All about Chörtens....

Benalmadena Stupa, Malaga, Spain

What Are Stupas?

“Stupas (Tib. Chörten) began in pre-Buddhist India as hemispherical burial grounds that marked the remains of temporal rulers. At an early stage in the development of Buddhist art, they became symbols of the Buddha’s continuing immanence as well as representations of his Mind....” Robert Thurman/Denise Leidy “Mandala, The Architecture of Enlightenment”.

Because every element of a Buddha’s physical body is pervaded with the pure energy of Enlightened Mind, the teacher’s remains after cremation are considered sacred. One sign that a teacher is an Enlightened manifestation is that relics will be found in the ashes that resemble small, round pearls which can be white, red, or brown. These are often the relics that are put inside stupas being built today.

8 Great Deeds

Since Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing, the stupas that have been built are representations of his form and memorials of his 8 Great Deeds. The structures are constructed according to guidelines found in Buddhist scripture that he left for us. Many stupas today are built on these representations.



The stupa has long been a potent Buddhist symbol, a pure manifestation of enlightenment. Constructed in accord with universal principles and empowered with the knowledge conveyed through the Buddhist lineages, stupas promote harmony and balance in the world. Magnified many times over by the relics sealed within, their ability to defuse the forces of chaos and negativity can ease the ills of body and mind, heighten awareness, and avert natural disasters. For those attuned to their significance, stupas can transmit the power of enlightenment.

Consecrated by the blessings of the enlightened lineages, the stupa transforms offerings into merit that opens the spiritual path and awakens the aspiration for realization. Providing no place for the ego to take hold, the stupa is a pure receptacle for devotion and prayer directed to peace and harmony among living beings. It promotes order in nature and in the wider cosmos, protecting from disasters and healing the disquiets of the human heart. Within its range of blessings suffering dissolves, and compassion begins to emerge. From compassion arises Bodhicitta, the heart of enlightenment.

The Swayambhupurana describes the arising of the primeval cosmic stupa and its appearance throughout the aeons in Buddhafield after Buddhafield, from the time of the Buddha Vipashyin to the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni. Although the Swayambhu of our time is located in Nepal, the text clearly refers to the stupa as Dharmadhatu, beyond all concepts of time and space. Emphasizing the stupa’s primeval nature, it locates the site of the stupa’s arising in the three times (past, present, and future), during which it bears four names: the Mountain of Lotuses; Mount Goshringa, the Bull-Horn Mountain (a place associated also with Khotan); the Vajra Range and the Bull’s Tail.

The Dharmadhatu, which literally means field of Dharma, is cosmic in scope; having no beginning or end, it encompasses all pure enlightened qualities. Transcending all modes of dualistic thought, Dharmadhatu accommodates the appearance of all Buddhas, who manifest out of compassion to demonstrate the way to enlightenment. The Dharmadhatu has no substance or form; ineffable and unchanging, it shines through the forms of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, embodiments of enlightenment. As the Swayambhu-purana relates, in aeons past the pure Dharmadhatu arose from a thousand-petalled lotus, and out of compassion for living beings, became visible in the form of a stupa.

Circumambulating Stupas

The sutras explain the benefits of circumambulating stupas, maintaining them, and beautifying them with offerings of gold, flowers, incense, and devotion. In so doing, one honors the precious seed of enlightenment inherent in self and others and enriches the soil in which it can grow.

Buddhists circumambulate Stupas clockwise (except for Vajrayogini practitioners), while Bönpos circumambulate them counterclockwise (which has to do with the emphasis of the female energie, rather than the male energy).

The verses that follow are a translation of the Caitya-pradaksina-gatha, preserved in the Kagyur, the section of the Tibetan Canon devoted to the direct teachings of the Buddha.


Homage to the Three Jewels

After the Buddha, the One of Great Wisdom, had turned the Dharma Wheel in the world, the wise one Sariputra humbly asked, “What are the results that come from circumambulating a stupa? May the Guide of the supreme universe of this great kalpa please advise me.”

The perfect Buddha, supreme among two-legged beings, the Enlightened One, granted this reply: “I will indicate a few of the qualities gained from circumambulating stupas.”

“When you circumambulate a stupa you will be honored by gods, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, and asuras, by garudas, kinnaras, and mahoragas.

“Once you gain the leisure, so vary rare, and circumambulate a stupa for even a very short time, the eight adverse states will be no more.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: mindfulness and clear perception; a radiant appearance and intelligence; and you will be honored everywhere.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: a very long life – a lifetime more like that of a god – in which you will obtain great renown.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: rebirth in Jambuling in a family of worthy line and virtuous mind.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will be pure as the snow; you will be good, radiant, and wise, and you will lead a happy life.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: wealth of every kind; freedom from greed; generosity and joy in giving.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will be a true delight, beautiful to behold, radiant, a joy to see, and endowed with vast enjoyment of life.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will see the whole process of perception as empty, and, bewilderment about the Dharma ended, you will quickly obtain the state of bliss.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will be reborn in an imperial line of kings with a circle of female attendants, and you will have great strength and perseverance.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will be reborn in the great Brahma’s lofty realm, where you will possess self-discipline, profound understanding, and knowledge of healing rituals.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will be reborn in Grihapatis’ lofty realm, provided with all sorts of riches and a wealth of grain and jewels.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will be reborn as a lord of Jambuling, with a domain extending to the ends of the earth, and you will be a Dharma king.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will be reborn as a cakravartin king, possessing the seven more precious supports for a king; accordingly, you will turn the Dharma wheel.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: After death you will pass to the higher realms; rejoicing in the Buddha’s doctrine, you will be a yogin and a miracle-worker.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will pass from the realm of the gods to be reborn in the human realm, and will enter the womb with clear intent.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will never be harmed by the contaminants that come from the conditions of the womb – you will be like the purest of gems.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will dwell happily in the womb, you will be born easily, and joyfully you will drink at the breast.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will have a father who will ensure you the finest care by many attendants and a nursemaid who is always attentive.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: Your relatives will adore you, loving you even more than your parents do. And as you grow, your pleasure will steadily increase.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: Flesh-eaters and other demonic beings will not harm you, and you will live a life of flawless enjoyment.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: For one hundred dalpas your body will be perfect; you will never be crippled or blind.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: Your eyes will become totally pure: oblong, sapphire-hued, and beautiful like the eyes of the gods.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: Both body and mind will be well-balanced, your determination unswerving, and your shoulders broad and dependable.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: Your body will be powerful and perfectly shaped, with wondrous characteristics.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will become Indra, Lord of the Thirty-three – the one with miraculous abilities, the great Lord of Gods.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will become the king of the gods of the heaven called Yama or Tusita or of the heaven Nirmanarati or Parinirmita-vasavartin.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will gain the power of Brahma himself in the world of Brahma, and you will be worshiped by many tens of millions of gods.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: For one thousand times ten million kalpas – and one hundred times one hundred billion more – you will be endowed with wisdom and always honored.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: For one thousand times ten million kalpas your body will be pure and your attire pristine as you practice the immaculate Dharma.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will gain strength and perfect vitality, and setting laziness aside, you will obtain the supreme accomplishments.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will become steadfast and dynamic; through immense ability, unstoppable, quickly achieving the highest aims.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will obtain a melodious voice with a pleasing pitch and dulcet tone. You will never be harmed and you will be free from disease.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will quickly reach the stage of Enlightened Teacher such as I myself, and you will obtain rebirth as a great sage.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will soon obtain th four foundations of mindfulness, the Four Immeasurables of Mind and the powers of the Bases of Miraculous Ability.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will achieve the Four Noble Truths, the powers and the strengths, and the fruit of the limbs of enlightenment.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will obtain the six superknowledges, unstained, having cast off all th emotional fetters, and you will become a wonder-working Arhat.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: Having cast off desire and hatred and having given up all your attendants, you will gain the enlightenment of a Pratyekabuddha.

“Circumambulating a stupa will have this result: You will be ornamented with the marks of the Tathagatas manifest in the world, and you will obtain a body of golden hue.

“Circumambulation is a physical act; circumambulation is an act of speech as well; circumambulation is an act of the mind; circumambulation instills the aspiration for enlightenment. By circumambulation, you achieve your sims in all the stages of bliss so hard to traverse.

“What then are the benefits of circumambulating the stupa of the Lord of the World? Although words are far too limited to express them well, out of mercy for sentient beings, and as requested by Sariputra, the Lord of the World will indicate the benefits of honoring the stupa.

“The value of one hundred horses, one hundred measures of gold, one hundred chariots drawn by mules, one hundred chariots drawn by mares and filled with precious jewels could not even begin to equal one sixteenth part of one step of one circumambulation.

“One hundred maidens of Kamboja wearing jeweled earrings with circlets of gold upon their arms and adorned with rings and necklaces of the finest gold; one hundred elephants, snowy white, robust and broad-backed, adorned with gold and jewels, carrying their great trunks curved over their heads like plowshares, could not even begin to equal one sixteenth part of the value of one step of one circumambulation.

“O wise one, the benefit of those who joyfully take one step around the Buddha’s stupa is unmatched by the benefit of gaining one hundred thousand measures of gold from the gold river of Jambu.

“O wise one, the benefit of those who joyfully offer a clay bowls to the Buddha’s stupa is unmatched by the benefit of those with one hundred thousand palaces made of gold from the gold river of Jambu.

“O wise one, the benefit of those who joyfully heap flowers before the Buddha’s stupa is unmatched by the benefit of having one hundred thousand vessels made of gold from the gold river of Jambu.

“O wise one, the benefit of those who joyfully bear flower garlands for the Buddha’s stupa is unmatched by the benefit of having twenty million bales.

“O wise one, the benefit of those who joyfully sprinkle perfumed water upon the Buddha’s stupa is unmatched by the benefit of having one thousand hillocks of gold made from the gold river of Jambu.

“O wise one, the benefit of those who joyfully offer butter lamps to the Buddha’s stupa is unmatched by the benefits of having one hundred thousand times ten million measures of gold from the gold river of Jambu.

“O wise one, the benefit of those who joyfully offer victory banners, pennants, and parasols to the Buddha’s stupa is unmatched by the benefit of those who possess one hundred thousand great mountains of gold.

“There is no difference between the merit of those who make offerings while I am here and those who make offerings after my nirvana, if their virtuous intentions are the same.

“Such is the inconceivable Buddha;
So also the inconceivable Buddhadharma;
for those with faith in the inconceivable,
inconceivable are the results”

This completes the verse on circumambulating a stupa, known in Sanskrit as the Caitya-pradaksina-gatha and in Tibetan as mChod-rten bskor-ba’i tshigs-su bcad-pa.

* * *

The Twenty-Four Elements of the Stupa

1. Tog top
2. Nyi-ma sun
3. Zla-ba moon
4. Char-khebs rain cover
5. Thugs-rje-mdo-gzungs symbol of compassion
6. Zar-tshag canopy
7. Pho-‘khor father cakra
8. Mo-‘khor mother cakra (space in between)
9. Chos-‘khor-bcu-gsun thirteen dharmacakras
10. Gdugs-‘degs-padma lotus parasol
11. Bre harmika
12. Bre-rten support of the harmika
13. Bre-rman foundation of the harmika
14. ‘Bum-pa vase
15. Sgo-khyim door of the vase
16. ‘Bum-gdan seat of the vase
17. Bang-rim steps
18. Dge-bcu the ten virtues
19. Bad-gam large lotuses (balcony)
20. Bad-chung small lotuses (small border)
21. Gsung-sne edging or hem
22. Gdong-chen face
23. Them-skas stairs
24. Sa-‘dzin foundation


The foundation as dharmadhatu: the realm of Dharma, at once the foundation and the context of the whole.

The lion throne as the four fearlessnesses: The four fearlessnesses are the empowering throne or vehicle for the transmission of enlightenment. As a result of possessing the four fearlessnesses, Buddhas have the power to help others know all that is knowable, to enable others to abandon what must be abandoned, to teach what ought to be taught, and to help others attain the most pure and supreme enlightenment. The four fearlessnesses arise as the result of four knowledges:

1. Knowledge that all factors of existence are understood
2. Knowledge that the obstacles are correctly known and the way to stop them can be taught to others
3. Knowledge that the path of renunciation, through which all the virtuous qualities are obtained, has in fact been accomplished
4. Knowledge that all corruption has been brought to an end

The base as the ten righteous actions which generate the merit and virtue necessary to successfully follow the path. The first three apply to body, the next four apply to speech, and the last three apply to mind.

1. Refraining from destroying life
2. Refraining from taking what has not been given
3. Refraining from improper sexual practices
4. Refraining from telling falsehoods
5. Refraining from using abusive language
6. Refraining from slandering others
7. Refraining from indulging in irrelevant talk
8. Refraining from covetousness
9. Refraining from malice
10. Refraining from holding destructive views

The first terrace as the four foundations of mindfulness:

1. Mindfulness of body
2. Mindfulness of feeling
3. Mindfulness of mind
4. Mindfulness of mental events

The second terrace as the four genuine restraints:

1. Not to initiate nonvirtuous actions not yet generated
2. To give up nonvirtuous actions already generated
3. To bring about virtuous actions not yet generated
4. Not to allow virtuous actions already arisen to degenerate

The third terrace as the four bases of supernormal powers:

1. Meditative experience based on willingness
2. Meditative experience based on mind
3. Meditative experience based on effort
4. Meditative experience based on analysis

The fourth terrace as the five spiritual faculties:

1. Faith
2. Effort
3. Mindfulness
4. Meditative concentration
5. Wisdom

The base of the vase as the five spiritual strengths, the same as the five spiritual faculties, integrated and activated as strengths.

The vase as the seven limbs of enlightenment:

1. Mindfulness
2. Investigation of meanings and values
3. Sustained effort
4. Joy
5. Refinement and serenity
6. Meditative concentration
7. Equanimity

The foundation and support of the harmika as the eightfold path:

1. Genuinely pure view
2. Genuinely pure conceptualization
3. Genuinely pure speech
4. Genuinely pure conduct
5. Genuinely pure livelihood
6. Genuinely pure effort
7. Genuinely pure meditation
8. Genuinely pure concentration

The ten righteous actions generate merit and virtue, the basis for the spiritual path. The four foundations of mindfulness, four genuine restraints, four bases of supernormal powers, five faculties, five strengths, seven limbs of enlightenment, and the eightfold path are collectively known as the thirty-seven wings of enlightenment. Together with the ten righteous actions they form the cause of realization. The following are the result: the wisdoms and deliverances specific to a Bodhisattva and the ten Bodhisattva stages culminating in omniscience. With this attainment arise qualities specific to the supremely enlightened Buddhas: the three mindfulnesses, great compassion and non-differentiated Dharmadhatu.

The wood of life as the ten knowledges:

1. Knowledge of dharma
2. Knowledge of the thoughts of others
3. Knowledge of relations
4. Empirical knowledge
5. Knowledge of suffering
6. Knowledge of the cause of suffering
7. Knowledge of the cessation of suffering
8. Knowledge of the way to the cessation of suffering
9. Knowledge of things that lead to despair
10. Knowledge of the non-production of things

The harmika as the four enlightened wisdoms which enable Buddhas to activate the four deliverances: to help others know all that is knowable and abandon what must be abandoned; to teach what needs to be taught; and to help others attain the supreme enlightenment of a Buddha.

The thirteen wheels as the ten bodhisattva stages:

1. The joyous
2. The immaculate
3. The illuminating
4. The radiant
5. The difficult to conquer
6. The manifest
7. The far-reaching
8. The immovable
9. The excellent intelligence
10. The cloud of Dharma

and the three applications of mindfulness. These relate to profound equanimity in the three possible circumstances of teaching the Dharma:

11. All disciples may hear, accept, and practice the teachings
12. None may hear, accept, and practice the teachings
13. Some disciples may hear, accept, and practice the teachings, while others do not.

The parasol (raincover) as the protection of compassion: The great compassion of a Buddha arises from omniscience. Free from all vestige of self-interest, it applies itself evenly, turning its warmth upon all beings equally.

The top as the pristine Dharmadhatu, comprehended by the omniscience of the fully enlightened Buddhas, described as self-arisen primordial wisdom, nondual suchness, complete direct understanding of all aspects of reality.

The whole as the three aspects of enlightened being: Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Dharmakaya.


The stupa is totally filled from the top to the bottom with a multitude of relics and other items to generate the power which transforms and defuses negativity in the world. The tsa-tsa’s and the mantras have been prepared during the past year, both in Denver and at OCD. All items have been empowered and consecrated for a month with regular tsoks which included repetition of all mantras rolled for the stupa.

This contents of this stupa are indicated below with their placement in the stupa.

The base of the stupa contains many weapons, many utilitarian items (cooking utensils, clocks, computers, TVs, and so forth), vases, the Kalpa Butter lamp, metal mandalas, and tsa-tsa’s.

Vases – Included in the stupa are approximately fifty General Wealth, Earth and Naga vases, all including their respective deity mantras plus the ingredients and relics necessary for their empowerment and blessing. In addition, others vases were prepared to reverse war, famine, disease and the elementals.

Reversing War 120
Reversing Famine 120
Reversing Disease 120
Reversing poverty and elementals 252

Total 609

Kalpa Butter Lamp – The Kalpa Butter Lamp removes ignorance. Approximately two feet tall, it is made of copper, engraved with the eight auspicious symbols, covered with gold, and filled with butter protected by a paraffin seal. On its base, appropriate mantras are written in gold. Included with this lamp are eleven vases prepared specifically for the lamp.

Mandalas – The three gold plated engraved mandalas, each 20 inches square, are the Masculine chakra, the Feminine cakra, and the Wealth God Ganapati.

Tsa Tsa’s – Around 8,000 small plaster images of Guru Rinpoche, Dorje Drollo, and the three Long Life Buddhas were painted red and each consecrated with their respective mantras, and body, speech and mind relics.

The middle level, just under the bumpa, is filled with religious objects and tsa tsas.

The bumpa includes a visible Shakyamuni statue – consecrated with mantras rolled at OCD and the appropriate special relics, offering bowls placed in front of the Shakyamuni statue, mantras, additional special and rare relics, and certain religious objects.

Mantras – All summer and part of the fall were spent rolling and wrapping mantras printed in Nepal. Over two kilograms of saffron were consumed. Included were many deity mantras and mantras specific for the different levels of the stupa.

To provide the needed length, two central column Sog Shings run from the base of the bumpa to the tip of the sun and moon disk at the top. Each has a stupa carved at the top and a vajra at its base. They are inscribed with gold mantras and consecrated relics at the respective centers, then wrapped in silk and finished with the five-color threads.

The top includes a specific rare Buddha bone relic. At the base of the sog shing are the five precious gems, semi-precious gems, precious metals, and relics.

The canopy, sun and moon disk at the top of the stupa were constructed and gold plated in Nepal. They have been filled with the appropriate consecrated mandalas and relics.

The Stupa Information Page

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