficult topics in which to gain conviction and because they are considered “very hidden phenomena,” they are traditionally “proven” by appealing to the validity of the Buddha and his teachings. In Buddhist works on valid cognition and logic, the integrity of Buddha as a teacher is established by showing that his teachings on the four noble truths, and especially on emptiness, are true. Generating faith in the Buddha and his teachings, especially on karma, needs to involve not just our intellect, but more importantly, our heart through personal experimentation with the practices taught, which can be a lifelong endeavor much like developing a deep trusting relationship with a spouse or friend. To develop conviction in the power of holy objects, mantras and sutras, it helps to have a reasonable way to conceive of how they can affect us and why this is important. For this purpose, I have tried to present a few supporting arguments and scriptural citations to consider. In the end, though, the measure of whether a set of practices are beneficial to us or not must be our own experience.
In finding our own way to the mountaintop, it would be foolish not to consult the accounts of past masters who’ve gone before such as Shakyamuni Buddha, the ancient Indian pandits of Nalanda and the sages of Tibet by extensively reading their works. As well, it is invaluable to make contact with living teachers who fully embody the Buddha’s teachings, listen to their message and seek their advice. Then while engaging in practices according to their instructions, we monitor whether the transformation in our own minds is for better or worse. Where we see benefit, we delve further and find ourselves discovering possibilities to create inner sources of well-being we had not known before.
Ven. Tenzin Legtsok is currently in his 12th year of the Geshe Studies program at Sera Je Monastic University. He has been ordained as a Buddhist monk since 2001. Born in Virginia, US, in 1973, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College in 1995. The question of what makes for the most happy and meaningful life, which compelled him to major in philosophy during college, gradually lead to his study of meditation and philosophy with teachers among the exiled Tibetan communities in India and Nepal from 1999 until the present. For the past 10 years he has tried to make basic Buddhist teachings accessible to various audiences in India and the US.
4. Tsongkhapa, legs bshad rin po che gser gyi phreng ba bzhugs so (Sera Jey Monastic University, 2001). This line was translated by the author although the entire work translated into English by Garath Sparham is published by Jain Publications: Golden Garland of Eloquence, and the line cited here is in Vol 4, p. 180-1
8. Cited in, Tshongkhapa’s, Treatise Differentiating Interpretable and Definitive Meanings; The Essence of Elloquence, translated by Jeffrey Hopkins in, Emptiness in the Mind Only School, (University of California Press, London, 1999) p. 71.
Every month, on the full moon, the Puja Fund sponsors offerings of white wash, four giant saffron flower petals and the best quality cloth to the umbrellas at the pinnacles of Bouddhanath and Swayambunath Stupas in Nepal. Please rejoice in this incredible ongoing offering.
“All those who offer whitewash, saffron, and offering cloth will achieve perfect brightness and glory, overpowering all devas, spirits, and human beings with magnificence.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche translated Padmasambhava’s Instruction on Offerings to Stupas and the complete text is available as a PDF download.
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.
Subscribe to FPMT News
If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it’s worthwhile.
Portland, OR 97214-4702 USA
Tel (503) 808-1588 | Fax (503) 232-0557