Sunday, 2 October 2011

Two more views of the stupa

A beautiful autumn at Lerab Ling

Usually autumn is a season of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’, to quote the poet, but contrary to the usual September weather we’ve been basking in beautiful sunlit weather more reminiscent of an August summer day. So the number of visitors on a Sunday has been rather more than usual for the month of September, and they’re still wearing summer clothes!

We now have a wonderful memorial to Khandro Tsering Chödrön in the form of a stupa, next to the original seven metre tall white marble stupa which was built to honour Sogyal Rinpoche before the beginning of the three year retreat. No description necessary, the photo below says more than any words could ....

Also, in addition to the statue of Buddha Shakyamuni on the front lawn of the Temple are statues of the eight great bodhisattrvas, each with an attribute symbolizing their perfection in a particular quality or activity. I’m not sure I can yet identify them individually as I need to do a bit of research on this, and also there are different versions of what their attributes are.

It is sometimes said that the Buddha’s various qualities emanate through these eight great bodhisattvas. The Verses of the Eight Noble Auspicious Ones by Mipham gives their names and attributes, or emblems, as follows:

“The youthful Mañjushri, the glorious Vajrapani,
Avalokiteshvara, the protector Maitreya,
Kshitigarbha, Nivaranavishkambin,
Akashagarbha, and the most noble Samantabhadra—homage to the Eight Bodhisattvas,
Supreme in granting auspiciousness and success, gracefully
holding your emblems:
Utpala flower, vajra, white lotus, naga-tree,
Jewel, moon, sword and sun!”

It is said that:

Manjushri personifies the Buddha’s wisdom;
Avalokiteshvara embodies his compassion;
Vajrapani represents his power and capacity;
Kshitigarbha personifies the Buddha’s merit and has special responsibility for the earth, the environment and resources;
Sarvanivaranavishkambhin embodies his precious qualities and is said to exhaust all the obscurations of beings;
Maitreya embodies love and also the Buddha’s enlightened activity;
Samantabhadra displays special expertise in making vast offerings and fulfilling prayers of aspiration; and
Akashagarbha embodies the Buddha’s blessings and has the perfect ability to purify transgressions, particularly to restore any loss or deterioration in the commitments of bodhicitta.

These eight close sons have already attained buddhahood yet they assume the form of bodhisattvas in order to work for the benefit of sentient beings until the end of samsara. The sutras, in fact, recount many extremely wonderful things in praise of each one of these eight bodhisattvas, and explain that simply to think of one or the other of these eight, or even their attributes or names, will infuse everything with auspiciousness.

As it says in the prayer:

“With all obstacles and harmful influences pacified,
May the work we are now about to begin
Meet with ever-growing fulfilment and success, and
Bring good fortune, prosperity, happiness and peace!”