Migyur Dorje Stupa

The following article is from the Spring, 1996 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Constructed in Poolesville, MD

On November 30, 1995 an Enlightenment Stupa, built on the grounds of the Kunzang Palyul Choling monastery in Poolesville, MD to house a finger bone of the 17th-century terton Migyur Dorje, was formally consecrated. The event makes possible an opportunity for practitioners everywhere to seek healing from incurable disease and mental unbalance.

The stupa project was launched in the summer of 1995 when H.H. Pema Norbu Rinpoche bestowed the relic on the monastery's director, Tulku Ahkon Lharno, confident that she had the will and means properly to enshrine it. Whirlwind activity ensued in order to complete the stupa within the limited time frame necessary to accommodate master stupa builder Tulku Rigdzin Pema who, despite other commitments, was called to the site by Pema Norbu because of the importance of the project. The tulku, whose schedule is booked three years ahead for stupa projects around the world, was in charge of the ritualistic aspect. Before arriving in America, he faxed instructions from Taiwan on the offerings to be assembled, including 6 tons of mantra rolls (representing approximately one billion mantras), over 1000 clay tsatsas, 2 complete mandalas, and other assorted offerings such as precious metals, semi-precious stones, saffron, cloves, 11 tons of rice, and cedar chips. Over a mere five months, a vigorous fund-raising campaign launched by monastery officials yielded $165,000 from 300 donors in 7 countries and 24 US states.

A hallmark of the project was the ritual correctness and physical care with which each stage was accomplished. At the outset, practitioners taking 2-hour shifts recited mantras around the clock for 7 days, while Tulku Rigdzin Pema, in addition to personally painting gold mantras all the way up the tree of life which runs vertically from the base through the spire, and supervising the strapping on of the relics, performed fire pujas and mantra recitations to avert obstacles. To prevent heat and moisture damage to the stupa contents, the mantra rolls, machine rolled and sprayed with a saffron water mist, were shrink-wrapped; the two mandalas were encased in plexiglass cubes; and the tree of life was enclosed in metal piping.

Despite these precautions, the project encountered many difficulties, perhaps because, as Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo explained to those involved in its construction, the building of an Enlightenment Stupa parallels the spiritual process of a Buddha: even while moving resolutely toward enlightenment, he is bombarded by maras until the moment of complete realization. In Poolesville, the handdigging of the foundation coincided with a 100-degree heat wave (despite which one of the workers admitted coming away bursting with energy); the construction leader fell from a 20-foot platform, suffering compression fractures which prevented his working for 6 weeks; and on the astrologically auspicious day when the tree of life had to be set inside the structure, it rained incessantly, turning the approaches to the site to mud.

Nonetheless, the crew were able to complete the stupa before the advent of an exceptionally harsh winter, due in large part to the skillful means of Tulku Ridgzin Pema. Born in Kham, Tibet, the tulku, whose presence bespeaks refinement, kindness, and depth, was recognized at the age of 3 by Penor Rinpoche. Thereafter, he studied with Khenpo Khyenrab Senge, and with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche from whom he took teachings every day for 8 years. It was the latter who ordered him to become a stupa builder, a course which necessitated the tulku's extensive study of such texts from the Nyingma Kama as Oser Trime (Stainless Light), the Tsuktor Trime of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, and the Rabsel Nyima of Jamyang Kyentse Wangpoall three constituting canons according to which stupas are constructed. Throughout his years of study, Tulku Rigdzin Pema also had to accomplish retreats and recite hundreds of thousands of mantras so that now, when he has to accomplish similar practices at the various stages of building a stupa, he can do so swiftly. He has supervised the construction of, among others, 8 stupas at Dilgo Khyentse's monasteries, of a stupa in Nepal holding the relics of Zonang Rinpoche, and a stupa in the Sakya monastery in Nepal housing the relics of Dezhung Rinpoche.

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Migyur Dorje Stupa at Kunzang Palyul Chilling (during blizzard of '96.)

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Tulku Rigdzin Pema and Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo at the consecration of Migyur Dorje Stupa, Kunzang Palyul Choling, Poolesville, MD.

Commenting on the significance of the Migyur Doije stupa, the naturally introspective Tulku Rigdzin Pema recalled from his youth in Tibet, There was a Migyur Dorje stupa in my homeland which I visited with a relative who had gout. After she circumambulated it, she recovered within a' few days. But this is not surprising. Migyur Dorje said in his predictions that his body would benefit beings. It is important for the Migyur Dorje stupa here to provide a beneficial influence close to this country's capital. America is powerful, but there are still problems. This relic will help promote peace and heal disease.

Besides the bone of Migyur Dorje, whose relics are said to be marked with Tibetan vowels and consonants, the spire of the Poolesville stupa also houses ringsel (sacred, self-arising pills) from the heart of Junzang Sherab, the first throne-holder of the Palyul Lineage; ringsel from the brain of Longchenpa; a tsa-tsa made from dutsi of Guru Rinpoche, pressed by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche; and ringsel produced by relics of the buddha of the previous aeon, Buddha Kashyapa.

Now that the stupa itself has been completed, the project enters its second phase, which includes landscaping, lighting, and the construction of an asphalt road and parking lot, the better to accommodate the untold number of visitors who will be magnetived toward this place of physical and mental healing. Anyone wishing to support this effort is invited to send contributions to: The Migyur Dorje Stupa Project, Kunzang Palyul Choling, 18400 River Road, Poolesville, MD 20837. ä_æ

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