One can easily imagine the feeling of loss and emptiness that the Buddha’s death had created among his disciples and people who lived near him. His passing had created a vacuum. One way of filling that vacuum was the veneration of his relics. The Buddha’s followers wanted to continue feeling his bodily presence in their life.
After his death, the body of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was cremated. His remains were put in special memorial mounds called stupas.
The Emperor Ashoka, in the third century BCE, was the individual most responsible for setting Buddhism on the road to becoming a world religion.
Deeply regretting all the suffering he had caused by his bloody military campaigns, he underwent a profound spiritual transformation. Having become acquainted with the Buddhist teachings, Ashoka made the momentous decision to rule his empire according to the Buddhist principles of nonviolence and compassion.
Ashoka promoted the practice of pilgrimage and ordered the construction of thousands of burial monuments known as stupas to the Compassionate One. Some sources talk about eight original stupas opened by Ashoka and then divided into thousands more.
The stupa is a reflection of the Buddha sitting in meditation. It also symbolizes the five elements and colors and their relationship to Enlightened Mind:
Base – Square – Yellow – Earth – Equanimity
Dome – Circle – White – Water – Indestructibility
Spire – Triangle – Red – Fire – Compassion
Parasol – Half Circle – Green – Wind – All-accomplishing Action
Jewel – Dewdrop (no shape/no color/void) – Space – All-pervading Awareness
The relics of the Buddha are protected by these deities:
The jewel on top of the stupa symbolizes All-pervading Awareness:
It is recommended that you remove your shoes before entering the base area of the stupa:
Near the stupa, there is a golden statue of the Buddha:
Lotus is a kind of water-lily. It is a symbol of the Buddha-nature within all beings, which emerges undefiled from the muddy depths of worldly existence (samsara).
In the meditation hall we can see another statue of the Buddha and the Bodhi tree. This tree grows from a branch brought from Sri Lanka.
All pictures in this post are from: Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery and Buddha Meditation Centre of Greater Toronto in Markham.
Johathan Landaw, Stephan Bodian, Gudrun Buhnemann, Buddhism for Dummies