The Power of the Holy Object

The Power of the Holy Object

Date of Advice:
January 2015
Date Posted:
March 2017

Rinpoche sent this letter to a student who was building some prayer wheels that Rinpoche had sponsored. The student was also building some stupas.

Regarding the four stupas, the positioning of them in the plans seems to indicate that there is no way that anyone can circumambulate the stupas. This is one of the main purposes of having stupas, so that people have the chance to create merit by circumambulating them.

Sometimes things can be thought of more in terms of appearance and almost like a decoration, rather than using these very precious holy objects for their real purpose, which is allowing us to create vast amounts of merit.

There is the story of how one elderly person in the time of the Buddha was able to create incredible amounts of merit. The man, Shrijata [Khyimdag Pälkye], was eighty years old and was living with his grandchildren and children, but finally he got very bored and requested Shariputra, one of the Buddha’s attendants, if he could become a monk. Shariputra was the abbot of the monastery at that time. Shariputra thought to himself that this man is too old to memorize texts and too old to do service for the monastery and so forth, and with his clairvoyance he couldn’t see any karma for the old man to become a monk. The old man was very upset to hear that he couldn’t become a monk.

In the meantime, a long way away the Buddha with his omniscience could see what was happening and because of the Buddha’s omniscience, which has no limitation, he could see there was karma for this old man to become a monk. The Buddha had completed the two types of merit, whereas Shariputra, who was an arhat, still had limitations about what he could see of the past and future.

Buddha had removed both gross and subtle obscurations of the mind and had abandoned the four causes of unknowing, and so he could even see the subtle karma which arhats cannot see. This means the Buddha could see even the karmic causes for the colors on a butterfly and he could see the karmic causes of the shape of grass or the design of a plant. This only a buddha can know.

The Buddha could see that many eons before, this old man had been reborn as a fly and by chance that fly had followed the smell of cow dung that was floating around a stupa. By chance the fly was able to circumambulate the stupa by following the smell of the cow dung. The motivation of the fly was nonvirtue and the action was done with attachment to this life.

Usually whether an action is Dharma or not is determined by one’s motivation. Because of this it is not easy for ordinary people to practice Dharma. Those who have renounced attachment to this life are pure Dharma practitioners, so even their eating, sleeping and walking become Dharma. That’s beside their actions of prayers and meditation and so forth. Even doing meditation and reciting prayers does not become Dharma unless it is done without attachment to this life.

The fly was able to circumambulate the stupa just because of attachment to the smell of the cow dung, but that action became holy Dharma, the cause of enlightenment, because of the power of the holy object, the stupa.

In the end the old man received ordination, but for some time after that the young monks would tease him and he got fed up, so one day he escaped and jumped into the river. At the time he jumped in the river the abbot through his clairvoyance saw what was happening and through his psychic power was able to grab the old monk and save him. The abbot then took the old monk on the corner of his robe and they flew over the ocean and landed on a huge mountain of bones. The old monk asked the abbot whose bones these were and the arhat abbot said, “These are your past life bones.” [Khyimdag Pälkye had previously been born as a whale.] The old monk’s hairs stood up on his arms and body and he immediately generated renunciation.

Later in that life the old monk actually realized the exalted path directly seeing emptiness, shunyata.

I am just telling you this story to give you an idea of how important and how beneficial these holy objects are. Therefore it is very important that they are made correctly so that local people and other visitors can get maximum benefit for this life and all future lives by circumambulation and so on.

Even the water from the rain or the wind touching the stupa and then touching insects or people has benefit—negative karma gets purified and people receive high rebirth. It plants the seed of enlightenment, making preparation for the mind to be liberated from the oceans of samsaric sufferings—all the sufferings we know and don’t know; and all the problems we don’t like. So there are infinite, infinite benefits from constructing stupas and prayer wheels correctly.

One idea I thought is that it is important that one can do korwa (circumambulations) around the stupas. It would also be good if there was a stupa in the center that was a bit bigger, like a stupa of enlightenment and then around that stupa to have eight smaller stupas or four smaller stupas. There are many benefits of building the stupas, especially in the texts it talks of the ten main benefits of building the stupas.

These are just my thoughts and suggestions.

With many prayers for success...