A stupa is a very holy and precious object. Wherever a stupa has been built, all beings in that particular area receive numerous benefits. The immeasurable qualities of a stupa permeate the area for hundreds of miles. A stupa is a representation, a display of an enlightened mind, and is viewed as the body of the Buddha. All who help build, repair, and/or maintain a stupa accumulate immeasurable merit and can achieve the path to enlightenment. A stupa is the path to enlightenment.
In the 1990s, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, Spiritual Director and Teacher for Kunzang Palyul Choling (KPC), in existence for almost 30 years, has built many stupas and is considered a stupa builder. (www.tara.org)
KPC, headquartered in Poolesville, Maryland is home to the Stupa and Peace Park, 65 acres of beautiful land containing five color gardens corresponding to the five directions, and purifications of the five poisons (desire, jealousy, anger, pride and ignorance). Each garden contains a small stupa and crystal. The park also has the miraculous Migyur Dorje Stupa, and trails forming a metaphysical aspect to the park. Within the stupa park, located in the northwest corner of the overall park, is Jetsunma’s Long Life Stupa. It is the focal point of the stupa park.
There are eight types of stupas. The long life stupas are also called Victory stupas. A victory stupa represents the time when the Buddha did retreat for an extended period of time, focusing on extending life span. The steps on a long life stupa are round versus square, and represent this retreat period.
For approximately the past 5 years, a precious substance has been “leaking” from the face of the throne portion or section of Jetsunma’s long life stupa in the KPC stupa park.
Many Buddhist Teachers and Lamas, including His Holiness Penor Rinpoche (http://www.palyul.org/eng_bio_hh01_recog.htm ) commented on this miraculous event, indicating that the liquid emanating is nectar, and is an auspicious sign. His instructions at that time were to not be concerned in repairing the stupa. Since his passing in 2009, the cracks forming on the throne section of the stupa have increased, and elongated, causing concern regarding the ordinary structure of the stupa.
After consulting with Buddhist Lamas within the Palyul lineage, and researching how these concerns regarding stupas are addressed within Palyul, students of Jetsunma’s, Anis Dawa and Sherab Khandro made plans to drill small holes in the face of the throne to relieve the pressure that had formed inside the stupa, causing the cracks and compromising the structure of the stupa.
Activity on the stupa got underway on Thursday morning, August 30th. What began to exude from the stupa was shocking. Liquid poured from the stupa, and by the end of the day over 100 gallons had exuded from within the throne of the stupa. The nuns were fortunate enough to capture most of the liquid in large containers. The liquid continued to drain well into Friday, and the Anis asked Jetsunma what they should do with the contents. Jetsunma instructed to spread it around the area, that is should stay on sacred land. The nuns developed a more elaborate tubing system, allowing the contents to drain into the Earth, around flowers and planted vegetation. The contents that had been captured the day prior and put into containers were spread in the ivy ground cover around each of the Eight Great Deeds stupas in the stupa park.
The smell of the contents pervaded the area, and was to the ordinary nose rather pungent. On Sunday, September 2nd, Ani Dawa went to the stupa park to check on the draining, and the stupa itself. She reported that the air and entire area of the stupa park had a sweet smell, which reminded her of honey. There was a small trickle of liquid still draining from the drilled holes, but the oozing had stopped from the cracks.
The Anis reported to Jetsunma what had happened, and she indicated that the sweet smell is auspicious.
It should also be noted that on Friday, August 30th, Jetsunma was experiencing excruciating neck pain, to the point she could not move. She was literally in traction from the pain. She received lots of care, but the pain did not begin to subside until Sunday, September 2nd. She is doing better now, but sore from the pain.
Stupas embody symbolic meaning. Every portion of the stupa has meaning and purpose. Each section is precious and while there are ordinary concerns to be aware of from a structure/ construction standpoint, they are essentially indestructible. It is our jobs, as students of the dharma to take care of them, repair them, and tend to them as though we are tending to the very body of the Buddha.
The face and throne section of the stupa symbolizes superiority over the whole universe and, in particular, the four fearlessnesses, which are a result of the four knowledges:
- Knowledge that all factors of existence are understood
- Knowledge that the obstacles are correctly known and the way to stop them can be taught to others
- Knowledge that the path of renunciation, through which all the virtuous qualities are obtained, and in fact been accomplished
- Knowledge that all corruption has been brought to an end
[Four Fearlessnesses. Only a Buddha has (1) fearlessness because knowledge of all knowledge has been acquired; (2) fearlessness because all afflictions have been eradicated; (3) fearlessness in explaining hindrances that obstruct one’s realization of bodhi; and (4) fearlessness in explaining the right path to end one’s suffering]. ~Mahaparinirvana Sutra
By repairing the stupas, one is very fortunate, and blessed to be practicing the path to enlightenment; having a meaningful and purposeful life, coming closer to liberation from cyclic existence and suffering. Jetsunma is constantly and consistently giving us the opportunity to achieve spiritual accomplishment. Her display is the Buddha, her activities are miraculous, and always for the benefit of beings.
Om Ah Hung Benzar Guru Pedma Siddhu Hung
Benefits and Practices related to Statues & Stupas, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, FPMT, Inc. 2003