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Jul 30, 2009

The Etymology of 'Pagoda'

The Global Pagoda in Mumbai represents an ancient tradition of paying respects to Dhamma in the pure form - as instructed by the Sammasambuddha. This by not just enshrining the relics of the Sammasambuddha Gotama, but by enabling a facility to practice Vipassana meditation. In the past two years, the Global Pagoda has created history by enabling thousands of Vipassana students to meditate together under the bone relics of a sammasambuddha. Vipassana students meditate in the main dome hall of the Global Pagoda daily, and in one-day courses every Sunday.

Principal Vipassana teacher Sayaygi U S.N.Goenka explains the significance of the Global Pagoda:

"There is an ancient belief that whenever the construction of a pagoda is started, it should be completed, particularly a Pagoda in which the sacred relics of the Buddha will be enshrined. The Global Pagoda will proclaim our boundless gratitude towards our great benefactor Sayagyi U Ba Khin.

For hundreds and thousands of years to come, the people of India and the entire world will remember this great saint from Myanmar whose sole strong Dhamma desire was that the non-sectarian practice of Vipassana, which had been preserved in Myanmar for thousands of years, should return to India and benefit India and the entire world.

This Pagoda dedicated to him will inspire innumerable people towards Dhamma. The merits acquired by any assistance given for its construction will be truly priceless, invaluable."

The Vipassana Research Institute explains etymology (history of a word) of 'pagoda':

The popular term ‘pagoda’ is neither from Pali or Sanskrit nor from Hindi or any other Indian language. It is not from the Sri Lankan, Myanmar, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Chinese or Japanese languages. Let us see how it originated.The thūpa in which the relics of the Buddha or any arahant is enshrined was called dhātu-gabbha (dhātu=relics, gabbha=interior, cavity, cavern, womb).

With the passage of time, all thūpas began to be called dhātugabbha. Later this became corrupted to dhagabbha or dhagobā or dagobā. A few centuries ago, when Portuguese sailors first came to the east, they did not see any thūpas in India but they saw thūpas in many places in Sri Lanka. They asked the local people and were told that these were dagobā. They found it difficult to pronounce this new word and started to call dagobā as pagodā.

Later when they went to other nations that practice the Buddha's teaching, they saw many thūpas there which they called pagodā. As time passed, the thūpas that were earlier called cetiya, cedīgo or thūpa were all called pagodā. Later on, the term pagodā became popular not just among foreigners but also among the local inhabitants.

* Why the Global Vipassana Pagoda
* Making of the Global Pagoda 
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