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Posts Tagged "holy objects"
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By Shan Watters
Positive transformation unfolds in people’s lives as they engage with the Shi-tro Mandala for Universal Peace Project, and its offshoot Tools for Peace. Shan Watters, Shi-tro Mandala Project Coordinator writes about the Project’s evolution, and its singular methodology in dealing with the challenges of modern life.
“I wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone,” says a fifteen-year old boy, when asked at a recent Tools for Peace workshop why he was incarcerated at juvenile detention facility, Camp Scudder.
We hear things, working with youth in these environments, which we would never have dreamed existed in the minds of children. Our hearts break and our minds reach to teachings on patience and non-judgment. When they begin to recognize their own inherent goodness, it is a joy to witness!
The young man mentioned above is now writing a book about his life. He is taking responsibility for his actions. The regret he now feels is painful. This change of heart he attributes to methods garnered from the workshop.
What are the methods used to reach disaffected, cynical, and often-violent youth in this detention facility’s run-down gym? …
FPMT News Around the World
De-Tong Ling Retreat Centre director Will Abram recently shared a beautiful photo of the South Australia center’s new Enlightenment Stupa, which was completed in July 2012. The photo was taken during a week-long work session at the remote and peaceful center, located on Kangaroo Island. “[This] is one of the best images we have got to date,” Abram writes.
Holy objects have been central to FPMT since the organization’s early days when Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche first established Kopan Monastery near Bouddhanath Stupa in Nepal. Since then, under the guidance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the creation of holy objects has become a central mission of the organization. Centers like De-Tong Ling and scores of others have helped carried forward Rinpoche’s vast vision to build hundreds of thousands of holy objects everywhere, making it possible for for sentient being to easily purify negative karma and create merit.
To help support FPMT students and centers in this practice, FPMT Education Services has created a new webpage on holy objects featuring information and advice. “Lama Zopa Rinpoche has personally inspired or commissioned the creation of hundreds of thousands of holy objects from the casting commitments of tsa-tsas he’s given students or suggestions for larger projects like statues, stupas, prayer wheels and large thangkas to be created on FPMT grounds,” says Education Services’ website.
On the new site, you can find resources for:
You can also find a collection of advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche on the benefits of holy objects and stories on holy objects from Mandala.
With more than 160 centers, projects and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.
FPMT News Around the World
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, spiritual director of FPMT, offered 27 life-size statues of Maitreya Buddha to FPMT centers, services and projects. In just one month, many centers have already received their Maitreya statue. Mandala is celebrating this with the Maitreya Statue Photo Gallery, featuring photos of Maitreya statues situated in FPMT centers, projects and services around the world!
Last week, we shared news of the new statue at Thubten Shedrub Ling in Australia. This week, we are featuring the Maitreya statue that is at the new Maitreya School, a project of Root Institute for Wisdom Culture in Bodhgaya. The Maitreya watched over the proceedings as the school held its grand opening in April. Maitreya School will provide education to children of poor families following the government curricula while also incorporating key Buddhist principles in the context of Indian culture.
With 160 centers, projects, and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
- Tagged: holy objects, lama zopa rinpoche, maitreya project, maitreya school, photo gallery, root institute
By Andy Weber
German artist Andy Weber, who lives in England, started studying Tibetan art in 1975, mainly with the great Thargye-la in Boudhanath, Nepal. “I want you to teach painting!” Lama Yeshe exhorted him at Kopan in 1982 – and he has been doing so, throughout Europe and elsewhere, ever since.
Here Andy explains how to consecrate a statue in order to transform it into a holy object.
The Tibetan word for sculptor is lha dzowa, which literally means “the deity maker.” Tibetan deity makers preferred to use metal for their work. The two main techniques were “lost wax casting” and “repousse” (hammering and shaping). Most small images were cast using the former method.
When a statue is finished, its hollow interior is filled with mantra rolls, relics, grains, incense and other precious objects and then sealed with a metal or wooden plate, which usually carries an image of a double vajra. Lastly, lamas give life to the statues with prayers and blessings.
Filling statues is an art and a spiritual exercise, and should be undertaken with sincere motivation and intention because you are trying to recreate the divine spiritual body of an enlightened being. For this reason you should if possible learn the finer details from a qualified teacher. The statue only gets its power when it has been filled in the proper manner and blessed by the consecration ritual.
To begin with it is good to wear facemasks in order to prevent foul breath entering the interior. The statue should be cleaned as much as possible on the outside and inside. Purify the interior with saffron water, using a brush, and then let it dry. Light incense and recite the relevant prayers holding the incense inside the statue to purify it and create a pleasant smell. Put a precious substance, for example a blessed pill or an item of your spiritual teacher, at the crown inside the statue. If the statue is very small and there is no room at the crown for the crown mantra, then a mantra slip (a piece of paper with a mantra written on it) can be cut in two and rolled together, taking care that the mantra syllables are not defaced.
To create the mantra rolls, use a piece of incense stick, the same size as the mantra slip. The writing of the mantra is rolled inside from left to right (clockwise). To tighten the roll, keep the top up, hold the roll in the right hand and roll sharply with the left hand. The whole roll should be so tight that the incense doesn’t fall out. Secure the roll with cello tape or sew a piece of cloth around it. Write the name of the mantra on the roll and mark the top as it is important to remember when placing these vertically into the statue.
While rolling the mantras, one should be aware of one’s motivation and recite mantras. There is even a specific mantra for rolling mantras. If you don’t know this, recite the mantra of the deity, and if that is unknown, om mani padme hum, Chenrezig’s mantra, is suitable. Depending on the size of the statue, sometimes the mantra slips of crown, throat and heart, etc. can be rolled together, the crown mantra being the innermost slip. The whole roll of mantras can then be held together by cello tape or cloth.
If possible one should use the mantras of crown, throat, heart, highest yoga tantra, the particular deity, the five greatnesses, auspicious prayer and lotus. If the status is tiny, one should use at least the mantra of the particular deity.
The empty spaces around the mantras are filled with little cloth bags containing fragrant sandalwood, amberwood, etc. and powdered incense. You can add a mixture of dried flowers, dried pine needles and any other available blessed substances. In larger statues, many more large items can be offered for the inside like prayer books, robes, little bags of jewelry, tsa-tsas (sacred images of the Buddhas usually made of clay or plaster), ritual instruments and ornaments.
In order to create positive collective karma for a whole group, donations from the spiritual community are requested such as personal jewelry, gold, silver, etc.
If the statue is large enough, you can put another, smaller, statue at the heart, or a vajra and bell. For a very large statue, you use a four-sided stick slightly tapered at the top with the base wider than the top. Painted red, it represents the central channel. Kusha grass is placed on the two sides and symbolizes the two nadis (channels of the subtle body through which the wind energies flow). The grass needs to point upwards. On the top of the stick, one draws an image of a stupa (a reliquary representing the Buddha’s enlightened mind) with gold (or gold-like) paint. Then, going down from there, draw the appropriate syllable for each chakra: just above the level of the forehead om, at the throat ah, at the heart hum, at the navel tram and at the secret place (four finger-widths below the navel) hrih. At the bottom of the stick, draw a double vajra (symbolizing enlightened method); otherwise, one can draw half a vajra on all four sides and a bliss swirl on the bottom of the stick.
The mantra rolls are then attached around the stick – sometimes just one mantra roll, although in many cases they are put in clusters of specific numbers. The whole stick is then carefully placed inside, and the empty space is filled with sacks and offerings.
If the statue is huge, platforms are attached to the various levels of the chakras and then mantra rolls are stacked upon them. At the bottom of the statue, place a picture, drawing or photocopy of a double vajra so that it faces the inside. One can also add various mandalas of offering dakinis, wealth deities, offerings and auspicious prayers. Finally, place the base onto the statue and ensure the mantras and bags do not fall out by using glue or by hammering the edges of the rim. If no base is available, one can cut a piece of thick cardboard, copper or plywood so that it fits the bottom well.
I live my life with buddhas and deities all day long and this affects my view of reality. For me, the images receive power and become vehicles for higher beings. There is the external power of an image which attracts us to it, but on the subtle level is the internal power of the blessed substances which gives the holy image its spiritual body. Looking at a blessed image should be like looking at a buddha. This is behind the belief that, whether you are a Buddhist or not, seeing an image of the Buddha brings blessings.
In order to give life to the statue, the Buddha must be invoked. This is done by the lama, who is the living manifestation of the Buddha, during the blessing ceremony. It is the same for the artist: until the om ah hum have been written on the back in the right places or given to a lama to be blessed, it’s just paint on a canvas. It may look fantastic, but until it has been blessed by the lama or the artist writes the syllables, it is just paint on a piece of cloth.
Only after the blessing does it become a different object. This is quite different from the way most artists would view the world. Deity makers are not merely trying to please the eye consciousness of sentient beings. They are creating the mandala of the enlightened beings and these higher beings come into the statues or paintings once they are blessed.
If you read Atisha’s life story, the statues talked to him, bent their heads left and right. I know of a statue of Vajrayogini that has talked. There are numerous anecdotes about people receiving messages. Having a blessed image on your shrine is like having a direct telephone line (or email!) to the higher world.
This interview is a extension of “Ian Green: Buddha’s Builder,” an interview with Ian Green from the July-September 2011 issue of Mandala located on page 46.
Ian Green, a long-time student of both Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, has served FPMT and the Dharma only in big ways: as a founder and director of Atisha Centre in Bendigo, Australia, as the chairman of various FPMT-related boards, and as the director of two of FPMT’s biggest holy object projects: the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion (the largest stupa in the Western world) and the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace (the largest Buddha carved from gemstone quality jade in the world). Lama Yeshe asked for the Great Stupa and Lama Zopa Rinpoche for the Jade Buddha, making both projects not just impressive in scale, but contemporary examples of indefatigable guru devotion.
How did you first meet the Dharma and the FPMT?
Along with my wife Judy, I have been a Buddhist for over 35 years and a vegetarian for around 20 years. In a way, I owe meeting the Dharma to my career in advertising. Around 1970 I was living life in the fast lane, enjoying the samsaric delights of working in advertising and living the life that a good salary afforded a single guy in a big city. It was a time of long lunches, short affairs, high stake card games, fine wines and much excitement. Somehow I had enough wisdom to realize that despite the enjoyments of this life, if I did not do something, I would wind up leading a very short life. I decided to look around for other approaches to life and in 1971 I took six weeks leave from my work and traveled to India.
As soon as I landed in India I saw that spirituality pervaded every part of Indian society and culture. Every shop, every car and every home had an altar. And every tree or rock seemed to be “holy.” All this made me realize just how materialistic our Western society is. But while I loved the “funky-ness” of the Hindu gods, I made no connection with them on a spiritual level.
Toward the end of my Indian journey I visited the holy city of Varanasi. With hash-smoking sadhus, burning ghats and the spectacle of the mighty Ganges, it was an unforgettable experience. But you can only take so much stimulation, and seeking an escape from the noise and busy-ness of Varanasi, I was attracted to a park which was said to be nearby. The moment I walked into that park I felt a sense of tranquility and calmness that I had not felt before in India and only rarely in Australia. As I remember it, “I felt totally at peace … as if I had just come home after wandering for a very long time.”
Standing in the center of the park, I was confronted by a great monolithic object. I could not work out if this was man-made or a natural phenomenon but it seemed to emanate an incredible power which nearly knocked me over. I was looking at the Great Stupa of Sarnath which marks the spot where the Buddha gave his first teaching. This park, which is known as Deer Park, is one of the holiest pilgrimage places of Buddhism.
Whilst at the park I purchased a book entitled What is Buddhism? and on the plane home to Australia I read about Buddhist concepts such as karma and reincarnation. I remember this was also a powerful experience: “As I read that book I had the feeling that I knew all these things, even though I had not seen them written down before.” I now accept that in previous lifetimes I had exposure to Buddhism and that once I met with the right conditions in this life I had “no choice but to become a Buddhist.”
Within a few days of coming home I heard a radio interview with a Melbourne doctor who had been ordained by some Tibetan lamas in Nepal. The doctor (i.e., Nick Ribush) was giving a public lecture and so I went along to my first Dharma talk. Listening to Nick’s talk I had the same feeling as when I read the book on Buddhism: I knew it all but had never heard anyone say it before. Within a few days I became a student at Tara House (later, Tara Institute) in Miller Grove Kew (Melbourne) and within a few months I had received teachings from Nick Ribush, Geshe Loden, Zasep Tulku and Konchok Dronma. By the mid-1970s I had my first encounter with my holy gurus Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. In 1979 I completed the month-long course at Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu. Around this time I took up my first official FPMT role as chairman of the Tara House Executive Committee.
What is the history of how the Bendigo Buddhist developments came about?
At the time I served on the Tara House Executive Committee they were looking for a country retreat center. Konchog Dronma, the director of Tara House, had previously bought land at Noojee and started to build a retreat center there. In fact, Lama Yeshe gave a teaching at the Noojee property. But immediately after his teaching Lama told Konchog Dronma, “You must sell this place. It is too cold.”
The search for a retreat center for Tara House went on for months. Uldis Balodis, myself and one or two others drove all over the state trying to find somewhere suitable. I remember long drives up and down dirt roads looking for places that might be suitable and might be for sale.
One weekend I came home to see my family in Bendigo and was speaking to my father, Ed Green, about the search for the retreat center. In the course of the conversation my father said, “Why don’t you use some of this land?” He had purchased over 700 acres of bushland in the Myers Flat area near Bendigo. I was never quite sure why my father bought the land. It was close to the area where he was bought up and perhaps he felt a connection with the land. In any case, Ed felt he could not go wrong with this purchase – there was so much land, so close to a growing regional city and at a very reasonable price. Later on my family set up a heritage park called Sandhurst Town on the land.
In mid-1980 I wrote to Lama Yeshe to tell him of my father’s offer to donate 50 acres of land to set up a Buddhist center. Lama wrote back to say that he would ask a high lama for a divination on the suitability of the land. News of the divination came shortly and it was that a Buddhist center on the land would be of medium benefit. Not easily deterred, Lama Yeshe then approached two other high lamas for their divination. Their “second opinions” were very positive and indicated that the land would be highly beneficial. Lama then accepted Ed’s offer and agreed to teach on the Bendigo land when he next visited Australia in 1981.
Now the real work had to begin. I had to find some people to shift to Bendigo with me to set up Atisha Centre. At the 1979 Kopan course I had met and befriended Ken Hawter, a physiotherapist from Perth. I asked Ken if he would come with me to Bendigo and he agreed. Ken soon set up a physio practice in Bendigo and became a part of the local community being, amongst other things, a very popular member of the Lockwood Tennis Club. Ken was later ordained and now lives at Chenrezig Institute under his ordained name of Ven. Pende.
I also asked Judy Imer if she would come to Bendigo. Of course this was a very big decision for a mother of three small children. I think that Judy was both excited and frightened by the prospect of the move. But it was after she threw the I-Ching and received a very positive reading about the possibility of ever expanding results that Judy made her life-changing decision.
And so it was that Ken, Judy, Finn, Zack, Cody and I moved to Bendigo in March 1981. At this time our accommodation was railway carriages with no electricity or running water. It was truly an amazing achievement for Judy to look after our three boys by kerosene lamp and water jugs while also helping to set up Atisha Centre.
We only had six months to make Atisha Centre ready to hold a course with Lama Yeshe. He was booked to teach at Atisha Centre for four weeks in August 1981. Fortunately we were joined by some other hardy pioneers to help with the work. Some of the people who came to help were Ven. Harry Sutton, Alex and Stewart Moore, Graham Reid, Kevin Smith, Graham Mathews and our dear friend Alice Arbuthnott.
There was so much to do. The five railway carriages all had to be painted and have beds and mattresses put in them. Toilets needed to be set up, septic tanks put in, kitchens set up and so much more.
My father also contributed a great deal to the facilities when he arranged for his company, Stramit, to donate and erect the toilet block, kitchen, small gompa and adjoining accommodation block. These buildings have contributed to Atisha Centre for the last 30 years. In fact, in those six months, nearly as much building took place at Atisha Centre as happened in all the years since.
We also arranged to “borrow” the church and restaurant from the family tourist attraction, Sandhurst Town, for the course. The course was held in the church and the retreaters ate their meals in the Sandhurst Town restaurant. Interestingly, the same restaurant building (now known as the Great Stupa Exhibition Centre) was used to feed the people attending Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s course in April 2011.
Somehow we managed to put everything in place and by August 1981 Atisha Centre was ready to open its doors. Lama was accommodated in my mother’s house. And around 120 people came to attend the inaugural course at Atisha Centre which was on mahamudra. Lama also gave a Heruka initiation and held a public talk at the Kangaroo Flat High School hall.
During his stay at Atisha Centre, Lama did a lot to help the center become established in the local community. He had a very convivial meeting with the Bendigo Anglican Bishop, met with the Council at Marong Shire and made several media appearances.
After the course was over the retreaters all pitched in to help the community celebrate the birth of Buddhism in Bendigo with an open-day festival. This was held in Sandhurst Town. Entry was free and we had clowns, jugglers, stilt-walkers, food and rides. We estimate that over 5,000 people turned up on what was a very weather-threatened day. The open day was a great success and Lama loved it.
In fact, Lama contributed greatly to the success of the open day. Early that morning Judy paid him a visit at his house. Lama asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Judy replied, almost as a joke “Well, Lama, you could fix the weather for us.” Lama smiled and said, “OK.” Later in the morning Lama was seen making offerings to the deities. And while black clouds continued to come low overhead for the whole day they were witnessed by many people to separate overhead and leave a hole of blue sky over the open day. There was not a drop of rain during the open day.
During this course, on August 14, 1981, to be exact, Lama walked over land with Garrey Foulkes and myself and gave us his master plan for Atisha Centre, the monastery, an aged-care facility, a lay community and, of course, the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion. Lama spoke at length of his vision for the area to cater for Buddhists throughout their life. His “blueprint” was to set up a Dharma city.
At the time I was aware that what Lama Yeshe had asked me to do was an enormous undertaking. I also considered it to be an opportunity to make my life particularly useful and meaningful. I considered myself, then and now, to be very fortunate.
The original 50 acres (20 hectares) offered by my father was later added to with further land from my mother, Joyce and myself. In total the Green family has contributed around 150 acres (60 hectares) to set up the Buddhist projects in Bendigo.
An official master plan has been prepared which lays out Lama Yeshe’s vision for this land. And today much of Lama’s vision has become a reality.
After Lama left, Judy and I settled into continuing to set up Atisha Centre and for the next 15 years or so we were the directors of Atisha Centre. Our directorship was followed by many who have all made their contribution to fulfilling the vision of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa. Atisha Centre directors since Judy and I were John Wright, Carl Sillery, Ben Karmay, Yien Law and Cherry Rattue. The contribution of these directors and the members of Atisha Centre have continued the development of this important Dharma teaching and retreat community.
Ven. Thubten Gyatso has been responsible for the creation of Thubten Shedrup Ling Monastery on the exact location specified by Lama Yeshe. Gyatso has provided much of the money and even the labor to build the monastery. In addition, Geshe Konchok Tsering, several monks and benefactors have contributed greatly to the establishment of Australia’s first Tibetan Buddhist monastery.
Not much happened on the Great Stupa for the decade after Lama Yeshe’s visit as most of my attention was on making Atisha Centre viable. We did however ask two architects for their input on the Great Stupa. Several rather curious concepts were drawn up including some designs which incorporated aspects of Buddhist stupas and Australian outback homesteads.
In 1994 Lama Zopa Rinpoche sent me a coffee table book of Tibet. Over a spread on the Great Stupa of Gyantse he had written: “This is my idea for the stupa in Bendigo.” In 1995, Garrey Foulkes, Peter Stripes, Tao Langham and I visited Tibet and took many measurements at Gyantse. In 1996 His Holiness the Dalia Lama gave the Great Stupa his blessing (and its name) and I stood down from the Atisha Centre directorship in order to focus on my life’s work of building the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion. I have continued in the role of chairman of the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, Ltd. until the present day.
In what capacities have you served FPMT over your life?
- Chairman The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion Ltd. (1996 – current)
- Chairman Jade Buddha for Universal peace Project (2003 – current)
- Board member Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, Inc. (2000 – 2006)
- Board member of FPMT Australia (2004 – 2006)
- Chairman of Dalai Lama in Australia, Ltd. (2007 – 2010)
- Director of Atisha Centre, Ltd. (1981 – 1996)
- Executive of Tara House (Melbourne) (1978 – 1980)
How has your contribution been recognized?
- Meritorious Award for Excellence in multicultural affairs. Government of Victoria. November 26, 2009
- Special recognition honoring leadership in promoting peace. Phap Vuong Monastery, San Diego, February 7, 2009
- Special recognition for efforts in promoting peace from Office of Assistant Chief of Police, San Diego, February 7, 2009
- Outstanding contribution to World Peace and Tranquility from the International Buddhist Meditation Association, Hawaii, November 28, 2010
Why have you chosen to serve FPMT and Rinpoche in this way?
The short answer is that it is my feeble attempt at guru devotion. My studies and baby- meditations on the lam-rim were enough for me to develop a degree of renunciation and faith in the Buddhadharma. Then after having the opportunity to witness first-hand the way the lam-rim was put into practice by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa, my devotion to these gurus arose naturally. So when the opportunity to create a Buddhist center, to build a Great Stupa and later on to carve the Jade Buddha came along, I felt fortunate to be able to fulfill the gurus’ holy wishes.
A good example of how this works in practice is the creation of the Jade Buddha. Shortly after I had seen the massive jade boulder “Polar Pride” in Canada, I explained to Rinpoche what a unique gemstone it was. The next morning I received a message that Rinpoche had foreseen that Polar Pride would become a Buddha that would “illuminate the world.” Rinpoche then told me, “You must turn this giant gemstone into a holy object as an offering to the world.” With some small degree of devotion to the guru in my heart my response was not to ask “why” but instead to just start thinking about “how.” In the case of the Jade Buddha, the big “how” was: “How do we raise a million dollars to buy Polar Pride?” It took nearly two years to negotiate a deal where we could purchase Polar Pride interest-free over a five-year period. Then, almost miraculously after much writing and rewriting of contracts, we were the owners of Polar Pride for a very modest down payment of USD$250,000. I am sure that such an audacious plan could not be executed without faith in the guru.
Why do you believe that holy objects like the Great Stupa and Jade Buddha are important?
I believe that by creating significant holy objects in the Western world we are shaping the reality of sentient beings. Our view of what is important and indeed what is real is heavily influenced by the physical world we see around us. For most of us the world we see is our urban environment which is dominated by symbols of commerce (office blocks), shopping (shopping malls), sport (arenas) and individuality (suburban housing). We interpret this information to mean that these are the important values of our society. Symbols of the spiritual component of our life are very minor by comparison. And the symbols of religion and the spiritual that do exist in our culture seem to belong to a distant time that many of us find hard to relate to. The Great Stupa and the Jade Buddha are becoming international symbols of the importance of spirituality and peace in our lives today. By making large holy objects a part of our landscape, we are creating a new reality. This is a reality that presents spirituality as a vital part of being a human being.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche sees this as being very important and often sums this up in his simple statement: “The West needs more holy objects.” He also points out that by making large holy objects in the West “[w]e are making it so easy for people to receive the seed to enlightenment.”
Did you already have the skills necessary to serve in this way, or did you develop the skills through the service itself?
I do not think anyone has all the skills to do one of the big jobs within FPMT. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy, and I had a career in advertising. While useful, this education and career left big holes in my FPMT skills list. Some of the knowledge I have acquired during my time working for the Lamas includes a working knowledge of architecture, landscape architecture, Buddhist protocols in Tibet, Vietnam and China, structural engineering, gardening, handling of holy relics, preparing and caring for holy objects, fundraising, feng shui, funerals and memorials, sculpture, sewage treatment plants, town planning, wills and estates, and water irrigation systems. I know a little bit about all these things but I am far from an expert in any of them.
However, I do not want to deter the others who are embarking on big Dharma projects for Lama Zopa. I think it is important not to be daunted by every skill you have to acquire. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Generally, most professionals have quite a lot of patience when it comes to well meaning amateurs.
It is also important not to be scared about making mistakes (as long as they are not costly ones). Sometimes you just have to try something to see if it works. And if it does not work, then you try something else. This is exactly what we did with finding the finance for the big jade boulder. Once we had paid the first installment on the jade boulder “Polar Pride” we were faced with the reality of financing the Jade Buddha over the next five years. We needed a steady income stream to complete the payments on Polar Pride, as well as for the transport, insurance and the carving. In fact, we tried many different ideas and most of them failed. One spectacular failure was when I tried to interest people in “investing” in the Jade Buddha by promising them a financial reward once the Buddha was carved. This idea was soundly rejected because most people, quite correctly, did not want to mix business and Buddhism. We also tried to borrow funds with very limited success. I approached two wealthy businessmen; one in Bendigo and one in Melbourne to seek their support. But neither man was willing to offer any funds and hardly any advice. We then tried pre-selling jade statues. But still the money was coming in very slowly. Judy and I tried as much as we could to raise funds from our savings and from our supporters, but generally our income was small compared with the regular payments on Polar Pride due at the end of each year and the costs due to the carvers. But in the end we found our finance through a combination of methods which have all contributed to the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace being completed and completely paid for.
When you are appointed the director of an FPMT project you have to become a leader – whether you think you are suitable for that role or not. A leader must inspire confidence in others that the project will happen and that it is in good hands. This does not mean that you have to be a charismatic person. Whatever your personality, you simply be the best that you can. No one can ask more of you than that.
One very handy skill for a leader is learning who you can trust. When you are in a senior position with a large Buddhist project many people come to you with all sorts of suggestions, proposals and money making schemes. In the early days lots of people had lots of ideas about the Great Stupa that they were passionate about. These ideas ranged from the style to artwork, the type of concrete to the types of vegetation that “must” be used. As the Stupa and Jade Buddha projects have become more widely known around the world, there has been a surge of interest from people with input and ideas. You learn to be astute about those who are simply trying to take advantage or make money out of the holy objects. Even though my experience has shown that at least 90% of these ideas are completely wild, I make a determined effort to keep an open mind and give everyone a fair hearing.
I think it is hard to give advice on working out who you can trust. As you have more experiences in life, it is a skill you acquire. I have found the teachings on selecting a guru can be useful; checking up what they say, who they associate with and the results of their activities. I have also found that Green Tara has been a very reliable guide.
How did you start working on both the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion and the Jade Buddha?
You know the story of how you climb a mountain? You spend quite a while looking at the top and thinking about how you might get there. Then you transfer your gaze to your feet to make sure you have a secure foothold. It is a bit like that.
Rinpoche has commented that the way the Great Stupa has been built is a good example for other major projects to follow. He described our careful, steady progress as being like an aircraft on a runway which takes quite a while to get to maximum speed before taking off and soaring to great heights. He said, and I agree totally with him, that the biggest danger is to leap into things before you are prepared. These leaps can lead to crashes which can set major projects back for a very long time. Unfortunately, first impressions really do last a very long time.
I have been very conscious with the Great Stupa and Jade Buddha that we maintain the faith with our supporters. We have done this by acting with integrity, keeping supporters informed, not over-promising and maintaining a momentum so that we are always seen to be moving ahead.
Any Dharma project which is financed by donations relies on integrity. The way you spend money must be seen to be effective and prudent. And above all, the key people on the Dharma project must be seen as excellent agents who are acting with good intentions and integrity. There is an old maxim of fundraising which says that people give to people just as much as they give to causes. I believe this maxim applies to fundraising for Dharma projects too. The way you act to others, the money you spend on yourself, the regard you show for your personal comfort will all be scrutinized and judged. When you represent a Dharma project you take on the responsibility of upholding the reputation of the Dharma project and in some cases even of Buddhism itself.
Keeping people informed is relatively straightforward but it does require a commitment to see this as a priority. Whereas not over-promising is something I have found difficult. The problem is that you want to keep people enthused about the project and the first question everyone asks is, “When will it be finished?” so you feel a pressure to respond with dates and timelines. In reality dates are very difficult to estimate when your income primarily relies on the generosity of others. Thankfully, Buddhists tend to be forgiving and generally they have chosen to ignore some of my earlier statements about ambitious deadlines. Maintaining momentum has involved looking for something new to show people if they came back each year. This has meant on some occasions we have chosen the phase that was going to make the biggest impression instead of what was the conventional next step. To put it simply, steel in the air looks a lot more impressive than pipes in the ground. Of course, we would never have done this if it wasted money.
Did you think you were ready to handle such immense projects from the outset?
I was sure that I was not ready to handle such immense projects. I sometimes think that getting a big project from Lama or Rinpoche is like being given two bricks and being asked to build a skyscraper. Not having built a skyscraper before, you have no real idea of where to start and what is required to make these projects happen. But you do know that no one else is any better prepared than you and there must be a reason why you were chosen, and if you do not make it happen, no one else is likely to.
There is also the issue of what you are willing to sacrifice. To make a major Dharma project happen in the West you need to be a little obsessive and this means being willing to give up some of the normal things that we do with our time. Life goes by so quickly and there is only so much time in a day. So the only way to keep these projects moving is to cut some things out of your life. There is no doubt that I have had to make sacrifices to my family life, my career, my leisure and my spiritual practice to be able to have the time and energy to drive the Great Stupa and Jade Buddha projects. This cost has been shared by those who are closest to me, especially my wife Judy. But I have no regrets. In fact, I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity of making my life meaningful. As I said before, life is short and unless you focus your energy; time can easily slip through your fingers with little to show for your precious human rebirth.
What are the biggest challenges facing these projects? What have been your biggest successes to date?
Perhaps the most important teaching I received from Rinpoche in regard to creating holy objects was: “The greater the merit … the greater the obstacles.” This teaching not only made me ready to accept obstacles when they arose before me, it made me expect them and even, in some (rare) cases, to welcome them.
Of course, the biggest challenge has been how do you raise the vast amounts of money required to build the Great Stupa (AUS$20 million) and create the Jade Buddha (around AUS$2 million)?
At one low point in trying to raise the funds for the Jade Buddha I said to Rinpoche, “Making this statue is such hard work. Maybe it is better to re-sell the jade boulder and to put the profit into building the Great Stupa.” In fact some of our supporters were worried that working on the Jade Buddha was taking our focus away from completing the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion which was the major project which had been given to us by Lama Yeshe. I remember I had a call from Florence, a dear benefactor from Melbourne who said, “Why are you always going off on these tangents?” As well as the Jade Buddha, Florence was referring to the 4-meter (13-feet) high Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) statue that Lama Zopa had asked us to create before we did any more work on the Great Stupa. Our only reply was, “Rinpoche asked us to.” In any case, the answer I got back on selling Polar Pride was quick and definite. Rinpoche’s reply was simply, “No.”
Sometimes it takes an ultimatum to steel your resolve. And when it comes from your holy guru you just say to yourself, “OK, there must be a way. We will do it.” I am very grateful for the support of Great Stupa board members and especially Wayne Thomson, Tom Castles and Salim Lee at this time. Gradually, a few people in Singapore and in Australia had the courage to commit their funds to the project and we started to pre-sell some Buddhas from the off-cuts of Polar Pride. And so a confidence grew that yes we can make the Jade Buddha a reality.
In terms of biggest successes at the Great Stupa I immediately think of when we hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama and an audience of 2,000 people inside the Great Stupa in 2007. This was the first teaching in the Great Stupa and it was a great success. His Holiness also was very pleased with the Great Stupa. When we first told His Holiness about the Great Stupa in 1996 he said, “This stupa will be very significant for Buddhist spirituality and Tibetan culture. Support for such noble work is a good method to create virtuous karma.” When he visited in 2007 His Holiness added, “The Great Stupa should be a center for interfaith dialogue and Buddhism/science dialogue.”
The other great highlight was when Rinpoche climbed the Great Stupa in April 2011 and said, “This is the perfect place for a Great Stupa … It’s amaaaazing!”
How do you maintain your energy, devotion and mental health when you work on such large-scale projects that presumably require constant attention? Do you have any advice or suggestions for FPMT students that want to complete large-scale or other extensive projects?
When you work on BIG projects such as Maitreya Project or the Great Stupa you must remind yourself that you are running a marathon – not a sprint. There have been too many sad examples of devoted students who have burnt themselves out by trying too hard to fulfill the guru’s holy wishes. Realizing we are on a marathon means that we realize we cannot work at full speed all the time, that we need to hold something in reserve, we have to be patient and wait for the right time to put in maximum effort.
You need to honestly know your limits and the reality of your situation. If you are likely to get stressed out (and who isn’t?) then you need to monitor your stress levels to make sure they are within your limits. If you have family commitments or a demanding job, you need to be realistic about when and what you can do.
Of course a little stress is inevitable and in fact it is even desirable as a spur to action. I guess we all know some people with good Dharma hearts who seem to love talking about Dharma but are not so keen on putting words into action. Perhaps a little bit of stress might be the motivation they need? For me, death meditation which makes me realize that death will happen and it can happen at any time is a great way of keeping a little positive stress in my life. Looking back at our life from our death bed it will seem to have gone very quickly and it is the last place you want to be alone with regrets of what might have been.
At the same time, as the Buddha so kindly pointed out, our way through life should be on the middle path. So we also need to be able to relax and to be kind to ourselves and those dear ones we share the life with.
What are some of your visions or goals for the future of the Great Stupa and Jade Buddha?
The goals of our Lamas’ are only BIG – and so should our goals be.
The Jade Buddha is a phenomena which Lama Zopa has predicted will “[i]lluminate the world.” My goal is that the Jade Buddha will inspire billions of beings in this universe to follow the peaceful path. And that it will leave a legacy of lasting peace wherever it tours in the world.
My goal for the Great Stupa is for it to inspire countless beings throughout the universes (all those who see it and even those who hear about it or dream about it) to follow the spiritual, compassionate and peaceful path, and that it liberate tens of thousands of beings every day.
What is the detailed vision for the Great Stupa?
As mentioned before, it is our aim to change the reality of beings by seeing the spiritual dimension as of utmost importance. While this overall goal is spiritual, my intention is that the experience of coming to the Great Stupa will be as easy, comfortable and pleasurable as possible. These days, people are used to the convenience of shopping malls and we have to be able to “compete” with this. The services people expect are parking that is nearby, convenient and clean toilets, air-conditioning and being indoors and sheltered from the elements as much as possible. In addition, we will provide some form of buggy transport for infirm visitors. And lifts inside the Great Stupa will provide wheelchair access to the Bumpa level.
Given the message of His Holiness that we should do what we can to minimize the impact on the environment, we need to plan to be an example of minimal energy usage in the Great Stupa and to maximize our own electricity generation. We believe that some form of heating and cooling is required in all or at least most levels in the Great Stupa. However, this does not mean, for example, that we would maintain 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the building. Water will be collected from the terraces and used for watering the garden. Water will also be collected from the roof of the Bumpa and piped to a separate point for bottling.
The Great Stupa will be presented as a monument of world standing. This monumental aspect enhances the feeling of “significance” in the visitors mind and it should be reflected in many ways including that the entrance road should rise up to the main carpark to help create a sense of expectation.
From the carpark the visitor will proceed to a visitor reception center where the experience will be shaped by an introduction to what is about to come. This will include an overview of Buddhism, stupas and so on. Psychologically this building will also prepare the mind of the visitor for the transition from the mundane to the spiritual.
The landscaping of the Great Stupa then plays an important role in the inspirational experience of visiting the Great Stupa. The entrance to the Great Stupa will follow the natural descent down to a saddle. Along this path will be the “Garden of Samsara” which will feature statues of the suffering realms of existence. At the bottom of the descent the visitor will enter a bodhi tree grove which features Buddha statues amongst the “Forest of the Buddhas.” This will be a beautiful area for families to have picnics and relax in the shade. It also represents meeting with Buddha and taking refuge in the Buddha. From this point one rises up to the Great Stupa and symbolically to one’s own enlightenment.
Natural sandstones will be used in garden edging to reflect the colorful sandstone and siltstone which is endemic to the area. Herbs with health benefits will also be used in the landscaping. Both lavender and rosemary will be featured in mass plantings. The essential oils from these herbs will be extracted.
Trees around the Great Stupa have been chosen for their beauty and the comfort they provide to people. Trees around the circumambulation paths are deciduous and very suitable to this region: Chinese Elms, Manchurian Pears and Crepe Myrtle.
The Great Stupa is surrounded by three circumambulation paths which run for a total of 1 kilometer (0.6 miles). Short walks would also be laid out in the bodhi tree grove area. And it is possible that we will have a long kora which provides circumambulation around the Great Stupa, Atisha Centre and Thubten Shedrup Ling Monastery.
The Great Stupa works closely with the neighboring facilities of Atisha Centre and Thubten Shedrup Ling. A number of other facilities will be built to service the needs of the visitors to the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion:
- Visitor reception center/museum: this building will provide a transition from the mundane to the spiritual. Included in this building will be toilets, souvenir and snack shop, an induction area which may include audio visual presentations. This building will also house a museum which will present the history of the Great Stupa, Atisha Centre, Thubten Shedrup Ling Monastery and the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace.
- Temples from various Buddhist traditions: sites have been allocated for four temples from different Buddhist traditions which will be built around the Great Stupa
- Hotel: 80-room hotel overlooking the Great Stupa will cater for “well-being” tourism as well as retreat/course attendees
- Restaurant: 200-seat vegetarian restaurant offering lunchtime buffet and evening meals
- Convenience store
The restaurant and convenience store will service the visitors as well as residents in the nearby village and hotel guests. The hotel will be on the same level as the carpark but located in such a way that guests can have a relatively private and quiet time.
- Tagged: australia, great stupa of universal compassion, holy objects, ian green, interview, jade buddha for universal peace
Holy objects, because of their ability to awaken the positive potential in everyone, are certainly precious and wish-fulfilling. This page, a supplement to the April-June 2010 issue of Mandala, is designed to point you in the direction of more extensive information about holy objects.
FPMT Education Services has compiled a vast collection of teachings and advice relating to holy objects, particularly statues and stupas. Benefits and Practices Related to Statues and Stupas, Parts 1, 2 and 3 includes extensive information about the symbolism and benefits of stupas, as well as detailed advice on how to fill them with mantras and other substances. The first volume is suitable for anyone interested in learning about the basics of stupas. The second two volumes provide much of the technical information necessary for constructing stupas, particularly large ones.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has created a practice that can be used in conjunction with holy objects to help lead our animal friends to a happier future.
Lama Yeshe gave a series of talks about Maitreya Buddha and instructions on the yoga method of Maitreya in 1981 at Maitreya Instituut in the Netherlands. UniversalLove is a beautiful collection of these teachings dedicated to cultivating loving kindness and tender heart. The Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, the publisher of the book, offers a discount for direct orders and has generously provided the first three chapters for free in PDF format.
The Preliminary Practice of Tsa-Tsas contains the meditation practices associated with tsa-tsa casting and even includes practical advice about how to choose materials and where to acquire high-quality molds.
Power of Mantras DVD By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Sutras are considered utterances of the Buddha are highly venerated in the Buddhist tradition. Lama Zopa Rinpoche, FPMT’s spiritual director, recommends in particular that students engage with the Sutra of Golden Light, the Sanghata Sutra and the Vajra Cutter Sutra.
The Sutra of Golden Light is recommended by Lama Zopa Rinpoche particularly for world peace and for protection. Filled with amazing encounters between the Buddha and other powerful non-human beings, this sutra is particularly known for the inclusion of moving stories about the Buddha as a bodhisattva and the sacrifices he made to help living beings.
The Sanghata Sutra, re-discovered in the 1930s in the northernmost reaches of Pakistan, was first brought to Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s attention in 2002. Upon reading it, Rinpoche immediately committed to write the entire sutra by hand in gold on rainbow-colored paper to place in the 500-foot Maitreya statue being built in India, and to have it translated into many languages.
The Vajra Cutter Sutra, a well-known sutra throughout East Asia, is a fascinating discussion between the Buddha and his disciple, Subhuti. The sutra is principally about the nature of phenomena and is famous as the source for the four-line verse: “As a star, a visual aberration, a lamp, an illusion, dew, a bubble, a dream, lightning, and a cloud – view all the compounded like that.” Lama Zopa Rinpoche has said that “reading the Vajra Cutter Sutra is an incredible source of unbelievably powerful purification of all previous negative karmas collected since beginningless rebirths – all those unbelievable heavy ones. This is in addition to the unbelievable, incredible merit you collect by reading it, or just by keeping it.”
FPMT’s Sacred Art
You can easily invite a statue, prayer wheel or thangka into your home. The Foundation Store takes special pains to hand select sacred art in order to make sure that what is sent out is as beautiful and perfect as what the objects themselves represent. The money generated from sacred art is carefully monitored, ensuring that profits are not used to support worldly interests and only in accordance with the guidelines of Dharma income.
Back Issues of Mandala
Over the years, Mandala has published numerous stories about holy objects and one issue in particular, November-December 2000, focused almost exclusively on the Maitreya Project, an FPMT initiative to build a 500-foot (152-meter) statue of the future Buddha, Maitreya. Visit the Mandala Archives to search for stories related to holy objects, view available articles online or purchase back issues with stories that interest you.
By helping the Maitreya Project accomplish its goal to build the largest statue in the world for the benefit of all, you can receive a replica of the Maitreya statue (a holy object itself) as a gift. These beautiful statue are made from white resin and professionally finished in a gold-colored coating. The statues are already filled with mantras and come in a red presentation box that is securely padded.
FPMT’s Holy Object Funds
FPMT’s dedication to holy objects is reflected in the creation of four separate funds managed by FPMT’s International Office: the Nagarjuna Statue Fund supports the construction of a marble Nagarjuna statue dedicated to the long life and health of Lama Zopa Rinpoche; the Stupa Fund, which supports the construction of stupas world-wide, such as the Kalachakra stupa being built at Kurukulla Center in Medford, Massachusetts, USA; the Prayer Wheel Fund, which has contributed to the large prayer wheels at Root Institute in India and Land of Medicine Buddha in California, USA.; the Padmasambhava Project for Peace, a project to install statues of Padmasambhava around the world; and the Writing the Prajñaparamita and Sanghata Sutra Fund which supports the copying of these texts in pure gold ink for inclusion in the heart of the Maitreya Project.
Websites and Online Teachings of Interest
Benefits of Having Many Holy Objects By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Various Advice About Prayer Wheels By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Various Advice About Statues and Tsa-tsas By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Various Advice About Stupas By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Advice about Prayer Flags and Banners By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Various Advice About Relics By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Essential Mantras for Holy Objects By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Practices for Benefiting Animals By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
- Tagged: holy objects
Manifestations of the capacity of human potential, sacred sites around the world attract millions of pilgrims. Many of these great monuments took decades, even hundreds of years to complete and all of them used the greatest artists, architects and craftsmen of their day.
Temple Mount, Israel
Israel: The Temple Mount, upon which sits the Dome of the Rock, is sacred to three of the world’s main religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. For Muslims, the mount marks the point where the Prophet Mohammed began his ascent to heaven. Muslims constructed the actual dome in the7th century. According to Jewish tradition, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac there, and later, Solomon built his temple there. For Christians, the Temple Mount is revered for its place in the life of Jesus Christ.
Holy Sepulchre, Israel
The Holy Sepulchre is a cave-like tomb where Jesus Christ was buried in Jerusalem. The Emperor Constantine built a church over the spot in 335 CE; the building also covers the hill, Calvary, where Christ was crucified. It is one of Christianity’s most sacred spots.
Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia: Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. Throughout the world, devoted Muslims turn toward Mecca in prayer five times a day, and it is a Muslim tenet to make a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca once in their life. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter its gates. Approximately 2 million Muslims arrive during the last month of the Islamic calendar for pilgrimage.
The Great Mosque, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The Great Mosque is the holiest site in the city; inside it is the Black Stone, central to worship during pilgrimage.
The Giza Plateu, Egypt
Egypt: The Giza Plateu, part of the ancient necropolis of Memphis, is the site of the famous pyramids of the Sphinx. The sphinx, carved around 1555 BCE, stretches 241-feet (73.5-meters) in length and 65-feet (20-meters) in height. Out of the three principal pyramids on the plateau, the pyramid of Khafu stands at 450-feet (137.2-meters).
Borobudur Temple, Indonesia
Indonesia: Borobudur Temple in Java, one of the most famous Buddhist monuments, was built by the Sailendra dynasty between 750 and 842 CE. Details about the early history of the temple are scarce, although it is commonly believed to be Java’s spiritual center of Buddhism for about a century and a half, after which it was lost until its rediscovery in 1814. The entire temple is shaped like a lotus composed of 55,000 square meters of lava-rock, and the ten levels of the temple represent the ten stages bodhisattvas must go through to reach the highest state of enlightenment.
Bouddhanath Stupa, Nepal
Nepal: Bouddhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, one of the biggest stupas in the world, has been the center of a flourishing community of Tibetans since their exile fifty years ago. Monasteries abound, and Bouddha draws thousands of pilgrims annually from around the world.
England: The unusual structure of Stonehenge in Wiltshire draws curious tourists and pagans, even though its ancient uses aren’t clear. Although ideas about what it was used for range from Druid worship to Viking ceremonial spot to alien landing field, current theories are that is was a type of temple. Stonehenge consists of a series of earth, timber and stone structures that were revised over more than 2,000 years. The earliest part of the complex dates to approximately 3100-2300 BCE.
York Minister Cathedral, England
York Minister Cathedral was built more than 1,000 years ago, and over 2 million people visit every year, whether as tourists or pilgrims. Salisbury Cathedral has the highest spire in England at 404-feet. Construction of the cathedral began in 1220, and the final steps of construction weren’t finished until ninety years later, in 1310. This was considered fast construction by medieval standards.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, England
St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, a Norman-style structure, was started in 1087 and completed in 1310. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to rebuild it; the St. Paul’s that is famous today is his work. Its dome is considered one of the great domes of the world.
Westminster Abbey, England
Also in London, Westminster Abbey was once a Benedectine Monastery and is one of England’s most important gothic structures. The first church on the site was from the 7th century, it was Henry III in 1245 who initiated construction that went on for centuries. Most English kings and queens have been crowned in Westminster, and several notable people have been buried there. The cathedral’s Poets’ Corner houses the tombs of Chaucer, Tennyson, Browning and other famed English poets.
Spain has its share of magnificent and grand-scale architecture. Salamanca has two cathedrals: the old one, founded in 1100 by Count Raymond and still not finished by the 13th century, and the new one built in 1508 right next to the old cathedral. This “new” cathedral was started in 1560 and completed in 1733.
The Toledo Cathedral, which stands at 393-feet (120-meters) high, is originally gothic in style but several new styles have been added with a succession of memorial chapels. Started in 1226, it took more than 80 years to complete.
In 1882, Antoni Gaudi began work on his unique surreal church in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia. He devoted more than forty years of his life to its creation. He died in 1926 and the church remains unfinished and, amid controversy, continues to be worked on.
Our Lady of Lourdes, France
France: Lourdes, a small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southern France, draws 5 million visitors every year to the Our Lady of Lourdes sanctuary. In 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision eighteen times to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl. After revealing herself as the Mother of God, she asked that a chapel be built on the site and told Bernadette to drink from the fountain in the grotto. Although she couldn’t see a fountain, Bernadette dug at a spot and the spring began to flow. The water still flowing from the spring is believed to have remarkable healing power and has become the most famous modern shrine of the Virgin Mary.
The Rouen Cathedral (a city noted for being the subject of Monet’s paintings and where Joan of Arc was burned to death) is a famous gothic structure that was started in 1000 CE and completed in 1063. Another French gothic masterpiece is the Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims, which was built in the 13th century. Construction took more than a century to complete. Despite heavy damage during World War I, the building was nicely restored.
Vatican City, Italy
Italy: Vatican City in Rome, an independent state of Italy, has been the residence of the Pope since the 14th century and is the seat of the central government of the Catholic Church. The papal palace, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the famed Sistine Chapel draw millions of visitors every year.
The Sistine Chapel, the private chapel of the Pope, could stand alone as a pilgrimage site because of the famous ceiling paintings of scenes from the Bible by Michelangelo.
Construction of St. Peter’s began in 1506 by Pope Julius II and was completed in 1615 by Pope Paul V; the dome rises more than 400-feet (120-meters).
The Acropolis, Greece
Greece: The Acropolis sits on a steep hill overlooking Athens and supports several temples and buildings. Scientific findings indicate it has been used since Neolithic times as a source of feminine power and devotion.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Peru: Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca fortress in the Andes Mountains of Peru, thought to have been built and occupied from the mid-15th century, is surrounded on three sides by stepped agricultural terraces, which are connected to the main plazas and buildings by thousands of stone steps.
The Lotus of Bahapur, India
India: The Baha’i faith, which centers around the three principles of “oneness of mankind, oneness of religion and oneness of God,” constructed the Lotus of Bahapur temple in New Dehli in 1986. The temple took 6 years and 8 months to complete and is visited by over 4 million people annually. Since its 1986 inauguration, more than 50 million visitors have walked through this temple, which is shaped like a half-opened lotus.
Already famous for being the place of enlightenment of Lord Buddha, Bodhgaya is home to the Great Stupa which was built next to the Tree of Enlightenment, under which Buddha sat in meditation until he reached liberation. Today’s tree is a descendant of the original tree.
The Tree of Enlightenment, India
The Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico
Mexico: The ancient city of Teotihuacán, was laid out as a symbolic sacred landscape, and is dominated by the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. The sun pyramid was built over a natural cave that had four chambers believed to be used in shamanistic rituals. Teotihuacán was one of the largest cities in the ancient world and had a population of more than 100,000.
Australia: Uluru (Ayers Rock) is the world’s biggest sandstone monolith and reaches up 1,043-feet (318-meters) and has a circumference of 5.8-miles (9.4-kilometers). Standing in the middle of red desert in the heart of Australia, it is surrounded by a number of sacred sites that are closed to the public. It is especially sacred to the Aborigines, who believe the area around it is inhabited by ancestral beings whose activities are recorded at different sites. This energy source (“dream time”) can be tapped into and one can access the records of particular ancestral beings from their birth to their death. (Lama Zopa Rinpoche has said that Uluru is the abode of protector buddhas.)
- Tagged: holy objects
By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
The story about the Bouddha Stupa is important, and it is incredibly inspiring. Hearing it, you will really understand the benefits of circumambulating it, cleaning it, and sweeping it the whole day and night.
The stupa was built by a mother, Jadzima, who looked after her chickens. They were an extremely poor family, I think. She wanted to build a stupa very, very much, so she asked the king of Nepal for permission to get the land. Normally, the king wouldn’t give such permission, but somehow, maybe due to her karma, the king said, “Okay, it can be done.” This just slipped out of his mouth.
This is why the Tibetans call it “Jarung Kashor Chörten.” Jarung is “it can be done,” and kashor is “slipped out of the mouth.” That’s the name of the Bouddhanath Stupa. Chörten means stupa.
The mother passed away after she completed up to the vase, the dome-like structure. She had four sons, and they completed the rest of the stupa. After they finished it, they all stood up in front of it and made prayers. Everyone generated a wish. When they were praying, all the buddhas and bodhisattvas absorbed into the stupa, which is why the name of the stupa is also “All-Encompassing.”
It’s also called wish-fulfilling. Why? Because it is so powerful that the wishes of anybody who makes prayers to the stupa are fulfilled. Especially when you see the stupa for the very first time, whatever you pray for, it will succeed. Even from the airplane; the first time you see it, you must do your best prayer.
One Brazilian nun, a Kagyu, knew this story. When she saw the stupa for the first time, she made a prayer to be able to build monasteries. When she went back, everything happened. She made plans and was able to build. There are other stories like this.
Anyway, when the brothers were standing in front of the stupa, the oldest brother made a prayer, “May I become a Dharma king in Tibet, the Snow Land.” The next brother heard his prayer and said, “May I become a minister to help him spread the Dharma.” The next son made the prayer, “May I be an abbot to pass on the lineage of ordinations in Tibet.” And the next one made a prayer, “May I become a powerful yogi when there are obstacles to spreading Dharma in Tibet.”
In the next life, then, the oldest brother became the Dharma king Songtsen Gampo in Tibet; he was the Dharma king who had two princesses who brought the statues of Shakyamuni Buddha – one is now at the Jokhang and the other at the Ramoche. He did great activities to benefit all sentient beings, and I think he also helped to build the Jokhang. The second brother became a minister in Tibet [Padma Gungtsen]. The third brother became an abbot [Shantarakshita], and the fourth brother became Padmasambhava.
When they were building the first monastery in central Tibet, Samye, during the day the people would build and then at night spirits would tear it down. One of the ministers suggested that they invite Padmasambhava from India. When he came he manifested as a deity called, I think, “Controlling the Three Realms.” This deity hooked the spirits and subdued them, making them pledge to become Dharma protectors. So they stayed around him on the mountain to protect the Dharma in Tibet.
Therefore, Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet has spread and been preserved for many years, and so many beings have actualized the path and become enlightened. And because of this, Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism has spread all over the world. Even in the West, many tens of thousands of people every year are able to follow the path to enlightenment, make their lives meaningful, and find peace and happiness. Including us: we have the chance to practice the lam-rim and are able to do purification every day, thus becoming closer and closer to liberation from samsara and enlightenment by collecting the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment and, on top of that, the tantric stages to allow us to achieve enlightenment quickly.
All these opportunities that we and many others have in our everyday life, all this benefit, has come from Bouddha Stupa.
From Benefits and Practices Related to Statues and Stupas, available through the FPMT Foundation Store.
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1632 SE 11th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214-4702
Office Telephone: (503) 808-1588
Toll free [US only]: (866) 808-3302
Fax: (503) 232-0557
About Mandala Publications
Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.
Mandala print magazine is published in January, April, July and October. Mandala is available via the Friends of FPMT program.