BOUDHANATH THE HERMITAGE OF AWAKENING

In PILGRIMAGE by Erik Pema Kunsang

It breaks my heart to see the news of the devastating earthquake through northern India and Nepal. The thousands of people losing loved ones and the homes, far surpass my imagination. It is the time to lend a helping hand, sending money and other resources. In addition, rather than feeling helpless, use your empathy while sending love and concern to the people in Nepal.

The Kathmandu Valley is not only home to hundreds of temples with exquisite art and craftsmanship, but also to many schools where awakened masters teach people to be the best we can be, the most human, the most intelligent, the kindest. The valley is therefore indeed one of the crown jewels of our civilization. I’m closely connected to one area in the Kathmandu valley and the Buddhist masters who live there, so I am jotting down a few words to explain the importance of Boudhanath, the site of the Great Stupa, dignified with the name Hermitage of Awakening.

King Trisong Deutsen, Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, three of the brothers.

A prehistoric legend about the stupa in Boudhanath is pivotal for understanding how Buddhism came to Tibet, a country that became its custodian until the previous century. The book The Legend of the Great Stupa contains predictions for our times and lists the benefits from respecting and practicing near the sacred monument.
It’s a fascinating story about a lady who single-handedly began its construction and about her four sons who, at her deathbed swore to complete building the stupa’s massive structure. After completing the immense work and having created vast good karma, the four sons made incredibly noble wishes, and these wishes came true.

One of the sons made the wish, may I become a powerful emperor who has the might and wealth to bring the Dharma to Tibet! His brother said, when you are king, may I help establishing a community of monks and nuns. The third son said, when the Dharma is established, there will be many hindrances, so may I be a powerful siddha who can tame every hostile force! The fourth brother wished to help them by coordinating as a minister.
So in a future lifetime the four brothers met again. They joined their forces and brought the entirety of the Buddha’s teachings north of the Himalayas, to a hidden kingdom surrounded by formidable mountain ranges and forbidding deserts, and keep it safe and alive for more than a thousand years. How was this possible? It was because the effect of every good deed and every act of kindness can be multiplied a thousand times over with the right intention and by dedicating the outcome to be shared with others.

We, the readers of the legend, already know that the Buddha’s teachings were brought safely to Tibet. The magic that unfolds is that while we are given the complete background, the inside scoop on how the four brothers succeeded and how they came to manifest immeasurable benefit for Tibet and for the entire world, we ourselves learn how to make wishes come true.

This secret of making wishes come true, fast and vast, hinges on combining a few wondrous ingredients. One is to direct the mind toward a sublime shrine object. The stupa definitely qualifies since it contains relics from past buddhas and has been consecrated by thousands of enlightened masters and practitioners over the centuries. The second is to do so with an open heart and the trust that the stupa symbolizes and somehow embodies the awakened state of all buddhas. The third is to interact with the stupa as form and essence by showing respect, placing gifts, sounding melodious instruments, or chanting prayers. Fourth is the forming of noble will, a deep and unselfish wish. It could be formulated specifically or left wide open. Lastly, but not least, is to seal this free and open state of gentle presence with allowing deep space, some moments of just being very quiet, simple and compassionate.

And that is the secret: how to use the stupa as a visible bridge linking the invisible awakened state together with the basic nature of our minds, and through this link grow closer to enlightenment. Whoever makes such noble-hearted wishes in front of the great stupa will become a guide for multitudes of sentient beings, leading them to liberation and enlightenment. That is why hundreds of temples have sprung up around Boudhanath, and that is why thousands of pilgrims flock there every year.

And that is also why, in this hour of need, after the central region of Nepal has been struck by devastating earthquake and hundreds of lives are lost, it is important and meaningful to help those in need and to assist in repairing the Great Stupa of Boudhanath and the temples around this sacred site. It is from here as well that the Buddha’s teachings flow to the rest of the planet, the wonderful teachings on respecting all living beings, on uncovering our humanity and finding the deepest insight possible, the awakened state that is the nature of our minds.

Recommended reading: The Legend of the Great Stupa.
The Lotus-Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava.
Lonely Planet Nepal (Travel Guide).

About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

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Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik's website & retreats.

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