Gem of Wisdom for Daily Reflection: 

The Benefits of Building And Honouring Stupas In Accordance To The Buddha

Stupa of the great terton Mingyur Dorje at the Palyul Retreat Centre in upstate New York, USA Dhamek Stupa built at the site where Shakyamuni Buddha gave his first teaching in Sarnath, India The Peace Pagoda built by Nipponzan Myohoji monks in Vienna, Austria

The benefits of involvement in the construction of a stupa and being part of the auspicious activities of paying homage to a stupa are truly immeasurable. The advantages that can be gained from such actions are reiterated by Shakyamuni Buddha in numerous sutras.

In the Rivyasapariprccha Sutra, it states:

“Great sage, I proclaim that whoever pays respect
To the past Buddhas or the living Buddha,
The merits accumulated are equal.
Because the tathagatas are defined
By their qualities of dharmakaya
And not by their forms.”

In the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra, it states:

“To the stupa of the sugatas,
Even if one offers merely
The sound of a cymbal,
A single flower,
An offering with undisciplined thought
To an image of a sugata,
One will in times behold ten millions buddhas.
Whoever joins their palms in veneration before a stupa,
Be it be two palms together or one single palm,
The head bows for a moment,
Or the body bows just once,
Or prostrates with an absent mind,
To the place where the relics are placed,
Or utters the word ‘buddha’
Just once or a few times,
Will attain enlightenment.”

 

At one time, Shakyamuni Buddha was staying in Jetavana in Sravasti.  A brahmin youth approached the Blessed One and enquired the reasons why there is such a diversity of fate among living beings. The Buddha gave a discourse on fifty-one varieties of actions and the types of rebirths that will come about as the consequence of such actions. This includes the benefits that can be attained through devotional activities related to the stupa. This discourse is preserved in the Karma­vibhanga Sutra.

The benefits that can be obtained through devotional activities related to the stupa as stated in the Karma­vibhaṅga Sutra are as follows:

“Young brahmin, one will gain ten benefits through joining their palms in reverence before a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will be born into a noble family.
  2. One will have a tall stature.
  3. One will be served by many.
  4. One will display filial piety towards one’s parents.
  5. One will possess great store of resources.
  6. One will possess great store of knowledge.
  7. One will possess strong faith.
  8. One will possess great memory.
  9. One will possess great store of insight.
  10. One will reborn in heaven.

“One will gain ten benefits from prostrating before a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will possess a beautiful body.
  2. One will possess a pleasing voice.
  3. One will be listened to by everyone.
  4. One will be praise by those who serve.
  5. One will be endowed with happiness.
  6. One will be influential among devas.
  7. One will be influential among humans.
  8. One will have abundant possessions.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits from offering a parasol at a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will be protected from harm.
  2. One will cause no harm to the world.
  3. One will become the role model of other’s aspirations.
  4. One will gain worldly power.
  5. One will fulfill all aspirations.
  6. One will in times attain the state of a universal monarch.
  7. One will become very powerful.
  8. One will have abundant possessions.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits from offering a bell at a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will possess a beautiful body.
  2. One will have melodious voice.
  3. One’s speech will be pleasing to others.
  4. One’s speech will be like the song of the kalavinka bird of the pure land.
  5. One will be listened to by everyone.
  6. One will always be happy.
  7. One will always hear pleasing sounds.
  8. One will have abundant possessions.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits from offering robes at a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will possess a fine complexion.
  2. Dirt will not cling to one’s body.
  3. One will be conscientious.
  4. One will be a delight to behold.
  5. One will always have clothes.
  6. One’s garments will remain soft and lasting.
  7. One will obtain anything that one wishes.
  8. One will have abundant possessions.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits from offering flowers at a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will be possess physical beauty.
  2. One’s power of expression will be purified.
  3. One’s body will produce sweet fragrance.
  4. One’s power will become purified.
  5. One will have the strength to uphold moral discipline everywhere.
  6. One will have the power to captivate others.
  7. One will acquire all desired qualities.
  8. One will obtain countless desired qualities.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits from offering garlands at a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One’s physical body will become fragrant like a garland for the world.
  2. One’s power will become purified.
  3. One’s body scent will always be pleasant.
  4. One will be endowed with adornments.
  5. One will have close relationship with the company one keep.
  6. One will have harmony with the company one keep.
  7. One will be appealing to behold by everyone.
  8. One will have abundant possessions.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits from offering a lamp at a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will become like a bright lamp to the world.
  2. One physical eyes will become purified.
  3. One will obtain the supra-mundane ability of divine eye.
  4. One will not be shrouded in the darkness of ignorance.
  5. One will obtain the light of knowledge.
  6. One will be able to differentiate between virtuous and non-virtuous objectives.
  7. One will not be intoxicated by ignorance even when born in samsara.
  8. One will have abundant possessions.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits from offering incense at a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will become like a refine fragrance for the world.
  2. One will have discerning sense of smell.
  3. One’s body scent will become purified.
  4. One’s body scent will remain fragrant to others.
  5. One will have a beautiful body.
  6. One will attract the gathering of people.
  7. One will acquire all desired qualities.
  8. One will obtain countless desired qualities.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits from offering a drum at a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will have a beautiful body.
  2. One will have a pleasing voice.
  3. One’s speech will be pleasing to others.
  4. One will be endowed with happiness.
  5. One will always be likeable to others.
  6. One’s words will be listened to by others.
  7. One will in times obtain a renowned voice.
  8. One will have abundant possessions.
  9. One will reborn in heaven.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

“One will gain ten benefits by building a stupa of the sugata. What are these ten?

  1. One will be born in a noble family.
  2. One’s body and eyes will be beautiful and appealing.
  3. One will become influential with a large harmonious following.
  4. One will have abundant possessions.
  5. One will have the power to bring about reconciliation.
  6. One will be renowned for virtues and revered by both devas and humans.
  7. One will in times have great wealth.
  8. One will become a universal monarch.
  9. One will obtain the indestructible body of a vajra-bodhisattva.
  10. One will speedily attain nirvana.

For the benefits that can be obtained through circumambulating a stupa, this was explained by Shakyamuni Buddha to Shariputra in the Caitya Pradaksina Gata:

“What karmic fruition will arise due to the cause of circumambulating stupas?

The perfected buddha, supreme among men responses:

“I will explain briefly some of the benefits of circumambulating stupa:

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
Devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas,
Asuras, garudas, kinnaras, and
Mahoragas will all make offerings to you.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will eliminate the eight unfavourable conditions
Of being reborn - in the hell realms, as a hungry ghost,
As animal, as long-life god,
At a time without Buddha,
In a place without Dharma,
With defective sense faculties,
And with wrong views.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will be blessed with good memory,
Intelligence, attractive appearance,
You will be knowledgeable
And will become the recipient of many offerings.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
All beings, devas, humans
Will have long lives
And attain great fame.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will be born in a noble family of pure conduct
With a foremost lineage in Jambudvipa
And you will be intelligent.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will have a magnificent face with no blemish, 
Good complexion, well-learned, 
And you will have a blissful existence.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will possess great wealth and precious gems.
Free of avarice, endowed with generosity, 
And you will rejoice in the acts of giving to others.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will be blessed with an aesthetic face,
Pleasing for others to behold, 
And you will enjoy having many possessions.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will recognise all conditioned phenomena are without substance.
You will not become deluded by the display of phenomena,
And you will quickly attain a blissful existence.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will be born in the warrior caste of the Ksatriya lineage.
You will always have the company of women around, 
And you will possess great strength and firm resolve.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will be born in the highest caste of Brahman.
You will have moral ethics, diligent attitude, 
And you will have knowledge of secret mantra.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will be born as a great high caste householder.
You will possess great wealth and precious gems,
And you will have a lot of riches and stores of grains.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will become a distinguished sovereign of Jambudvipa,
A king blessed with dharma, 
And you will reign over all the land.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will become a chakravarti - the universal ruler - a wheel-turning king
Endowed with the precious wheel, precious jewels, precious queen,
Precious minister, precious elephant, precious horse, precious general, 
And you will turn the wheel in accordance with the Dharma.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will reborn in a higher realm, 
Rejoice in the teachings of the Buddha,
And you will have great spiritual miraculous powers.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will, after your life expired in the deva realm, 
Reborn in the human realm,
Enter a womb free from illusion.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will not be defiled, 
By the impured environ of the womb,
And you will remain like a stainless gem.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will abide in the womb free from discontentment,
Born in a totally blissful state,
And you will take to your mother’s milk naturally.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will be raised by your father,
Serve by a retinue of many attendants,
And you will receive tender care from your mother.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will be cherished by your relatives,
Your father and mother will dote on you,
And your will have many possessions.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
All malevolent entities such as pisacas and raksasas,
Will not cause you harm,
And you will take delight in your pure possessions.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
Your sight and your speech will not be impaired,
For a hundred aeons,
And your body will always remain pure.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
Your eyes will remain pure,
Well proportion, dark blue and attractive,
And your will attain the supra-mundane power of divine eye.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
Your body will be of good constitution.
Your mind will be stable with firm resolve,
And you will have dependable round shoulders.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
Your body will be strong,
With a magnificent face and perfect limbs,
Adorned with all the signs of pure activities.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will become Indra of the heaven of the thirty-three,
And reign over the devas under your command,
With great supernatural powers.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will become king of the devas of heaven free from strife.
Likewise, in the heaven of great joys, heaven delighting in creation,
And heaven of wielding power over others’ creations.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will become Brahma,
King of the heavenly realms of brahmaloka,
And countless millions of devas will make offerings to you.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will receive offerings for from the sages,
For ten thousand million aeons,
And still you will receive more for billions of aeons.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will have an immaculate body,
And immaculate garments,
For ten thousand million aeons.
And you will be blessed
With the virtuous endowment of Dharma.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will have incredible strength and resolve.
You will be diligent in applying yourself,
And you will attain the ultimate accomplishment.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will have great tenacity and unabated power,
Great capacity to accommodate all phenomena without hindrance,
And you will attain all your goals.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will have a voice that is clear and reach easily to others.
Your voice will be pleasing to hear,
And you will be protected from harm and disease.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will speedily arrive at that place,
Where I have already taught,
And you will attain the most incredible births.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will attain the four applications of mindfulness -
Of body, feelings, the mind, and phenomena.
You will attain the four immeasurables -
Of loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity.
And you will attain the four feet of miraculous power -
Of intention, diligence, attention and discernment.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will realise the four truths for the noble beings,
The five powers, the five strengths,
And you will accomplish all seven factors of enlightenment.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will attain the six supra-mundane powers without contamination.
You will become an arhat,
And all your afflictive emotions will be eliminated.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will become free of attachment and aversion.
You will become a solitary realiser,
And severe all links to samsara.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
You will become the tathagata.
You will attain a golden body,
Completed with all the major and minor marks of a buddha.

“Circumambulating is an expression of body,
Circumambulating is an expression of speech,
Circumambulating is an expression of the mind,
Circumambulating is also the expression of aspiration prayer.

“By the action of circumambulating stupas,
The goals of all paths will be realised.
The most incredible qualities exist therein
Of circumambulating the stupa of the world protector,
Are not feasible to be adequately conveyed
Through the expression of just words.”

These few extracts from the teaching of the Buddha should provide a glimpse of insight into the benefits that arise from the building of a stupa and the honouring of a stupa.

As explained in many sutras and tantras, the guru is the embodiment of the buddhas of the three times. During the current time of degeneration, the significance of the guru is far greater than the buddhas of the three times. To offer one’s services to please one’s root guru through one’s accomplishments, through one’s body and speech, through one’s material offerings, or through commemorating his parinirvana by building a stupa to enshrine his remains, or engaging in any virtuous activities of body, speech and mind, while remembering one’s guru and his qualities, are causes of generating immeasurable merits for the benefit of oneself and the beings of wider afield.

Whoever wish to accumulate a great store of merits should rejoice in the activities of building stupas, offering prostration, making offerings and performing circumambulation.

This teaching entitled ‘The Benefits of Building And Honouring Stupas In Accordance To The Buddha’ is presented here by Tenzin Gyalpo Drakpa Gyaltsen Dondrup Dorje as his homage to all the Buddhas of the three times in ten directions. May all beings have the karmic condition to put these advice into practice.