There are many kinds of stupas: the Spontaneously Established Stupa, the Supreme Stupa, the Stupa Bestowing All-Accomplishments, the Tathagata Stupa, and the Shravakayana and Pratyekabuddhayana Stupa, as well as many others. Among these, this is the renowned Tathagata Stupa that commemorates the eight principle activities of our great Teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, who performed one activity at each of the eight holy places.
THE NINE TATHAGATA RELIQUARY STUPAS OF KHENCHEN PALDEN SHERAB RINPOCHE
Where were these stupas built? In Varanasi, in the “Sage Falling” Deer Park, where the one thousand buddhas of this Fortunate Aeon, including our great teacher Buddha Shakyamuni, have and will continue to first turn the wheel of Dharma. On the inner level of the body, speech, mind, and qualities of this place, it is the holy site of the Padma Heruka family. This wondrous spot will not even be destroyed at the end of the aeon by the seven fires and one flood. In this area, where so many fresh blessings are blazing and rich, the supreme monument of world peace, the Nine Tathagata Reliquary Stupas of Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche were built.
At the very beginning, the ground where the stupas would be built was blessed by H.H. Dilgo Khyenste Yangsi Rinpoche, H.E. Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Shechen Wonpo Rinpoche, and many khenpos and tulkus of Shechen Monastery, as well as the monks, nuns, and lamas of Padma Samye Chökhor Ling Monastery and Orgyen Samye Chökhor Ling Nunnery.
On the final day of the meritorious ground-breaking ceremony, with the perfect combination of days and planets, Tulku Orgyen Sangngak, Doshul Lama Tsewang, and the nun Konchok Yangchen—all of whom have completed a three- year retreat with meditation and sacred repetition—as well as Lobpon Sherab Tharchin, Gen Karma Sonam, and all the monks and nuns together opened the mandala of wrathful Guru Padmasambhava, Pema Tragthung, according to the terma of Tsasum Lingpa, and performed ceremonies to reverse all obstacles and bury the regularly occurring obstacles in the ground. Once all of those religious preparations were beautifully completed, a platform about five feet high was constructed out of red sandstone—the same material the great Dharma King Ashoka used to build stone pillars crowned with four lions—which grows stronger the more it is touched by rain, wind, and sun. We then began building a Many Doors of Auspiciousness Tathagata Stupa about thirty feet tall, according to the architectural designs of the Omniscient Jigme Lingpa. Around this main stupa are eight additional stupas sitting on stone thrones decorated with lotus petals around the top and bottom of each throne. Each of these stupas is about eight feet tall, and has a stone buddha in its gau.
TEMPLE OF THE GREAT MASTER
On the same level, behind the stupas is a beautiful temple designed with two levels. The upper level has a roof covered with red tile, and three serto spires at the peak. At the top of the four corners of the first floor are four victory banners. According to the lineage instructions, on the upper part of the external temple wall are two garlands of stars, in between which are two-foot tall dharmachakra wheels, conch shells, and lotuses that alternate in a pattern around the four directions of the temple walls. The front door and side windows have detailed carved overhangs. Beneath the overhang of the front entrance are two stone pillars that are carved to resemble the two original pillars that still stand in the holy place where the wheel of Dharma was first turned, which you can see even today.
Inside the temple, the floor is made of very white marble, and in the center of the floor is a two-foot wide eight petalled lotus, with each petal made from a different color marble stone. Where the walls meet the floor is a six-inch tall border made of red marble. In the center of the temple is a beautiful lion’s throne made of white marble shaped like a ‘T’ when seen from above. On top of the shrine are three solid, life- sized stone statues: (1) in the center is Kyabje Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, (2) on the shrine’s right side is Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche, and (3) on the left is Gelong Kunpang Pema Tsultrim. These portrait statues with living expressions are hand-carved out of the best white marble. Above the shrine in the wall are three alcoves that house bronze statues made with the finest craftsmanship: (1) in the center is Buddha Shakyamuni, (2) on the wall’s right is Guru Padmasambhava, and (3) on the wall’s left is Jetsun Drolma. In the middle of the ceiling is a beautiful crystal chandelier in the shape of a wish-fulfilling jewel necklace, piled up as a mandala offering of shimmering lights.
On the ground in front of the stupas and temple is a solid red sandstone floor with an eight-petalled lotus in its center. A staircase with seven steps and two stone railings connects this landing to a raised stone khora path. On both sides of the staircase are double-petalled lotus thrones that are about three and a half feet tall, which display the life story of Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche carved in stone in both Tibetan and English. The outer edge of the khora path that encircles all of the stupas includes a stone railing made of many pillars, each of which is topped with a blossoming lotus. The Stupa Memorial is nestled auspiciously beneath a bodhi tree within a mango grove, and is surrounded by many newly planted fruit trees, flowers, and green grass.
In brief, the entire Stupa Memorial and its statues are hand-carved out of red sandstone and white marble, respectively, by two very renowned stone carvers in India. It is solid, beautiful, and magnificent, and due to the blessings of the Three Jewels, it spontaneously brings joy and devotion, and was accomplished very naturally, as if it were self-emanated. This is a brief explanation of the design of the Tathagata Stupas and Temple Reliquaries of Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche.