I just got a stupa to add to my shrine and thought I would pass on what I have been taught.
What is a stupa? (from www.stupa)
"The Tibetan word is Chorten, which means "the basis of offering".
It is a symbol of enlightened mind, (the awakened mind,) and the path to its realisation.
If you had to use just two words, the best definition I have seen is "Spiritual Monument"
The stupa represents the Buddha's body, his speech and his mind, but most especially his mind and every part shows the path to Enlightenment
SYMBOLIC MEANING OF STUPAS
1. The basic platform that "Holds the Earth" symbolises the ten virtues of :
to protect life
to practise generosity
keep pure morality.
to tell the truth
to speak In a quiet and gentle way
to have a sensible speech.
to be content
to be altruistic
to have faith In the right views (which are the correct foundation for liberation).
2. The three steps above symbolise the three refuges one holds on to:
the reaching of Buddha (Dharma)
the Assembly of those who practise these teachings (Sangha).
3. The Lion-throne symboliscs the superiority over the whole universe.
4. The treasures vase symboliscs the eight Noble Riches.
5. The small and the big lotuses symbolises the six transcendental virtues :
6. The four corners of the basic throne symbolise "the Four Unlimited" or Boundless ones:
7. The first step symboliscs the fundamental four attentions:
Impermanence of the body
non-substantiality of thoughts
condition of existence (dharmas).
8. The second step symbolises the four perfect efforts (Sammapadhana):
striving to preserve favourable conditions yet existing
striving to produce such conditions not yet existing
striving to ward off unfavorable existing conditions
striving to make It impossible for such conditions to arise.
9. The third step symbolises the four miraculous feet (Riddhipada)
10. The fourth step symbolises the five spiritual faculties (Indriya)
the faculty of faith
the faculty of Energy
the faculty of Attention
the faculty of Concentration
the faculty of Knowledge.
11. The unchanging base that supports the vase symbolises the five forces (Bala)
The force of faith
The force of Energy
The force of Attention
The force of Concentration
The force of Knowledge.
12. The vase in Its particularities symbolises, the seven branches of awakening (Bodhyanga)
the total memory (of past lives)
the perfect knowledge of all dharmas
the perfect mastery of all disciplines
13. The "Tre" (above the vase) and Its reverse symbolisc the noble eightfold path
14.The tree of life symbolises the ten knowledges of
of Interdependent links
of the origin of suffering
of the cessation of suffering
of the path leading to the cessation of suffering
of the non-appearance
of the ten transcendental knowledges
15. The thirteen rings symbolise
the ten powers and
the three essential remembrances.
16. The umbrella and Its support symbolise the State of a victorious one
17. The "Zaratsak" symbolises the ornaments of all the Supreme Qualities.
18. The Moon symbolises the elimination of all sufferings.
19. The sun symbolises the radiating thousand lights of compassion
20. The jewel at the top symbolises the fulfilment..."