Gilding these sacred buildings is done to inspire others to
practice and meditate. The Stupa, a symbol
of the Buddha, as the enlightenment principle, points to both the Teacher and his Teachings.
in the Burmese style with gilded
domes (IMC Sunshine, NSW)
The stupa is by far the earliest and architecturally the most
significant Buddhist expression. Burial mounds were already in use at
the time of the Buddha and he suggested that a stupa be built for his
remains at the intersection of four major roads - i.e. in a public
place. After his death the relics were divided into eight portions and
perhaps the earliest datable stupas are those at Kusinara, site of his
cremation, and the one raised by his family. Presumably these were built
not long after his death. Originally stupas were little more than a
mound of earth raised over the remains of saints, kings, etc. but over
the centuries they have been gradually transformed into major works of
The basic elements of construction had evolved after only a few
centuries of development and the main four are: the base - usually
square; a 'hemispherical' dome; a reliquary - often on top of the dome
including a spire (often a stylised umbrella) and, the jewel or crown.
There is a great deal of symbolism and stylistic developments that have
come to be associated with stupas.
With the spread of Buddhism, the need
many people had for a
tangible focus for worshiping the Buddha as a
semi-divine and then a divine figure gradually developed. The worship of
stupas increased parallel with this. Stupas were also made on a small
scale as (portable) objects for devotional worship and/or as containers
to hold sacred relics. These reliquary stupas (and stupas generally)
might contain human remains and an assortment of beads, crystal, pearls,
gem stones, and gold or silver in various forms are sometimes found in the
relic chamber. The mixture of sacred and precious often seems haphazard,
suggesting that the intention of the donor was of primary importance.
Close up of the Crown. For ease of access to the inside,
it was gilded upside-down. Sizing and laying the leaf took two days.
Hti (Burmese: ထီး; Mon: ဍိုၚ်; Shan: ထီး; and pronounced 'tee') is the
name of the crown-like parasol or umbrella, the top ornament found on
almost all pagodas in Myanmar, formerly Burma.
The Hti is one of the
distinctive features of Myanmar pagodas as they are more prominent than
their Sri Lankan counterparts, while the Laotian and Thai pagodas rarely
have any at all or are of a smaller size and of less complex
Usually seen as an architectural element forming the pinnacle of a stupa
the Htis of the temples of Bagan and Mrauk U, the two archeological
sites in Myanmar, are made of stone, while the htis of the pagodas
elsewhere around Myanmar are made of metal usually copper, iron or
steel. Gilt finished with goldleaf, the hti is then decorated with
bronze bells (ခေါင်းလောင်း), a metal flag, and topped with a large
faceted quartz crystal called the sein hpu daw (စိန်ဖူးတော်; lit.
esteemed diamond bud).
Traditionally, a symbol of royalty and
protection, the parasol protects from the blazing heat of the tropical
sun and the relentless monsoon rains. Its shade symbolizes protection
from the pain of suffering, desire, obstacles, illnesses and negative
forces. Early Buddhists adopted the 13 stacked umbrella-wheels that form
the Htis to commemorate the 13 main events of the Buddha’s life.
Parasols continue to this day to be one of the essential monk’s
Hti of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is about one and a half stories
tall, however, this gilt finished copper formed Hti, installed on the
pinnacle of a pagoda in Maryland, USA, is about one and a half metres
These Kadampa Stupas are cast, gilded, filled, sealed and consecrated
here in my studio on Bruny Island following guidelines from Lama
Zopa Rinpoche. They are filled with a roll of 108 Dharmakaya Relic
Mantras and medicinal herbs picked from around the Mt. Everest
region of Nepal. The gold leaf is protected by a coat of natural
shellac and the consecration ritual is Rab Nä, the Great Abiding. It
is possible to customise the contents of the filling with other
relics or cremated remains that you may already have.
stupas are only made by commission, there is no set price. Each one
is unique so you only pay for the cost of the materials. Dana can be
offered for my time and labour. Any dana offered will go to making
more stupas for others.
Small Kadampa stupas (16 cms) are
meant for placement on altars and serve as a support for meditation
and as a symbolic reminder of the awakened state of mind. The stupa
representing Buddha’s mind, is one of the three required objects on
a Buddhist altar. The others are an image of the Buddha,
representing his body, and a sacred text, which represents his
Kadampa stupas differ from other stupas in their
form. Although they possess the same underlying elements as other
stupas, these elements take on a distinctive form and arrangement.
The most recognisable feature of this stupa is its overall bell-like
shape which may be seen as the abode of the perfect Buddha in his
transcendent state. The dome rests on a double row of lotus petals
representing perfected lovingkindness and compassion. Above the
dome is the enclosed “pure abode” (harmika), that encompasses the
foundations of the path to enlightenment. It holds the central axis
or cosmic tree and consists of thirteen steps symbolising the ten
bodhisattva stages leading to enlightenment and the three
foundations of mindfulness. The cosmic tree supports a parasol
symbolising the supreme nature of the attainment of enlightenment.
Upon this sits a lotus bud, which is a symbol for the fully
enlightened being who remains connected with the world because of
his compassion, but transcends the world because of his wisdom.
This form has its roots in ancient India. It is
based on a stupa brought to Tibet by Lama Atisha, the great teacher of
the second propagation of the Buddhist doctrine in Tibet. Whenever Lama
Atisha traveled in Tibet, he carried a wooden stupa of this style with
him for his spiritual support. The stupa serves as one of his
distinctive attributes. One who practices in the tradition of Lama
Atisha is called a "Kadampa," the tradition of practice estalished by
Lama Atisha's heart disciple, Dromtonpa. The stupa of the style used by
Lama Atisha is thus closely linked to the Kadam sect, as is reflected in
the name, Incidentally, relics of both Lama Atisha and Dromtonpa are
enshrined within large Kadampa stupas at the Neton Drolma Lhakhang
monastery, the site of Lama Atisha's death in 1054, located just outside
of Lhasa, Tibet.
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