Circumambulating Stupas

Extract from a talk
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche


Stupas are the main holy objects in relation to which sentient beings accumulate merit. The sutra teaching, Circumambulating the Stupa, says: 'By circumambulating stupas one avoids being born in the naraks, as a preta, an animal, a barbarian, a long-life god, a heretic, a fool or in a place where Buddha has not descended. One receives a deva or human body and one has a long life. One is not harmed by pretas, cannibals or other creatures. For hundreds of eons one is not born blind or crippled with arthritis. By circumambulating stupas one receives perfect power and perseverance. Because there is no laziness one is able to develop the mind quickly. One receives the six clairvoyances. One also becomes an arhat having abandoned all delusion and possessing great psychic power. Finally one achieves the golden 'holy body of Buddha adorned with the holy signs.'

Many other benefits are mentioned in The Sutra of the Compassionate-eyed One and Advice to King Sagyal which says: 'If a person circumambulates with devotion a stupa or statue of Buddha, in their future lives their enemies will respect and surrender to them. They will become a person of quality respected by and pleasing to other people. The temporal and ultimate benefits are infinite. Circumambulation is the supreme method to purify obscurations and close the door to the lower realms.'

A stupa filled with the four powerful mantras called the relics of dharmakaya is very powerful. The wind that touches such a stupa and then touches animals or human beings, purifies their negative karma to be born in the lower realms. If the dust from a stupa touches beings, it purifies them. Circumambulating holy objects purifies broken pratimoksha vows, the five uninterrupted negative karmas and all the karmas to be born in the naraks.

Circumambulating is a very powerful practice and the very root of the practice is to circumambulate with strong devotion and with an undistracted mind. Since we need to accumulate extensive merit in order to generate realisation and achieve enlightenment quickly, we should attempt to circumambulate as perfectly as possible. Circumambulations should be done with body, speech and mind. There is no great benefit if your mind is distracted and you are gossiping while you are circumambulating.

Mental circumambulating involves generating devotion by thinking again and again of the qualities of the object you are circumambulating, of the quality of the Guru-Buddhas. Speech circumambulation involves reciting mantras and praises over and over again. Of the three types of circumambulation the most important is the mental circumambulation, having devotion in the mind.

I think it would be very beneficial for anyone with a disease that is difficult to cure or incurable such as AIDS or cancer to circumambulate a stupa several hundred times a day. This is my personal suggestion. Since depending on these holy objects purifies the cause of the disease it has to have an effect on the disease.

Before starting generate a strong motivation of Bodhicitta remembering the suffering of the beings in the six realms and feel that you are responsible for freeing them from their suffering. To multiply the effect of the Circumambulation by 1,000 times say once the mantra:


Then recite seven times:


Think of the stupa in emptiness and remember that all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas abide in the holy object. You can visualise the stupa as the deity and absorb all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions into it. As you circumambulate meditate that the Guru encompasses all the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha. When circumambulating think you are leading all sentient beings in the circumambulations As you circumambulate recite the mantra of a deity visualising nectar beings illuminating yourself and all sentient beings. At the completion of each circumambulation think that you have purified all your negative karma and that of all sentient beings. At the end of the meditation dedicate the merit.

While circumambulating you can also practice rejoicing in your own three times merits and those of all other sentient beings, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas.


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