A Trip to the local Buddhist Stupa

Last week, my mom and I had visited a Buddhist Stupa in the town of Benalmadena.  I had heard so much about it over the past several months of living in Spain, but finally we had a car rental and so it was easily accessible.  This Stupa is high in the hills of Benalmadena, surrounded by expensive newly built modern white homes.  

As I left the parked car, I passed a tiny gift shop.  The shop attendee stood outside holding her mala beads, repeating silently prayers. I knew her presence here was an act of service.   My gaze was then are pulled to the Tibetan flags that surround the exterior of the temple.  The flags blow in the wind as you are mesmerized by the view of the sea, town, and temple.  

My mom was with me, as was my 14 year old dog Bella.  We had planned to take turns holding Bella outside as we visited quickly the Stupa.  Another volunteer monitoring the visitors noted our struggle and signified we could both come in with the dog.  I thought of what an act of kindness this was and appreciated the gesture of brining my pet to this sacred space unannounced.  After a doing meditation, giving an offering, and walking around the Stupa, we left.  I headed back to the gift shop, and wanted to buy a beautiful shawl I saw inside the Stupa.  The volunteer noted this could only be purchased inside the Stupa.  I ventured back in, this time leaving the dog with my mom.  I thought it would be a quick money exchange.  

As I entered, the volunteer was talking to another woman about the Stupa and the history of it.  There were several other visitors present, this included one woman there with a young child around age 4-5.  This child began to cry, and automatically the mother headed out of the door.  I knew she felt shame, embarrassment, and didn’t want to disrupt the other visitors.  Yet, the volunteer walked towards them and welcomed them back in.  She gave the crying child two oranges, she said one could be for her and one was to be offered to the Buddha in front of the temple.  The child stopped crying, and made her offering.  She then began asking for a piece of chocolate, she saw by the offering area.  The mother and volunteer laughed, as she offered the child a piece of chocolate.  

I witnessed the essence of Buddha with this volunteer who was so welcoming towards this child, mother, me, and my dog.  She was exemplifying Buddhism versus trying to follow “rules” of being the keeper of the Stupa.  I knew with me entering the temple again and purchasing that prayer shawl, I was meant to observe this act of kindness that was so beautiful.  It will stay etched in my mind.  

If we are slow enough to observe our atmosphere, we may start to notice acts of kindness popping up everyday.  What have you seen recently? 

“An encounter with a Stupa is an encounter with myth – or as Carl Jung and Joseph Campell might have phrased it, an archetypal truth. What may at first seem only to be an artistic and perhaps nostalgic arrangement of brick, stone or wood may eventually come to be seen as an elaborate vessel, transporting the teachings of the Buddha – Buddhadharma – across three millennia.”

– Buddhist Stupas in Asia: The Shape of Perfection. 2001