Aug 19, 2020

Posted by in BUDDHISM IN OTHER LANGUAGES | 52 Comments

IN SPITE OF BUILDING NINE BUDDHIST STUPAS..(DÙ XÂY CHÍN ĐỢT PHÙ ĐỒ…)

While visiting a one Buddhist friend in Ho Chi Minh city, I unexpectedly heard his mom’s voice talking to him: “Remember! The merits that are accumulated by building nine Buddhist stupas are less than saving one person’s life. So please bring more food for them!”. Afterwards, I got to recognize that this family has a tradition of going to temples and doing charity. That day was the day the son brought clothes and food to a nursing home in Binh Thanh street. I cannot help imagining the lonely and isolated old people who would be moved to tears while receiving the presents. And after using up everything, they start to look for the next donors, until the end of their lives…

The merits that are accumulated by building nine Buddhist stupas are less than saving one person’s life.

It is no doubt that human beings cannot maintain their lives without clothes and food; however, those are not everything. They are also in need of affection, mental and spiritual sharing. The fact that they are living in a nursing home somehow interprets the misfortunes in their family life. It must be once in a while that their family members come for a visit, and it won’t last for long each time. Their child may give them some money, their daughter-in-law may offer some food and so-so reminders before rushing home, their grandchild may babble with their big eyes open asking : “Why are you staying here, instead of living in my house?”. The mother may give that baby a threatened signal, push him roughly outside and strictly scold him “What are you to say something like that! Next time I won’t bring you with me”. Their child, daughter-in-law, grandchild will all leave them behind. Looking forever at the fading shape of the leaving car, they cannot help suffering a deep sadness. They must not imagine those last days of their lives can be that sad.. From the bottom of their hearts, the old people who are living in nursing homes may not expect to meet their family, because afterwards they will suffer from their own comparison between the past and the present, in which they may find themselves are direct or indirect reasons for the current affliction. It is called karma in Buddhism! The external factors only play the roles of being catalysts to finish the karmic reaction. Therefore, Nguyen Du shared his sympathy by a verse:

Being burdened by the karmic hindrances

Do not ever blame anyone or anything

Maybe they are more happily expecting to meet donors, volunteers who came because of the kindness and sincerity. The moments of sincere sharing, the sympathy will help to warm up their isolated lives. However, afterwards, when the volunteers and donors came back to their own lives, the old people found something inside them dying again. Life in a nursing home can actually be described as a sad “autumn”. How to help them to have a fulfilled happiness in their old age? The need of affection is hard to expect, the mental need is like a desperate lamp coming to the end of light, only the spiritual need embraces an inner strength. At their age, mental health is hard to recover as “A clear mind only stays inside a strong physical body”.

“A clear mind only stays inside a strong physical body”.

That is to see, “the merits of saving one person’s life” is just the necessary condition, not the sufficient one. Conducting good in that way is only helpful towards the poor people, or the old who suffer from the failure of substance. It cannot replace the role of family, and is impossible to improve the mental health of the old people. Are food, drinks, clothes that attractive to the isolated older people? How could they recover and maintain the energy of life while they already acknowledge that they are in the stage of “autumn of life”?

“autumn of life”

 

Therefore, how come the merits that were generated from that act can be larger than “building nine Buddhist stupas”? This is just one expression of folk poetry which reflects the viewpoint of mundane people; so it cannot help revealing the nature of ignorance, which does not follow the right track of Buddhist teaching.

Now I would like to explain further. In the beginning, Stupa was originally associated with the Buddha, gradually its meaning was deviated into “nine-story Buddhist stupa”, a place reserved for worshipping Śarīra, Buddhist relics. The stupa for the saints will be built in nine stories. For eminent monks, superior practitioners, or normal monks and practitioners, the stupa contains 7 stories downwards. Therefore, based on the number of stories, we can tell who is being worshipped. Nowadays, this tradition is often misused in a way that a nine-story stupa can be built after any monks passed away. This will commit a serious impertinence which ends up harming the amount of merits for the spirit before their rebirth into other realms or the Pure land realm.

So by which way saving a person’s life brings more benefits than building nine Buddhist stupas? Please notice that a person’s life refers to not only the old people who are living in the nursing homes but also all human beings. Beside material support, it will be more complete to provide spiritual help. If someone tends to be pessimistic confronting sufferings, mental support sometimes fails to cure; for instance, many psychologists, psychoanalysts gave up to many cases of nervous breakdown, neurasthenia, those who chose to end their lives. The proper prescription for them in this case is taking an anti-suffering supplement, increasing mind strength, etc. by studying Dharma, practicing Dharma, which will help them in the long term, without any payment. This kind of support means giving them suggestions to follow the path of liberation which will support them to be happy in this life, and to attain eternal happiness in their next lives. That’s the actual meaning of “saving one person’s life”! Based on the above analysis, the sentence should be adjusted as “The merits of building nine Buddhist stupas cannot be compared to the virtues of saving one person’s life”. The simple reason is that “gaining merits” bring beneficial effects only in this life, while “gaining virtues” bring benefits to the next lives. Non-Buddhism practitioners only endeavor to gain merits which create the good deeds of being reborn into good realms. Buddhist practitioners gain virtues which establish the foundation to attain enlightenment, and will be reborn into the Buddha’s Pure Land.

I happened to remember Tam Chau, who just came to Song Nguyen Tantra House from Hanoi. I would like to happily praise her act of taking advantage of personal expertise to gain virtues by giving suggestions to others to take refuge in the Three Jewels. Every possible means can be considered as “right mode of thinking/wise attention” in case it tends to help sentient beings meet the right Dharma, right views. Mat Thai Duong, Mat Hanh Giac are the first positive results from Tam Chau’s dedication. Whoever has ever read “the legendary sutta” written by Nghiem Xuan Hong will have further understanding about this spiritual aspect. In any case, instructing other beings to the path of Buddhism will bring virtues; however, it will bring more harm than good in case someone liberally takes the role of a Buddhist master/instructor.

“The merits of saving one person’s life” should accordingly be acknowledged as the method to save that person which makes it more worthy than “building nine Buddhist stupas”. Folk poetry which deviated the value standard of Buddhist teaching was testified and explained as above. I hope that no one will be misunderstood about this and result in growing misconception, especially to those who appreciate Dharma but carry the wrong meaning.

May the light of wisdom illuminate all directions!

Phuoc Thanh Village, 19 August 2014

Thinley Nguyen Thanh

Translated by Mat Tu.


Vietnamese version: DÙ XÂY CHÍN ĐỢT PHÙ ĐỒ…

  1. Franz Reisch says:

    Awesome article, brought to me by my friend Violet

  2. Dr C H Lakshminarayan says:

    I bow my head at the lotus feet of Guru.
    This article is the one which highly impressed me among the other articles which I read so far and reacted by me.!My suggestion which may please or not please many is it would be apt to errect a small marble Buddha stupa in any corner of Song Nguyen Tantra House and over which these golden words to be carved,” Remember, the merits collected by building nine buddhist stupas are less than saving one person’s life”!This golden message will motivate the mind of the reader to engage in charitable activities towards the poor and downtrodden people who are in distress ! One should think at this juncture which is great ? Building a big mansion ? 0r removing the distress ( dukkha ) of a sentient being ?
    Now, the build up of spiritual shelter has come to a certain level and it is time to start charitable activities under it’s shelter by way of making a Hospital to treat patients or old age nursing home or the disabled craft centre where they are engaged NB to earn their bread and butter and to be self-dependent etc. and many more such activities which may make feel happy the Buddha inside Guruji.! Let us aspire to see those days of Song Nguyen Tantra House shining with golden rays emanating from the heart of bodhicitta and Buddha Nature.!
    Om Mani Padme Hum.
    Tantra Nirvadeva

    • Nguyên Thành
      Nguyên Thành says:

      Thank you for your comment! As mentioned in the article, the original sentence should be changed to “the merits of building nine Buddhist stupas are less than the virtues of saving one person’s life”. Supporting nursing homes just brings benefits in this life, which is temporary; while guiding them into the path of Buddhist teaching brings benefits to their next lives, which is eternal. You did ask meaningful and to-the-point questions, which one is great? building a mansion or removing the distress?

  3. Keanu says:

    This let me see if you want something happens i you love you have to start to do things for people that need it. Of you give love the love come back to you. This is where it all go’s in this life

    • Nguyên Thành
      Nguyên Thành says:

      “Of you give love the love come back to you. This is where it all go’s in this life”! I think so!

  4. Kim Johnson says:

    Thank you Guru for another wonderful article and great teachings
    I would to thank violet as well so sending them to me and helping me learn as well she is such a wonderful person and so sweet

  5. Tantra Lanidha (Ralph Keating) says:

    Dear Guru,

    I bow my head to you lotus feet.

    Guru’s merit is immeasurable.

    Thank you so much for this lesson correcting misconceptions of the expression and amending it to be more correct and then elevating it to a level that is embraced by Dharma. It is an important lesson in using our understanding of Dharma to see the truth and have correct thoughts. We are blessed thru this lesson in many ways on our path. It is a gift from Guru and I deeply appreciate it.

    May all sentient beings be fortunate to find a true Guru in this life and follow him to the happiness of the Buddha Nature.

    May Guru and consort life long, happy, and healthy lives for the benefit of all sentient beings.

    May all sentient beings be free from suffering and it’s causes.

    May all be safe and protected from harm caused by the coronavirus and it’s pandemic.

    May the pandemic and the suffering it causes come to an end.

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    Tantra Lanidha (Ralph Keating)

  6. Mật Tuấn Nguyên says:

    Dear Guru,
    I am delight to read this article.
    May Guru have good health and live long for the sake of all beings .
    May all sentient beings attain the Happiness of Buddha’s nature.
    May the covid.19 pandemic will be soon over.
    Om mani padme hum.

  7. Terri- ann Allport says:

    Dearest Guru
    You are constantly in my mind
    Your teachings are always helpful
    It is easy for me to understand what you are trying to teach me
    I feel a calm has come over me
    Meditation is more important than ever before My head is no longer full of mind trash
    When it sneaks in it is so much easier to dispel
    Thank you so much
    Om mani Padme Hum

  8. Charles Wentland says:

    Dear Holy Guru, Thank-you for telling us about your visit to a nursing home yo illustate that saving one person life by teaching himor her to seek Buddah nature will gain you more merits than building nine Buddhist stupas. The gifts of food,clothing, etc. brought to old people in the nursing home are needed, but only satisfy for short time then they are sad and lonely again and looking for the next visit. The nursing home residents really crave love and affection. The live of people in the nursing home and all people can be saved by right view of Dharma. This can help to alleviate ther suffering more than physical gifts. May Guru live long healthy life May Covid 19 end soon May all sentient beings seek Buddahnature Om Mani Padme Hum

  9. Tantra Ashihata (Simon Michael) says:

    Dear holy Guru,
    my name is Tantra Ashihata.
    I thank you so much for this wonderful article you have shared to us. Wow it so nice and great when I read this article,
    may holy Guru give of the wisdom to gather both merit and virtues so that we can benefit here and life after.
    May Guru live long for the benefit of all sentient beings,
    may all sentient beings be free from suffering
    may the end of covid 19 come soon.
    Om Mani padme hum.

  10. Adrian says:

    Thank you for this article. And thank you for wonderful translation.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  11. paul yawney says:

    Dear holy Guru, I bow head to Lotus feet.. I Like this article very much It reminds me of when I worked with seniors in their homes and nursing homes how a little kindness would make them smile.Sometimes a word, a touch, or just being there letting them know you SEE them. It gives you such a good feeling they smile you smile. Your articles are so important. thank you. May Holy Guru and consort live a long and Happy Life. OM MANI PADME HUM.
    Tantra Himataru

    • Nguyên Thành
      Nguyên Thành says:

      Thank you for your comment! Yes they appreciate even a little help, but the most helpful act is guiding them to the path of Buddhist teaching. Please read more!

  12. Tantra Mashinaga says:

    Dear Guru,

    Thank you for this article. In this article you write that it is better to save someone’s life, rather than building nine stupas. I don’t fully understand the significance of a stupa. But I know how important it is to save a life. I think I have saved someone’s life from choking to death on food. But I believe it to be more important to save their souls. Therefore, they can possibly have a higher rebirth.

    May Guru live a long and happy life

    May all sentient beings be free from suffering and attain happiness

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    Tantra Mashinaga (Mark Hamilton)

  13. Bhaaskara says:

    Thank you so much!

  14. Felicia says:

    Dearest Guru,

    Thank you for the enlightening perspective. The explain karma made new realization for me.

    Thank you!

  15. Roy Valdenor says:

    Gain virtues rather than merits…

  16. Tantra Mashita says:

    To the most compassionate person who I ever saw, the honorable Guru,

    Thank you so much for sharing this article with us, I really admired it, such a stunning article, in fact it’s unbelievable, because I was searching and thinking about the Buddhist temples and the charity which the priests and the normal people do in the temples and for the temples as well, and all of sudden I recieved this article from mat,

    Dear holy guru,

    I really can feel inside me that now my devotion to you is bigger than before, and certainly I can’t deny that I become attached to varjayana by dint of you, thank you so much again!

    May you have a good health and live long for the benefit of all sentient beings
    May all the sentient beings attain the happiness of Buddha’s nature
    May the pandemic caused by corona virus soon end
    Om Mani Padme hum 🙏

  17. Lynwod Furthington says:

    Dear Holy Guru, Thank You for sharing this article.

  18. Tantra Shadhita says:

    Dear Guru, Thank you for reminding us that human relationships are more important than material goods. Saving someone’s life by helping their mind seek purity is a virtue that cannot compare to those who only seek merit for show here on Earth.

    May I learn to give the love and help that all sentient beings need.
    May you,Guru, live a long and healthy life.

  19. Richard holtham says:

    The kindest person has sent me this ,it resonates so much with me ..I’m just setting out this wonderful journey of enlightenment… thanks to you for giving me advice and thanks to the Buddha for his kindness and much love to visit .

  20. Clint Therens says:

    Dear Guru
    Thank You for the article
    I learn that I clear mind only stays in a strong body
    May you guide me so i would be better mentally

  21. Tantra Yashami says:

    Respected Guruji Namaskar
    Thr Article is very beautiful and understandable.Everyone cannot understand the conception behind this Article.The subject taken is very important.The lives ofold people are in danger.Only a few children care for their parents.No love for the elders in the society.The cared people of the society only caring for these old people.You are doing a service to these old people.Let us follow our Guruji and respect and love and affection and bread and butter along with clothes begiven to these people.Periodic visits are also necessary.We should talk to them and love them like our own parents.
    Om mani padme hum

    • Nguyên Thành
      Nguyên Thành says:

      The best way to support/save a person’s life is to guide them to Buddhist teachings, so that they will find their own happiness in this life and eternal happiness in their next lives, without depending on societal services.

  22. Mật Khải Nguyên says:

    Dear holy Guru,
    I have read this article. Thank you for opening my eyes on the true meaning of the old saying “In spite of building nine Buddhist stupas…”
    It is interesting and very wise that Guru has elevated the saying to its true meaning, which is “The merits of building nine Buddhist stupas cannot be compared to the virtues of saving one person’s life”. From this, I understand that to truly save someone, providing them food, clothes, other essentials are not enough, we need to show them the right path, encourage them to practice the Dharma to reach true liberation, and wake them up from wrong views.
    Thank you for this useful and deep article,
    May Guru live long for the sake of all sentient beings,
    May all sentient beings attain happiness of Buddha’s nature,
    Om Mani Padme Hum

  23. TantraMikaya (jane) says:

    dear holy guru. Thank you very much for your great article “in Spite of Building nine Buddhist Stupas”. This article teaches us to use our mind wisely. Your visit to the nursing house for the elderly is actually more than just donating food and clothing. You were able to teach these people your knowledge and the Dharma that helps the elderly so that they do not suffer.
    The actual Dharma that we realize in our own mind is the Dharma that is attained by practicing the teachings of the Buddha. It is important and right to provide the elderly with love and compassion. But when all the donors have gone and the food has been eaten and the clothes are worn, nothing remains. Through your kindness to teach the Dharma and to sacrifice your time to people, you teach us that sharing the Dharma is also a valuable donation. This helps people understand the Dharma in the long term and experience less suffering. I wish that you could convey this knowledge to elderly and lonely people here in old people’s and nursing homes. Yes, it is important to help them and donate food and clothing, but it is also important to feed the minds of the elderly with wisdom, the Dharma. 9 Building stupas does not convey goodness and bodhicitta. There are only places that we can visit, but they do not give us any knowledge just because we are there. I allow myself to express my sincere thanks on behalf of everyone for your commitment, your kindness and your compassion for the benefit of all. May our Guru life long for the sake of all sentient beings. May all be free from Suffering. May all beings achieve the Happiness of Buddhas nature. May we all be free from Covid 19 🙏. OM MANI PADME HUM

    • Nguyên Thành
      Nguyên Thành says:

      That’s right! You have presented the core meaning. It is not only beneficial to elderly and lonely people in nursing homes but all kinds of human beings.

  24. Brittney says:

    Interesting article. I believe that elderly people should have some guidance at the end instead of focusing on their primary needs. I believe that their souls need happiness and peace to know that their lives are worth to have

  25. Carmen says:

    My name is Carmen and I want to thank you for this article send to me by my FB friend Violet. I am impressed for the teaching about the importance of love and suport other peaple,especialy now,in this years when,in the place I live ,,there is no country for old peaple” and aging is scaring. I try to find a spiritual way of living, I’ m a beginner in learning about the path of buddism and I ‘m gratful for articles like this wich make the thing more clear for me
    Thank you very much

  26. Carmen says:

    I want to thank you for this article send to me from my FB friend Violet. I am impressed for the teaching about the importance of love and suport other peaple,especialy now,in this years when,in the place I live ,,there is no country for old peaple” and aging is scaring. I try to find a spiritual way of living, I’ m a beginner in learning about the path of buddism and I ‘m gratful for articles like this wich make the thing more clear for me
    Thank you very much

  27. Tantra Amishuta says:

    Dear Holy Guru,
    This is a beautiful explanation of practicing the right track of Buddhism. Gaining merit is a wonderful thing no doubt, BUT gaining virtue, as you said not only benefits the practicing Buddhist but the life they have saved as well not temporarily but over and over. What an incredible gift to give someone. Om mani padme hum. May you be well of all sentient beings and all who trust and rely on you to reach taking the path to true Buddhism. May we continue to practice with continuous growing faith in you and Buddhism. May all sentinet beings be well and find their path to enlightenment.

  28. Mật Khánh Thảo says:

    Kính bạch Thầy!
    Con đã đọc xong bài rồi ạ. Con thành tâm cảm tạ ơn vị Thầy đã từ bi luận giải cho chúng con hiểu được những công đức tích luỹ được khi xây chín bảo tháp Phật giáo còn ít hơn việc cứu mạng một người.
    Con thành tâm cầu nguyện cho sức khoẻ và sự trường thọ của vị Thầy vì sự nghiệp hoằng dương Chánh pháp.
    Cầu nguyện tất cả chúng sanh thành tựu hạnh phúc Phật tánh.
    Cầu nguyện dịch bệnh Covid 19 sớm được tiêu trừ.
    Om Mani Padme Hum

  29. Tantra Midhita says:

    Many thanks Guru. I see I have some reading to do. Thank you kindly.

    May the downtrodden be lifted up.

    May the ill find respite.

    May the well-to-do find humility.

    Om mani padme hum

  30. Venessa says:

    Thank you so much for this article dear guru.

  31. Phan thị Bạch Tuyết says:

    Kính bạch Thầy!
    Con Mật Phong Tuyết rất hoan hỉ được đọc bài viết này.Con cảm tạ ơn Thầy đã từ bi giảng luận về” công đức xây chín bảo tháp Phật giáo ,không thể so sánh với công đức cứu mạng một người” .Thật sự để cứu một ai đó ,cung cấp thức ăn ,quần áo ,những thứ cần thiết thôi chưa đủ mà cần phải hướng dẫn họ con đường đúng đắn ,khuyến khích họ thực hành phật pháp để đạt đến giải thoát tối ưu ,xa lìa những quan niệm tà kiến.
    Con cầu nguyện cho sức khỏe và sự trường thọ của Thầy vì lợi lạc của chúng sanh.
    Cầu nguyện cho tất cả chúng sanh thành tựu hạnh phúc của phật tánh.
    Cầu nguyện cho đại dịch covid 19 được tiêu trừ.
    Om mani padme hum.

  32. Mật Như Pháp says:

    Kính bạch Thầy
    Con đã đọc bài viết này rồi ạ.
    Con cầu nguyện cho vị Thầy sức khoẻ trụ thế lâu dài vì lợi lạc chúng sanh.
    Cầu nguyện chúng sanh luôn thành tựu hạnh phúc Phật tánh.
    Cầu nguyện đại dịch Covid 19 sớm được tiêu trừ.
    Om mani padme hum

  33. Mật Thuận Nguyên says:

    Read Guru
    I read this article
    I thank Guru for giving us precious and beneficial teachings so that we can receive the true value of how to save a person’s life properly to be nine Buddhist stupas. It is the direction sentient beings turn to the path of practice to help them find the truth of life, see true happiness, the ultimate joy of living in the light of the Dharma even though they are just old people Singles are alone languishing in a nursing alone .A piece of food, a set of clothes, … just make them happy at that time, care for a moment, not make their life both physically and mentally better, but the right practice Dharma can save their whole lives not only in this life but also many lives to come.
    May Guru have good health and live long for the sake of all sentient beings. May sentient being achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature.
    May the Corona will end soon.
    Om mani padme hum

  34. Mật Phê Rô says:

    Dear Guru!
    I have read article.
    Thank you so much!
    Pray Guru good health, live long because benefit of all beings.
    Pray covid 19 end.
    Om Mani Padme Hum!

  35. Mật Bảo Châu says:

    Dear Guru
    I have read this article.
    May Guru have good health anh live long for the sake of all sentient beings.
    May sentient being achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature.
    May the covid 19 pandemic will end soon.
    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  36. Tantra Upashiti says:

    Holy Guru,

    Thank you for this lovely article. It took me ,a while to read it, but once I had so many things resonated with me. I had been going through some emotional hardships, but your words and articles, especially this one in particular help me find peace. It took me a while to read this, but it was read at just the right time for me. Thank you.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

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