Rinpoche delivered a speech to the HK disciples about the LUM project at the UTBF HK centre on 18 Jan, 2010.
I was asked to talk a little bit about the ‘Mahachitya’ in Nepal, Lumbini, the Birthplace of Buddha. And, so it will be a very informal talk, and also have some time for your questions if you have any questions about the project or about your practice in general. First of all, I will explain a little bit about what ‘Mahachaitya’ means. This is a Sanskrit word. ‘Maha’, maybe many of you know, we often have this word ‘Maha’ in many Sutras or Mantras, many Buddha’s texts or even in mantras. ‘Maha’ means great, so that’s easy. Difficult part is ‘Chaitya’. What does ‘Chaitya’ mean? Many people think or translate ‘Chaitya’ as ‘Stupa’. But, if you want to know exactly, that’s not the best translation because Stupa is usually solid and fixed, you cannot enter it. It looks like a Stupa. It has a Stupa shape. There are many different kinds of Stupas, big one usually have a dome, with the rings or umbrella on the top of that, so that is Stupa. But it is fixed, you cannot enter. Usually, in the old times, when the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas passed away, or when Arhats passed away, people put their remains, their body or ashes in the Stupa, and then it becomes an object of accumulation of merit. People prostrate, go around it (circumambulate), meditate in front of it, and so on, and that’s Stupa. Then there is a word called ‘Nihara’ which means temple or monastery. That’s different, that’s basically a house where you have many monks or practitioners come together to study and meditate. So that’s a monastery or temple. It looks like a house from outside. Now Chaitya, it’s the combination of two, actually it looks like a Stupa from outside. But when you enter it, there is a big hall. There is a big Stupa sometime in the centre of the Chaitya, or sometime a statue. So it’s a temple or monastery when you enter it. When you leave it, it’s a big Stupa. That’s a Chaitya. So this Mahachaitya that we are about to finish in Lumbini, as mentioned by the name, Mahachaitya is a great Chaitya, just like Stupa. It will house the relics inside the Stupa, inside the Chaitya, but at the same time, it will be used as a monastery. It has double functions. It works as Stupa but it can also be used as a place where you can learn and practice. From the old time, ancient Buddha’s time, people did meditation and mostly sitting meditation. But they also did walking meditation. Some time sitting too much is not good for body so you need to walk. But you can also use walking as object of your meditation. So slowly, it is so called ‘circumambulation’. People walk around ‘Chaitya’ or ‘Stupa’ and actually that’s a walking meditation. Nowadays people walk very fast but it can be a meditative walk. If you are going to do that, it’s good to do it in a sacred place, like Buddha’s Birthplace. But it’s very hot in Lumbini. The altitude is not very high but very low from the sea level. So in this ‘Chaitya’, we design to have internal circumambulation place. So regardless of outside weather, you can still continue and do the practice. The place is a very important place, for all the Buddhists and even the United Nations’ Secretary General recognized that it’s so important for all the Buddhists, millions and millions of Buddhists of our world. It’s not just a tourist place, it’s a holy place for all Buddhists, regardless of your place, your location, all Buddhists are connected to this important place. So United Nations preserve that, to protect it from many kinds of destruction, and then they designed, they made a master plan in a way that every Buddhist countries can have a place there. So when their people, Buddhist students come there to visit to the main Buddha’s Birthplace, they also have a place to go. There is a one mile by three mile square of land in rectangular shape, protected by the United Nations, as the ‘World Heritage’. Anything inside there is supposed to be protected and safe. Design, the master plan looks very interesting. Some architects read it and saw that it is divided into three periods of time. Buddha’s Birthplace is the PAST. Buddha was born there so it’s the past. And then there is a middle section where all the international monasteries are, that is the PRESENT. And there is the third section, the WORLD PEACE STUPA is. The world peace is our vision, our aspiration, our wish that the world remains in peace. But the world is not necessarily in peace all the time. So this is our wish, our goal, and how can we have that peace? Peace should start from inside, individual’s peace. How can we get that? Through the teachings, teachings that we can receive in these monasteries in the PRESENT area, which come from the PAST, the Buddha, who was born there, we can have WORLD PEACE. That’s how it is connected into three periods of times. So in order to have this world peace, we want to learn and practice how we can develop peace within ourselves, based on the teachings of Buddha. It seems I am talking about one particular place project, but actually if you look closely, it’s also the teachings, Buddha’s teaching. So during the way you are learning the project, you are also learning about the general Buddha teachings. And now, as I mentioned earlier, there are different lots of land given to different countries. So as I said last night, I didn’t have an ambition even to apply for a piece of land. But then I was encouraged by different people from Nepal. I didn’t have the ambition at the beginning because I knew it’s for countries, not for individuals or organizations. But finally, I did and it was approved very quickly and so now we have the land. And also our plan, the architecture of this building is very unique, very different from all others and it’s quite huge, it’s monumental, so I wasn’t sure whether it would be approved or not. But again it was approved soon after that. Most of other monasteries are built by governments of different countries. Our Mahachaitya has a particular purpose which I didn’t say from the beginning. One of the purposes of this Mahachaitya is that there is no boundary; there is no concept of location, place and country. It’s for people, for the world without borders. There may be many people in the world whose place or country region is not represented by any particular monastery in Lumbini. So it represents everyone in the world, especially who doesn’t have a particular monastery as their representation. And now we are at the last stage, outside structure is already basically finished. There are small things but many things have been finished. One good thing I would like to share with all of you, after seeing all these heart-breaking news about Haiti, lots of destruction, so many people died there, is that this Mahachaitya is thought about earthquake before building. There is anti-earthquake system built in the Mahachaitya because, actually Nepal is on the earthquake fore-line. So it’s important to have that. I believe place like this doesn’t belong to any particular person, it’s built by everyone, and it’s for everyone, and belong to everyone. So it should last forever, so that’s why it should have all these things in place. Once it’s built and finished, it will be used for many purposes. It will be a place where people can visit and meditate for a short while, circumambulate, accumulating merits by coming, looking at the Buddhas, or it will also be a place where people can join some Buddhist courses, seminars or meditation retreats, intellectually learn or practically experience Buddha’s Dharma. It will also be used for giving special retreats for children who need special care. Some kids have lots of problems. They left their home, they don’t listen, they have special characters, in the worst case, they even use drugs and so on. This is one of our wishes, because when we talk about Lumbini, we think about Buddha as a child, very young. And also when we talk about Lumbini, we think about Buddha’s mother and father, so there is connection with children and also connection with parents. So this is my idea from the beginning that let’s do something really good in quality. That’s why we thought a lot about this architecture. Architecture has a meaning, it has to look good, it has to be strong if there is natural calamity, it has to be able to resist, like earthquake, so all these are taken into consideration. So now it’s finished most part of it and we are at the last stage. And then we have statues. I also put lots of thoughts about them because not all statues are same. When you go into details about statues, you are talking about which styles of Buddha, many different kinds of Buddha, and which period? I have to think all these things because I want to open this Mahachaitya as an object for anyone who want to accumulate merits. As I said last night, this will be a very good place so these statues have to look very serene, peaceful, full of blessing, very suitable as objects of your prayer and meditation. So first of all, the main ‘Chaitya’ architecture is based on ancient structure which can be now found in Nananda University of the old time, which is in North India. There are some rooms and based on those rooms, the architecture actually recreates the whole thing, and that structure is stupa of Shariputra. Shariputra is the Arhat, the monk who is standing next to Buddha, on his right hand side. You see two monks standing next to the Buddha all the time, one on his right and one on his left. Shariputra is the one standing on the right, known as the one who has the best knowledge or wisdom. Shariputra is very important in Nananda because Shariputra was born in that place and died at that place. So people built this huge Buddhist University. In that University, there were over 113 monasteries, like colleges. People from different countries used to go there and learn. It’s known as ‘Centre of Knowledge’, ‘Centre of Excellence’. Many early translators, masters from Tibet, masters of Vajrayana schools also went there to learn, and they have their own college, college for Tibetans. And also people from different countries all went there, including some great masters from China like ‘Hsuan Chuang’(元奘) and even before that ‘Fa Sien’(法顯), they all went there to learn. So Nananda was such a great place, place of learning and place of big university. This Mahachaitya is based on one of the most important structure of Nananda. Though this Mahachitya’s structure is bigger than that original structure, the proportion is exactly the same. And then about statues, since we now have Mahachaitya which is based on Nananda structure, which started at sometime from the 5th Century onwards maybe to the 12th Century, I thought it’s meaningful to use the styles of Buddha of those times, the best of that time. So in the 7th , 8th Century, Buddhist Arts in North India grew very much and flourished and the highest of that Buddhist Art was sometime in the 7th Century, and we follow that style, and it’s very difficult to find them these days. If you go to some very famous museums, you may find one or two statues. Otherwise, usually if you find something, they’re antique statues; you don’t find them in the market. Buddhism, now we have teachings of Buddha, we are here in Hong Kong, still receive teachings of Buddha over 2500 years ago, still maintained well. There are far away from here, but we can still receive them, why? Because the teachings of Buddha were flourished all over the world, especially in the East Asia. If you are asking this question, it will connect to the Emperor Ashoka, without the support of Ashoka, Buddhism may not have flourished this way. So the support of the Dharma becomes very important for the future generations, other than people of that time, even for the future generation becomes very important. Because of Ashoka’s support, Dharma flourished to the north, to the south and from north it came to east, to Asia, to Asian countries. So we have Dharma now. So in order to thank all the supporters of this project, who not only accumulate merits for themselves, but also help to remain the teachings of Buddha for long time, just like the Emperor Ashoka did in the past, to thank these supporters, and donors in Nepal, we decided to dedicate different statues for different donors. So I have selected several statues, some major big, mid-sized, smaller ones, Buddhas of Three Times, Buddhas of Five Directions, 10 major Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, 20 mid-sized Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the Protectors, Thousand Buddhas of this Eon, in order to dedicate, to thank all the supporters. If you look at these statues, they show all the unity of all the Buddha’s schools and Buddhist traditions of this world, it’s not one, it’s all. It includes from Arhats, to Bodhisattvas, to Buddhas, it also represents Sutrayana Deity and Vajrayana Deity. Even within Vajrayana deity, there are four different Tantras of Vajrayana. Among these statues you find the deities of all four Tantras of Vajrayana. So again it not only represents Buddhists without borders, it also represents the unity of all the Buddhist schools and traditions. So spread the word to others, to all specially to the people you care, let them also accumulate merits. So spread these words to everyone, as much as you can. If you have any questions about this on your other Buddhist teachings, you can ask now. Some time end of this coming October, end of October to early November, we are going to have the grand inauguration of this Mahachaitya and I am inviting all of you, whoever can make it, to come there. Question from disciple: Yesterday Rinpoche talked about how to benefit the next generation, please explain more. Answer from Rinpoche: One way to benefit them is to dedicate merits for next generation by supporting this project, maybe leaving a name there. So your next generation maybe originally they are not interested in visiting there. But now they know that their ancestors’ names are in that place, so there is more reason for them to visit. Once they visit that place, they make connection to the Buddha, the Birthplace of Buddha. So you have already sowed a very deep seed for all the future generations. Maybe they originally do not go to see the Buddha’s place, maybe, you know, partly to see the Buddha’s place, partly for pleasure, and partly to look at ancestors’ names. So by end results, they make connections to Buddha.