Zuni Mountain Stupa
Here in southern Alabama, it's been pouring buckets all day, pools of water swarming in the roads and dark clouds swathing the sky. However, in the site of today's virtual visit, the early May temperatures are crisp, bright blue, sunny Spring days.
Grants, New Mexico is where the next trek takes us. In the Northwestern quadrant of this Southwest state, a stupa sits. A stupa with the expressed purpose of "subduing negative forces." The style of the stupa itself, Duddul Chodten, translates and is dedicated to this expressed purpose.
The act of building with the intent of a structure to interact with the matrix of spiritual and locational energies is certainly not unique to Tibetan Buddhism. I am reminded of a story I heard during my early prodding into the concepts of Feng Shui, an art and practice which is carefully considered not only in home design and layout in certain regions of the world, but also actual planning of new and prominent architecture.
I don't recall all the details, but as this particular example goes, a major office building was slated to be built in an urban area in China. One particular obstacle perceived was the positioning of the building near a hilly area that was known to be the residence of a particular dragon spirit. Constructing a many leveled office building in this particular location would, according to certain experts, obstruct the path of the dragon, thereby bringing ill energy to the levels of the building that previously was it's path of movement.
The solution: allow for a large central hole in the middle of the building to pave the dragon spirit's path. Building and layout with regards to harmony with the environment takes on an entirely new level when such notions are brought to the plan. And harmony, in this sense, implies not only ushering forth 'good energy,' but a keen awareness of the flow of local elements and a will and ability to confront and compromise with aspects of the landscape or general atmosphere that, if ignored, could prove to be disruptive.
Zuni Mountain Stupa was, as far as I can tell, not constructed with the intent to allay or pacify any local land deities in this particular region of New Mexico. Yet it is the first stupa I have read about whose specific purpose involved dispelling "negative forces." Certainly, many of the other stupas across the globe, intended to be a monument and circumambulation point for enlightenment, have as their structural and spiritual intent, the very same purpose. The act of 'enlightenment' itself involves a dissolution of delusion, negative thought and energy- all of which obstruct and dissuade one from any goals of enlightenment, regardless of spiritual persuasion.
Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche is the spiritual director for the Zuni Mountain Stupa, which was consecrated only months ago. Also known as Ösel Khandro Duwi Ling- The Gathering Place of the Dakinis, Zuni Mountain Stupa is a project in the wings of the Vairotsana Foundation, of which Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche is a founder.
Vairotsana Foundation's website states:
"We are building this stupa in the Zuni Mountains at a time when extreme negative conditions proliferate on our planet in order to help remove those obstacles and to generate the blessings of healing, peace, and enlightenment for all beings, in every direction, in every way."
In my own project of tracking these different Tibetan Buddhist architectural developments in the USA, it is clearer to me more than ever before that we all subscribe to different means of responding to current societal and planetary conditions. If you have read this far along, perhaps you as well see the importance and role that various architectures play in the human effort of confronting and resolving certain dynamics at play. Prayer is certainly among the ways. And the role of the stupa offers exactly that- active prayer space.