The Benefits of Stupas

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Atisha Centre, Bendigo, Australia (Archive #1187)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Atisha Centre, Bendigo, Australia, on March 17, 2000. Included is a discussion with the architect and artists for the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, and a brief address to the CPMT 2000 delegates at Chenrezig Institute on April 3, 2000. First edit by Ian Green in April, 2000. Second edit by Sandra Smith,  August, 2012.

The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion being built near Bendigo will be the largest stupa in the Western World. Visit the Great Stupa website to find out more.

Boudhanath Stupa, photo by Dennis Heslop taken in the 1960s.

Maybe I’ll mention a story about a stupa. Many of you have heard this story, probably many times. It’s probably carved in the mind or carved in the brain, like being carved in stone, by having heard it so many times.

This story happened in India. There was one family and the story is of a man who began to meditate and practice Dharma after he was eighty years old. Even though this old man only began to meditate after he was eighty years old, he was liberated in that life from samsara—the cycle of death and rebirth with all the sufferings and the causes of suffering—the obscuring, disturbing emotional thoughts and the actions motivated by these emotional thoughts, which are called karma.

The children in the family made fun of the old man every day, and one day he got fed up with the children and the way they teased him, so he thought he might have better peace if he went to the monastery to become monk. That day he went to the monastery and met the abbot called Sharipu, the arhat who was one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s heart disciples, a true arhat.

Sharipu came out and met the old man and the old man asked whether he could be a monk and live in the monastery. The abbot said, “You are too old. You cannot become a monk because if you live in the monastery you have to study and you can’t study because you’re too old. And also if you live in the monastery you have to do service like cleaning and you cannot do all the service, you are too old.”

The abbot checked with his psychic power whether this old man had the karma to be a monk or not. He checked and he could not find any cause, any karma, any luck or any merit, for the old man to become monk. So the abbot Sharipu did not accept the old man to be a monk in that monastery. The old man was completely upset and at the gate of the monastery he laid his head on the front step and cried. Then he went away from the monastery into the park and still he cried and cried.

This was a time when Buddha was in India. Buddha’s omniscient mind always sees sentient beings, and whenever he sees a living being who needs guidance, when that being’s karma or merit has ripened to receive guidance, then immediately without delay of even a second, he immediately appears there. That is a part of Buddha’s qualities—when somebody’s karma or merit to receive guidance is ripened, then immediately, without delay of even a second, Buddha appears there giving guidance.

So Buddha appeared in the front of the old man and asked him what had happened. The old man explained that “I was at home and the children made fun of me and teased me every day. I was fed up, then I went to monastery but I was not accepted by the abbot Sharipu, so I was crying.”

Then Buddha told the old man “I see you do have karma to become a monk, because I have completed the work of collecting the merit of wisdom and the merit of virtue— the two types of merit.” Usually the merit of wisdom is the cause of achieving the dharmakaya. The merit of virtue, the method, is the cause to achieve the rupakaya, the Buddha’s holy body, and that one is the holy mind. Buddha said, “I can see that you have good karma. I have finished the work of collecting the two types of merit and the arhat Sharipu, the abbot of the monastery, has not finished collecting the two types of merit and therefore he cannot see that you have the karma to become a monk.”

The Buddha then explained how this old man had created the karma to be a monk. He explained that unimaginable lifetimes ago he was a fly and there was a stupa there. There was cow dung around the stupa and the fly didn’t have any knowledge or understanding that there was a stupa there and that it was a holy object, a very precious holy object. The fly had no idea and no education. An uneducated fly! So anyway, totally with the attachment of clinging to the pleasure of the smell of the cow dung, by following the smell of the cow dung, the fly went around the stupa, and so it became a circumambulation by following the smell of cow dung. There was cow dung around that stupa, so maybe we should also have cow dung around the stupa here, so that many flies can circumambulate and they can become enlightened.

Anyway, Buddha explained that due to the circumambulation by the fly following the smell of the cow dung, there was a small merit which was the cause of the old man becoming a monk.

Even though the Buddha’s heart disciple, Sharipu, was an arhat who had completely purified or completely ceased the delusions— ignorance, anger, attachment and all the disturbing emotional thoughts including the actions motivated by those disturbing emotional thoughts or the karma —and was free forever from the cycle of death and rebirth, and free from the sufferings of old age, sicknesses and all the sufferings, and even though he had skies of qualities, but because the merit of wisdom and merit of virtue (the two types of merit) had not been completed, the arhat had not yet achieved the omniscient, fully knowing mind.

Therefore, you see, if you don’t have omniscient mind—even though you are totally free from cycle of death and rebirth and all the sufferings and the cause of the sufferings, and all the defilements and the disturbing thoughts and obscurations—you cannot see.

One thing about this story is that it has been a great distance of time. It has been such an incredible length of time ago that the arhat could not see.

The other thing about the story is the karma of the old man that he could become a monk: it was such a small positive karma that was created. This is like the butterfly which has many designs on its wings, or the peacock which has different colors on its feathers. So what are the causes? Here we are not talking about the physical cause or the external cause; we’re talking about the inner cause. What makes all the physical conditions happen? What are the causes for each color? Karma is very subtle and only the omniscient mind can see the cause of those details, those subtle karmas.

Then the other thing about the story, is that only Buddha, the omniscient mind, can see the secret actions of the buddhas. No other beings, for example, higher bodhisattvas or arhats, can see the buddhas’ secret actions. Only the Buddha can see the secret actions of the buddhas.

Then one thing, I think, might be the distance of place. Incredible distance, I’m not sure, but I think the fourth one might be distance. So there are four causes of unknowing. Arhats cannot see these four things; only Buddha, who has an omniscient mind, can see.

Buddha checked who could look after this old man, and he saw the other arhat, called Maudgalyayana, who was excellent in the psychic power and who had the karma to look after this old man. So Buddha handed over the old man to the abbot, Maudgalyayana, and the old man became a monk in that monastery. After he became a monk, the young monks in that monastery made fun of the old man every day. They teased him.

One day the old man again got fed up with the young monks in the monastery, so I think he left the monastery and jumped in the river. When this was happening, Maudgalyayana, his teacher and the abbot of the monastery, checked with his psychic power where the old man was. He could not find the old man in the monastery, so he checked and with his psychic power, he saw the old man jump in the river. Just like that—it happens many times in India, I think. Like San Francisco, they have this big bridge, you know? When people have some problem they go there—anyway, there it is similar.

Then the abbot, with his psychic power, immediately appeared at the river and grabbed the old man. The old man was completely shocked, because he did not expect this; he didn’t ask for permission before, to jump in the river. He didn’t get permission.

This refers to the association of the body and mind, because it’s caused by ignorance, not knowing the very nature or the true nature of the I or the self—the aggregates, the association of the body and mind. The very nature of I, the very nature of aggregates—that which is the association of the body and mind—not knowing the very nature of the ultimate nature of the mind. So this is ignorance; not knowing the true nature, the very nature of the phenomena.

What is ignorance? It is not knowing what is right, to be practiced, and what is wrong, to abandoned in the life. So that type of ignorance and the disturbing emotional thoughts of anger and attachment relate to the old man’s samsara and his aggregates, the association of his body and mind.

It is created by karma, action, and delusion—the ignorance, not knowing the very nature of the I —as well as not knowing the very nature of the mind and the aggregates. The other delusion, attachment, is a creation of those wrong concepts or hallucinated mind and the actions motivated by them, the karma. So our body and mind are in the nature of suffering, and this is experienced at birth, at old age, at sicknesses and death, as well as many other problems. So the container of the problems of this life and the foundation of the problems of future lives is called samsara. Also the continuation of this self and the aggregates circles to the next life, and the continuation of that samsara circles to the next life because of samsara—being under the control of the actions and the disturbing thought, the delusions.

The abbot, Maudgalyayana, said to the old man that the children made fun of him and he ran away from monastery and jumped in the river because he didn’t have enough renunciation or detachment.

Then the abbot asked him to hold the corner of his robe and they flew away. They went on and on and on, and they went over the ocean, then after some time they landed on a huge mountain of bone. After they landed, the old man asked his teacher “Maudgalyayana, whose bone is this?” His teacher, Maudgalyayana, said, “This is your past life’s bone”. Actually in his last life he was born as the largest whale in the ocean. So when he heard that this was his past life’s bone, immediately the hairs on his pores stood up, and he realised how samsara is the nature of suffering. Then he discovered, from the explanation that this was his past life’s bone, that there is nothing definite in samsara. Then the old man got total detachment to samsara, renunciation to samsara and then he entered the path.

In that life the old man became an arya being, which means wisdom directly perceiving emptiness. He actualized it in that life. Then, this wisdom is the one which directly ceases the ignorance, anger, attachment—all these obscuring, disturbing and emotional thoughts, as well as karma, the action motivated by them. So because this wisdom directly perceives emptiness, the ultimate nature of the I, the aggregates and the phenomenas, it totally ceases all the wrong concepts. That is, wrong concepts intellectually born, as well as ceasing completely the wrong concepts including the negative imprint left on the mental continuum by disturbing emotional thoughts, such as the ignorance, the root of all the suffering and not knowing the ultimate nature of I, the aggregates. Even the imprint seed, the imprint of delusion, is totally made to cease, and then one achieves nirvana or the sorrowless state on that mental continuum.

So the old man achieved the cessation of the suffering by actualizing the truth in that life.

After abiding for a long time in the state of nirvana, the sorrowless state, the blissful state of peace, when the karma, the time ripens and Buddha sends light, there’s a verse that is said to the arhat. This then persuades the mind to enter the Mahayana path, so they enter the Mahayana path, then with bodhicitta, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness ceases the subtle defilements—the subtle negative imprint that is left on the mental continuum.

Before, there was the seed of delusion. Now the seed of delusion which by definition we say gives rise to the delusion, is here just a subtle negative imprint. It’s not the seed which gives rise to the delusion, the disturbing emotional thought, it’s just the very subtle negative imprint. So it ceases even that. Then only at that time does the mental continuum become fully awakened, fully enlightened.

Then what happens is by entering Mahayana path, the continuation of the life of this old man becomes enlightened and he then liberates numberless sentient beings from all the suffering causes and brings them to full enlightenment, with the infinite qualities of the Buddha’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind. With the special qualities of the holy mind, the omniscient mind and the completed mind training on compassion towards all living beings, there is nothing more and no more compassion to be developed.

He completed the power to reveal the methods to be able to understand every single living being—the nature of their mind, the level of their intelligence, karma and all the methods to fully help others.

So now in the continuation of the old man’s life, he liberated numberless sentient beings from suffering by becoming a buddha. Becoming a buddha himself came from entering the Mahayana path which came from being an arhat, totally free from all the suffering causes, and then before he entered the path to liberation, he was a monk. The way he was able to become monk, to have the karma to be a monk, was when he was a fly and without knowing about this stupa, this holy object, just by following the smell of cow dung with attachment, full of attachment, he made a circumambulation.

You see? So now the whole story is there—the whole package of the story. So everything started from the fly and how he circumambulated the stupa one time. One time! Not with a pure mind to benefit other sentient beings. Not even with that pure motivation for oneself to achieve everlasting happiness—total liberation from all the suffering causes, to be free from samsara. Not even pure motivation to achieve happiness in the future lives. Not even that. Just totally with the attachment clinging to this life, just the sense pleasures, the smell of the cow dung.

The merit is collected by going around a stupa, which becomes circumambulation. From that small merit, everything, the whole evolution of becoming a monk, actualizing the whole path to achieve total liberation, the nirvana of the sorrowless state from all the suffering cause, then entering the pure Mahayana path, then there’s ten bhumis, achieving enlightenment, liberating other sentient beings and bringing them to enlightenment—the whole came from that small merit collected by one circumambulation, by following the smell of the cow dung.

The same thing now, when you go around a stupa. The effect is the same for anybody, including any flies or any animals that go around like dogs and cats, even without any pure motivation. Just walking around a stupa—all those circumambulations have the same effect or result—actualizing the whole five paths to liberation, then the five paths to achieve enlightenment and then to be able to liberate numberless sentient beings and to be able to enlighten all sentient beings. So that benefit is for anybody who goes around the stupa—dogs, cats, flies or kangaroos or whatever. Maybe kangaroos can go faster because they can jump from here to there.

Also there was another story. I think it might be in Nepal, I’m not sure. A dog chased the pig and the pig went around a stupa, so again it became circumambulation. I think in the text it didn’t mention the dog, but I’m sure the dog also went around the stupa because it chased the pig.

Transforming our attitude into Dharma

Normally in our daily lives, our actions become the causes for whatever we do. The actions become pure actions when they are done as virtuous actions. In other words our daily actions become the cause for Dharma. The best attitude is the attitude unstained by the ego, so therefore we have to put effort into the attitude. Whether we are doing a job or whether we are sleeping, we have to put so much effort into our attitude, then we will endlessly have the realization of compassion, the realization of renunciation and detachment to this life and to samsara. Otherwise in daily life our actions become the result only of our own happiness. We should put so much effort to transform our life to make it pure—free from anger, attachment and ignorance.

In our daily life, for activities to result in happiness, the action has to become Dharma and the attitude of the act has to become Dharma. So non-ignorance, non-anger, non-attachment—that is Dharma. That attitude is Dharma. And that attitude is the definition of a healthy mind, because it’s free from disturbing emotional thoughts—anger, attachment and so on. So therefore naturally it has peace, it has a peaceful mind.

The best, the purest attitude of life is the unstained attitude—unstained by the ego and self-cherishing thought. So our attitude is only to benefit others and cherish others. That is the purest attitude of life, the purest Dharma, and this pure attitude then transforms the action into Dharma, virtue, pure. Only from this and only from these actions does happiness come, so therefore we have to put a lot of effort—it’s not easy, we have to put a lot of effort.

First of all, the attitude of the act—whether it is doing our job, whether it is eating or sleeping, anything; we have to put so much effort. The attitude of the act has to become pure. Unless we have a realization of compassion, and renunciation— detachment to this life and to samsara— those healthy minds, those free minds, with realization of renunciation or right view, it will not be possible for our daily life actions to result in happiness. Therefore we have to put so much effort into transforming our attitude and making our actions pure and free from anger, attachment and ignorance.

The benefits of holy objects

Circumambulating stupas, statues of enlightened beings and scriptures, as well as doing prostration and making offering to all these things, naturally becomes virtue, becomes Dharma, the cause of happiness. This is due to the power of the holy object, the fully enlightened beings or statues, scriptures or stupas. The stupa which has arisen is the fully enlightened beings’ holy mind, the dharmakaya.

Here the important point to understand is the practical benefits of these holy objects existing and the benefits of making these holy objects for us suffering beings whose mind is obscured. The cause of the sufferings arises like a storm, like a heavy storm, like a rain-shower and our mind is overwhelmed by these disturbing emotional negative thoughts. Therefore, by having holy objects such as this stupa, by having and by making these things, it makes it unbelievably easy to purify our mind and to purify all the minds of other numberless living beings. It is so, so powerful! So powerful to purify, without hardship, just by going around, by seeing the holy object, even just by seeing and by touching, by circumambulating, by prostrating, by making offering, it purifies inconceivable defilements of negative karma, the cause of the suffering.

There’s a special mantra in the stupa that goes on the Life Tree, the root that goes in the centre. There are four very powerful mantras that have been written with real gold. So there are four mantras called Dharmakaya Relics and one of them says Secret Relic. That mantra has unbelievable skies of benefit for the sentient beings who circumambulate, make offering and prostration. By having this mantra in the stupa, human beings, animals, anybody who circumambulates around it one time has the power to purify the negative karma to be born in the hells. The hell realm has eight hot hells and eight cold hells—these are the immeasurable ones—then there are six or four neighborhood hell realms, then the ordinary hell realms. I’m not going to expand any more on this, which is my favorite subject. Anyway, by going around one time, the negative karma to be born in the eight hot hells is completely purified—just by going around one time! By having this mantra, the secret relic, inside the stupa, it’s just so easy to liberate ourselves and other living beings.

The blessings of the stupa

When the wind blows over or touches a stupa, the wind becomes blessed and has the power to purify. When the wind goes away from the stupa, whomever the wind touches—animals, flies or insects or human beings, their negative karmas get purified. They are not reborn in the lower realms—the animal, hell and hungry ghost realms, and they receive a good rebirth in the next life.

It is the same when there’s rainfall. The rainwater that touches stupa again becomes blessed. So when there’s rain and the water runs from the stupa and goes on the ground, any insects, worms, or any living being living in the ground—whomever it touches, all their negative karma gets purified. They receive a higher rebirth and become liberated.

So then, even the small bells that don’t make much sound—when anybody hears the sound of a bell which has been offered to a stupa, whether it is on top of the stupa or around the stupa, their negative karma—even the very heavy negative karmas of killing one’s father, mother, an arhat, even harming a Buddha or causing disunity among the Sangha (the five uninterrupted negative karmas), are purified.

Whoever has done these heavy, negative karmas immediately goes to be reborn in the hell realm without any interruption after this life. There are eight hot hells and the very last, the heaviest one, is where they get reborn and experience suffering for eons. So these negative karmas are very heavy. By having the Secret Relic mantra inside the stupa—this is one of the mantras that goes on the Life Tree that goes inside the stupa—even the bell offered to the stupa becomes powerful. Then anybody who has these five uninterrupted negative karmas—and hears the sound of the bell, gets purified. It is so unbelievably powerful.

Even dreaming of a stupa or remembering a stupa that we have seen, plants the seed to enlightenment. It plants the seed to total liberation and everlasting happiness—to be free forever from all the suffering causes and to attain the highest enlightenment. We plant the seed of liberation and enlightenment even when we dream of a stupa. So then, anybody who sees the stupa, even animals, just by seeing the stupa it becomes an incredible purification of the mind.

The power of holy objects 

A sutra by Buddha called the King of Concentration (Samadhira­jasutra) talks about the power of the holy object. It says that even if someone draws the line of the Buddha—the enlightened being, the holy body of the One Who Has Gone to Bliss, meaning one who has become enlightened —on a stone wall, just even the line drawing of the holy body, and even if somebody looks at it out of anger, that line drawing of the Buddha’s holy body will cause that person to gradually see ten million buddhas. But here, “ten million” is just a number, just a name. It means numberless buddhas.

Just by seeing the drawing of the enlightened being’s holy body on a stone wall, even if the attitude is angry, not pure, even so, we get so much benefit by looking at it. It purifies the mind; it has that effect of purifying the mind, and it causes us to see numberless buddhas in the near future. We will hear Dharma and receive the realizations of the path to enlightenment, then we will achieve total liberation, free forever from all the suffering and its causes, and we will attain the highest enlightenment by completing the Mahayana path. So, here the quotation from the sutra says that by seeing even the line—even by drawing the Buddha’s holy body on a stone wall, the benefit that we get on our mental continuum is like the limitless sky, purifying the mind of all the defilements. Then we will receive all the realizations.

Therefore we are extremely fortunate, unbelievably fortunate that we are able to build this stupa for these beings, and (referring to the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion being built near Bendigo, Australia) this is the start. This is just the beginning. Still we have the large stupa that has to appear one day. Still we have the large stupa to appear one day. And one hundred thousand small stupas, or is it one hundred million? Yes, one hundred thousand prayer wheels around and also many small stupas besides the big one.

Some of the key benefits of what other sentient beings receive are in that infinite explanation in the text on the benefit of making prayer wheels and stupas that Buddha himself explained. If you read this, it’s just mind-blowing. It’s just unbelievable. Because I saw this text, that’s why others have many stupas— at Kopan, in Solu Khumbu and Iceland.

In Iceland, I think there’s a kind of chapel and then they built a stupa on top. The size of the stupa in Iceland is a little bit smaller than this stupa (at Bendigo). After they finished building it, they offered it to the government. When I went there to consecrate it, the mayor of the area attended and the stupa was offered to the government. There is a very good view of the city, which is a little bit of distance away. You can see the stupa from far and there’s a main road there, so people stop their car there and they come and see it. Everybody who passes through stops and everybody enjoys it very much. Everybody feels the peace by seeing the stupa as they pass through the road.

I went to consecrate this stupa in Iceland. I don't know how these people built it. It was built mainly by one old student of Lama Yeshe, Tohala. She built it, but the rest of the people who built the stupa are not Buddhist. They enjoyed building it very much, they got a lot of benefit—they enjoyed it so much and they got a lot of peace, so much happiness when they were building the stupa.

Also in France there’s a Kadampa Stupa built at Institut Vajra Yogini. The stupa was built with special stone by a Christian group, and they enjoyed building it so much, even though they are not Buddhist. They did it all free and then they offered it. I think they did that, and they said that if their center has more projects to build stupas they would come to build them for free.

In Iceland where the stupa was built, I don’t know how these people were able to build the stupa with so much wind. Unbelievable wind! I went there to bless the stupa, and first I did a blessing outside and then a storm came. I tried to circumambulate but there was so much wind I had to do the puja in the car. So half of the consecration I did in the car. Even so, the car was moving like this, there was so much wind.

Anyway, there are so many stupas built. Others are seeing the benefit of the stupas explained.

What I want to say next is that we have an incredible opportunity to build these holy objects in Australia. Especially the large, the very large stupas because of the freedom the people in Australia have. The government gives freedom so that people in Australia can enjoy themselves, whereas Tibet is occupied by communist Chinese, so there’s no freedom to build holy objects where you want. People don’t have freedom there in Tibet as we have in Australia. Also from the bottom of my heart, I highly appreciate the people in Australia, the government and also the local government, the City of Bendigo, who have given a contribution for building the large stupa of five thousand dollars, which is extremely generous and kind. I appreciate that very much. [Applause]

My hope is that we invite His Holiness Dalai Lama to consecrate the big stupa when it is finished. Or even if is not completed and finished, but when the main part of the stupa is finished, we should invite His Holiness to bless it.

It will give so much peace of mind to people in Australia and all over the world. Not only purifying the mind so that people get inner peace, but just by coming here, it will become an education to develop the good heart, compassion and loving kindness, tolerance and patience—all these most precious human qualities of the mind. It will be an inspiration. It will give people courage in life. So people with depression would get courage, by coming out to this place. Instead of feeling hopeless in their life, they would get hope. They would discover that life is full of hope and it would inspire the mind in compassion as well as wisdom, and thereby make the best use of the life, for benefiting all living beings. So this is about peace, for the individual living beings who come to see it, for the whole of Australia as well as for the rest of the world—for all sentient beings.

Offering to the stupa

I think that’s enough; no, just one more thing, then I’ll finish. What is the one more thing?

In the past when Buddha was in India, one day he went for alms through the city or village. There were three children playing in the sand and these children wanted to make some offering to Buddha. But Buddha’s holy body was very tall and they had nothing to offer. They were playing in the sand and one child stood up, then another child stood on his shoulders, and then the third child stood on the shoulders of the second child. Then the third child offered sand grains to the Buddha’s begging bowl by visualizing gold in the handful of sand grains.

This was the karma that resulted. In the next life that child was born as King Ashoka, a Dharma king in India. Ashoka built many monasteries for the Sangha and offered food for Sangha, not just for one day, but for his whole life. He was able to offer so many services to the monasteries and then to create the conditions for the Sangha to live in ordination and to study Dharma and practice.

Then he built ten million stupas in one day. In the text it mentions one life, I think, I’m not sure, anyway, one day. Ten million stupas were built in one day. Of course he was a king, so he had wealth to build them. So in that life, being born as a king with all the wealth, he was able to benefit so many people and again create merit, good luck, like the limitless sky, by building many stupas and monasteries and offering food for the Sangha. So all this advantage—good rebirth as a king and then being able to build so many monasteries and to offer food to the Sangha in all their life and to build ten million stupas, simply came from that karma of offering a handful of sand and by visualizing gold in the Buddha’s begging bowl.

The cause of all this; what he was able to do in the next life was just simply from that karma of offering a handful of sand grains, but visualizing gold; every single grain of sand there was visualized as gold. And so by visualizing and offering all these sand grains as gold, he got the benefit of having actually offered gold. Even just visualizing rather than what he actually offered, he got the merit of having actually offered the gold, even though there was not one single speck of gold there. Because he visualized and offered, he got the benefit and merit of having actually offered that amount of gold.

So like that. Therefore, this is to consecrate. I consecrate in just a very short way, with a very brief meditation and blessing of the stupa, I did that. There was no plan before for the blessing of the stupa, but anyway, since we’re finished, so it happened.

Similar to this is actually for consecration. Usually in the consecration, first we bless the rice; we do meditation, we bless this, then we sprinkle it on the holy object. However, so everybody must offer some rice to the stupa. But the meditation when you offer this, you must visualize you are not of course just offering rice. Even if you are just offering grain, that action of making offering will immediately become the cause to achieve enlightenment, and it will be the cause to achieve liberation from samsara, from the whole entire causes of suffering. Then third, the offering of grain, even that action of offering grain becomes a cause of achieving good rebirth in a hundred thousand lifetimes. So, whenever the death happens, then you will have a good rebirth, a good life, a good rebirth for a hundred thousand lifetimes. So that happens by the way.

Then, so much merit you collect, which becomes the cause of success of this life and the happiness that you are seeking for this life. So by the way, it also becomes the cause of success of this life. This karma of the offering practice also takes care of this life’s health, long life and prosperity, so the good karma of making offering is also for any happiness of this life that we are seeking to achieve.

This is the same even for animals, human beings, or anybody who circumambulates or prostrates. As I mentioned before, even if the motivation is not pure and is only negative, the action of circumambulation, prostration and making offering immediately becomes the cause to achieve enlightenment for that person, for that animal. Then, by the way, it will even be the cause to achieve cessation of the whole entire suffering and its causes.

By the way, achieving good rebirth for hundreds, thousand of lifetimes in the human body or deva, and having wealth and happiness and whatever we wish for in the future lives, all comes from that one good karma—circumambulating or prostrating or even putting two palms together to the stupa. That is not laying down the body—even just putting our palms together to the stupa immediately becomes the cause to achieve enlightenment.

It becomes the cause of success, happiness, and the like, so when we offer the grain, we visualize a wish-granting jewel, like the story of the King Ashoka. So we visualize gold, diamonds, and the most precious thing among the possessions, which is the wish-granting jewel. By praying to that, all our wishes get fulfilled. Anybody who prays to that jewel, all our wishes, whatever enjoyment and comfort we want, we immediately receive due to the power of the material, the jewel and due to our good karma, together. So like that.

There are stories about the ancient bodhisattvas, those wheel-turning kings, who had the wish-granting jewel in ancient times. They had so much good karma and were able to find the wish-granting jewel and use it by putting it on top of the banner on the fifteenth day.

We can liberate so many sentient beings. By offering, by visualizing better quality, we get the same benefit as if it were better quality. So that is the meditation. Generally in our daily life when we make offerings; even if we are offering water, but if we visualize nectar, we actually get more merit by having visualized nectar. If we visualize the wish-granting jewel, then by offering with this visualization we get the merit of offering the wish-granting jewel even though this is not the wish-granting jewel. So this practice is not only now and here, but also in the daily life when we practice offering. It is so important to visualize better quality.

When we offer with the bodhicitta motivation, there is a huge difference in the amount of merit. Of course if we build one stupa, it directs our life to enlightenment. It’s unbelievably powerful to purify the mind and to create merit. If someone is very sick and nothing can help, no medicine can help, it is mentioned in the teachings by Buddha to build a stupa. And for someone who has a family member who has passed away, it is the most powerful thing to build a stupa. It is very powerful for purification and good rebirth. In many ways it is powerful and it directs our life toward enlightenment by building one stupa.

It is said in the Heap of Jewels Sutra [Ratnakuta Sutra], and this is important to understand, so that you see the benefits of bodhicitta, that if all the sentient beings in three galaxies of universes—if that many sentient beings built stupas to cover the whole three galaxies of the universe, that much merit, compared with one person thinking to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all the sentient beings, by generating bodhicitta and by offering one flower to a stupa—the merit, good karma, or good luck that this person collects is far greater than all the sentient beings of the three galaxies of the universe who each built a stupa and thereby covered the whole universe.

Comparing the merit of a person with bodhicitta thinking to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all living beings and offering one tiny flower to a stupa, the merit of all those other sentient beings, who each built a stupa and covered the three galaxies of the universe, is very small. One person’s merit of offering a tiny flower with bodhicitta motivation is far greater. Therefore in our daily life, whenever we practice offering, the very first thing must be effort to generate bodhicitta, the good heart, the thought of benefiting all sentient beings and freeing numberless other sentient beings from suffering. And not only to cause temporary happiness but also especially to bring the cause for ultimate happiness of highest enlightenment—the wish to free numberless sentient beings from all the sufferings and to cause all the happiness for all the sentient beings. At least you can simply think like that, and then it is possible for oneself to achieve enlightenment and to liberate numberless sentient beings from all the sufferings and to bring them to enlightenment. Think, “Therefore I am going to make this offering”. Whether it is an extensive offering or one tiny flower or one single grain, offering it with bodhicitta is like merit of limitless sky.

How quickly we can gain realization of the path, how quickly we can be liberated from all the sufferings and their causes, how quickly we can achieve enlightenment and how quickly we can liberate other sentient beings and bring them to enlightenment, all depends upon how much merit we collect in our daily life and how much we purify.

Therefore by knowing the skills—even working in a factory, any work, even the works of this life, even just the mundane work, everything can be done very easily, very quickly, if we have the skills. So here also in our spiritual practice, if we know the skills then there are no difficulties, no hardships, it doesn’t take a long time to achieve realization. I think that is all my mumbling, so I think everyone take some rice and go around.

First, generate the motivation of bodhicitta, then offer. When you offer, think the stupa has all the gurus, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and this is all the ten directions—the statues, stupas, scriptures, everything. So with this awareness, as we circumambulate we circumambulate all the holy objects in Tibet, even though we are not in Tibet now. We circumambulate all the holy objects in India, Bodhgaya, Sri Lanka, Burma, China—all the holy objects everywhere. With this visualization, we make offerings to all the holy objects. So not only to all the holy objects that exist in all other universes, in all the ten directions, with meditation it is all the gurus, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in all the ten directions—the statues, stupas and scriptures. With this awareness, we circumambulate and we make offerings, then we have made an offering to all the ten direction holy objects. So each offering that we do is made to all the ten direction buddhas, Dharma, Sangha and the gurus, and the ten directions statues, stupas and scriptures. To whom we offer is numberless, so therefore with each offering we collect good karma, good luck and merit like the limitless sky.

If you can, make the offering higher up the stupa. The higher you can offer on the holy object the better. Now, everyone can offer.

And then the practice is completed. So it is like one package. It is said in the teachings that dedicating the merits is like the rein with which you pull the horse. Whichever way you pull the rein, the horse goes that way. It is the same with dedication of the merits, wherever you dedicate the merits the result happens. Therefore, dedication is important and the correct dedication is the one which is the most profitable, so we should dedicate our merits in the most profitable way.

So the first thing is to actualize bodhicitta—that is the most important thing to happen, the most precious thing to happen in the life.

As many of you know, it was Lama’s idea in the beginning to build this stupa. I found that out later. The thought came into my mind to build a large stupa and I found out Lama Yeshe had that same plan before, so this is not a new plan. This plan belongs to my guru.

I would like to thank very much all the supporters of the project, for all your dedication for all these holy objects. By existing, the stupa and the prayer wheels and many holy objects, every day, without words, we will liberate so many sentient beings, in silence. By actualising this project we can liberate so many sentient beings every day by planting the seed to liberation in their mind and by planting the seed to the whole path in their mind. We will create the cause for the good rebirth every day, of all those sentient beings, the tourists and everybody who will circumambulate. It gives peace of mind, purifies their negative karma and gives them good rebirth and all the happiness.

The most important benefit is that these holy objects help to purify the mind and collect extensive merit so that it is possible for people to have realizations of the path easily. That is the main function of these holy objects— to help us sentient beings have quick realizations of the path to enlightenment, by the power of the holy object.

You can dedicate the benefit or merit of helping the holy object to family members who have passed away. You can dedicate the merit to all the people who are dying of cancer now, to all the people who have AIDS. If you want to do something to help family members who have passed away, for their good rebirth, then dedicate your merit in supporting and giving contributions to this holy object. And you can dedicate to all sentient beings who are suffering now, and that all those who support the project have a good rebirth too. As well, you can dedicate for world peace. There are so many ways you can dedicate the merit every time you make a contribution to the project. And you can pray for the quick realizations of all sentient beings.

I am extremely happy and it feels very positive. When I walked on the land it was very positive and it feels like it will be very successful.

I understand, for all the many hundreds and thousands of years that the stupa will last, every day it will liberate sentient beings in silence, without words, without us talking Dharma to them. Sentient beings who come here, just by seeing the stupa, all those people will have their minds purified. So many negative karmas get purified. Even the insects who get killed by machines during construction will not be reborn in the lower realms. Even those beings that die during building will get a good rebirth.

It is mentioned by a great Indian teacher in a text called Matasara, or something like that, that even if you make food for the people building the temple your negative karma gets purified.

Therefore the stupa is very powerful for purification. Every day it liberates many sentient beings and we must remember that. Even though our lives are not long, the time and effort we put in here, that which we have contributed or built; wherever we are in the six realms or the pure land, or whatever, our effort is continuously benefiting other sentient beings, liberating them from samsara and bringing them to enlightenment. So, like that, even though our lives are short, our effort benefits for a long time. We are liberating numberless sentient beings and bringing them to enlightenment, and we should realize this long-term benefit of our contribution and our dedication.

Thank you very much.

Since you have dedicated so much, you have inspired me to put my little contribution to the stupa, so I offer AU$10,000 for the stupa. At this time I dedicate this offering for the benefit of all sentient beings, so that all my virtuous friends like the Dalai Lama have a long life, and that the teachings of the Buddha and Lama Tsongkhapa flourish and spread, and that all the projects here including the monastery and the stupa succeed, due to this merit as quickly as possible, immediately. Then may it cause all sentient beings to generate bodhicitta in their mind. May it bring peace in this world and may all beings achieve enlightenment as soon as possible and may all the wars, disease, killings, poverty, death by fire, water and earthquake cease, and may all the negative karmas be purified. May all the people who are building, all the benefactors, anyone who is giving time, energy and financial support, including Ian and Judy Green, the directors of the project—may everyone have a long life, may all their wishes succeed immediately and may they achieve the path to enlightenment in this very lifetime. So, we dedicate the merit of this offering.

Regarding the small stupas and the ashes of benefactors, the ashes are to go in containers underneath the stupas, not in the stupas themselves. Make sure that the mantras go the correct way up, because going upside down can cause problems.

Discussion with the architect and artists

After a preliminary explanation by the architect, Peter Weiss, Rinpoche commented:

Rinpoche: The designs around the edges are like relief. You can do it with painting as well. I would like traditional style doors on either side to the gompa, with all the three pieces and different colors. And the circle around the bumpa, I was thinking that could be like in the mandala house at the Kalachakra in Sydney. The outside of the house, not the inside, which has a lotus shape; there are two lotuses—one on top and one down below. Maybe one big lotus or one like this, like the mandala. There can be different designs, but I think having a lotus, one going up like this and one going down, around. They could be also hanging down, on the edge of the roof, like the mandala house. Lotuses up all the way around and down all the way around, like the mandala edge.

Question: Should the design around the doorways of the bumpa be the same as in Gyantse?

Rinpoche: I don’t know, I didn’t notice. That (original) looks like Nepalese style. Like in the Nepalese temples with lots of animals. I do not know the story of these. These are usually the back side of Buddha, it has elephants and it is called six of something. The six things behind the Buddha—Garuda, it must have a meaning but I do not know.

Question: You mean the surrounds should be like a Gokum on a stupa, Rinpoche?

Rinpoche: Yes, Yes right. Ceiling on the fifth floor. Is there a fifth floor?

Peter Weiss: The ceiling is very low—eight feet. I do not think the building code would accept it.

Rinpoche: Even if we made it higher than planned? So people have to go down? And inside the bumpa is high enough? (Yes). Inside Gyantse it is so dark that people find it hard to see. Of course people collect lots of merit, but they can’t see clearly, it is so dark.

I think it is great. Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. I think it will levitate Australia. Opening up the spirit, spiritual. Great.

Peter Weiss: I had in mind if the gompa was being used for teachings, and tourists could not go into the gompa, they could go around the other levels and at the first or second level they could look into the gompa.

Rinpoche: The outside prayer wheels. Originally my plan was for 100,000 prayer wheels. There can be prayer wheels on the walls of the stupa, on the edge, on top of that, but run by electricity, so you can press a button and then the prayer wheels automatically turn for a certain length of time.

Ian Green: $5 a press.

Rinpoche: He’s got the idea, a very good idea. Have many prayer wheels and press a button. It can be done. At monasteries they make light offerings and you offer by making donations. They put the light on for the sponsor who offers that many hours. The prayer wheel turns for a certain number of hours, you can do like that. It could be like that, to help with the maintenance. After building, there is maintenance, and there will be many people looking after the stupa and the gardens, so they need some form of income. It is the same for the Maitreya project, that will need many, many people to look after it. That’s just another idea, it could be one idea.

Peter Weiss: With people going in one direction and with stairs, would it be the right thing to have stupas on the outside walls, on their left? I have designed stairs so you go clockwise going up and down.

Rinpoche: That is fantastic, tremendous. The quicker to get enlightened! I think the prayer wheels when you press the button, which turn for so many hours is OK. But anyway, it’s just an idea. Last time do you remember the message I sent regarding the Lama Yeshe statues at one level? I mentioned some thousand statues inside the stupa, but they could be in the gompa. I thought 100,000 small Buddha statues could be in the gompa on the walls. The other thing is the Buddha’s life story, how he practiced the six paramitas, all the stories of charity, how he sacrificed his life—his eyes, ears, nose and legs—to other sentient beings; how he collected merit as a bodhisattva for six great eons and practiced for sentient beings. There could be 100,000 small buddha statues on the walls of the gompa, so people could do a light offering for every buddha like in the Chinese temples. People could also sponsor that, and that can also help for maintenance and so on.

Rinpoche: How many big halls beside the gompa?

Peter Weiss: Really there’s only one big hall and bumpa.

Rinpoche: There is the fifth floor and gompa. So maybe the Lama Yeshe statue could be inside the bumpa?

Ian Green: We had the three-dimensional mandala you suggested in there.

Rinpoche: Yes, put that. So this floor and the different statues we need to think more about.

Question: Is it possible the floor of the bumpa could be sunk?

Peter Weiss: Yes.

Question: Should we import people from Tibet or India?

Rinpoche: I think you might need one expert Tibetan artist, actually he would become a great educator. He would introduce many people to painting, design etc, so they would learn from that expert artist. He could teach individual artists. Maybe he could make the original copy and then he could guide others.

Ian Green: Government funding is a possibility.

Rinpoche: Very good.

Question: How many prayer wheels should there be and particularly what size?

Rinpoche: There will be some big prayer wheels and mostly smaller, like the one shown. If they go on the roof they could be smaller, but outside they should not be smaller than that prayer wheel over there, the pink one. When people go around, they can turn it.

Question: Are the prayer wheels for every level?

Peter Weiss: That is something we need to work out.

Question: Can we have prayer wheels built into the walls as well?

Rinpoche: More is always better.

Rinpoche: I think there should be signs in the grounds. So many Indian families come to see the stupa and then they can see advice from the text. One text, called the Diamond Cutter Sutra, has many, many advices for life which can be written on signs and notice boards. These teaching and advice for life can be read as people walk around the garden. There are so many families who come and for many of them there is no way to come into contact with these teachings. Most of those people don’t have the karma to hear the teachings in their whole life, even if they are born in India. They have the largest monasteries and thousands and thousands of monks, but even though they are born there, they still cannot receive teachings, while Western people can come and receive the teachings. It is all a question of karma really. Most people come to the garden, so this is the only chance they can see something and learn something. It is a way of helping the mind, so put mantras and such things around in the garden. Vajrasattva will help liberate them from the lower realms.

Question: What is the significance of actually touching the prayer wheel or turning it with a handle? Is it better to turn it by touching the wheel or by the handle? That’s something we have to know in construction.

Rinpoche: The main thing is to turn. I think the material that is connected to the prayer wheel, that is anything that is connected to the prayer, would be beneficial to be touched. To give you an idea, in Namche Bazaar we have water prayer wheels. In Solu Khumbu we have three water prayer wheels. We split wood and make holes for water to run through. The actual prayer wheel is upstairs in a small house about four metres high, built of stones. A shaft goes downstairs to where the wood has a propeller, which turns when the water hits it. Because the wood comes down from the prayer wheel to the water, then all the sentient beings who live in the water that touches the wooden shaft and all the people who drink the water benefit. The wood has the same power as the prayer wheel, so you don’t need to touch the prayer wheel itself.

Question: If the words are going to be translated from Sanskrit and Tibetan into English and Chinese in order that those who come do not need to know Sanskrit and Tibetan, what about the images? Will there also be an attempt to translate the images from exotic Tibetan origins, which most people who will come to the stupa are completely unfamiliar with, into Western imagery, which people will immediately feel a little more familiar with?

Rinpoche: Yes, English is the main language and Chinese is the second language. Probably I wouldn’t recommend Buddha be shown with ties and business suits, and in America with cigars or a suitcase. I’m joking.

I haven’t seen the Buddha yet in Western culture. I haven’t seen that yet. Whatever you do, it must be inspiring. It has to be inspiring, otherwise if it is kind of discouraging art then it has lost its purpose. For example in China, Amitabha is similar, and the Buddha is similar, however, in Mongolia, the general appearance is pretty much the same as Tibetan, but the face is a Mongolian face. It seems to just naturally happen, without a proper system. It just happens naturally. When Western people made contact with Tibetan Buddhism, the face becomes a Western face. It just naturally happens. In Mongolia, Tara has a Mongolian face; a kind of heavy face. But the main point is that it has to be inspiring.

The main purpose of making holy objects is for generating devotion, to create good karma for oneself and others, and to raise devotion. In my experience, if someone has realization or faith, it doesn’t matter how it is drawn. You put it up there with the one drawn by the expert artist and there should not be any discrimination. I am not at that level of mind, so if the painting is not well done then it is kind of difficult to put it on the altar and use it as object of refuge and faith. It can be kind of discouraging, if it is not properly done. The way it’s done affects people’s minds, and if it is nicely done, then everyone wants it. Then everyone gets benefit from it—more people get benefit from it. Basically that answers that question. If you want to do it, that’s fine, then many people can benefit. That is my understanding.

Question: As a supplementary question, creating a new form or evolution of certain images and appreciating that artwork should be inspiring. Who will tell us as artists, if we bring forward a new image or suggestion, whether it is sufficiently inspiring to be considered appropriate for such a place?

Rinpoche: If someone started a statue?

Question: A statue or a proposition presented from the Western art point of view, where we bring our Western experience with us. We are artists who have a background in Western art, and the West also has a long tradition, which we apply with our limited but sincere knowledge of the Dharma. That evolves into something which may not look like anything else previously put in a Buddhist center, but there are very few precedents in the West and Australia. Is this something we might prepare and put to you and you might say, “I have never seen this before, but your ideas seem inspiring” and therefore you might say, “This is new, but here in Australia this seems to be appropriate”?

Rinpoche: I think the main thing is that people like it. As I mentioned, if the public like it, then it is alright.

Question: Rinpoche, what do you think about the example of the two kangaroos holding up the Dharma wheel in this gompa. We present it to you as our teacher, to see whether we are on the right track.

Rinpoche: I would not regard it as a big mistake. When I saw it, I was thinking in my mind ,I don’t think it is a mistake to have a kangaroo there.

I’m not sure of the reason why deer were used, but my guess is that the deer are very alert and when they hear some small noise, they can easily run away. This is my guess. But what other lamas would say, I’m not sure. My own guess is that deer are very alert and not sleepy; not like the koala bear or the lion living in the mountain.

Some of you might know the story of the deer that are sitting there, head up and alert, which signifies the people in the monastery, the Sangha, who have to do listening and meditation practice, so that they realize the path to enlightenment and cease all their gross and subtle defilements. So it starts with that. The deer signify that this is done eagerly—it is not a job or a burden to listen to the teachings. From your side, you want to pay attention to teachings with your whole heart, so the deer are looking up and listening to the Dharma.

The wheel also has a whole explanation. Inside the hoop, which signifies the higher training in morality on the basis of the higher training of concentration and then the higher training of wisdom. The eight spokes signify the eightfold noble path, so realizations happen on the basis of the higher trainings and so on; maybe in an abbreviated encounter with the higher trainings, the path to liberation. It signifies what the Sangha living in the monastery are supposed to do. This symbol outside signifies what they are supposed to practice—the three higher trainings. So, we understand what they are supposed to practice and how they should lead their life, to explain Dharma and to listen to Dharma.

The reason for the deer might be to signify being alert, like that. I’m not sure, but that’s my guess. Then I think that using the kangaroo might be OK as long as you do not use those very sleepy animals.

An address to the CPMT 2000 delegates at Chenrezig Institute, April 3, 2000

Since many people do not have the karma to come to teachings, the other way to liberate and save sentient beings from the lower realms, from samsara, and even from subtle defilements is by seeing holy objects, by going around them. Remembering the holy object will help them to enlightenment. This is the essential purpose of the stupa.

Those who build and work to actualize these holy objects will bring them to enlightenment. So anyone who sees the stupa, touches it, remembers it or even dreams of it, will plant the seed to their own enlightenment. Prostrating and so on to the stupa helps bring them to enlightenment.

By having a sacred relic mantra within the stupa—normally you write on the central tree in the stupa with gold, then any animals, ants or butterflies that move around the stupa even one time are purified from going to the hot hells.

If we offer a bell to the stupa, then any animal who hears the bell—even if they have killed an arhat, harmed a Buddha, caused a schism in the Sangha or killed their mother or father, that karma gets purified. Even birds who hear the bell benefit in this way.

The actual path is teachings and meditation, but for this we need a lot of merit and to have purified a lot of negative karma. However, the immediate and most urgent thing is a better rebirth if we die, so these holy objects can be really beneficial. Even going around the stupa one time purifies so much negative karma and causes us to have good rebirth, not in the lower realms. This is purified immediately.

The conclusion for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike is that the stupa is a way to purify defilements. This holy stupa is a way to benefit sentient beings without words. In silence, it will liberate beings from samsara. This makes the country very rich and very lucky to have such a holy object existing in that country. Many people will come as tourists for pleasure, but it will make their life meaningful.