Violet Flame Stupa Foundation, Western Shambhalla, Montana U.S.A. - East Meets West to Support Tibetan Culture
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Tibetan Culture

Design Concept and Symbology

     After the Buddha took his last breath, and his body was cremated, his ashes were divided into eight parts which were divided and placed into eight ancient stupas. In order to share the blessing with the community, the kings and princes who were the caretakers shared the relics in this way. Of the ancient eight stupas still intact today, most are said to contain relics of Shakamuni Buddha.

     A design of the Violet Flame Stupa was researched and delivered by Khenpo Konchog Tashi. It was hand-delivered on one of his visits to Emigrant, Montana, U.S.A.

     Denchen Yeshe hired a draftsman to make a detailed plan with specifications for building a 10 foot stupa.


Violet Flame Stupa
Violet Flame Stupa, Paradise Valley, Montana, U.S.A.

Designing a Stupa

Buddhas tapestry             Chortens - Tibetan Stupas

      Since Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing, the stupas that have been built are representations of his form and memorials of his eight Great Deeds. The structures are constructed according to guidelines found in Buddhist scripture that he left for us. Many stupas today are built on these representations. Below are the eight designs--Information gathered from the Kunzang Palyul Choling website.

Styles of stupas

The reason I chose the Enlightenment design was because it was my inner desire for the
enlightenment of mankind. Fundamentally, a stupa is essentially made up of the following
five components. Each of these components is rich in metaphoric content and is identified
with one of the five cosmic elements said to make up the entire manifested existence. These are earth, water, fire, air and space.

Stupa drawing
Stupa Design by Khenpo Konchog Tashi

Components of a Stupa

CIRCLE - The Circle - The perfect shape of the circle expresses
wholeness and totality. It represents the principle which has no end
or beginning. It thus signifies the element of space.

CRESCENT MOON - This denotes the element of air. Air has the
capacity to expand. The female of the species shares this property with
air. This is exemplified in the expansion of a pregnant woman. Indeed
the crescent moon is an ancient symbol denoting femininity since the
waxing and waning of the moon is said to mirror a woman's menstrual

CONICAL SPIRE - This signifies the element of fire. Fire, of
course, always rises upwards. When we kindle a fire it never burns
downwards but always goes straight up. So fire symbolizes energy
ascending upwards. It represents wisdom which burns away all

HEMISPHERICAL DOME - The main mass of the classical form of
the stupa consists of a solid,hemispherical dome. Early Buddhist texts
refer to this as the garbha, meaning 'womb' or 'container.' With this
reference the stupa as a whole is called the 'dhatu-garbha.' Dhatu is
Sanskrit for element. Herein lies the derivation of the word 'dagoba,'
which is the short form of dhatu-garbha and which is the most usual
designation of the stupa in Sri Lanka. Thus this section of a stupa is
an allusion to the primordial, creative waters. Indeed in all the major
cosmologies, life arose from the archetypal waters, a female symbol
of formless potentiality. The dome by virtue of representing the womb
from which issues all manifested existence signifies this creative matrix.

SQUARE BASE - This symbolizes the element earth. The phenomenal world spreads out in the four directions and the square with its four sides is an appropriate metaphor for the same. These four directions define the earth and bind it in order. Hence the square is the
perfect symbol to denote the terrestrial world. Often a stupa would have four gates, one for each direction, and various deities protecting the specific directions would stand guard over them.

Information from Exotic India website

     The symbolism of the form of the stupas is a vast and complex subject. The shape of the stupa represents the Buddha, crowned and sitting in meditation posture on a lion throne. The stupa also symbolizes the five elements and colors and their relationship to Enlightened Mind. Sections of the Stupa symbolize the Path of Enlightenment.

buddha on stupa design

13 Rings: the ten levels of the Mahayana path and the three highest stages of the Vajrayana path.

HARMIKA - Just below the spire: Eyes of the Buddha. The 8-fold Noble Path: Right View, Understanding, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort,
Mindfulness, Samadhi.

BUMPA - The Buddha’s chest: the 7 Elements of Enlightenment: Mindfulness, Discrimination, Exertion, Joy, Pliancy, Samadhi, Equanimity.

DOME - (4 Steps below Bumpa) - The legs of the Buddha: the 4 immeasurables of Loving Kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity.

THRONE - (3 Steps at the Base) - The 3 refuges of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Stupa with Buddha
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