A Brief Description of the Benefits of Erecting a Stupa and of
Circumambulating, Paying Homage, Making Offerings, and Addressing Prayers to It
Explained by Kyabje Chatral Sangye Dorje
ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY Mike Dickman
KÖN CHOG SUM LA CHAG ‘TSÄL LO – To the Three Rare and Sublime Jewels I bow down.
May this brief explanation of the benefits accruing to those who erect a support of offerings(1) to the sugatas(2), and, filled with faith, make prostrations and offerings to it and circumambulate it be of use to all those fortunate ones with an interest in what is set down here and borne out by quotations from the authentic scriptural tradition.
Thus, as stated in The Discourse Which Is a Detailed Exegesis on Karma:
The Buddha replied as follows to the Brahmin Youth Netso: “There are eighteen benefits to building a stupa for the Tathagata.(3) What are these? One is reborn as the son of a great king, has a fine physical form, and is deeply loved for one’s graciousness. One has sharp intelligence, many servants, and a vast retinue for whom one serves as support and who delight in proclaiming one’s fame, widely disseminating and revealing it throughout the ten directions. One receives offerings from the gods and comes to possess great riches and the sovereignty of a ‘wheel-turning king.’ One has great vitality and one’s body becomes like an invincible host. One is born in the higher realms and swiftly passes completely beyond all suffering. These are the eighteen benefits that accrue to all who erect a stupa for the Tathagata.”
The Root Tantra of Mañjushri states:
As to purifying the body, even those who have committed the five sins of immediate retribution(4) will achieve this if they build a stupa with their own hands. Those who build a hundred thousand stupas will become wheel-turning kings with mastery of pure awareness. Perfectly understanding all scriptures composed by learned and realized masters and with full comprehension of skilful means, remaining for aeons at a time, even if they should die, they will always be reborn a king and never fall into lower destinies. Like the sun blazing in the center of the realm, they will be endowed with all authority. They will have total recall of all Dharma they have heard and remember their previous lives.
And, in The Discourse on the Basket Filled with Secret Relics we find:
The Transcendent and Victorious Lord then spoke as follows: “Vajrapani, if someone writes down this Dharma discourse and places it inside a stupa, that stupa will become a sanctuary for the relics of the indestructible quintessence(5) of all tathagatas, will become a reliquary of the blessings of the secret quintessence of the supporting power(6) of all tathagatas, a reliquary of tathagatas as many as there are individual grains in ninety-nine heaps of sesame seed, a stupa blessed as the crest and eyes of all tathagatas. Whoever places images of buddha forms inside a stupa will be naturally blessed with the seven jewels of the tathagata’s bodily form. Any sentient being who offers honor and respect to that stupa will certainly attain the state of a ‘never-returner’ and that of complete and perfect peerless enlightenment, authentic and total buddhahood. Those who make a single prostration to it or circumambulate it once will be completely freed from ever falling into the Avichi and other such hells and will become ‘never-returners’ of complete and perfect peerless enlightenment.
Wherever such a stupa or buddha form is found, that place will also be blessed by all tathagatas.”
The following verses come from The Discourse of the Holy Doctrine of the White Lotus:
All who build a stupa of this nature to the Victorious Ones
out of sand and brick
or who even just pile up sand and dust to that end,
who in due fashion or even as simple child’s play
build a refuge from suffering
and even those who simply heap up sand
as a support of offering to the Victorious Ones-
all such persons will attain enlightenment.
Likewise, regarding the benefit of making offerings, The Discourse Requested by King Prasenajit states:
Those who whitewash a stupa to the Lord of Victors,
will attain long life in the pure realms of gods and men,
freedom from all illness of body and mind, complete freedom from
eternal happiness and great wealth.
Those who make an essentialized offering to all stupas of the
will certainly attain great fame,
have a delightful voice like the melodious tones of Brahma, and
recall their previous lives.
Just such adornments shall they obtain.
Those wise ones who-their minds filled with faith-attach
to a support of offering for the Sugata(7),
perfectly adorning it with many necklaces of gold and precious
will attain the gateway of perfect merit.
Those who make an offering of music to stupas of the Victorious
will attain profound awareness and perfect courage
and fill the universe with the perfect resonance of their
flawless fivefold cognitive powers(8) and speech.(9)
Whoever adorns those who have the quintessence of enlightened
body and speech
and have become a source of immaculate merit
with beautiful banners and pennants
and accompanies this with offerings will become an object of
worship for the entire triple world.
By attaching beribboned diadems to stupas of the Sugata
they will attain glorious sovereignty over all of mankind and
power over even Indra, king of the gods;
experiencing supreme bliss,
they will attain as their attribute the crown of total liberation.
By sweeping round a stupa of the Victorious Lord
they will become pleasing to the eye, extremely lovely to behold.
Their faces beautiful and colored like a lotus,
they will be utterly free of all worldly stain.
Whoever, sprinkling with pure water,
lays the dust around a stupa in spring
will wield Indra’s golden vajra-sceptre
and gain power over the movement of all atomic particles
with a joy like that of the purest of maidens.
Furthermore, as to the benefit in making prostration to and circumambulating a stupa, as is said in The Discourse of Avalokita:
If you kneel before the sublime symbols of the Transcendent
you will become a wheel-turning emperor with the strength of a
and armor colored gold in all its details.
and The Discourse of the Holy Doctrine of the White Lotus says:
Whosoever makes a gesture of reverence toward that stupa
with palms fully joined or even with just a single palm
and simultaneously bows his or her head
or similarly makes a single prostration of the whole body,
and whoever bows to that shrine of relics
with a distracted mind or even repeats the single word, “Buddha,”
many times over,
all such individuals will attain this sublime enlightenment.
In The Verses on Circumambulating a Stupa it is stated that:
The complete merit of circumambulating
a stupa of the Lord of the Universe
cannot be adequately taught
in mere words.
Thus, having generated certainty and far-reaching interest through these and other such sutras and tantras, I sincerely urge all of you who seek blessings and well-being to circumambulate and make prostrations, offerings, and prayers to these supreme and extraordinary supports so meaningful to see, hear of, or recall to mind, and, with exalted resolve, to take advantage of this support of a human body to put as much effort as you can into the accumulation of merit and purification of sin.
Since this is the epoch of the spread of the five rampant degenerations,(10) taking support in the enlightened body, speech, and mind of the Victorious Ones, I, Jatang Buddha,(11) have written this down in my own hand as a guide for living beings. By this merit may all beings come to the stage where they pass beyond the limits of cyclic existence and transcendent peace and completely overthrow the armies of Mara. Acquiring mastery over the kingdom of Samantabhadra, may they spontaneously realize the aims of themselves and others in a blaze of auspicious glory.
This was composed on the auspicious 22nd day of the 9th month of the male Fire Horse year of the 16th sexagenary cycle of the Tibetan calendar,(12)
SARWA MANGALAM – May all be auspicious
The original Tibetan text was handed out as a gift of Dharma by ‘Drongpa Akar.
- A literal translation of the word mchod rten, the Tibetan equivalent of the Sanskrit stupa.
- Sanskrit term meaning “those who course in, come from, or go to bliss.” However, the compound term bde gshegs mchod rten (sugata stupa) could equally well simply be a reference to the round stupa with four or seven layers of lotus petals that commemorates the occasion of the birth of the Buddha Shakyamuni at Kapilavastu.
- A Sanskrit term meaning ‘those who course in, come from, or go into thusness.’
- Patricide, matricide, killing an arhat, causing dissension in the sangha, and drawing the blood of a tathagata with evil intent.
- Tib. rdo rje snying po
- Skt. dharani
- A reference, here, particularly to Buddha Shakyamuni.
- The five mundane supernormal cognitive powers are clairvoyance, clairaudience, knowledge of the minds of others, miraculous abilities and knowledge of both one’s own and others’ past lives. The supramundane qualities are the five facets of primordial awareness, primordial awareness of the ultimate space of absolute reality, mirrorlike primordial awareness, primordial awareness of fundamental equality, the primordial awareness that knows each thing in its every detail, and primordial awareness as the accomplishment of all activity.
- Enlightened speech has uncreated meaning, intentional symbols, expressive words, is the speech of indestructible and indivisible reality, and is the expression of the blessings of pure awareness.
- (i) The degeneration of views due to the decline in virtue of renunciates resulting in a corruption of the view, (ii) the degeneration of disturbing emotions due to the decline in virtue of householders, which means coarse-natured minds where coarseness refers to strong and long-lasting negative mental states, (iii) the degeneration of time itself due to a decline in enjoyments referring to the deterioration entailed in the Aeon of Strife, (iv) the degeneration of life-span due to the decline of sustaining life-force, meaning a decrease in the life-span until it finally reaches the length of ten years, and (v) the degeneration of sentient beings, referring to the decline in body due to inferior shape and size, the decline in merit due to diminished power and splendor, and the decline of mind due to weakened sharpness of intellect, power of recollection, and diligence.
- The Sanskrit of the first element of Rinpoche’s personal name; Sangye in Tibetan.
- November 6th, 1966.