In 2008 I was on pilgrimage in Nepal and India with my teacher Younge Khachab Rinpoche. During that trip we visited many Buddhist holy sites and practiced meditation at many of the sites. When you are in Nepal and India, one of the first things you notice is that spirituality and its symbols pervades the culture and people's daily lives. In the early morning, people make offerings and prayers at shrines and do circumambulations around stupas such as Boudhanath and Swayambhunath. Prayer wheels and miniature stupas are found throughout the city, elderly can often be found sitting together reciting mantras and meditation is regularly seen and engaged in by monks and lay persons alike.
One of the sites that we visited was Pharping, a small town just south of Kathmandu, Nepal. Pharping is famous as being the location where Padmasambhava gained enlightenment before traveling to Tibet to spread the Buddha's teachings across the Tibetan plateau. We spent the day meditating in the Tara temple at the base of the mountain and then in the Asura cave which is where Padmasambhava carried out his practice.
As we were walking down, there was a smaller sized stupa on the right towards the bottom of the hill, and off in the distance was a much larger stupa on the top of the hill. It was a really beautiful. The open countryside with a mountainous backdrop, stupas dotting the landscape signifying places of practice and the awakened mind.
I asked Rinpoche, "Rinpoche, do you think it is important to build more stupas in the U.S. so people can be inspired by places of practice like they are here?" At that time, there was a farmer plowing his field just across the road. Rinpoche responded, "I think we need more people like that farmer who are trying to make good, healthy food".
I still often contemplate this.