Ancient Stupas

The Stupa of Supushpa Chandra 
The Great Stupa, Bodhgaya, India
In the King of Concentration Sutra, Buddha Shakyamuni also recounts the killing of the Bodhisattva, Supushpa Chandra by King Suradatta.  Although the Supushpa Chandra was aware of the harm the King would cause him, he was willing to accept his own suffering in order to eradicate the misery of many.

There was a large temple at a monastery and within the monastery there were thousands of Buddhist Mahayana Bodhisattvas.  Something happened within another school of thought that influenced the ministries and the king to take a disliking for these Mahayana Bodhisattvas and they were evicted from the Monastery. They traveled to a remote area where they found Supushpa Chandra living in a hut and settled there and received daily teachings from him.

One day as he was giving a teaching to the Mahayana Bodhisattvas, he decided to travel to the area they had left. He had seen that thousands of disciples in this area had the seeds to realize emptiness in this life and that the Mahayana Bodhisattvas he was teaching had planted these seeds.  He saw that there was a danger from King Suradatta and he decided to go and face it.

Within this one week, each day without eating, he taught disciples all day and circumambulated the stupa all night. During this week of teaching many disciples generated many realizations, including the realization of the wisdom of emptiness, Bodhichitta.  

He sensed some strong force coming from the king, but did not let this concern him as he knew he was benefitting thousands of Bodhisattvas. The king sent men to kill Supushpa Chandra, when they cut his limbs from his body many lights were emitted from his body, his blood became like milk and other unusual events occurred and many people developed strong faith in Supushpa Chandra.  

When the king heard of this, he developed great regret for his action.  After the cremation of the bodhisattva's body, he had the relics collected and created a big stupa for the relics. 

The killing of a Bodhisattva is one of the five deeds of immediate retribution, and the king would have not been able to avoid going to the hell realms, but by creating the stupa and upholding the moral precepts, he created the seeds for the realization of emptiness.  At that time, he was Buddha Shakyamuni, many lifetimes before he became the Buddha.
Supushpa Chandra knew the king would go to the hell ealm and he would lose his own life, butto benefit thousande of Bodhisattvas he was willing to sacrifice two people.


The Stupas of King Ashoka

Ashoka Pillar at Great Stupa
The great King Ashoka constructed 84,000 stupas after his conversion to Buddhism in the third century BC.  He had the original eight stupas opened and the remains distributed among thousands of the stupas he had built.  King Ashoka erected the eight stone pillars around the Great Stupa in Bodhgya, India.  Each pillar represents one of the eight sacred sites and events of Buddha's life and are decorated by four lion faces. 
Ashoka Pillar with Four Lions

King Ashoka was the first ruler of ancient Bharata (India). When Ashoka was anointed the new emperor in 274 BCE, he immediately began instituting his law of oppression by administering capital punishment for even the slightest infractions. His cruel heart showed mercy upon no one. King Ashoka decided to go to war to conquer kingdoms untouched by his predecessors and he brutally demolished many other kingdoms.  

As Ashoka witnessed the massacre of hundreds of thousands, while he waged war, the reality of the pain and suffering he was creating for so many people began to slowly grow into his awareness.   Women were widowed, children were orphaned, as husbands and fathers were slain in battle.  He began to question what his people actually were winning in the war.

As his concern for his people began to grow, he turned away from his path of war, and began to initiate many changes in policies in the vast land of India.  King Ashoka became a practitioner of Buddhism and he renounced the violence he once embraced and created policies that respected all life and enhanced the well being of all citizens. He promoted religious tolerance and believed in the importance of the development of spiritual awareness and the practice of core values in daily life.  King Ashoka’s concern for families, teachers, the elderly, the disadvantaged,  prisoners, animals and for the environment expressed itself in practical welfare provisions.

King Ashoka, to this day is remembered and revered by people of all religions for the positive change he created in his policies within his vast kingdom.  Other rulers have long been forgotten, but because of his practice of erecting Stupas with Buddha Shakyamuni's relics throughout his kingdom within and beyond modern India, his legacy will live on.

 Ancient Stupa  | Benefit  |  Eight Stupa Types | Symbolism