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Boudhanath Stupa. From the depths of the ages to our days

Boudhanath Stupa. From the depths of the ages to our days
Even in times of Buddha Shakyamuni people still perceived world as alive and spiritual. Buddha called Goddess of the Earth as a witness, talked to spirits that inhabited groves; many of these spirits became heroes of the Jataka Stories. Such perception of the world is typical of Buddhism as a whole. In the Jataka Stories we read that Gods and Goddesses live in buildings.

Those who come to Boudhanath Stupa say: “It’s alive”. It’s impossible to take this Stupa as a soulless dead stone. Stupa looks at us with Buddha’s eyes, painted on all four sides of the cubical structure over the dome. We can see the same eyes looking like narrow lotus petals on Tibetan thankas. They are endowed with a divine vision that makes available not only any events but even their karmic links.

The one who possesses these eyes “sees how beings leave their life and are born again, he understands how beings in accordance with their karma become higher or lower, beautiful or ugly, happy or misarable” (Subha Sutta). Many Tibetans believe that neither good nor bad deeds can be hidden from the penetrating look of the Stupa eyes.

The third eye, the symbol of the true wisdom, depicted on the Stupa as a point over the bridge of the nose, has even more powerful impact. Supreme beings are able to pass on knowledge not only by words but by energy as well. In scriptures it is said that Buddha or Bodhisattva passed on his teaching “giving off the beam of the light from curl of white hair between his eyebrows”, that is to say, from the third eye. Perhaps, the Stupa can pass on energy in the same way, pass on energy of the Being it is connected with. It’s exactly the energy of the Supreme Being that makes the Stupa alive, interacting with people and the space around it.
According to the lore, Boudhanath Stupa was built on the place of burial of Tathagata Dipankara, one of the Buddhas preceding Shakyamuni, or it contains his relics. It’s difficult to say if it is true, but sometimes folk traditions save memory better than chronicles and words.

Full moon is a special day for many Buddhists. On a full moon Buddha Skakyamuni came to this world, attained enlightenment, preached for the first time. On a full moon he went to parinirvana. The 15 lunar day is traditionally regarded as a Buddhist holiday. In the night when the full moon rises over Katmandu Stupa transforms: thousands of fires, eliminating the darkness of ignorance and symbolizing the Buddha’s teaching come to the world, are lighted.

For Boudhanath Stupa thousands of lighted lamps are symbolical twice. When Dipankara came into this world a miracle happened: many small lights appeared in the air. That’s why he obtained the name Dipankara which means “The source of the Light”, “The burning Lamp” in Sanskrit. The names of this Buddha in other languages are translated in the same way: Kassapa (Pali) – “Protecting the Light”, Marmedze (Tibetan) – “Giving the Light of the Lamp”. Dipankara is often depicted with many openings into which small lamps are put. Lamps lighted on a full moon around the Stupa remind of the great relics, stored here.
Symbolism of Buddhist stupas is described in detail. But dealing with the Boudhanath Stupa we can talk about special symbolics passing on the relation of known and unknown.

A.Govinda, analyzing the dome shape of the early stupas (and the Boudhanath Stupa is built like a huge half sphere), comes to conclusion that spherical domes represent all the mysterious, mother power, power of the moon, transforming power of the death and new born;

The dome – unknown space, mystery, moon.

The eyes depicted over the dome – order, sun, consciousness, secrets looking deep inside. The Buddha’s eyes light spiritual world as like as sun lights material world. 

Under the official version the Boudhanath Stupa was built about the 5 century, however, it’s more likely that its time only of one of its reconstructions copying more ancient building, giving more ancient view of the world, of the arrangement of the space, saving deep memory about balance of chaos and space, known and unknown.

According to the lore, this stupa was built by a poor woman who asked a ruler to sell her a small piece of land for little money:”As much as a horse hide covers”. Then having the hide cut to rags she measured the territory for future Stupa. Having known about this trick ruler didn’t change his mind saying:”Djarun hator” – “I have already said”. “Djarun hator” – is still one of the names of the Boudhanath Stupa.

But the destiny of the woman who accumulated endless good merit by building the Stupa is not so interesting as the destiny of her sons who helped her finishing the building after her death. Later these souls came into the world as Trisong Detsen, the ruler of the Tibet, Shantarakshita, the abbot of the Buddhist monastery, and Padmasambhava, the great master from Uddiyana. They met again thousands years later to build again – this time the monastery Samye, the stronghold of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Stupa “Djarun hator” has always been important not only for the Newars, the natives of the Katmandu Valley, but also for Tibetans calling it “the window to Tibet”. Located on the trade way connecting India and Tibet it has always attracted travelers resting here and praying before the difficult passage through the Himalayas. In 1950-s many Tibetans running from the Chinese invasion found shelter here by the Stupa. Nowadays the whole Tibetan monastery town has grown here.

Now Stupa damaged while the earthquake in 2015 is restored and open for visitors. All-seeing Buddha’s eyes again watch pilgrims going on parikarma (the ritual circumambulation) from the restored top.
The author of the article yoga teacher Olga Evdokimova