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Introducing Stupas into Australia

Vello Väärtnōu is a dedicated man keen to share the Dharma knowledge in order to help others discover the depth and benefits of the Buddhist teachings for themselves. He has a particular passion for building stupas since 1982 – was the first person to construct Buddhist architecture in Eastern Europe during Soviet times and the most recent one was completed in 2008 in Estonia. He also built several stupas in the Himalayan region where he trained in stupa architecture under the guidance of some of the finest Buddhist masters in Tibet and Mongolia. In recent years he immigrated to Australia and is the driving force behind the “Buddhism and Australia” annual conferences. His passion for stupa construction is revealed below in his mission to raise awareness and appreciation of Buddhism in Australia.

Herewith is a quote from Lama Govinda, a well-known Buddhist scholar, to offer a definition of stupas:

“It is through the language of archetypal symbols that we reconnect ourselves with the primordial ground from which all human culture has sprung… among the oldest of architectural forms, the Stupa is a universal symbol of enlightened mind, a familiar sight in all countries where Buddhism has flourished. In the Stupa we find the ancient reliquary monuments once built for kings and heroes transformed into profound expressions of knowledge. Rightly interpreted and understood by both reason and intuition, it mirrors the harmony and perfection of universal principles and invites the human mind to awaken to its full capabilities…”

Stupas are no doubt the oldest form of Buddhist architecture and they are common to all Buddhist traditions. I feel that a Stupa is about the psycho-cosmic model. Where there is a Stupa, there is Buddhism. According to Tibetan Buddhism, stupas give psychic strength to a person – every corner, shape and instrument has a symbolic meaning and is there for a reason.

Currently stupas are being built everywhere around the world, except Australia.  The idea of building stupas has sparked great interest in that there are almost no existing stupas in Australia. Supporting the construction of such architectural significance has many benefits, which can bring material and visual presence of Buddhism into Australia and be enjoyed for all future generations as well. For example in Singapore, which honors many different religions, the government has invested millions of dollars to help build Buddhist architecture in respect to those practitioners. Why not in Australia too with its many religions?

By introducing stupas into Australia, the values of Asian cultures, history of Buddhism, Buddhist cosmology and view of the world can be introduced in a meaningful way through physical presence. When stupas are properly empowered, they attract great force and energy to influence one’s journey on the Path of Buddhist discovery. In a country like Australia, where Buddhism is still emerging and taking root, then what better way to offer as a beautiful symbol for inspiration?

Positive reasons for building stupas in Australia:

Create unifying activities for all Australian Buddhists

Added cultural value to Australia

Pilgrimage destination for practitioners

Improve multi-cultural diversity in society

Attract scholars, monastics, politicians culture leaders from outside Australia

Raise awareness of Buddhism

Promote “Peace, Harmony, and Understanding” between all living beings

In other Asian countries where Buddhism is common and stupas are numerous, people take little notice of a new construction. However, in Australia where Buddhism is growing and spreading, then stupa-building can make an important contribution to the communities. An analogy can be drawn to a new stupa symbolizing a lotus seed that arises from a pond of mud.  It is a thing of beauty and a form of education: on the outside they represent meaningful aspects of Buddhism, and on the inside they can empower our goals and objectives on the Path.

The goal of Vello Väärtnōu’s activities in Australia is to lay a strong educational foundation for Buddhism. In his case it is very clear what he wants to do and he believes that there is a great karmic benefit of supporting such activities in order to enrich Buddhism in a new country like Australia where Buddhism is continuing to take root.

For additional reference:

Venerable Vello Väärtn?u
First stupas built in 1984
Fifth stupa built in Estonia, 2008
Väärtn?u at Estonian stupa

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