The Stupa

Stupaen på Bispebjerg Kirkegård
The Stupa at Bispebjerg Cemetary

The symbolism of the stupa. By Tenga Rinpoche

The stupa has 37 steps with the 37 enlightenment stages to reach full enlightenment. The Kalachakra meditation starts by describing that all living beings have the basic nature (called the Buddha nature) and all living beings – human beings, animals and spiritual beings, therefore, all have the opportunity to reach full enlightenment through wisdom and love.  A stupa is built from a desire for peace and harmony and it contains relics of enlightened masters.


The Tibetan yogi, His Holiness Karmapa, was the first, in the year 1,110 years who, having attained full enlightenment, promised to be reborn as a human to benefit all both human, animal and spiritual beings. The 2nd Karmapa was the emperor of China’s adviser and Marco Polo writes about Karmapa how he could do miracles. The 3rd Karmapa designed the astrological system in Kalachackra, which is still used in Tibet and China. On 1974, Karmapa brought Buddhism to Denmark, the first country in the West.

The Buddha and other masters, also known as Tulkus or Rinpoches tell of karma, of cause and effect, how our thoughts and actions lead to the states and events that we are going, through. In pure people, karma is exhausted quickly making it clearer for them to recognise the way things are while for others it may take many lifetimes. Many things can seem unfair if you do not see and understand them in a larger and deeper context.

Enlightenment Stupa

There are 8 different types of stupa, the one described is an Enlightenment Stupa. There are also various descriptions of the steps of the stupa, and some are more elaborate. My teacher, Tenga Rinpoche, gave explanations for a full moon night at Rødby after the first stupa in Denmark had been built under his guidance and also dedicated by him. After some of the inaugurations, a heavy rain and thunderstorm followed.

Lion throne (Earth Element)

  1. The 4 Wisdoms: 
    • Mirror-like Wisdom,
    • Smoothing Wisdom,
    • Distinctive Wisdom,
    • All pervading Wisdom.
  2. The essence of all phenomena is emptiness.
  3. The emptiness is without concepts.
  4. The emptiness is all-pervading. (Joyful)
  5. The Lion Throne and the 4 Objects for Attention: (the platform and symbolises the 10 virtues).

The body, the emotions, the mind and the external phenomena.

  • The lotus seat symbolises the cleansing of Samsara’s.
  • The 4 immeasurables. (paragraphs 7 – 13 contain the 35 reasons)
    • immeasurable love
    • immeasurable compassion
    • immeasurable joy
    • immeasurable equanimity.
  • The 4 things to focus on:
    • regret all the negative actions one has done.
    • do not preform new negative actions.
    • let positive things arise.
    • increase the positive things that already exist.
  • The 4 miraculous supports for deepening ones meditation:
    • the desire to meditate
    • diligence
    • the wisdom of the mind
    • to question and test.
  • The 5 forces:
    • openness,
    • diligence,
    • attention,
    • meditation
    • insight.
  • The 5 accomplishments are the consummation of the 5 forces, and are the basis of the vase above.

 The Vase (Water Elementet)

  1. The 7 elements of enlightenment:
    • perfect awareness
    • study of phenomena
    • diligence
    • joy
    • effortlessness
    • meditative deepening
    • complete equilibrium.
  2. The Noble Eightfold Path:
    • Right understanding
    • Right thought
    • Right speech
    • Right action
    • Right livelihood
    • Right effort
    • Right mindfulness
    • Right concentration
  3. Lotus crown. The little nirvana.

Wreath of Wisdom (Fire Element)

  1. Knowledge of what actions lead to.
  2. Knowledge of the full maturity of actions.
  3. Knowledge of the temperament of beings.
  4. Knowledge of the wishes of beings.
  5. Knowledge of the many paths.
  6. Knowledge of the abilities of beings.
  7. Knowledge of perfectly pure samadhi.
  8. Knowledge of past lives (reincarnation).
  9. Viden om Gudevisionen.
  10. Knowledge about how impurities are eradicated.
  11. Full disclosure of feeling.
  12. Full disclosure of Mind.
  13. Full information on phenomena.
  14. The Umbrella: 4 kinds of fearlessness:
    • Fearless confession of his full realisation,
    • fearless warding off of all obstacles,
    • fearless showing The Way
    • fearless cessation.
  15. The garlands descending from the parasol symbolise the 18 qualities: For the worthy, there are no mistakes, no gossip, no forgetting, no mental movement, no different concepts, no indifferent neutrality. His pursuit, diligent memory, pure and spotless wisdom, enduring, complete liberation and omniscient vision of transcendental, original wisdom are not diminished. The 3 actions (with body, speech and mind) are preceded and accompanied by original wisdom, and knowledge encompasses sustained, unimpeded and extended the three times. (past present Future).
  16. The 5 Wisdoms

Moon and Sun (Air Element)

  • Removes the darkness of ignorance.

The Wish Fulling Jewel. (Space)

  • The activity that benefits both self and others and purifies everything because we are connected. If you sacrifice to it, you build profit for yourself and others, and it fulfils the desire to attain the full realisation of Mahamudra.