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S is for Stupa

September 27, 2012

Stupas (mcod rten)  are found throughout Tibet; particularly in cultural areas.  Sometimes they are found in groups, often in remote and uninhabited areas.  Built by people as they travel through; it is believed that stupas subdue the local spirits and make it safe for travelers to pass through.
The Stupa in Sanskrit means heap or mound.  originated in the 3rd century CE first to mark the domain of Kings.  Then later adopted by the Buddhists to place cremated remains and sacred objects.
However, in Tibet they became more useful in wider religious purposes.  Translating the term stupa as a ‘receptacle of sacred objects and offerings’  So in Tibet they contain all sorts of religious objects; such as the relics of past teachers, texts and images.  During religious ceremonies they were consecrated with spiritual energy.
As a result pilgrimages to the stupas followed by prostrations and circumnavigations  were thought to earn merit.
Stupas  were often built to commemorate an auspicious event or for the spiritual well being of the local inhabitants.  Those who built them also receive much merit and the benefit continues as the stupa’s function develops and the devotional practices increase.
In Tibet stupas are also used for repositories for sacred articles that have outgrown their usefulness, such as texts, paintings, images etc.  These old, worn or damaged things can not be discarded like normal rubbish.  They are still considered sacred and representative of the dharma and it would be an act of desecration.  To throw them on the tip would be an insult to Buddha and his teachings.
Tibetan stupas come in all shapes and sizes some are a few inches tall while others are towering structures with many levels .  Many towns have several stupas along the approach roads.  Some straddle the road offering protection against outside evils and blessing to those who enter the town.
Sometimes the gateway to the town will be marked by several stupas joined by  long wall of stones inscribed with the mantra ‘om mani padme hum’ symbolic of Avalokitesvara who is the embodiment of compassion.
According to Tibetan architectural theory stupa designs are based on eight Indian models that mark a particular event in Buddha’s life.
1 Lumbini grove where Siddhartha was born

2 Bodhgaya commemorating Buddha’s enlightenment

3 Sarnath first turning of the  Wheel of Dharma 

4 Rajgir the second turning of the Wheel of Dharma 

5 Sravasti teachings at the Jetavana Grove 

 6 Sankashya where Buddha ascended in Tusita Heaven and returned again.

7 Nalanda site of the great monastic university

8 Kusinagara where Buddha attained enlightenment.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen S. permalink
    September 27, 2012 7:44 pm

    What an amazing and interesting post, thanks so much. Your photo is outstanding too!

  2. September 29, 2012 1:54 am

    very interesting post and great photos as well!

  3. October 8, 2012 7:00 pm

    How neat.

    I’ve never heard this word before, but I love the idea.

    I love the idea of the interred relics.

    What a fascinating and splendid link to the letter S.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    A+

    • helen1950 permalink*
      October 8, 2012 7:31 pm

      And thank you for your kind words …

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