Toba / Stupa Memorial

Remembering  the deaths of those we love is an important ceremony; in the Buddhist tradition this is done in various ways. One of those ways is through the dedication of a Memorial tablet, sometimes a simple card of memory. The ancient Sanscrit is “Stupa,” it means burial mound.

The Five Elements

The evolution of the Stupa went through various phases, including the five story pagoda structures. These tall buildings consist of a square at the bottom, circle, triangle, semi-circle and finally the “treasure of fulfillment” at the top. This represents the Five Elements of our environment: earth, fire, water, wind and the Buddhist concept of Ku or universal energy. As we know science and the Buddhist philosophy agree that life is composed of these five elements. From the Buddhist perspective these five elements constantly go through the cycles of change in a cosmic cycle of moving forces, millions of billions of particles of vibrating eternal energy.

It is One’s Karma Consciousness that lives on here on earth and eternally in our universe at the within the Eighth level of consciousness. We carry the cumulative effects of our lifestyle and the habits of our present and take with us the lessons learned or unlearned as we return to the Light and Energy of the universe.

The Toba Tablet

A Toba memorial from a Nichiren Temple or Buddha Center, includes the name of the deceased person inscribed on it. As well as the Infinite Title of the Lotus Sutra, Nam~Myoho~Renge~Kyo, Next we find the words: “herein exists the entire being of the Buddha,” for all humanity contains the buddha nature, the ability to awaken to enlightenment. The Five Elements represent the Buddha body.

Through our realization that all is inter-connected, we come to know our responsibility to assist all those who have passed away. When we meditate for loved ones, friends, relatives, ancestors, all the people that have come into our lives, then we are doing our part to assist both the living and the dead. We are empowered to assist in shortening negative karma so that all existence may hold the energy field of harmony.

It is through the fusion of the Person and the Law, that gives the empowerment to reach and affect the life of the deceased. It is through One’s karmic bond that one can assist in freeing the spiritual well being of the deceased to move through it’s latent effect onto the next plane or stage of rebirth in whatever form, in whatever universe, ever moving forward towards enlightenment.
It is this act of faith which moves the energy.

Even as we remember the story in the Lotus Sutra about some children who made sand castles and created a place for the Buddha’s body. They playfully gathered sand and made a tower for the Buddha, and so we read in the Lotus Sutra, that everyone who was there will attain enlightenment.


“In Praise of the Ten Kings” is a story about what happens at the time of death. The ten kings of the other world, each had a task of working with the deceased person as they cross over from life to their next existence. Each person is asked about the way they handled life on earth. The first King Shinko, on the Seventh Day asks: have you practiced your health in all three aspects on earth, have you done well with your physical, mental and spiritual health?” King Shoku, on the Fourteenth-Day, representing Shakyamuni Buddha, assists the individual to cross over the river of suffering. King Sotei, on the Twenty-First day asks: “How have you handled the aspects of pro-creation?” In other words life is a serious matter, have you wasted it, or used it in a balanced, passionate manner. King Gokan, on the Twenty-Eighth Day asks: “Have your been totally honest with yourself and others in your day to day living. King Emma, on the Thirty-Fifth Day asks: “Have you lived a life of Right Thought, Right Motivation, and Right Action. Or has your motivations and actions been selfish?” King Henjo, asks on the Forty-Second day, “Suggests that One should offer to correct their ways in future existence’s, for after they go to into the deep sleep of death it will be for a time according to ones Karma and now is the time to offer to do better in ones next awakening. King Taizan, on the Forty-Ninth Day decides where this individual will be reborn in their next existence. Queen Byodo on the Hundredth Day impartially passes judgement on all that she has seen and heard. King Toshi on the First Anniversary looks to see if this karmic entity is peacefully in acceptance of all that has gone before. On the Second Anniversary King Gototenrin looks again at all that this former being has done and looks to see how many meditations and offerings have been made by those on earth since the passing of this soul?

Each King is said to in fact be a Buddha or Bodhisattva who is really there to protect and assist All beings attain enlightenment. Of this story Nichiren Daishonin, shares with us, “the deceased rely on the benefits of offerings from their relatives, so you should offer your benefit to them to relieve their suffering.” [Shintei, Vol. 1, p.72] We offer our benefit in being alive to those that have passed away, that their cause and karma may be moved forward towards enlightenment from our living human empowerment.

We have the memory of the person and we have a deep understanding of the Three Treasures, of the universal Law, the Buddha and the BE-ings. How fortunate for those who have passed away from this life that we are here. We know that it is through faith, practice, study and meditation, that one gains merit for the future, becomes wise. It is through practice one accumulates good fortune.

Thus It Has Been Shared, Respectfully, N. Henry, Nyudo Buddha

Bibliography: A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts
Nichiren Shoshu Ceremonies Booklet

Toba Memorial