The Stupa is known as "Chorten" in Tibetan language, which means "the basis of offering".
It is a symbol of enlightened mind, (the awakened mind, universal divinity) and the path to its realisation.
If you had to use just two words, the best definition I have seen is "Spiritual Monument"
The stupa represents the Buddha's body, his speech and his mind, but most especially his mind and every part shows the path to Enlightenment.
Bouddha nath Stupa
When Shakyamuni Buddha ended his earthly life, and his mortal remains were cremated, his ashes were divided into eight parts which were closed up and protected by the princes and communities. More stupas were built over these relics. Of the really old stupas still intact today, most are said to contain relics of the Buddha.
Famous Swayembhu Stupa
The shape of the Stupa represents the Buddha, crowned and sitting in meditation posture on a lion throne. His crown is the top of the spire; his head is the square at the spire's base; his body is the vase shape; his legs are the four steps of the lower terrace; and the base is his throne.
SwayembhuNath Stupa In Thanka painting The stupa also symbolizes the five elements and their relationship to enlightened mind. These are the essential attributes of a fully realised human being: the base of the stupa signifies earth and equanimity; the dome, water and indestructibility; the spire, fire and compassion; above the spire, wind and all-accomplishing action; and at the very top, the jewel represents space and all-pervading awareness. The Stupa is a mandala, or sacred arrangement, containing all of these enlightened qualities."
"The visual impact of the stupa on the observer brings a direct experience of inherent wakefulness and dignity. Stupas continue to be built because of their ability to liberate one simply upon seeing their structure" - Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Stupa Model in NEPAL ARTS GALLERY
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Every stupa contains at the very least a life tree and holy relics:
"When a great teacher passes away, his body is no more, but to indicate that his mind is dwelling forever in an unchanging way in the dharmakaya, one will erect a stupa as a symbol of the mind of the buddhas" - HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche NEW STUPA
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