Hanmaum Seon Center has established Memorial Stupa Parks at four of its domestic branches. The idea of the memorial stupa was developed from the traditional Buddhist stupa. Each family has its own stupa, and in the base of each stupa are urns for deceased family members. Each urn contains the name of the deceased family member written on a piece of paper, and sometimes a small portion of their cremated remains. Sunims at these branches perform special ceremonies four times a year for all the spirits of the deceased. These ceremonies are performed on the Lunar New Year’s Day, Buddha’s Birthday, Ullambana, and the Full Moon Harvest Day.
Stupas and the evolution of our spirituality
Daehaeng Sunim established the Memorial Stupa Parks with two purposes in mind. The first was to help solve problems related to land usage. The traditional style of burial in Korea usually requires several square meters for each grave. As the population has increased, this has placed an increasing burden on the available land and the families of the deceased, due to environmental concerns and the heavy costs involved. The second and most important purpose of the Memorial Stupa Parks is to serve a method to help both the living and the dead to brighten their minds and to evolve to a higher spiritual level, thus helping them to become truly free beings who are not hindered by the cycle of birth and death.
Where the deceased learn the principle of One Mind and deepen their wisdom
People often assume that once someone dies, there is nothing more to do for the deceased beyond the funeral. However, it often happens that a person’s consciousness remains behind, either with their body, where they are buried, or sometimes at the places they lived. Because a place in the stupa is established for that consciousness, the deceased is able to understand Dharma talks and the sutras chanted in the Dharma Hall. In so doing they learn the Buddha’s teachings and realize that both the visible and invisible realms function together inseparably. As the spirits of the deceased learn this principle of Hanmaum, One Mind, they are able to deepen their wisdom. By cultivating their wisdom, they are able to transcend the level of consciousness they possessed at the time of their death. Thus, they are free to evolve to higher levels of consciousness. As they deepen their wisdom and realize the truth of One Mind, they become Bodhisattvas who help their descendants and take care of the Earth and universe.
Inherently the living and the dead exist together
As people begin to understand their inherent nature and experience how it works, they are also come to know that their deceased family members are not separate from them. The living begin to realize that they and the deceased are actually existing together as one mind and one body, working together and sharing everything in the universe. Therefore, establishing a place with a stupa leads to great benefit for both the living and the dead.
The true stupa is the invisible stupa within each one of us
However, the true stupa is not the one that is seen with the eyes. It is very important that we do not forget this. The true stupa is the one within each one of us. Because each one of us has this invisible stupa within us, a human being can be called a living stupa. Someone who has been very diligent in their spiritual practice can see the stupa that is within themself, but those who have not practiced cannot see it. In order to help people to learn to cultivate their minds, visible, physical stupas were erected. Accordingly, even though we have established a place in a stupa for someone who has passed away, we shouldn’t cling to that physical stupa. Instead, we should practice diligently and realize the invisible stupa that is within each one of us.