Located in the northernmost region of India, in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, the white dome of the Shanti Stupa can be viewed for hundreds of miles around. Glistening in the sun, it has been visual evidence of Buddhism’s keenness to the concept of world peace ever since it’s dedication in 1991 – at which time the 14th Dalai Lama personally preserved relics of the living Buddha at its base. To a great degree, construction of this monument is due to the thinking of Nichidatsu Fujii, a Japanese Buddhist monk who made the decision in 1947 to construct Peace Pagodas throughout the world, as memorials to the ideal of world peace. Shanti Stupa is considered to be one of the most striking and beautiful edifications in the world dedicated to the concept of world peace – and it is certainly one of the most highly elevated peace monuments on earth.
The notion of a stupa originated even before the days of Buddha, as earthen burial mounds for ascetic thinkers , who were involved in the process of extreme spiritual self-denial and austerity within the traditions of Hinduism – from which Buddhism spun sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. According to tradition, these ascetics were buried in a seated position within a chaitya, which served as a prayer hall for the devoted. Upon the death of Buddha, his remains were cremated and distributed amongst eight mounds – and the urn and embers for his cremation were buried in 2 additional mounds. In the 3rd century BCE, the Emperor Ashoka of India – who had converted to Buddhism – had the original stupas containing the remains of Buddha opened for the purpose of redistributing the ashes between thousands of other stupas he had ordered constructed throughout his kingdom. By then, stupas had evolved to include an entrance, fence-like enclosure, square raised area on top, canopy, and circular pathway around the base of the structure. Elaborations on the stupa became more and more common as the practice spread into other areas of Asia – to include the “chorten” of Tibet and the “pagoda” of East Asia.
Construction on the Shanti Stupa began in April of 1983, with the intention of commemorating 2500 years of Buddhism and promoting the ideal of worldwide peace and prosperity. Completion of the monument came through the allied efforts of Ladakhi Buddhists of India and the Japanese Nipponzan-Myohoji Buddhist Order that has long venerated India as the “sacred” land of Buddha’s life and death. Indira Gandhi, who was the Prime Minister of India at the time, ordered the construction of a road to the location in 1984, which now acts as an avenue for tourists to visit the site. The Indian government provided a great deal of financial assistance for its construction, making it an effort supported by both religious and secular interests. The monument includes a photograph of the present Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, as well as a golden statue of Buddha that sits on a “turning wheel of Dharma,” reliefs of Buddha in various poses of meditation, and other artistic depictions of the life of the Buddha.
When interviewed concerning the reasons for terrorism, the Dalai Lama has noted distinctive and increasingly dangerous changes that have occurred within his lifetime. In his opinion, terrorism has become increasingly more vengeful in its motivation – involving “a mixture of politics, economics, and religion.” He has also noted the inequality of wealth in the world, which has involved the exploitation of poorer countries by the West – as they are drawn to the available natural resources, including the oil of Arab nations. In the midst of the injustices stemming from these factors, jealousies and hatred have been created and viciously mixed with religious narrow mindedness. “When combined with lots of anger and frustration,” says the Dalai Lama, this concoction causes “a huge amount of hate.” As countermeasures to the new face of terrorism now plaguing the world, he points to religious pluralism, tolerance, and open discussion that must pervade the interaction of human beings on our planet. If approached the wrong way, the Dalai Lama cautions that the scourge of terrorism can become an even greater worldwide problem. “While today there is one bin Laden, after a few years there will be ten bin Ladens,” he warns. “And it is possible that after a few more years, there will be 100 bin Ladens.”
Rather than through guns and war, the Dalai Lama insists that the most logical way to tackle future concerns of terrorism is through prevention. In the aftermath of 911, his issued statements to world politicians called for educational programs and the promotion of non-violence. “It is difficult to deal with terrorism through non-violence,” the exiled spiritual leader exclaims, but in the long run he also believes it will be the most effective in preventing the growth of radical violence in the world. You will find more information on Shanti Stupa in the video below, but please take a moment afterward to sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.
You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.