The Tibetan Cultural Institute of Arkansas is happy to announce the construction of a stupa at the site of TCIA’s Land of Infinite Bliss Retreat Center, near Crosses, Arkansas. Long-time dharma practitioner Geoff Oelsner has agreed to help initiate the stupa project with a generous donation. You can help, too, by donating to TCIA. Your contributions will bring immeasurable benefit to many generations of Arkansans and to the land here itself.
A groundbreaking ceremony and fire ritual will be held on Saturday March 9, 2013. All are invited to attend. More details here…
Stupa, or chorten in Tibetan, refers to any of thousands of free-standing monuments that were built throughout Buddhist Asia to house sacred relics, mark holy places, or commemorate events. The first stupas were built in India. Eight hemispherical structures protected the Buddha’s remains and marked and honored the events of his life. Stupas are seen as embodying the essence of the Buddha, symbols of the liberating presence and enlightened mind. Practitioners often circumambulate the stupa, reflecting their desire to emulate the Buddha and accelerate spiritual growth.
The first stupa erected in Tibet was, according to legend, built by Tibetan King Songsten Gompa in the early seventh century CE. The design of Tibetan stupas evolved to differ radically from their Indian counterparts. The roundness of the Indian style was replaced by vertical height, and a spire made of thirteen discs stacked in decreasing size became the focal point of the monument.
As with all things Tibetan, the stupa is ripe with symbolism. The shape of the monument explicitly resembles the body of the Buddha and evokes his physical presence. The base represents his throne; the four steps, his legs crossed in the lotus position; the dome, his torso; the square, his eyes; and the spire, his crown.
The stupa first and foremost represents the enlightened mind. An even more complex symbolism is found on this second level of interpretation. Each of the four steps corresponds to of the four following groups: the perfect abandonments, the four legs of miracles, the five powers, and the four close contemplations. The base then symbolizes the five forces: faith, enthusiastic perseverance, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. The dome is the vessel for the seven essential conditions of enlightenment: mindfulness, wisdom, effort, joy, flexibility, concentration, and equanimity. The square platform on top of the stupa, or harmika, symbolizes the eightfold noble path. The first ten discs of the spire correspond to the ten powers of the Buddha: thought, resolved thought, retention, concentration, perfect application, authority, confidence, prayers, great love and compassion, and the blessings of all the Tathagatas. The top three discs correspond to the three close contemplations or mindfulness. At the top of the spire, the sun and moon represent wisdom and method, respectively. The parasol represents compassion and protection.