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Thread: Buddha's Bones?

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Buddha's Bones?

    Hi all,

    The story linked below claims that India is in possession of bone fragments from the Buddha and plans to loan them to Sri Lanka for the upcoming 2,600th anniversary of his enlightenment.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/1 ... 24128.html

    My reaction: Whaaa?

    I have never heard this before...has anyone?

    Gassho,
    Dosho

    P.S. What gift do you give for a 2,600th anniversary?

  2. #2

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Relics, or saria, are a big part of Buddhist folklore. Those who are enlightened produce these relics upon cremation. Don't do much for me. Sort of like pieces of the "one true cross" (enough exist to make 36 crosses, I believe). But some feel inspiration viewing them. To each their own!

    Gassho,
    Taylor (Myoken)

    P.s. A parrot at a monastery once produced saria. Fun fact

  3. #3

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Hi,

    Bone fragments, teeth, various calcified stones remaining after cremation (called 'Sariras') and other claimed vestiges of the Buddha are found enshrined all over Asia, now other places too. So much so, that I have sometimes joked that the man must have had a few thousand teeth (well, he is the Buddha after all!). It is not different at all from how various body parts of Catholic Saints and pieces of the Cross can be found enshrined around Europe ... a way to make tangible contact, "evidence" of their spiritual power in being beyond decay and such.

    Were they actually part of the person? Are they the person? ... Well, they are what they are, and each is "Buddha" in its way.

    One tooth of Buddha is found a short drive from here in Tsukuba, at the giant statue of Amida Buddha located in the next town (sometimes seen on the "sit-a-longs" here). It was a gift from the government of Burma (maybe Thailand). It is, though, rather stuck away in a corner there of their little museum, without much particular comment ... because I think the Amida people did not really know what to make of it (I do not think that such things are central to their beliefs either). But, there it is ... the "Tooth of Gautama Buddha" in a nice gold display case!

    Now, in the Zen world we have such things too. This week, we are reading about Huineng, the 6th Patriarch, in the Book Club. Do you know that his mummy has been preserved all through the centuries? It is true! It was smashed up pretty completely during China's Cultural Revolution ... but I hear they have fixed it. In any case, here is an actual photo of Huineng taken in the early 20th century ...



    More information on Sariras and mummies here (including a more recent photo of Huineng ... looking beautiful for his age ... ) ... and Holy Gallstones ...

    http://sites.google.com/site/philosophy ... riras.html

    Gassho, J

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Chugai wrote;

    they must do a better job of burning folks these days ...
    Yes, I won't get into the details of the efficiency of natural gas burners but, yes 'they' do.

    and btw, it's not 'the folks' that are cremated, it's their dead human remains

  5. #5
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Buddha's bones?... YOUR BONES!!!

    gassho


    Taigu (not a relic yet and not wishing to become one )

  6. #6

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Almost seems like the point is being missed. Buddha's bones, your bones, my bones. Just bones. I think all our bones are just as holy.

    On a cold winter night, a big snow storm hit the city and the temple where Dan Xia served as a Monk got snowed in. Cut off from outside traffic, the coal delivery man could not get to the Zen Monastery. Soon it ran out of heating fuel after a few days and everybody was shivering in the cold. The monks could not even cook their meals.
    Dan Xia began to remove the wooden Buddha Statues from the display and put them into the fireplace.
    "What are you doing?" the monks were shocked to see that the holy Buddha Statues were being burnt inside the fire place. "You are burning our holy religious artifacts! You are insulting the Buddha!"
    "Are these statues alive and do they have any Buddha nature?" asked Master Dan Xia.
    "Of course not," replied the monks. "They are made of wood. They cannot have Buddha Nature."
    "OK. Then they are just pieces of firewood and therefore can be used as heating fuel," said Master Dan Xia. "Can you pass me another piece of firewood please? I need some warmth."
    The next day, the snow storm had gone and Dan Xia went into town and brought back some replacement Buddha Statues. After putting them on the displays, he began to kneel down and burn incense sticks to them.
    "Are you worshiping firewood?" ask the monks who are confused for what he was doing.
    "No. I am treating these statues as holy artifacts and am honouring the Buddha." replied Dan Xia.

  7. #7
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Exactly what I said, JohnsonCM and the point is not being missed...
    Holy and not holy at the same time.
    By the way where do you stand in your story? Who are you? Dan Xia? The winter? the fire? One of the monks? The statue as statue? The statue as firewood?

    You don't need to answer with words but with bones and blood. With LIFE.

    gassho

    Taigu

  8. #8

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Taigu (not a relic yet and not wishing to become one )
    Will you donate your eyeglasses and we promise to build you a shrine? :wink: :mrgreen:

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Ah. "dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones...now hear the word of the Lord"

    I, of course, come from a long line of relic reverencers; and have q rather impressive collection of the same in my chapel, which I have received from "official" church sources, actual pilgrimages sites I have visted and from friends who know I cherish this objects. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, like Buddhists (especially Tibetan Buddhists) have greatly venerated relics of all sorts for a long time. After Vatican II this "fell out of fashion" to the great delight of some of us who still held the veneration close to heart, since we were thus the beneficiary of many "unwanted" relics. Now I have become a source of such things to churches and monasteries which have revived such devotion.

    The idea is very much the same as with Buddhists in that the saint whose relics we venerate is felt to have achieved such a state of sanctity that even their bodies, and in some cases their clothing, carry some degree of that sanctity. The item, whether it is part of a bone or part of their clothing, does not of itself have "power"; but rather serves as a focus of devotion and to bring about a prayerful state in the mind and heart of the devotee.

    So I can understand what a "big deal" this act by India could mean to the Buddhists of Sri Lanka.

    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  10. #10

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Sorry Taigu, I think I had a continuity error. I was agreeing with you, but my post should have looked like this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    The story linked below claims that India is in possession of bone fragments from the Buddha and plans to loan them to Sri Lanka for the upcoming 2,600th anniversary of his enlightenment.
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Almost seems like the point is being missed. Buddha's bones, your bones, my bones. Just bones. I think all our bones are just as holy.
    That was what my post was meant to answer ops: .

    As to your question:

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    By the way where do you stand in your story? Who are you? Dan Xia? The winter? the fire? One of the monks? The statue as statue? The statue as firewood?
    I suppose I am "Chris as the statue - as Dan Xia - as all of the monks - as Buddha - as firewood - as Chris".

    Perhaps still mostly Chris.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Chugai wrote: I still have the "ashes" from my mom and sister...

    First I would like to say sorry to hear about your great loss
    As for the bone fragments; here in the west all cremated remains are mechanically ground into those small bits that you see. In Japan this isn't done. The bones come out as they are(much bigger pieces) and it is the job of the family members to pick through them and put then into a container.

    Gassho,
    John

  12. #12

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    Ah. "dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones...now hear the word of the Lord"
    I think I hear Ezekiel dancing... 8)

    gassho
    Greg

  13. #13

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    Chugai wrote: I still have the "ashes" from my mom and sister...

    First I would like to say sorry to hear about your great loss
    As for the bone fragments; here in the west all cremated remains are mechanically ground into those small bits that you see. In Japan this isn't done. The bones come out as they are(much bigger pieces) and it is the job of the family members to pick through them and put then into a container.

    Gassho,
    John
    Yes. Our Shokai, who was a funeral director here in Japan for some time, can speak of this much better. However, I experienced this twice in Japan, and I believe it truly lovely.

    First, the deceased may be brought home (not everyone does this though), and placed on a "futon" (with dry ice) while the family ... kids and all ... have a kind of "Irish Wake" around him for 2 or 3 days ... chatting with him, telling stories about him. Then, a kind of bath and dressing is performed, with the whole family taking part. This was the subject of the lovely movie "Departures", which won the Oscar (see below).

    The Buddhist priests come at various times to chant this or that.

    Oh, and there is a Chanting service where family, friends, co-workers all gather, usually in a temple or rented hall.

    Then, the whole family goes to the crematorium, which has a special room where everyone eats and drinks beer while grandpa is burned up.

    Then, the whole family ... mothers and dads holding the hands of the smallest kids ... go in a room and, with big chopsticks, move granpa's bones (many still quite recognizable) into the urn. Parents help the littlest kids.

    It is sad, but a beautiful experience ... and (in my opinion) rather nicer that the "throw makeup on the body and keep it at a distance" attitude in much of the modern west. The Japanese way is a true GOODBYE, FAREWELL. The preciousness of life is impressed on everyone.

    Me, I told my wife to call the public sanitation and haul me away with the old kitchen appliances. Since that is illegal (and after harvesting any organs, although that is just catching on here in Japan), get the cheapest cremation she can find and dump the ashes somewhere on Tsukuba mountain (carefully, cause that is possibly illegal too), maybe a bit under our persimmon tree in the back field. "Think of me once in awhile when you look at the mountain and the tree". 8) **

    Gassho, J

    ** However, if anyone really really feels the need to turn me into a mummy ... you have my permission! :roll:



    For a more critical, but hilarious look at the funeral business in Japan ... including the monk who comes in his rolls royce ...

    THE FUNERAL (older film)
    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/23/movie ... itami.html

  14. #14

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    My wife is completely aware of my wishes. ANYTHING that can be harvested and used... marrow, organns, skin, eyes, hair, whatever... TAKE IT. Give it to the living. Help someone. Scoop me out like a taco shell. If I'm laid to rest with something someone else could have used, I'll be pissed!!
    then, cremate me, and dump my ashes in Budd Lake. (NJ) That way, when people want to feel close to me, they can have a day at the lake, swimming, fishing, whatever. Beats the hell out of a cemetery! No marker, no big cross, no plot of land. Just take my ashes out in a boat and dump me in.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Tried that with my dad!
    But there was a backdraft, after which my brother asked if dad got up anyone else's nose!

  16. #16
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    My way out? Simple. Cremation. But no grave. Just a few bones and ashes dropped at dawn or sunset in the kamogawa, the river Kamo at the center of Kyoto by a bunch of my closest students throwing an hannya shingyo or two and a nice pop-rock song if they wish. This place, the banks of the River Kamo and the scenery, old city and mountains in the distance, is just where I want my remains to merge and disappear. The reason is simple, it is the place where I am really happy, ever since my fist takuhatsu rounds five years ago and my haiku writing in a summer night of 2006 drinking wine in the company of a beautiful woman. Simple.

    gassho


    Taigu

  17. #17
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    My remains? I don't care. I'm dead, right. My parents recently asked me this question during a longer conversation about death and its responsibilities for the rest of us (theirs/ours), what do I want done with my remains. "I dunno," I answered. They had previously said they set out instructions to be cremated, and since that was foremost in my mind I said that's what I wanted also. I suppose I do, and I suppose I have some sort of responsibility to make some choice about all this, but I really honestly could care less. My remains are for the living to deal with, because at that point I am beyond the question. What I mean by that is that the meaning the living have for it is more important that whatever meaning I had, because I'm dead, right. So you can "offend" me all you want at that point, including hauling me out with the old appliances. It's all as fine to me as if they want a fancy funeral, which I think is dumb, but so what. Who cares? I'm dead. All that being said, I do like the idea of people sitting around drinking beer while my remains burn. I once participated in a fake Irish wake, but that's another story.

  18. #18

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Death is strange for someone at my age. I don't think I can totally wrap my head around it since I don't seem to be falling to bits (not that any of you are :wink: ). Then again, here today gone tomorrow!

    Regardless. Put me in a forest somewhere. I'm sure the trees would appreciate the fertilizer.

    Gassho,
    Myoken

  19. #19
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Well Myoken, neither was I thinking about my own death too much when I was you age; at least not too often, although there were a few times when my thinking (or non-thinking) was amplified by certain chemical adjuncts to the meditative practices of those "bygone" days....ah, the 60's 8) .

    Now has been quite a different story, having more than trebled that age of experimentation chronologically, burying my parents, older brother, and all my aunts and uncles, and seeing the fragility of my own, up until now, invincible physical form. It is good to look on the idea of aging, sickness, oldage, death and decay; to dislodge our minds from the illusion of our youthful immortality in the face of a changing world. When one comes to the age I now am, one seems to carry an image in mind of one's appearance and abilities, which are faced by reality each morning in the bathroom mirror :shock: ! But with any luck and more importantly with any measure of honesty one begins to become comfortable with the stranger looking back from the mirror. As the 35 year old I "knew" I was, I always wondered who that strange man was in the bathroom with me combing less and less hair each year. I felt like Dorian Grey. Fortunately Buddhist teaching brings one to face this reality and to understand that suffering the reality of aging is universal, and that death is inevitable. Where I would have struggled and gone kicking and screaming into that dark night at 20; I am more likely to entertain a dialogue with death now and accept it as simply part of my reality in this physical world. At least today I am peaceful with it.

    As to final dispositon...my Abbey has a columbarium in the Chapel in which to inter the ashes of the community members; but I just have not been able to wrap my mind around cremation. I have held out for simple burial. The Trappists in Iowa make and sell very reasonable and beautiful wooden caskets, one of which I have set aside, and a plot in a local churchyard near the Abbey is available to me. The community said they will burn one of my habits and put that in the columbarium.

    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  20. #20

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    Hi!
    Like some I go for cremation... my ashes partly under a Big tree in the forest around Brussels and partly in the field my grand father used to cultivate in Alentejo.
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    dropped at dawn or sunset in the kamogawa, the river Kamo at the center of Kyoto by a bunch of my closest students throwing an hannya shingyo or two
    "Pas tombé dans l'oreille d'un sourd..."

    gassho,
    Jinyu

  21. #21

    Re: Buddha's Bones?

    But there was a backdraft, after which my brother asked if dad got up anyone else's nose!



    Robert Fulghum once wrote an hysterical essay about what happened the first time he opened the door of a plane to dump ashes as a Unitarian minister. Naturally, the prop-wash blew wvwrything right into the plane.... all over him, the pilot, the widow, etc...
    Then back on the ground, apologizing, he attempted to clean everyoe and everything... but forgot to empty the dirt, dust and whatnot that was already in the hangar's shop-vac cannister first...
    The widow, somewhat (understandably) stunned, said quietly, "This will all be... funny... someday..."

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