The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya: Visual Expressions of a Tibetan Teacher's Path and Lineage in the Diaspora


With the Tibetan diaspora in the late 1950s, Tibetan Buddhism spread to nearly every continent on the globe and has begun transforming western landscapes through the construction of stūpas, Buddhism’s principal architectural form.  The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya Which Liberates Upon Seeing, located at Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado and dedicated to the meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, is an especially rich example of Tibetan Buddhist visual culture in the diaspora.  An iconographic analysis of the monuments exterior and interior architectural elements, sculptures and paintings, when contextualized within their historical context, reveals an intimate biography of Trungpa Rinpoche’s life.  Specifically, the visual narrative conveys two main Tibetan Buddhist themes:  the teacher’s progressive path of meditation and his lineage affiliations within Vajrayāna Buddhism.  In this way, the stūpa acts as a visual namtar (rNam-thar), a traditional Tibetan biography that emphasizes a teacher’s personal journey to liberation and the masters who guided the way.  Although located far from the Himalayas and its Tibetan heritage, The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya’s affinity to traditional Tibetan Buddhist architectural and religious modalities provides a window into Tibet Buddhism's history prior to 1959.  At the same time, the monument serves as coherent, visual documentation of Tibetan art during the diaspora’s early period and will, no doubt, become an increasingly important part of the tradition’s historical record.


Tibet, Diaspora, Buddhism, Stupa, Shambhala, Chögyam Trungpa

How to Cite

Glowski, J., 2013. The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya: Visual Expressions of a Tibetan Teacher's Path and Lineage in the Diaspora. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, 20(2). DOI:


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Janice Glowski (Wittenberg University)





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