Viriyalila had the opportunity to meet with Viriyagita, one of the members of the Stupa Kula - the team of folks working together to bring this project into fruition. They spent some time talking about various elements of The Stupa Project which is now most definitely happening. The ground has been blessed, a contract with the builder has been made, and 1/3 of the funds have been raised. We’ve created a campaign on IndieGoGoto bring more energy, inspiration, and money to the project. We are expected to break ground and lay the foundation for the stupa in May 2014.
In the interview that follows, Viriyalila spent some time with Viriyagita exploring some of the frequently asked questions about revering a stupa and it’s spiritual significance. They also talked about meeting the man who will contruct the stupa and the way he gazed into the eyes of Dhardo, which led him to accepting the project.
Viriyalila: What is the significance of a stupa and why would we want one at our retreat center?
Viriyagita: A stupa is a very spiritually significant symbol of the Bodhisattva Ideal, the arising of the bodhicitta, the will to Enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Historically, the first stupas were just mounds of mud covering relics of the Buddha. As the Dharma spread far and wide and especially withing Tibet, the stupa’s symbolism became more complex with it’s shape representing the 5 elements of earth, water. fire, wind and space, the crescent sun and moon shapes the union of wisdom and compassion, and many other symbols.
Viriyalila: Why do you put ashes in the stupa? Could anyone’s ashes go in?
Viriyagita: The ashes of the person within the stupa serve not only as a memorial to Dhardo Rinpoche, but also as the presence of a Bodhisattva. Another person’s ashes would not be appropriate as the stupa is then considered to be Dhardo Rinpoche, a Bodhisattva according to Sangharakshita and many others.
Viriyalila: People talk about a stupa practice of revering the stupa - was does that look like, what does it mean?
Viriyagita: Sangharakshita talks about the building of a stupa as “the whole project will be like one great puja from beginning to end”. Those of us who have been envisioning this project for a few years now certainly feel that it has been one of the most beneficial spiritual practices of our lives. Reverence and worship of the stupa is reverence for our potential to develop wisdom and compassion and to “awaken” and with the motivation that all beings will be free from suffering and will attain liberation. We foresee circumambulation of the stupa while chanting the refuges and precepts and many other mantras of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, making offerings, and doing pujas.
Viriyalila: So you’ve had this dream emerge form conversations of people, of whom died after obtaining Dhardo’s ashes, and now we are at a place where this dream is actually happening. Through the commitment of a small group of people a stone mason has been found who lives in Deerfield, MA. Could you tell me about him?
Viriyagita: We originally interviewed several local stonemasons who were quite willing to tackle the project but had no knowledge or experience with stupas. Kiranada and Amala found a Tibetan stonemason who had apprenticed for four years under a master stonemason in Ganden Monastery in Tibet where he was a novice monk. We visited him in Deerfield.
When he saw the picture of Dhardo Rinpoche, he looked at it a long time and exclaimed, “What a Tibetan face! He looks like my father.” He stated that he would take on the project and felt it to be a spiritual undertaking which would last for a long time and benefit many beings. When we saw the stupa on the grounds in Deerfield, we asked about the metal sun and sun at the top of the stupa and would he be making them. He said that he had brought two out of Lhasa; one was on the stupa in front of us and the other “I guess it’s for you.”
Viriyalila: The timeline for the project is that the building is begin in the Spring 2014. How long will it take?
Viriyagita: We were to be starting the preparation of the site in the spring when the ground warms up. The actual building of the stupa will likely be accomplished in three weeks. His projected time of completion is May, 2014. The site for stupa was selected last year and was blessed by Dhardo’s tulku.
Viriyalila: How is this project being funded?
Viriyagita: By the generosity of individual donors. Those of us who have been touched by our connection to the late Dhardo Rinpoche, one of Sangharakshita’s spiritual teachers and friend, and those of us who have become involved in this project have quite joyfully contributed what we can of our time, money and skills.
This is such a significant spiritual undertaking - to benefit all beings everywhere. We want people to become involved. We want people to become involved - not just with their money, but giving time, materials, encouragement are all welcomed.
We welcome you to join us in helping build the stupa by making a donation. All amounts are most appreciated! Help us bring this stupa into the world, for the benefit of all beings. Cherish the Doctrine, Live United, Radiate Love!