Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Stupa Mean?

Stupa is a Sanskrit word meaning “heap.” It can refer to a burial mound, especially in ancient times, but today it most often refers to a Buddhist structure that is used for burial, for housing sacred relics, and/or for prayer and meditation.

Although the design of stupas varies by region and purpose, the architecture is distinctive and the basic shape is similar. A stupa typically has a square base, a mounded or hemispherical middle section and a conical spire on top.

Walking around the stupa clockwise is used as a meditative practice. The practice represents samsara (endless cycle of rebirth) and the eight-limbed yogic path that leads to liberation.


Yogapedia Explains Stupa

Buddhists believe that building a stupa has karmic benefits. The very act of building a stupa is thought to ensure good karma in the next life.

Stupas consist of five types:

  • Relic stupa – said to house the remains of the Buddha, his disciples, and/or saints
  • Symbolic stupa – symbolizes aspects of Buddhist philosophy and teachings
  • Votive stupa – built as an offering for spiritual advantage or to commemorate visitations
  • Object stupa – contains Buddhist scriptures or items thought to have belonged to the Buddha or his disciples
  • Commemorative stupa – constructed to honor events in the life of the Buddha

Buddha stupa pose is a yoga posture that honors and resembles the Buddha and a stupa. It is a wide squat with the toes pointing outward and the hands in prayer position.

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