Spiritual Parallels between Indian Stupas and the Three Yogas of Hindu Society

Essay by dedsledUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, July 2004

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Spiritual Parallels between Indian Stupas and the Three Yogas of Hindu Society

To some, the stupa is merely a relic query, a building with the sole purpose of storing the relics of deceased people with great importance. Others believe that the stupa is more of an environment in which the visitor can fully participate and experience something beyond the reverence and worship of the deceased. The purpose of this paper is not a sole examination of stupa architecture but rather an experiment in drawing the parallels of early Buddhist structures to the later Hindu practice of the three yogas.

Stupas have developed over time from rudimentary geometric structures to elaborate buildings. The origin of the stupas can be traced back to the ancient tumuli structures. The tumuli were geometric structures that were erected in the form of pyramids, cones and hemispheres, and often contained the relics of fallen kings and saints.

In India, the stupa has primarily taken a hemispherical form. The stupas of the Buddhist tradition in India were not only erected for storing the remains of great people, but also built for the people who follow these "Awakened Ones". This is seen in Digha Nikaya XVI, 5, when the Buddha, during a conversation with Ananda, mentions that "whosoever shall there place garlands, or perfumes, or paints, or make a salutation there, or become in its presence calm in heart, that shall long be to them a profit and a joy" (Govinda 3). The stupas of India serve as a place of refuge and sanctuary. Although there are ceremonies performed at the stupas, a major characteristic of the stupa is its symbolic architecture an individual can experience while being in its presence.

The structural symbolism of the stupa is evident in its architecture. The visitor enters into the stupa...