Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Examine the form of the stupa and describe it using adjectives. What shapes do you see? What symbols do you see?

  • Stupas are meant to represent the body of the Buddha. The main sections are the base, dome, and crowning, which respectively represent the throne, body, and crown of the Buddha. Consider what certain body parts represent in your culture (i.e. head= knowledge, eyes= window to the soul, etc.).

  • Stupas are reliquaries that serve as sacred containers, or monuments of the Buddha and deceased Buddhist teachers. What other monuments or memorials can you think of that honor important figures from the past? (i.e. Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore, etc.) Consider also small memorials, such as gravestones, that many people have made.

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • During worship and meditation, worshippers circumambulated, or walked around, stupas. Create concrete poetry based on the idea of circumambulation. Use the circle and concentric patterns of circles or a spiral as the form of your poem. Let the words of your poem reflect feelings and reactions to the Stupa.

  • The shapes of a stupa represent the body of the Buddha. View the image of Seated Buddha__ Subduing Mara (1998.65) and invite students to trace the outline of the seated Buddha with their fingers, or make an outine drawing of the figure. Discuss how the shapes of the Buddha’s body in a seated position relate to the form, shapes, and proportions of the stupa. Remember that the Buddha’s body is abstracted. Next, create a self-portrait that is transformed into a series of abstract shapes. Partner with a classmate and trace each other’s forms on large sheets of butcher paper. Exaggerate, stylize, and abstract the forms into abstract shapes. To extend this experience, transform the abstraction into a three-dimensional sculpture using clay.

  • Stupas have specific rules of proportion that correspond to the body of the Buddha. Have students compare Seated Buddha Subduing Mara and the Stupa. What portion of the stupa represents the Buddha’s head? Torso? Next, divide students into pairs and have each lay down on a large sheet of butcher paper while their partner draws the outline of their body. Then, have students consider their own proportions. How many heads create the length of their body? How many eyes the width of their face?