Lama Zopa Rinpoche has stressed the importance of circumambulating holy objects like stupas and has given specific advice for how to do that. In March 2017, when he led a large group of students in a late-night circumambulation of the great stupa at Boudhanath in Nepal those present were referred to a short printout based on advice from Rinpoche that appears on Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive’s website.
In brief, Rinpoche recommends the following steps:
FIRST, generate a strong motivation of bodhichitta.
SECOND, think that you have manifested numberless bodies yourself and that you are leading all sentient beings in the circumambulation.
THIRD, recite the special mantras and Buddha’s names:
CHOM DÄN DÄ DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PÄI SANG GYÄ PÄL GYÄL WA SHAKYA THUB PA LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO
OM NAMO DASHA DEKA TRI KALA SARVA RATNA TRAYAYA MAMA PRADAKSHA SU PRA DAKSHA SARVA PAPAM BISHODHANI SVAHA (7X)
Reciting the second Buddha’s name and mantra increases the power of circumambulation or prostration ten million times:
CHOM DÄN DÄ DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PÄI SANG GYÄ RIN CHHEN GYÄL TSHÄN LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO (7X)
[NAMO RATNA TRAYAYA] OM NAMO BHAGAVATE RATNA KETU RAJAYA TATHAGATAYA ARHATE SAMYAK SAMBUDDHAYA TADYATHA OM RATNE RATNE MAHA RATNE RATNA BIJA YE SVAHA (7X)
FOURTH, visualize and always keep in mind that all the holy objects you are circumambulating (and all other holy objects) are manifestations of your root guru.
FIFTH, as you walk, recite mantras and prayers or texts you have memorized such as OM MANI PADME HUM, Vajrasattva mantra, Mitukpa mantra, the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas, Vajra Cutter Sutra, Praises to Buddha (Shakyamuni Buddha, Praise by Way of the Twelve Deeds) and Buddha’s mantra, Praises to the Twenty-one Taras and Tara’s mantra, Chanting the Names of Manjushri, Lama Tsongkhapa’s Guru Yoga prayer (migtsema) or In Praise of Dependent Origination (Dependent Arising: A Praise of the Buddha), the prayer for refuge and bodhichitta, the five powerful mantras* and so on. If you haven’t memorized these, you can read the texts as you go around.
SIXTH, as you do each circumambulation, dedicate it and give away the merit.
SEVENTH, rejoice in this unbelievable practice! Now dedicate the merit by reciting the dedication prayers, long life prayers, and mantras to increase the merit. Dedicate well and extensively in order to generate bodhichitta. Give away all the merits to all sentient beings and think they have achieved enlightenment.
* The five powerful mantras are Kunrig (Vairochana); Mitukpa (Akshobya); Namgyalma (Ushnishavijaya); Stainless Pinnacle (Ushnishavimala); and Wish-Granting Wheel. These five mantras can be found in the PDF published by FPMT Education, Ten Powerful Mantras to Recite at the Time of Death, found at this address: https://fpmt.org/wp-content/uploads/education/pdfs/death_ten_powerful_mantras_to_recite_at_the_time_of_c5.pdf?x79044
This advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche on circumambulation appears in greater detail on Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive’s website:
To learn more about practices related to stupas, visit Stupas: A Resource Guide:
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation and community service.