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Swayambhunath – the flower of the initial light

Stupa Swayambhunath
Not hundreds and even not thousands years ago but in the previous kalpa Tathagata Vipassi threw the seed of the thousand-petalled lotus into the lake, covering with its waters the valley, in which modern Kathmandu is situated. He wished the beautiful flower, the receptacle of all the universal energy, the flower of the initial light, grew here. That time the lake was called Nagdaha, nowadays it is known as The Valley Swayambhu.

Lotus seeds can lay on the bottom of the lake for thousands of years not sprouting until there is suitable environment (not so long ago scientists managed to sprout seeds more than ten thousand years old). Time passed, millenniums changed, magic flower was waiting for its hour. According to Swayambhu Purana, the petals opened when Buddha Sikhi, next to Vipassi, came to Earth.

The calpa changed, matter was destroyed, even skies of higher planes were burnt. But the huge Nagdaha Lake survived. There are places, which cannot be destroyed even when calpas change each other, for example, Gridhakuta Hill, where Buddha gave The Sutra on the Lotus of the Sublime Dharma. The Valley Swayambhu is one of them. Such places are protected with the unusually strong, subtle and pure energy of Tathagatas.

Our time was coming. Flying over the lake, Tathagata Manjushri saw the wonderful Lotus, shining on the island which appeared in the middle of the lake. Bodhisattva considered it unjust that only nagas, living in the lake, could admire the flower. To let people touch this wonderful energy, coming fr om previous calpa, as well Manjushri cut a breach in a mountain range, closing the flow of the lake from the south, with his magic sword, and so he drained it.

The scientific researches prove: in ancient times Katmandu Valley was the bottom of the lake, broken about twelve or, according to other data, even a hundred thousand years ago through Chobhar Gorge. The water came to south. In the Katmandu Valley it is still possible to find the shells of the ancient lake inhabitants.

So, what can we understand if we compare ancient scripts, legends and geology data? It’s obvious that some sacral object, radiating pure energy (metaphorically called “Lotus”), appeared when water of the lake run off, and the traces of the previous geological epochs revealed themselves.

Now it’s hard to say if it was stupa itself, already built and maintained under the water for all these centuries, or some relic over which the stupa was built afterwards. A number of evidence proves the first theory. The name “Swayambhunath” means “self-created” or “self-manifested” in Sanskrit. Ancient texts tell that stupa appeared by itself out of the ground, more likely, out of the mud, accumulated on the bottom of the lake for centuries. Scripts say that in time of Dipankara (the third Buddha of our calpa; by the way, the oldest statue of this Buddha is on the territory of the temple) this stupa was under the ground, and in time of Shakyamuni (the forth Buddha) it came out of the ground by half. Once appeared, it will stand from century to century, from calpa to calpa.

Of course, since the moment of its manifestation stupa was rebuilt many times. The modern building is dated back to V century A.D. But on place of what was it built, what did it copy?

Now stupa consists of a dome, made of brick and clay, above which is a cubical structure with the all-seeing eyes of Buddha, painted on all sides. The “eyes” of stupa are traditionally directed toward all four points of the compass but look at them with a 60⁰ turn. It means that stupa is oriented strictly at an angle of 60⁰ to Earth’s magnetic poles. The last significant displacement of Earth’s axis was in times of the Flood, almost all peoples in the world recorded the history of this event. Perhaps, the eyes of the stupa show position of the Earth’s axis before the Flood.

Another cosmic diagram, placed in stupa, is written with the help of five Dhyani Buddhas figures. Like in all Tibetan mandalas, four Dhyani Buddhas represent four directions, Vairocana is the centre of the mandala.

Five figures of Meditation Buddhas, embodying timeless unity of all the Buddhas, stand in recesses, made in the basement of the stupa. Vairocana is positioned in the centre and is regarded as a master of the temple. Akshobhya looks to the east, Ratnasambhava to the south, Amitabha to the west, Amoghasiddhi to the north. The figures of their spouses are placed in neighboring recesses. They embody the female energy Shakti and mark intermediate directions: northeast, northwest etc.

Stupa Swayambhunath as like as any other is deeply symbolic. It’s very important for people of Nepal to keep relationship with the basic elements in harmony. The basement of the stupa symbolizes the earth, the dome – water, the spire – fire, the umbrella – air. Thirteen concentric circles on the spire represent the thirteen steps of knowledge on the way to nirvana (which is represented by the umbrella).

In reign of the Pratap Malla (17 century) the staircase, leading on the hill wh ere the stupa is placed, was built. It contains 365 steps on the number of days in the year. The staircase is decorated with the sculptures of the flying garudas, powerful lions, elephants, horses and peacocks, with reliefs, depicting scenes from Buddha Shakyamuni′s life. The local legends say that the one who takes the stairs cleans himself of the sins that have been committed during the last year. The one who overcomes this uneasy rise will see just in front of him a huge vajra (in Tibetan known as dorje), laying just next to the basement of the stupa. Vajra is the most important symbol in Buddhism, meaning immediate enlightenment. This vajra is also made in times of Pratap Malla.

By the 4-5 century A.D. stupa had become the most important centre of Tibetan Buddhism. It remembers the great sages and rulers, who have come to this planet. Ashoka visited the stupa 2000 years ago. Here Marpa Lotsawa stayed for 3 years on his way from Tibet to India to get used to local heat. Here as well he heard for a first time the name of his teacher - Naropa. Here Nagarjuna cut the strand of his hear, dispersed it in the air and wished trees of all possible species grew on this good earth. That’s why one of the stupa names is “Phagpa Shingkun”, which means roughly “Supreme trees of all kinds”.

In our time stupa Swayambhunath is still one of the major places of strength and pilgrimage sites for Buddhists from all over the world. There is not so much evidence of the past calpas Buddhas′ activity on the Earth. Stupa Swayambhunath was blessed by thousand Buddhas and will be blessed by all Buddhas of our calpa – Bhadracalpa, staying the most sacred place of the Katmandu Valley.

The author of the article yoga instructor of OUM.RU club Olga Evdokimova.

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