The Golden Stupa

Standing at the center of a new shrine room in the original building of the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute is the Golden Stupa (Lhabab Chodten), a magnificent reliquary that contains the precious relics and holy remains of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. Tsurphu labrang, the main administrator of Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, had the shrine specially constructed to serve as the receptacle for these objects of worship and deep veneration.

Bejewelled with ancient turquoise and coral, and decorated with filigree and fine metalwork, the thirteen-foot-high Golden Stupa is a fitting monument to the great guru of the Kagyu lineage. An elaborate ceremony to enshrine the relics of His Holiness in this and a smaller stupa, the Jangchup Chöten (Stupa of Awakening), was begun on November 7, 1982, the anniversary of Lhabab Duechen, Lord Buddha's descent from the heavenly realm.

The lhabab chodten, after that which appeared when Buddha descended from the god realm

Lhabab Duechen, one of the four great events of the Buddha's life, figured prominently in the dharma activity of the Sixteenth Karmapa and in the construction of the Lhabab Chodten, as the following account provided by Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre explains.

The Stupas at Rumtek

In order to preserve as an object of veneration for all beings the precious remains of the unequalled protector of the teachings and all beings in the world, the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, a thirteen-foot stupa in the style of that which appeared when the Buddha descended from the realm of the gods, made of gold and copper, has been created. A two-foot stupa in the style of that which appeared upon the Buddha's awakening, made entirely of gold, has been created to contain His Holiness's heart, tongue, and eyes which he left for his followers out of great kindness.

Together with these are a five-foot image of Vajradhara; three-foot images of Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, the sixteen Karmapas, and Tai Situ Pema Wangchok Gyalpo; and two-foot images of Mahakala, Mahakali, and Vajrasadhu.

The consecration of these was begun on the twenty-second day of the ninth month of the Iron Dog Year, 1982, the occasion of the Buddha's descent from the realm of the gods, and was performed for a week, accompanied by extensive offerings, by His Holiness's principal disciples assisted by many tulkus, lamas, and the sangha.

Although all the actions of our teacher Buddha Shakyamuni were pure and appropriate means of taming his various disciples, among these four are considered supreme: his display of miracles; his awakening; his first turning of the Dharmachakra; and his descent from the realm of the gods which came about as follows.

Maya, the Buddha's mother, was reborn after her death in the realm of the thirty-three gods. In order to repay her kindness the Buddha spent the three summer months of that year teaching her in that realm. Having ripened his mother and others, he returned to the human realm on the twenty-second day of the ninth month. The gods created a stairway made of beryl, gold, and silver which the Buddha descended, attended by Brahma and Indra. He arrived in the town of Kashi [the modern-day Benares], in the midst of many sravakas and other people. Commemorating this occasion, this style of stupa, decorated with steps, was first erected at Kashi.

Because it is taught throughout the Buddha's teachings and their commentaries that the effects of virtue and wrongdoing are billions of times more powerful on the four great occasions connected with the Buddha's life, His Holiness performed most of his dharma activities on these four occasions. Therefore, his final action, the placing of his remains and his heart, tongue, and eyes in their stupas, has been performed on the occasion of the Buddha's descent from the realm of the gods.

Translated from the Tibetan by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso.

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