This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Buddhist Relic Veneration in Asia
Edited by David
Germano and Kevin Trainor
EMBODYING THE DHARMA
EMBODYING THE DHARMA
Buddhist Relic Veneration in Asia
DAVID GERMANO and KEVIN TRAINOR
State University of New York Press
Includes bibliographical references and index. mechanical. recording. David. BQ924. or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. electrostatic. Germano. Albany.Published by STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK PRESS ALBANY © 2004 State University of New York All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. Gautama Buddha—Relics. ISBN 0-7914-6217-X 1. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic. p. cm. II. For information. photocopying.3'421—dc22 2003068661 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 . Laurie Searl Marketing. address State University of New York Press 90 State Street. Kevin. Suite 700. Susan Petrie Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Embodying the Dharma : Buddhist relic veneration in Asia / edited by David Germano and Kevin Trainor. Trainor. I.E43 2004 294. NY 12207 Production. magnetic tape.
for Anne and Andrew K. G. .for Sonam Anna and Lhamokyi D. T.
Sharf Contributors Index TWO 27 THREE 51 FOUR 93 FIVE 117 SIX 145 SEVEN 163 193 195 .CONTENTS Acknowledgments ONE ix 1 Introduction: Beyond Superstition Kevin Trainor Buddhist Relics in Comparative Perspective: Beyond the Parallels John S. Swearer On the Allure of Buddhist Relics Robert H. Kinnard Signs of the Buddha in Northern Thai Chronicles Donald K. Strong Living Relics of the Buddha(s) in Tibet David Germano Buddhist Relics and Japanese Regalia Bernard Faure The Field of the Buddha’s Presence Jacob N.
We are also grateful to the University of Vermont Asian Studies Program for their support. It appears here by permission of Silk Worm Press. 1996). Phanphen Khru’ \ ngthai (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. It is reprinted by permission of University of California Press. Robert Sharf. Robert Sharf’s essay. Laurie Searl.virginia. Charles Hallisey. and to the University of Virginia and the Tibetan and Himalyan Digital Library for hosting the Buddhist Relic Traditions Web site developed in conjunction with this volume (URL:http://iris. ed.edu/tibet/collections/religion/relics/index. An earlier version of Donald Swearer’s essay. including Yael Bentor. “Signs of the Buddha in the Northern Thai Chronicles. Robert Campany.” was published in Wannakam Phutasas \ ana\ Nai Lan \ na\ (Buddhist literature in northern Thailand). to all the seminar participants. 1994–1997. Susanne Mrozik. ix . Brian Ruppert.html). Gregory Schopen. and Stanley Tambiah. Jacob Kinnard. lib. and the State University of New York Press for their assistance and the two anonymous reviewers who provided several helpful suggestions for improving the volume. and is © 1999 by the Regents of the University of California. We would also like to thank Nancy Ellegate. Steven Collins. John Strong.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We would like to thank the American Academy of Religion for supporting the Buddhist Relic Veneration Seminar. Thanks are due. as well. “On the Allure of Buddhist Relics. Juliane Schober. Donald Swearer.” was published under the same title in Representations 66 (Spring 1999): 75–99. Bernard Faure.
While scholars disagree about the precise reasons for Christian persecution.2 KEVIN TRAINOR The treasuring of relics as memorials or souvenirs of the dead is a natural exhibition of emotion to which no objection can be taken. all of which can be derived from the basic sense of “standing over. since they reveal a good deal about the circumstances that gave rise to this book on Buddhist relic veneration and the shift in scholarly orientation to which it contributes. ‘superstitio. on the whole. at least in their published reflections. but. so that the innocent sentiment is forgotten while the superstition develops a vast mythology. and the condition of one who has survived an event and become a witness. when the relics are believed to possess intrinsic magical properties. and Christianity was persecuted as a superstitio. Michele Salzman provides an overview of the etymological discussion. By seeking an individual salvation that superceded familial and social bonds. and both concluded that relics.” and the shift in interpretive perspectives that has led to its abandonment as a legitimate analytical term. employed “superstition. one easily seen as subversive. tend to do much more harm than good. noting that scholars have identified a range of early meanings of the term.6 During the fourth-century Christianization of the Roman Empire. the Latin word from which the English superstition derives. the word had developed strong negative connotations and was employed to criticize “excessive fear or awe of the gods” or “an unreasonable religious belief. merit further consideration here.”5 The term eventually gained juridical force. The connotations of the category “superstition.” a word that contemporary scholars of religion tend to eschew. including “a state of religious exaltation. Christians marked themselves as a community apart. F. open to every kind of abuse and fraud. L. The transition from the sentimental to the superstitious veneration of relics invariably takes place in all countries.3 Both MacCulloch and Smith found it appropriate to evaluate normatively beliefs and practices centered on relics. is a matter of some debate. the veneration of them passes into rank superstition. in disparaging relic veneration.” the posture of one standing over a defeated opponent. and scholarly attention has recently focused on uses of the word by both pagan and Christian writers in the centuries before and after the rise of the Christian movement.’ while consistently used to critique the beliefs and . The etymology of superstitio. Janssen notes that Christianity was seen as an affront to the Roman social order in several respects. and by refusing to venerate the gods that ensured the integrity and longevity of Roman society. It is also significant that both scholars.”4 By the first century BCE.
the great reformer asks: “Shall we denie that it is a superstitious worshippying. What remained constant was the use of the word to mark and defend communal boundaries. “pagans used and defined superstitio with its traditional meaning—irrational or excessive religious awe. and where all the superior ranks of people were secured from it. For example. Instead of attaching them to Christ. their appropriate object. in Thomas Norton’s 1561 translation of Calvin’s Institutes. In the eighteenth century. In this latter context. Catholics are criticized for misdirecting their commendable devotional sentiments.”7 When the authority of the Christian church was more securely established at the end of the fourth and early fifth centuries. either because of disordered affections or cognitive error. thus defining membership in the community of the faithful. Here the problem is cognitive: for Calvin there are neither biblical nor epistemological grounds for worshipping the communion bread. when men do throwe themselues downe before bread. In early English-language usage. In the context of Reformation polemics such as this.”10 David Hume likewise warns of the dangers of enthusiasm and superstition.8 As this brief overview suggests. As Salzman observes. strong emotion could be seen as intrinsically harmful to the exercise of human reason. credulity. to worship Christe therein?”9 In this instance. the term was frequently employed by Protestant reformers to characterize Catholic clerics and the rituals over which they officiated. was interpreted differently by pagans and Christians. both of which he attributes to . Jews. falsely believing that Christ is somehow directly and materially present in the consecrated host. commenting on the importance of public education in a well-ordered state. with the disciplines of science and philosophy providing the most effective remedy. they direct them to the eucharistic bread. ‘superstition’ is employed to distinguish between false and true religion. the inferior ranks could not be much exposed to it. ‘superstitio’ was used in the Theodosian Code to legislate against pagans. ‘superstition’ meant different things to different people in antiquity. observes in his Wealth of Nations: “Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. Thus a person or group could be branded superstitious both because of an excess of emotion and for attaching a laudable emotion to the wrong object. and Christian heretics. magic—but their Christian contemporaries used superstitio to mean the morally incorrect beliefs of pagans. divination.INTRODUCTION 3 practices of those beyond the pale of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Thus Adam Smith. those espousing Enlightenment ideals used the term to criticize religious belief and practice more broadly. Those deemed superstitious were liable to exclusion.
the higher the authority of the priesthood.” He notes: “As superstition is a considerable ingredient in almost all religions. is much more favorable to the rise of “priestly power. This narrative of popularization and decline finds vivid expression in the writing of T. dragged on that sacred car. among both academics and the broader public.12 Writing a century ago in the North American Review. to represent it as evidence of the popularization and decline of the Buddha’s original teachings. one critical of religious belief. when it was noted. Superstition. we see the emergence of another community. he contrasts the philosophical and ethical purity of early Buddhist teaching with what he regards as the devotional excesses of Hinduism. Rhys Davids draws upon the image of the Hindu festival of Jagannatha in Puri to illustrate the decline of the Buddha’s teaching under the force of popular superstition. but he also identifies a key difference between the two. ‘superstition’ serves to mark those outside the community. that in almost every sect of religion there are priests to be found: But the stronger the mixture there is of superstition.”11 In these Enlightenment critiques of superstition. and practice in general and in search of rational explanations for “superstitious” religious behavior. He writes: When we call to mind how the frenzied multitudes. emotion. drunk with the luscious poison of delusions. an early scholar of Buddhism whose work was very influential. Noting the forgotten heritage of Buddhist teaching in the region. heavy and hideous . W. The modern community of scholars standing within this tradition of Enlightenment thought forms the immediate context for understanding why Buddhist relic veneration has until the last fifteen years or so received scant attention from scholars of religion. hence it proceeds. even the most fanatical. from which the reformation they had rejected might have saved them. Nineteenth-century scholarship on Buddhism tended to minimize the important role that relic veneration played in the history of Buddhist traditions throughout Asia or. there being nothing but philosophy able entirely to conquer these unaccountable terrors.4 KEVIN TRAINOR human emotions and ignorance. in contrast to enthusiasm. Where Buddhist teaching counsels self-restraint and nonviolence. the cult of Jagannatha whips up a frenzy of devotional fervor that sometimes results in the death of pious devotees who throw themselves beneath the wheels of the gigantic processional chariots in the hopes of liberation. Once again. Rhys Davids. In this case the criterion of membership is not some particular form of religion but instead is a commitment to a rational and empirical mode of inquiry.
in his view. while it creaked and crushed over the bodies of miserable suicides. how much more powerful than the voice of the prophets is the influence of congenial fancies.” Drawing a parallel between the broad historical trajectories of Christianity and Buddhism after they were adapted to the needs of empire and their membership expanded exponentially. as Rhys Davids mourns the decline in rationality that. a revival connected to the recovery of the authentic Buddhist textual tradition. and of inherited beliefs. at least in its original form. however. beginning in the 1860s. characterized by rational analysis and emotional restraint. and the curriculum in these schools was deeply influenced by European and American representations of Buddhism dependent upon textually based reconstructions of the Buddha’s original teachings. Rhys Davids writes: Books in manuscript. Now they are . attended the adoption of Buddhism by the great emperor Aóoka in the third century BCE under whose patronage Buddhism expanded and gained broader popular influence.13 5 Here. had been deemed enough when their position was not attacked. Hinduism is marked by ritual and displays of emotion. the forgotten teacher of self-control. This revival was in part a response to attacks on Buddhism disseminated through an active campaign of Christian missionary propaganda. he depicts the decline as inevitable. “authentic” Buddhism.INTRODUCTION with carvings of obscenity and cruelty—dragged it on in the very name of Jagan-natha. of enlightenment and of universal love. Where Buddhism is for him. Segments of both the lay and monastic communities in Ceylon took up the challenge and. particularly in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon). the victims of once exploded superstitions—it will help us to realize how heavy is the hand of the immeasurable past. one of the founders of the Theosophical Society. he also compares Buddhism with Hinduism. a time he characterizes as “the beginning of the end. the linkage between emotional excess and superstition comes to the fore. Rhys Davids concludes his survey of Buddhism on a more positive note. on the time-honored palm leaves. pointing to signs of a Buddhist revival in Asia. began to publish their own literature to rebut Christian attacks on Buddhist teachings.14 The conflict also gave rise to a series of widely publicized debates between Buddhist monks and missionaries. Like many other nineteenth-century scholars of Buddhism. Olcott played a formative role in efforts to establish a system of Buddhist education. one of which drew the attention of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott. Such comparisons contributed to the tendency to downplay the role of devotion and ritual in early.
. In addition to popularizing Buddhist teachings through his own writings. had a powerful influence on popular views of Buddhism in Europe and North America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. whose aim is not controversial at all. the journal he edited. and are even beginning to translate them in to European languages. and to analyze and summarize their contents. even high schools and colleges. Carus’ interest in Buddhism was greatly stimulated by the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. . also on this side. including the charismatic Sri Lankan Buddhist reformer Anagarika Dharmapala and the Japanese Rinzai Zen master Soyen Shaku. exercised a great influence in the United States and abroad. which aimed at “conciliating Religion with Science. a prolific author whose writings. like Rhys Davids.6 KEVIN TRAINOR printing and circulating their books. and their sacred books.16 While Carus never formally converted to Buddhism. who held a doctorate in classical philology from the University of Tübingen. who. he found its teachings in large part consonant with the evolving “science of religion” that he advocated. are printed and circulated at large. the ancient texts. he was. the labors of European and American scholars are making accessible.”17 He also maintained an extensive correspondence with Buddhists in Asia and materially supported their missionizing in the United States. . however. no longer left only in the hands of student recluses. especially his Gospel of Buddhism. Carus communicated his ambivalence toward the Buddhist practice of venerating the Buddha’s material remains. as the Christians do. He notes in his letter that he would welcome a relic because it “would show me the reverence in which the . never held a university position. Though the Buddhists do not in the least agree with us. illuminates the distinctive character of his personal enthusiasm for Buddhism. Seelakkhandha offered to send Carus some relics of the Buddha. After Ven. a forum in which representatives of Buddhism. he published the work of many Buddhists under the auspices of the Open Court Publishing Company and in The Open Court.18 Carus’ correspondence with the Sri Lankan monk and Sanskritist. as well as its limits. addressed overflowing audiences who knew little of the complexity and diversity of Buddhist traditions. On the other hand. the Venerable Alutgama Seelakkhandha. Carus. they are founding schools for both sexes. they are beginning not only to make such use as suits them of our results.15 We can see an analogous disparagement of Buddhist ritual in contrast to supposedly more authentic forms of Buddhism in the work of Paul Carus. but to imitate our methods. but only historical. they are establishing boards of education.
The soul of Buddha is not in his bones.—the su\tras and all those ideas which we verify in our own experience as valuable truths. but in his words.. We reverence Buddha’s relics as a mark of gratitude to Him who showed us the way to salvation and as a token of remembrance of the many personal virtues (bhagavat. morn and eve. or the sound waves that are sacred.20 . Words. Regarding the relic that he sent to Carus. He writes again the next day with a lengthy clarification of his position.. Carus published a revised version of that response in The Open Court under the title. and ideas are not material things. thoughts.” He continues: According to my conception of Buddhism the most sacred relics we have of the Buddha and his saints are the words which they left. and I regard relic-worship as an incomplete stage of religious worship in which devotees have not as yet attained to fulll [sic] philosophical clearness.” In this article.e. all the treasures which I regard as holy are of a spiritual kind.19 Ven. but that is all I see in the use of relics. and not of a material kind. they are spiritual. including where it was discovered. arhat samyaksambuddha) which His life illustrated. is a mistake.INTRODUCTION 7 Ceylonese hold their master and his saints” but asks that the monk provide specific information about the relic. Seelakkhanda of a treasured devotional object for the sake of one who would “value these relics for historical reasons only. incense. Thus. expressing his concern that the gift will deprive Ven. etc. Seelakkhandha remained undeterred. Now certainly it is of interest to me to have evidences of the religious zeal of Buddhists. and those of His disciples (i. he also promises to provide a more detailed statement of his views on relic veneration. they are ideal possessions. he sent not only relics but also a detailed response to Carus’ views on relic veneration. he writes: The relic I am sending you is one thus obtained from the ruins of a Dageba at A[nuradha]pura and has been kept with me with great veneration. The keeping of sacred relics is a symptom of their devotion.—offering flowers. and by the vibrations of sounds. The worship of relics. Seelakkhandha provides an overview of Sri Lankan Buddhist views of relic veneration. Ven. be they bones. Rahats) for similar reasons. but it is not the book or the MS. or any other material of the body of a saint. but the ideas which are conveyed by them. “A Buddhist Priest’s View of Relics. and also to keep us reminded of their noble exemplary lives as results of Lord Buddha’s invaluable doctrine. I believe this to be a genuine relic of the Buddha. hair. teeth. It is true that they are transferred by material means in books and MSS. They do not possess any other value than the remains of ordinary mortals.
The role of relics in fostering an emotional attachment to the person of the Buddha and the ritualism to which they gave rise. until the last fifteen years or so. it must be noted that there is some evidence of ambivalence toward relic veneration within early Buddhist tradition itself. and they saw themselves as heirs to a tradition of critical inquiry that put them in a privileged position to uncover the Buddha’s original teachings on the basis of philological and historical analysis. a milieu deeply shaped by the history of the conflict between religion and reason. evidence of the historical corruption of the tradition under the influence of popular weakness and prejudice. In the Maha\parinibba\na-sutta. these scholars worked within a cultural milieu imbued with a profound confidence in the power of reason and scientific inquiry to uncover the truth. or as. Western scholars depended heavily on the assistance of Buddhist monks to gain access to Buddhist texts and to master the languages in which they were written. examples of “an incomplete stage of religious worship. they were superstitious. Moreover. in Rhys Davids’ case. one finds pas- . led scholars to simply ignore the practice altogether in their accounts of Buddhism. This perceived incompatibility between the reconstructed origins of the Buddhist tradition and ritualized devotion to the Buddha’s bodily remains has defined. They were judged inauthentic. Such practices could easily be regarded as. both Rhys Davids and Carus sought to explain relic veneration away rather than elucidate its role in the history of Buddhism and in the Buddhist communities of their day. In effect. the picture of early Buddhism that was emerging from their studies of Buddhist scriptures seemed to reveal a philosophical orientation and a mode of emotionally detached analysis that resonated sympathetically with the moral and intellectual discipline of Western academic culture. Buddhist relic veneration therefore elicited a kind of cognitive dissonance. in many cases. At the same time. either on the grounds that they were not part of the Buddha’s original teaching or because they appeared incompatible with the norms of an evolving science of religion. a locus classicus for discussions of Buddhist relic veneration.and early twentieth-century European and American scholars to understand and represent Buddhism. to say nothing of the miraculous powers attributed to them. in the case of Paul Carus. At the same time.” In other words. the basic discourse within which relic veneration has been interpreted and has. seemed out of character with what these scholars regarded as the most profound and admirable ideals of the Buddha’s original teaching.8 KEVIN TRAINOR This exchange effectively illustrates the complex intercultural negotiation of authority and meaning that characterized the attempts of nineteenth.
Consider. or scent. the scene in which the Buddha has just settled himself between the twin sal \ a trees at Kusinar \ a\ where he will attain his ultimate passing away from the cycle of rebirth. concentration and insight. rouse yourselves. music. The sal \ a trees are in blossom out of season. live heedful. it appears to enforce a clear separation between the roles of sangha members and the laity in funeral preparations. and the erection of relic monuments (thu\pas) in public places to enshrine the remaining relics. defined as “the monk or nun or male or female lay-disciple who lives following the Dhamma in its fullness. we find a discussion of what should be done with the Buddha’s body after he has passed away. strive for the highest goal. walking according to the Dhamma.22 would be adequate support for the well-being of the sa\sana (Buddhist teachings and institutions). who says that he did not make the resolution to become a Buddha at the feet of Dipanækara Buddha for the sake of garlands. and surely it is laid down by him and is able to support the sa\sana. but instead would have occupied themselves with worshipping. or paint. with sarêra-pu\ja\ of the Tatha\gata. He concludes: “Those who there offer a garland. The commentary observes that if the Buddha had not objected to this sort of offering. following the proper way of life. scents.INTRODUCTION 9 sages nestled together that seem to provide contradictory perspectives on the value of relic veneration and who should engage in it. It thus concludes: “Now right practice is proper worship for the Tatha\gata. sandalwood powder and heavenly music.”21 The commentary elucidates this statement with a quotation from the Buddha. and the Buddha states explicitly that his remains should be cremated in a manner befitting a great universal monarch (cakkavattin). or make a salutation. his followers would not have perfected moral virtue. and song.”24 Yet even as this passage seems to recommend the value of relic veneration. along with mandar \ a blossoms. showering down sal \ a flowers upon the Buddha. In response the describes these as a form of offering (tathag \ atassa puj Buddha informs An | anda that these sorts of offerings fall short of the highest form of honor and veneration. or feel serene joy in their heart. This includes elaborate rites for preparing the body. for example. zealous. There . It notes that not even a thousand monasteries equal to the Maha\viha\ra. nor a thousand cetiyas equal to the Maha\cetiya. The text \ ay \ a). that will be to their benefit and well-being for a long time. characterized as “worship with material things” (am \ isa-pu\ja\). For the Buddha also addresses the following words to his faithful attendant A|nanda: “Do not trouble yourselves. A|nanda.”23 A little later in the Maha\parinibba\na-sutta. A|nanda. resolute on the highest goal. attend to the highest goal. cremation.
This. when the centrality of the practice of relic veneration . coupled with early representations that depict the Buddha’s physical presence through symbols such as a royal umbrella or his throne of enlightenment. wise brahmans and wise householders who are devoted to the Tatha\gata. miraculously emerge from their coverings. for the Mahap \ arinibban \ asutta also provides a detailed account of the role of the great elder Mahak \ assapa in the cremation ceremony.27 Once again. what is generally called the “aniconic” period in early Buddhism. The evidence for this is in part negative: the Theravada Vinaya (monastic code). In some respects. these passages can be read as evidence that authoritative Theravada tradition both affirmed the value of relic veneration and at the same time cautioned that it should not be the primary preoccupation of members of the sangha. the text seems to juxtapose contradictory perspectives on the appropriateness of relic veneration for members of the sangha. The funeral pyre then spontaneously ignites. Taken together. in contrast to the Vinayas of some other Buddhist fraternities. As with the dubious assertion that early Buddhist monks and nuns were initially prohibited from participating in relic veneration. we can see a parallel between the theory that sangha members were explicitly prohibited from participation in the relic cult and the widely accepted hypothesis that there was for centuries a prohibition against representing the body of the Buddha in paintings and images.10 KEVIN TRAINOR are wise nobles.”25 This passage has typically been interpreted as evidence that members of the earliest Theravada sangha were initially prohibited from participating in relic veneration. This is hardly a rejection of the practice altogether.26 The problem. they are obstructed by the devas in attendance until Mahak \ assapa and his entourage of five hundred monks arrive on the scene. When the Mallas attempt to light the funeral pyre. says nothing about relic veneration. led to the widely accepted assertion that early Buddhists were prohibited from representing his bodily form out of respect for his nirvanic status.28 Indeed. is the presence of contradictory evidence. however. however. Apparently. the theory of an aniconic period is driven more by presumed doctrinal ideals than by compelling material evidence. they will perform sarêra-pu\ja\ of the Tatha\gata. in this instance. Mahak \ assapa’s devotion to the Buddha’s body is deemed appropriate. even though he is both a monk and an arahant. and the hypothesis that members of the sangha were prohibited from participating in relic veneration goes well beyond the evidence. which. Mahak \ assapa venerates the Buddha’s body by placing his head on the Buddha’s feet. Here again part of the evidence is negative: no images survive from the first several centuries of the Buddhist movement. according to the commentary. again.
as well. how different a Buddhist reliquary appears when viewed in a museum display case and when seen upon the head of a lay donor carrying it in an enshrinement procession to the empty relic chamber of a new stupa where it will soon be permanently enclosed (see figure 1. and there is considerable disagreement within the field about what. the existence of a prohibition against representing his physical body seems even less likely. the study of visual culture helps to illuminate the role that particular objects play in shaping the dynamics of local power relations. Each culturally privileged location lends itself.g. Such an approach turns our attention to the fact that both the display case and the stupa take their respective places within and through a set of ritualized cultural practices.g.. In addition. scholars of religion are increasingly turning their attention to “visual culture. if anything. The reexamination of both the role of relic veneration and of the socalled aniconic period in early Buddhism can be seen as aspects of a wider reorientation taking place in Buddhist studies. Buddhism. sets scholars of religion apart from those who study religion from within the disciplines of history. sociology. the “religions” (e.1).INTRODUCTION 11 during this period is taken into account. As the art historian David Morgan has noted. gender. the “numinous”) or a distinctive interpretive category (e. Islam. to distinctive forms of knowledge and meaning. the “sacred”). this is no longer the case. What might be called the “rematerializing” of religion through increased attention to the bodies of religious practitioners and their ritualized interactions with material objects has taken place alongside a movement of theoretical deconstruction that has rendered increasingly suspect the categories of “religion” and the “religions. for example.g. including social class. or anthropology.” If the discipline of religious studies could once be seen as clearly defined by the privileging of a unique experience (e... This integrative approach includes increased attention to how these objects and their attendant rituals orchestrate cognitive and affective dimensions of experience and to their role in articulating a wide range of power relationships.”29 This interest in the visual diverges from the longstanding attention devoted to art and architecture by earlier generations of scholars in that it attempts to integrate material objects more fully into their social and cultural contexts at the local level. and dynamics of colonial interaction. a reorientation that is reshaping the study of religion more generally. In contrast to appproaches that have highlighted the particular features of isolated artifacts in relation to idealized aesthetic norms or as examples of historically and culturally delimited styles. Consider. once commonly defined by abstract belief . Christianity).
a wealthy contributor who was physically unable to participate in the procession. while the latter group is responsible for construction of the relic monument. At the head of the procession on the right is an elder monk. the symbolically highest and purest part of the body. a young layman standing in for his father.1. Both the monastic and lay communities are represented here.12 FIGURE 1. 1985. A relic enshrinement procession for a new relic monument (dag \ aba in Sinhala) in southern Sri Lanka. Photograph by Kevin Trainor . and on the left. Out of respect the young man holds the reliquary on the top of his head. the former group typically acquires the relics for enshrinement.
invites careful attention to local histories and to the interplay of social and cultural forces within a relatively circumscribed field. it lends itself to broad comparative analyses. and controlled access and thus have frequently been employed by ruling elites. Or one could examine the category of “relic” itself as a means of highlighting cultural differences between Euro-American scholars and the Asian traditions that they study (see the chapter by Robert Sharf).INTRODUCTION 13 systems derived from canonical scriptures. Buddhist relic veneration can be investigated as a distinctive form within a broader set of religious practices organized around the material remains (corporeal relics) and material representations (images) of authoritative religious figures. they have also defined particular kinds of relationships to the past and future. more recently. compare Buddhist and Christian relic practices with an eye toward illuminating important differences between the two traditions (an approach developed by John Strong in this volume). the actual objects that are the focus of veneration. Following this line of inquiry. since many religious traditions include some variation on the practice of venerating the bodily remains of the “special dead. It was a common trope of nineteenth-century . are now increasingly fragmented along the fault lines of regional and local cultures. for example. it is precisely the materiality of relics that makes them such useful and effective signifiers of authoritative presence. into Europe and North America. that is. For example. attention to specific relics. to further their respective interests (see figure 1. If relics have furthered the construction of a meaningful and coherent Buddhist landscape. dissemination. At the same time. For example. One can also frame a comparative analysis in a manner that highlights points of similarity between different traditions. both lay and monastic. As material objects they lend themselves to particular strategies of consolidation. for both practitioners and scholars. one could.1). Relic veneration as a focus of study provides an advantageous position from which to view the shifting boundaries of the discipline of Buddhist studies. On the one hand.”30 On the other hand. and scholars are increasingly following the “relic trail” in their attempts to chart the ebb and flow of power relations in Buddhist societies (see the chapters by David Germano and Bernard Faure in this volume). Relics have also served to articulate a distinctive Buddhist geography punctuated with cultic centers and tied together by pilgrimage routes and have played a key role in the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia (see Donald Swearer’s chapter) and. relics and the structures that enshrine them provide the archeologist and historian with empirical data.
31 In contrast to these ways in which relics appear to emphasize repetition of static patterns. past and future. it has become an accepted tradition that his teachings and relics will last five thousand years after his final passing away. At the end of this period. identifies him as only the most recent in a long line of previous Buddhas and highlights the common features in the lives of all Buddhas. provides the necessary conditions for the arising of the next Buddha. As Jacob Kinnard observes in his chapter. And. disappearing once and for all from the samsaric realm. There the relics will assemble in the shape of Gotama’s body. Buddha relics have also served as signifiers of the transient and corruptible nature of the bodies of individual Buddhas whose corporeal remains arise and disappear. Their tangible presence in cultic sites. The meritorious deeds (karma) . the material remains themselves are unique and perishable (see figure 1. These acts. Even the Theravada tradition. his relics are expected to depart from their places of enshrinement throughout the world and congregate at Bodhgaya. these relics are regarded as effectively equivalent to the living presence of the Buddha for the purposes of devotion and gaining merit. Likewise. until their climactic reassembly and disappearance. and spontaneously combust. It is precisely through these “memory-sites”32 that Buddhists are reminded of what the Buddha did for them and are able to express through their ritual performances an appropriate sense of their dependence upon and gratitude toward him. In the case of Gotama. It is interesting to note how Buddhist relic traditions relate to this discourse of historical consciousness. Even if this event is itself a particular instance of a broader pattern of how Buddhas arise and disintegrate. relics enable a particular kind of relationship to the past teacher. There are. for example. so often contrasted with the Mahayana because of its attachment to the historical Buddha Gotama. In Theravada tradition. aspects of Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition that suggest a preference for the repetition of timeless patterns in the biographies of various Buddhas and the histories of their relics. they are tangible points of connection to the person of Gotama Buddha. brings the present-day Buddhist devotee into the past time of the Buddha.14 KEVIN TRAINOR scholarship on “the East” to contrast the “Western” sense of history with its absence in South Asia. As such. the disappearance of a particular Buddha’s relics. the place of his enlightenment. along with the memory of his teachings. in turn. sites which are themselves part of a broad cultural network of political and economic forces. are understood to create a future set of possibilities.2). rise up in the air. the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka (the Maha\vam≥sa) records that Gotama’s relics were enshrined at precisely the location where the relics of three previous Buddhas were preserved.
The chief monk informed me that these were donated by other monks when they learned that his monastery was constructing a new relic monument. arahants. all the Buddha’s bodily relics will travel from the places where they have been enshrined and reassemble in the form of his body before bursting into flame and disappearing forever. According to one Theravada tradition. five thousand years after Gotama Buddha’s final passing away. A collection of bodily relics “of the Buddha and the saints.” that is. prior to their enshrinement in a new relic monument in southern Sri Lanka in 1985.15 FIGURE 1. Photograph by Kevin Trainor .2.
like bodily relics and relics of . And. as Robert Sharf notes in his chapter. some images contain bodily relics and could thus be classified under more than one category of material mediation. While in practice bodily relics might seem to proliferate almost without limit. and thus they fit our general theme of “embodying the Dharma. relics and images have quite different aesthetic qualities.” This fact is reflected in the classic Theravada taxonomy of venerable “memorials” (cetiyas in Pa\li. For example. in particular. both relics and images are among the primary material means through which Buddhas continue to be “embodied” after their passing away. which differentiates three distinct categories: those containing bodily relics. they are commonly located within temple complexes alongside relic monuments. they can be manufactured endlessly as long as they bear the appropriate iconographical features. Jacob Kinnard’s essay. relics and images share a number of striking similarities. These relic enshrinements are. however. Moreover. in addition. those defined by relics of use. Despite these important differences.33 Second. and consequently they lend themselves to different strategies of production and control. the means through which relics and images are produced and gain authority are quite different.16 KEVIN TRAINOR and their accompanying moods and motivations are expected to shape the devotee’s future in such a way that he or she in a future rebirth will encounter the living presence of the next Buddha. Many of the issues related to relic veneration that are highlighted in this volume are also relevant to sculptures and paintings of the Buddha. There are clearly a number of salient differences between these two basic ways of representing Buddhas. First of all. this classification first appears in the fifth-century CE Pa\li commentaries. In this respect. and both are typically the focus of devotional rituals. and those that are “commemorative” (a category identified with images). Even when images do not actually incorporate bodily relics. images. they are in principle numerically finite and thus subject to a kind of inherent material scarcity. examines the relationship between physical objects connected with the bodies of Buddhas (body parts and things with which they came into physical contact) and physical representations of Buddhas. relics are typically hidden away in relic monuments or reliquaries and images are usually open to view. Images are subject to no such material constraints. caityas in Sanskrit). memory-sites of a different sort for archeologists and historians who make use of them as evidence for reconstructing the history of Buddhism. It is the physical continuity of a bodily relic or relic of use with the body of a Buddha that defines its venerability.
textualizations. and comparisons. spaces that evoke and orchestrate devotional attitudes and behaviors. where funerary practices are “aestheticized” by rendering them less corporeal. with fifteen scholars contributing papers. Strong). Toward this end. This volume is. Germano identifies a general heightening of what he terms “funerary Buddhism” as one moves from the early Great Perfection literature. sectarian affiliation.” is the classification of material objects and their relationship to fundamental Buddhist doctrines on the intrinsic Buddha-nature of all beings in the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Japan (Faure). as well as essays framed primarily in comparative and theoretical terms (this introduction. The present volume is comprised of seven of those essays in revised form. The seminar met four successive years during annual AAR conferences beginning in 1994. or historical period. . into later strata of the textual tradition where one finds elaborate correlations between meditational attainments and a wide range of embodied physical signs and corporeal remains. The chapters in this text also span a wide range of historical periods and reflect a variety of theoretical approaches. While there are many ways these pieces could be thematized and compared. Tibet (Germano). as well as the writings of Longchenpa (kLong chen pa). for instance. “Living Relics of the Buddha(s) in Tibet. to date. Germano examines texts from the eleventhcentury Seminal Heart (snying thig) tantric literature. royal appropriations. Thailand (Swearer). who systematized the tradition in the fourteenth century. TAXONOMIES The central concern of David Germano’s chapter. the only extended analysis of Buddhist relic veneration bringing together contributions from scholars exploring a broad diversity of Buddhist cultural traditions.INTRODUCTION 17 use. including India (Kinnard). The study of images alongside relics thus highlights some of the distinctive ways in which both Buddhist studies and the study of religion are increasingly shaped by efforts to rematerialize their subject matter through a focus on embodiment. Sharf. I will discuss them under the following rubrics: taxonomies. lend themselves to defining particular spaces that are associated with the presence of Buddhas. on the basis of regional focus. performative presences. It was in response to some of these interpretive shifts within the disciplines of religion and Buddhist studies that David Germano and I organized a multiyear seminar on Buddhist relic veneration under the auspices of the American Academy of Religion.
These manifestations are ultimately grounded in Seminal Heart teachings about the presence of the Buddha-nature in all things. Germano details how this Buddha-nature manifests itself within the consciousness of religious adepts and imprints itself on their bodies, giving rise after their deaths to small spheres that continue to multiply. These bodily signs are not merely the continuing presence of departed saints; they are, as well, manifestations of the ongoing process of religious realization within the bodies of those striving for enlightenment. Such ideas and practices should not be regarded as merely the remnants of an ancient textual tradition; Germano provides anecdotal evidence of their continued relevance to Tibetan practitioners today. His essay demonstrates the remarkable diversity and centrality of relics in Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the integration of relic practices with aspects of Buddhist tradition from which they have often been divorced by Western scholars, including abstract doctrinal reflection and meditation.
Bernard Faure’s chapter, “Buddhist Relics and Japanese Regalia,” examines the role that Buddhist relics played in struggles for political supremacy in Japan during the fourteenth century. Faure’s chapter adopts a broad interpretive framework, exploring the multiple discourses that were centered on Buddhist relics and their attendant rituals in Japan. He traces, as well, the diverse forms in which relics were physically manifested, including wish-granting jewels, imperial regalia, and vital essence. Faure also provides historical background on the Buddhist relic cult in China, noting the important role of supernaturals, especially na\gas (superhuman beings usually depicted as serpents in India and dragons in East Asia) and their subterranean kingdoms into which relics submerge themselves and later resurface. As the title of his piece suggests, one important dimension of a relic’s potency is linked to its oscillation between invisibility and visibility, isolation and access. Faure also identifies a number of important dynamics in the Japanese appropriation and transformation of relics, including their association with fertility, rain making, and apotropaic powers that could be used to sap the potency of one’s enemies. As he notes, relics in the Japanese context functioned as “floating signifiers” whose fluid yet potent associations could be used strategically for a diversity of political ends according to the changing circumstances in which Japanese rulers found themselves.
His analysis thus illuminates the need to carefully contextualize the significance and function of Buddhist relics in terms of local contestations of power and authority.
Jacob Kinnard’s chapter, “The Field of the Buddha’s Presence,” contributes to an understanding of the notion of the Buddha’s “presence” in images and relics by drawing out the cognitive, affective, and behavioral force that they exerted on Buddhists living in India during the period of Pa\la rule (eighth through the eleventh centuries). Drawing upon Pierre Bourdieu’s work, he maintains that our efforts to comprehend the presence of a Buddha image require us to reconstruct, as much as possible, the material circumstances and the implicit behavioral norms that shaped how Buddhists identified and interacted with that image. Thus the meaning of an image is not simply inherent in its aesthetic form, but instead emerges relationally as a given worshipper interacts with it in a ritualized setting. Kinnard turns to a number of textual sources, starting with the Pal \i canon, in order to reconstruct the “layered system” of inherited beliefs and practices that provided the context for recognizing and interacting with relics and images. These sources point to the religious significance of seeing the Buddha during his lifetime and highlight the importance of ritualized remembrance and visualization techniques. He suggests that Buddha images served not so much to make the Buddha present as to make the viewer past, that is, to project the viewer back into a time when the Buddha was alive and performing powerful deeds on behalf of those with whom he interacted. Noting that the field in which devotees interacted with Buddha images could embody contradictions and tensions, he demonstrates how an image such as the Asèamahap \ rat \ ihar \ ya, depicting the eight great events in the life of the Buddha, could simultaneously serve as a memento by means of which a pilgrim called to mind a powerful religious journey, as a token venerated in lieu of such a journey, and as a physical embodiment of the Buddha’s entire life and collection of teachings.
Donald Swearer’s chapter, “Signs of the Buddha in Northern Thai Chronicles,” draws our attention to chronicle texts that have not received adequate scholarly attention in the West. Beginning with an overview of some of the types of historical sources produced in Thailand, Swearer turns his
attention to a particular northern Thai chronicle called “The Chronicle of the Water Basin,” which describes the Buddha’s travels through that region, emphasizing in particular a mountain north of Chiang Mai known today as Doi Chiang Dao, the “Mountain of the Abode of the Stars.” While the chronicle itself appears to bring together three distinct kinds of stories, all three share a common physical referent: the sacred mountain hallowed by the Buddha’s visit in the past, present repository of his material signs, and future site of the coming righteous world ruler. The chronicle records that when the Buddha visited the mountain, his presence there gave rise to a broad range of material signs, including corporeal relics, a footprint, and various images (corresponding to the three basic categories of devotional memorials recognized in Theravada tradition). Most striking among the corporeal relics produced during his visit were relics comprised of substances ordinarily considered highly polluting. At one point the site where the Buddha urinated became “the Holy Footprint Bathroom Resting Place.” In another place, mucous dripping from the Buddha’s nose floated up into a nearby tree and the mucous-covered leaves were gathered as relics. While the character of the first relic is somewhat ambiguous, since it could be classed as either a corporeal relic or a relic of use, the second case suggests that even the Buddha’s nasal effluvia are worthy of veneration. Swearer concludes his essay by distinguishing three distinctive levels on which this text constructs the Buddha and his material signs. The first of these he characterizes as magical or instrumentalist, the second as cosmological, and the third as ontological. On the first level direct contact with the Buddha during his lifetime or later through his material signs brings worldly blessings and increases one’s store of merit. On a second level the Buddha’s presence organizes a cosmic order centered on the sacred mountain. On a third level the material signs of the Buddha transcend the limits of historical time and serve as the Buddha’s living presence. On this third level, Swearer notes, the Buddha is “read” from his material signs and emerges as a living reality.
John Strong’s chapter, “Buddhist Relics in Comparative Perspective: Beyond the Parallels,” examines Buddhist and Christian relic veneration, identifying a number of differences in how relics function in the two traditions. His analysis is organized around seven basic themes: approaching and touching; seeing and experiencing; dioramas and biography; rou-
tinization and mass production; collecting and counting; patterns of distribution; and eschatologies. Illustrating each of these activities with narrative accounts from disparate cultures and historical periods, he develops several working hypotheses as the basis for further comparative exploration. His tentative conclusions are as follows: (1) Christian relics are commonly venerated in very physical terms (e.g., a kiss), while Buddhist relics tend to be miragelike (evoking the presence of the Buddha’s absence); (2) visions of Christian relics are granted, while Buddha relics are visualized through the devotees’ own efforts; (3) Christian relics evoke Christ’s incarnation, a movement from absence to presence, while Buddhist relics represent the Buddha’s whole life story and embody a transition from his presence to his absence (i.e., his parinirvana); (4) Christian relics tend to proliferate on the analogy of eucharistic transubstantiation, while Buddhist relics tend to multiply through a process of textualization; (5) Christian relics are collected as a means of reducing time in purgatory, while Buddhist relics mutliply in direct proportion to one’s accumulated merit; (6) Christian relics accumulate centripetally at the center, which controls their dissemination (Rome), while Buddhist relics exhibit a tendency toward systematic distribution (centrifugality); (7) in the end time, Christian relics become “eternal bodies,” while Buddhist relics disappear, embodying impermanence. Robert Sharf’s chapter, which concludes this volume, adopts a selfreflexive stance, seeking to illuminate what it is that draws Western scholars to the study of Buddhist relics. He begins his inquiry by reflecting on Lévy-Bruhl’s work on “primitive mentality,” noting that some of the basic interpretive issues raised by his work are still very much with us. Stated simply, should the study of diverse cultures proceed on the basis of an assumed commonality, in particular a shared human rationality, or should it advance by highlighting the incommensurability of distinct cultures? As this pertains to the study of Buddhism and, in particular, the study of relics, Sharf suggests why we may be so enamored of our new view of Buddhists routinely engaged in relic veneration. Such a representation goes far to diminish a popular romanticized view of Buddhism as a pure, rational philosophy and restores to the tradition a quality of otherness as we envision Buddhists engaged in the sanctification of something utterly profane and loathesome: the bodies of the dead. He asserts, moreover, that this fascination with the bones of the Buddha evidenced in the work of some contemporary scholars of Buddhism extends beyond a concern to improve our understanding of Buddhism and
translations of relic-related texts. we do well to explore the complex of cultural and personal motivations that give rise to and inform our study of the subject. a characterization that has served to foreclose rather than enable scholarly investigation. is presently collecting visual media. they nonetheless forcefully testify to the multiple ways in which the study of relics enables us to move beyond static. historical. This volume remains very much a work in progress. elicit a response that can best be described as visceral. he cautions against a tendency to treat them as simply equivalent to each other. If these chapters. Where then do these chapters leave us? It would be surprising if a collection with such a broad cultural. as human remains. which tend to be aesthetically appealing. But I think we can conclude by returning to the theme with which I began this introduction: we clearly have moved well beyond a time when relics can simply be relegated to the category of superstition. At base. including a full set of bibliographic references for . do not provide us with a harmonious chorus. The Buddhist Relic Traditions Web site. in part because we have only begun to examine the great diversity of Buddhist relic practices. Sharf argues. While he cautions that we must be hesitant to assume that our questions are necessarily those that lie behind the concern for relics manifested by disparate communities of Buddhists over more than two millennia.org) and the University of Virginia. and theoretical focus gave rise to a few simple generalizations. The pieces in this volume present a compelling case for using relics as a thematic focus for the investigation of aspects of Buddhist tradition that have remained inadequately explored. In contrast to images. While acknowledging that both Buddha images and bodily relics can be usefully regarded as kindred forms of representation with many functional similarities. relics pose fundamental questions about the nature of physical embodiment and the problem of human identity in the face of death.22 KEVIN TRAINOR has to do.thdl. with their diverse voices and at times discordant themes. which is hosted by the Tibetan and Himalyan Digital Library (www. as well. relics. spiritualized representations of Buddhism to those with more flesh on their bones. with some profound existential questions grounded in our own cultural milieu. and bibliographical information on relic practices. but also because this volume itself is part of a broader Internet-based collaborative project dedicated to collecting and disseminating resources for the study of Buddhist relic traditions.
trans. 5. 6. 174. and those who are interested in participating in the project are encouraged to consult the Web site for further information about how to contribute materials from their own research (URL: http://iris. A. 1919).. 256–68. John Calvin. http://www. The Institution of Christian Religion.. Ibid. Salzman.htm. 1412. “Relics (Eastern).” in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 11. bk. He later became the first to hold the chair in comparative religion at the University of Manchester (1904–1915). Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press.virginia. This site is intended to serve as a clearing house for relic-related research. 1561) quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary. trans. . James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Essays: Moral. 4. Vincent A. 1. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. “superstitious”. Ibid.adamsmith. 2 vols. art. ch. 1776). “‘Superstitio’ in the Codex Theodosianus and the Persecution of Pagans. Taylor (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Salzman. H. H. 3. Institutes of the Christian Religion. F. Wolfe and R. Political. for a modern translation.lib. “Relics (Primitive and Western). 5. T.. 182. 3.uk/smith/won-index. 12. Smith. 3.org. MacCulloch. Rhys Davids made a formative contribution to Buddhist studies in the West. s. ed.” Vigiliae Christianae 33 (1979): 158. 1:147f. 2nd ed.” 176. Adam Smith.html). Janssen. Green. see John Calvin.” in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.v.edu/tibet/collections/religion/relics/index. 1882). and Literary. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Edinburgh. ed. (London: Longman. Ford Lewis Battles. 659. Harrison. from 1882 and was instrumental in the establishment of the School of Oriental Studies there. Thomas Norton (London: R. pt.” Vigiliae Christianae 41 (1987): 173. 7. L. 1960).” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies. Michele R. 8. 23 February 2002. “‘Superstitio’ and the Persecution of the Christians. J. 1919). As the founder of the Pali Text Society in 1881 and an indefatigable editor and translator of Pa\li Buddhist canonical texts. Adam Smith Institute. David Hume.INTRODUCTION 23 the chapters in this volume. ed. ed. 2. 1998). Mark C. London. 10. “‘Superstitio’ in the Codex Theodosianus and the Persecution of Pagans. Green and T. Gregory Schopen. Grose. 658. He taught Pa\li and Buddhist literature at University College. 9. “Relic. NOTES 1.
His perspectives on Buddhism reached a broader public through his books and his contributions to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and popular journals. 13. T. W. Rhys Davids, “Buddhism,” North American Review 171 (1900): 522. In this article, Rhys Davids refers to making a statement similar to this “nearly twenty years ago” (no citation given). 14. For an authoritative treatment of Sri Lankan Buddhist responses to Christian missions, see Kitsiri Malalgoda, Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 1750–1900: A Study of Religious Revival and Change (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976). 15. Davids, “Buddhism,” 523–24. 16. According to Carus’ biographer, Harold Henderson, under Carus’ direction Open Court Publishing Company published thirty-eight books on Buddhism between 1893 and 1915, fifteen of them authored by Carus; see Harold Henderson, Catalyst for Controversy: Paul Carus of Open Court (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993), 89. 17. Ibid., 44. 18. The most famous and influential of his protégés was D. T. Suzuki, a student of Soyen Shaku who worked for Carus for eleven years as an assistant editor and translator after his arrival in the United States in 1897. While still a student of Soyen Shaku, Suzuki translated Carus’ Gospel of Buddhism into Japanese, and he was immediately put to work helping Carus translate the Dao De Jing into English; see Henderson, 102–03. 19. Ananda, W. P. Guruge, From the Living Fountains of Buddhism: Sri Lankan Support to Pioneering Western Orientalists (Colombo: [Government of Sri Lanka] Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1984), 382. The italicized marks of emphasis are from Guruge’s text. 20. Paul Carus, “A Buddhist Priest’s View of Relics,” Open Court 11 (1897): 123–24. 21. T. W. Rhys Davids and J. Estlin Carpenter, eds., Dêgha-Nika\ya, 3 vols. (London: Pali Text Society, 1889–1910), 2:138. “Yo kho A|nanda bhikkhu va\ bhikkhunê va\ upa\sako va\ upa\sika\ va\ dhamma\nudhamma-paèipanno viharati samêci-paèipanno anudhamma-ca\rê, so Tatha\gatam≥ sakkaroti garukaroti ma\neti pu\jeti parama\ya pu\ja\ya.” Curiously, the commentarial gloss on this passage includes scent and garland worship among the activities that constitute following the dhamma in its fullness for the laity; see the fuller discussion in Kevin Trainor, Relics, Ritual, and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Theravada Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 51–52. 22. The Maha\viha\ra was the central monastery of the community that came to be identified with orthodox Theravada tradition in Sri Lanka; the Maha\cetiya is presumably the great cetiya in Anura\dhapura built by Duèèhaga\manê ≥ , which is said to enshrine one-eighth of all of the Buddha’s relics.
23. Buddhaghosa, Sumanægala-vila\sinê, ed. T. W. Rhys Davids, J. Estlin Carpenter, and W. Stede, 3 vols. (London: Pali Text Society, 1886–1932), 2:578. “Samma\paèipatti pana Tatha\gatassa anucchavika\ pu\ja\, sa\ hi tena paèèhita\ c’eva sakkoti sa\sanam≥ ca sandha\retum≥.” 24. Davids and Carpenter, eds., Dêgha-Nika\ya 2:142. “Tattha ye ma\lam≥ va\ gandham≥ va\ van≥n≥akam≥ (variant: cun≥n≥akam≥) va\ a\ropessanti abhiva\dessanti va\, cittam≥ va\ pasa\dessanti, tesam≥ tam≥ bhavissati dêgharattam≥ hita\ya sukha\ya.” 25. Ibid., 2:141. “Avya\vaèa\ tumhe A|nanda hotha Tatha\gatassa sarêra-puja\ya, inægha tumhe A|nanda sadatthe ghaèatha, sadattham anuyuñjatha, sadatthe appamatta\ a\ta\pino pahitatta\ viharatha. Sant’ A|nanda khattiya-pan≥d≥ita\ pi bra\hman≥apan≥d≥ita\ pi gahapati-pan≥d≥ita\ pi Tatha\gate abhippasanna\, te Tatha\gatassa sarêrapu\jam≥ karissantêti.” “Sarêra-pu\ja\” is ambiguous; it can be rendered either “corpse-veneration” or “relic-veneration.” Gregory Schopen argues convincingly that it should be taken in the former sense; see Gregory Schopen, “Monks and the Relic Cult in the Maha\parinibba\nasutta: An Old Misunderstanding in Regard to Monastic Buddhism,” in From Benares to Beijing: Essays on Buddhism and Chinese Religion in Honour of Prof. Jan Yün-hua, ed. Kiochi Shinohara and Gregory Schopen (Oakville: Mosaic Press, 1991). 26. I argue against this interpretation in Trainor, Relics, Ritual, and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Theravada Tradition, 56. 27. For an overview of Theravada biographical tradition about Maha\kassapa, see G. P. Malalasekera, Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (1937; reprinted, Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1983), 2:476–83. He is also profiled in Thera Nyanaponika and Hellmuth Hecker, Great Disciples of the Buddha (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1997), 107–36. Maha\kassapa is also counted as the first in the succession of Indian Zen patriarchs. 28. For a survey of the aniconic controversy in Buddhist studies, see Klemens Karlsson, Face to Face with the Absent Buddha: The Formation of Buddhist Aniconic Art (Uppsala: Uppsala University Library, 1999). 29. David Morgan, “Visual Religion,” Religion 30 (2000): 41–53. 30. This term is Peter Brown’s, whose work on Christian relic veneration has had a considerable influence on some scholars of Buddhism. See, for example, his Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981). 31. For example, the Maha\vam≥sa records that the relics of three previous Buddhas were enshrined at the site of the Maha\thu\pa in Anura\dhapura; see Maha\vam≥sa 15.56. A parallel tradition is associated with the nearby Thu\pa\ra\ma thu\pa, which is traditionally regarded as the first thu\pa built by King Deva\na\piyatissa after Buddhism was established in Sri Lanka in the third century BCE. The Dêpavam≥sa, which predates the Maha\vam≥sa, favors the latter site, as does Buddhaghosa’s introduction to his commentary on the Vinaya; see Dêpavam≥sa 15.25–64 and The Inception of Discipline (The Vinaya Nida\na), 76 f., 199 f. The
tradition recorded in the Maha\vam≥sa may reflect an attempt to enhance the prestige of King Duèèhaga\man≥i who is credited with the construction of the Maha\thu\pa. 32. I have appropriated this term from an unpublished paper presented by Charles Hallisey to the AAR Relic Seminar. 33. This appears in the commentary to the Ka\linæga-bodhi Ja\taka, which identifies three types of memorials (cetiya\ni): sa\rêrika (bodily), pa\ribhogika (through use), and uddesika (commemorative); see the Ja\taka, together with its Commentary, ed. V. Fausböll (London: Pali Text Society, 1877–1897), 4:228–29. A similar classification can be found in the commentary on the Khuddaka-Paè \ ha; see Khuddakapaè \ ha, together with its Commentary, Paramatthajotika\ I, ed. Helmer Smith (London: Pali Text Society, 1915), 221–22. It is widely accepted that commemorative relics (images) were the last to be added, as is suggested by the occurrence of a twofold classification without images in the Milindapañha; see Milindapañha, ed. V. Trenckner (London: Pali Text Society, 1880), 341. See Walpola Rahula’s discussion of the history of image veneration in Sri Lanka in his History of Buddhism in Ceylon: The Anura\dhapura Period, 3rd Century BC–10th Century AC, 2nd ed. (Colombo: M. D. Gunasena, 1966), 121–28.
BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE: BEYOND THE PARALLELS
John S. Strong
OVER THE YEARS, I HAVE HAD THE CHANCE TO VISIT THREE DIFFERENT Buddhist temples claiming to house various tooth relics of the Buddha. The first was the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, Sri Lanka, which I first went to in 1969. As I filed past the open doors of the inner sanctum, along with other pilgrims, I caught a brief glimpse of the outermost of the famous relic’s reliquaries. But I did not see the Buddha’s tooth itself; it was concealed from view, set, we are told, in the innermost of seven nesting containers, which encase and protect it. For my notions of what the Kandyan tooth actually looked like, I could only rely on the disparate descriptions of more privileged persons.1 Second, in the summer of 1972, in the Western Hills outside of Beijing, I visited the new Buddha’s Tooth Relic Pagoda, built in the 1960s just prior to the Cultural Revolution. Together with our hosts from the Chinese Buddhist Association, my wife and I climbed a spiral staircase and emerged in a chamber specially constructed to house the relic. The tooth, said to have been that which long ago was brought from Khotan to Chang’an, had been found in the ruins of the old pagoda, destroyed during the Boxer rebellion. But did we see it ? Alas, though we were able to come up quite close to the altar, the tooth itself was effectively concealed in its reliquary, behind a glass window that was frustratingly opaque.2 For several years, I thought little about my failures to see the Buddha’s tooth on these occasions. Not seeing a relic seemed normal to me or, at any rate, perfectly acceptable, for I viewed the Buddha in nirvana in the
[with] its saints. and Latin. and miraculous images. to emphasize or imply similarities between Christian and Buddhist traditions. . Leonardo Olschki creatively elucidated certain parallels between the tale of the Buddha’s begging bowl (seen by Faxian in Peshawar) and a Uigur story about the stone crib of the baby Jesus (a corner of which he broke off so as to have something to give the three Magi in exchange for their offerings of gold. and there I realized that not all relics are routinely “unseen.” Then. we did not see the tooth.7 At a more general level. I was able to go right up to the relic cases. at the Sennyu\-ji temple in Kyoto. King of the Jews. and inches away. Robert Sharf has pointed out that. close-up photographs were available in the basilica shop along with amulet replicas of each of the relics.5 Sometimes. in Greek. upon the titulus—the inscription plate—that Pontius Pilate had set up above his head. the pursuit of these similarities has been very fruitful. upon one of the spikes that had nailed him to the cross. I had been in Rome. But again. my wife and I had a chance to visit another tooth of the Buddha. for example. We wrote and asked for permission to enter the usually locked reliquary hall (shariden). declaring. lately among scholars. Moreover. I could gaze to my heart’s content upon three slivers of the wood on which Jesus was crucified. open to view. . was the whole beam from the cross of the good thief Dysmas who had been crucified by Jesus’ side. visiting the ancient basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. frankincense. in reliquaries designed to expose rather than enclose. that this was “Jesus of Nazareth. in the Chapel of the Holy Cross. on the appointed day. Gregory Schopen has made brilliant use of the work of Philippe Ariès on Christian patterns of burial to help us understand better the cult of Indian Buddhist relics and their stupas. the relic itself was kept elsewhere.” There too was the finger bone of Doubting Thomas—the very finger that that apostle had stuck into the wounds in Jesus’ flesh after the resurrection. upon two thorns from his crown of thorns. it had been removed permanently to a storehouse. Many years ago. however.28 JOHN S. All of this and more was on display. and there. we were kindly ushered into the building. .4 It has been customary. on a side wall. Hebrew. . about a month earlier.3 This time. relics.” All alone. gone beyond. “Buddhism . for. in 1993.”8 . For security reasons. and myrrh). STRONG words of the Heart Sutra as “gone. and labeled in six different languages. has come to bear an uncanny resemblance to medieval Christianity . in the comparative study of relics. gone.6 More recently. the failure to lay eyes on the actual relic did occasion some reflection. and. Though its magnificent reliquary was open for close-up inspection.
with some trepidation. however. I approach the task. admitting that many of these texts are only partially representative of an overall tradition whose full complexity is such that. in modern Southeast Asia. what about the ruling of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 that relics of Christian saints were on no account to be removed from their reliquaries or publically exhibited?11 And what about the passage in Canon Law that prescribes that relics be enclosed and sealed in containers and fastened with a silk cord. The fields both of Christian and of Buddhist relics are so vast and varied that it is clear that counter-examples to any claim I wish to make are almost always possible. in comparative religion. the elucidation of differences is as fruitful an exercise as (and perhaps an easier task than) the explanation of similarities. I shall proceed anecdotally. through the above account of my personal experiences. therefore. he not only saw one of the four tooth relics of the Buddha then enshrined in Chang’an but also physically handled it?9 And what about those occasions. if broken. take the form of sometimes fairly narrow hypotheses. nor should they be taken as arguments. still rooted in the concrete. while Christian relics are. Nonetheless. that Buddhist relics (at least Buddhist tooth relics) are generally not to be seen by worshippers. I have just implied.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 29 In this chapter. therefore.”13 My conclusions about these stories. I wish to try to go beyond parallelisms between Christian and Buddhist relic traditions. rather than abstract principles. on the Christian side. I shall start with the tale of the Roman Christian noblewoman Paula. whose pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the late fourth century is described . may result in suspension of the worship of the relic?12 In what follows. For instance. and contradictions.” especially if we can remember that “stories are not designed as arguments. it is my hope that. offering a series of contrasting stories about Buddhist and Christian relics. in order to isolate some of their distinguishing characteristics. But what about the good pilgrim Ennin who tells us that in 841. I do so in part as a result of my own studies and personal experiences these past few years of both Buddhist and Christian relics. I would probably quickly be led into qualifications. I want to try to be wary of generalizations. “stories reveal things that are not easily gleaned from the harder disciplines. as Wendy Doniger once put it. mitigations. were I to take it into account. and in part out of a conviction that. when relics are viewed uncovered?10 Conversely. which. universally applicable to all cases everywhere. STORIES APPROACHING AND TOUCHING A.
it comes as no surprise to read of a noble woman from Carthage who banged her head in adoration so hard against the reliquary containing part of the body of St. your tongue. she kissed the stone which the angel [had] removed from the sepulchre door. it was by no means anomalous. . “she . . was not the only way that this desire for closeness with a relic expressed itself.”16 The kiss. bathing them with her ecstatic tears. your eyes. As he puts it.18 B. your neck. Stephen that she broke it open: rather than recoil in horror at what she had done. . the Chinese pilgrim Faxian was visiting the so-called Cave of the Buddha’s Shadow. She fell down and worshipped before the Cross as if she could see the Lord hanging on it. Jerome. Take the holy oil and anoint your whole body with it. John Chrysostom. physical contact—touch—was. of course. started to go round visiting all the places with such burning enthusiasm that there was no taking her away from one unless she was hurrying on to another. in her world. counseled his flock to “retire to the tombs of martyrs and shed there torrents of tears.”17 In this vein. and “the classic gesture of contact [was] the kiss: the Hebrew verb nashaq means both ‘touch’ and ‘kiss. The story of the relic in this cave at Nagaraha\ra is intimately connected to the apocryphal tale of the Buddha’s conversion of . in Jerusalem. your lips.’ in Greek and Latin the words for ‘kiss’ and ‘venerate’ are often identical. His narrative is interesting not so much for the topographical and geographical information it contains but for its account of Paula’s reaction to and worship of various relics she visited. a contemporary of Paula who would have approved of her actions. to cling to the relics she visited (all in one fashion or another connected with death)—is extraordinary when seen in the context of Jewish and Roman views on impurity.30 JOHN S. . St. On entering the Tomb of the Resurrection. and the frequently-used phrase. thought to unite a person with what he or she touches. she thrust her head inside and laid her cheek on the bones. Her tears and lamentations there are known to all Jerusalem—or rather to the Lord himself to whom she was praying. she [embraced and] faithfully kissed the very shelf on which the Lord’s body had lain. At about the same time as Paula was in Jerusalem.”14 Paula’s passion—her desire to embrace. affix yourselves to the reliquary. to ‘venerate the holy places’ therefore carries within it the connotation of contact. then like a thirsty man who has waited long and at last comes to water. to kiss. As John Wilkinson points out. embrace the sarcophagus.15 but in Christian circles. in what is today Afghanistan. . STRONG in detail in an obituary letter written by St. break open your heart.
and his characteristic marks in their nicety clearly and brightly displayed. Discussions of Buddhist relics and images have been much preoccupied with questions of presence and absence. on the rock wall of the cave. the more its brightness faded. Gopa\la asked the Blessed One to leave some token of himself right there in his na\ga’s cave. It was. in Stephan Beyer’s memorable translation. [but] the nearer you approach [it] the fainter it becomes. as a safeguard against backsliding. of course. in this cave at Nagaraha\ra. but the closer one got to it. in the 450s.” For Faxian and his compatriots. the shadow’s very ephemerality that artists attempting to make copies of it sought to reproduce. it gradually disappeared. when he touched the spot with his hand. as if it were only in your fancy.22 The contrast between these accounts and the touchable-kissable Christian relics in Jerusalem is. “Looking at it from a distance of more than ten paces. physical contact is not what is put at a premium. the same qualities as the original: from a distance of ten paces.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 31 the na\ga Gopa\la there. more a luminous reflection than a shadow. “you seem to see [the] Buddha’s real form. the miragelike quality of this shadow relic struck a chord in the Buddhist devotional world.” declares Faxian. striking. that we are dealing here with some natural phenomenon. indeed. we are told. but as he drew nearer. Although Faxian declares that artists commissioned to copy the shadow were unable to do so successfully.”20 Much the same story is told a half-century later by Daorong who claims to have seen the shadow from a distance of fifteen feet. and. the more it fades away. this shadow relic seems to have had a sort of miragelike quality. that we should not make too much of these examples. but the net result was that he left an image of himself. in fact. the closer one gets to the relic. the mode of devotionalism seems to have been “the closer the better. soon after his time. it shone like fire. Worried that he might lose his faith once the Buddha who had just tamed him left the area. where it came to be venerated by generations of subsequent pilgrims. of course. the Buddha . For Paula and the other pilgrims. some reflective surface on the rock wall that caught the light from certain angles and caused a glow in the depths of the grotto. there was nothing there but the rock wall.”24 As Na\ga\rjuna put it. with his complexion of gold. a Sri Lankan monk on his way to China claimed to have been able to reproduce it in a painting. Nonetheless.23 The state of the Buddha or any other saint after death is an issue that the tradition either declined to discuss or that it left “bristling with contradictory negations. There are several versions of what the Buddha did next. It had.19 Interestingly.21 It could be argued.
”26 Thus. Thus the focus in his case is not on a “new kind of absence” (here on earth) so much as a “new kind of presence.” there in heaven. “the question is not whether or not Christ is present. overcoming the absence of the Buddha was never achieved ontologically. Hypothesis 1: Christian relics : a kiss :: Buddhist relics : a mirage. explicit. SEEING AND EXPERIENCING A. .”32 Thus. . but where he is present. Yet for him. The most striking thing about physical relics (including those of or associated with Christ) . exqueen of France and abbess of a convent in Poitiers. did not pass into parinirvana. “the relic and the Buddha do not appear to have been thought of as separate things.”25 Nonetheless. As Thomas Head has put it.32 JOHN S. her love of the holy remains of saints mounted. Jesus. The relics of the saint in the shrine are the saint: the saint is at the same time just as really present in God’s court: that is why the relics are so important. images. For now.28 As Paul Mus liked to put it. the very first relics of the Buddha—the hairs given by him to the merchants Tapassu and Bhallika—were meant to make possible the veneration of the Buddha in his absence. In this context. rather it was a periodically renewed ritual and magical process based on the model of Brahmanical sacrifice. isnt is & isnt. As one of her biographers put it: “She called [her] relics ‘diamonds of heaven’ . STRONG in nirvana “isnt is.30 This saw relics.31 I shall attempt to elucidate this movement further. and over the years. and other mesocosms as constantly involved in an experiential dialectic movement between presence and absence. the Buddha in nirvana was treated as “a new kind of absence. relics continued to serve much the same function. is that they provide a definite. .27 and after his death and parinirvana.”29 and Mus went on to speak eloquently and at length of the various ways in which that “absence” could be overcome. physical contact between this world and the kingdom of heaven. the tighter one can make that link to the other world. was an avid collector of relics. touchable. a “disappearing relic” such as the shadow image could appear to be paradigmatic of its class since it itself makes a move from presence (visibility) to absence (invisibility). the closer one can get to the relics as embodiments of a supermundane body. stupas. at least for medieval Christianity. isnt isnt is & isnt. at the end of his earthly career. but ascended to heaven. even during his own lifetime. suffice it to point out that the dynamic is rather different in the case of our Christian examples. . as Gregory Schopen has made very clear. isnt isnt. and spared neither prayer nor . Saint Radegund [518–587].
she used her royal connections to acquire from Constantinople a relic of Christ—a piece of the true cross. “Please know that you are a precious pearl.”35 Then he disappeared. and in departing.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 33 presents in amassing them. but this too quickly disappeared. which was duly translated to her convent in Poitiers. According to his biographer. he left an imprint of his right foot in the stone where he had stood. Not too long after the time of Radegund. He then resolved that he would not leave that place until he had seen the Buddha’s shadow. but still he saw nothing. in Radegund’s story. the whole cave was filled with light. which may still be seen in the Church of Sainte Radegonde. He then prostrated himself a hundred times. “Why do you supplicate me so and torture yourself for me who am always with you?” he asked her. Thus. This stone. Encouraged.36 There is. then. the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (trip to India: 629–645) also visited the Cave of the Buddha’s Shadow. Then sobbing and reproaching himself for his bad karma. however. Finally. B. and he soon was able to see a light the size of a dish. came to be known as the “Pas de Dieu” and became itself an important relic. but it immediately vanished again. when Xuanzang arrived at the cave. did not satiate her pious longings for the presence of her Lord and Savior. There he had an interesting experience. her cell was suddenly bathed in light. to the presence of Christ himself in glory. he resumed his prostrations and his recitations. obviously familiar with local traditions. a progression here. She was in the habit of meditating in the company of the saints whose bones she possessed. “just like the peak of a golden mountain when the fog is dispersed. prostrating himself repeatedly. He did so. and it seemed to her that they joined her in singing the psalms and hymns of the divine office.” He could see the Buddha’s . and she saw before her a young man of ethereal beauty whom she realized was none other than Jesus himself. told him to back away fifty paces from the far wall and look east.34 There. marked forever by his footprint. as the image of the Buddha’s body appeared distinctly on the wall. His guide. he was most distressed that he could see nothing. from relics of saints to secondary relics of Christ (the piece of the true cross). After some time. a light the size of an almsbowl appeared on the eastern wall. and one of the most beautiful diamonds in my crown.”33 The relics of the saints. however. bearing his footprint. not long before her death in 587. as she was meditating in the midst of her relics. after about two hundred more prostrations. he began reciting stanzas in praise of the Buddha from the S:rima\la\devêsim≥hana\da and other sutras. but once again there was nothing.
and again it was visible for a long time until it gradually faded away. With this in mind we can posit a second hypothesis: Hypothesis 2: Christian relics : vision :: Buddhist relics : visualization.37 Both Xuanzang and Radegund. in their respective settings. describes it: “She entered the cave of the Saviour. The Relic of the Shadow makes it possible for the Buddha to emerge out of emptiness. birthplace of the Bread that came down from heaven. more a visualization than a vision. and the shepherds coming by night to see this Word which had come to pass. . and. and the presence and context of relics are intimately connected to this. for my Saviour chose it. and the ass his Lord’s manger. went on to Bethlehem. Xuanzang then asked the men who were outside the cave to bring in fire so that he could burn some incense and offer flowers in worship of the image. out of the past. As Jerome. to either side. also temporarily. It is sometimes remarked that while the Christian era is measured from the birth of Christ. Yet there are a number of important differences between their two experiences. in the midsts of her relics and leaves one of his own behind permanently. STRONG body and his reddish robe quite clearly.34 JOHN S. out of the Xuanzang’s mind. and saw the holy Inn of the Virgin. and recollections of the Buddha (buddha\nusmr≥ti). .’”38 . she visited the site of Christ’s nativity. but as soon as they brought in the torches. she began to say: ‘Blessed Bethlehem. again. . and his experience also comes only after a great deal of effort—devotional exercises. . For Radegund. the “shadows” of many bodhisattvas and arhats. . There. Then. of course. . Christ descends to manifest himself. he resumed his praise of the Buddha. Xuanzang’s longing is perhaps equally intense.’” There she was granted a vision: “with the eye of faith . the attentive fosterfather. . get to see the figure who is the object of their devotions. House of Bread. Here I will stay. where ‘the ox knew his master. the Word [that] was made flesh. Radegund’s comes to her after a lifetime of longing for the closeness of Christ. her joy mixed with tears. weeping in the Lord’s manger. and to return to it. the Virgin Mother. let us return to Palestine and to Paula who. . DIORAMAS AND BIOGRAPHY A. she saw a child wrapped in swaddling clothes. the shadow immediately disappeared. and the Stable. but it is essentially a vision that is given to her. But it is more an accomplishment than a gift. . They put the fire out. the Magi worshipping. after she left Jerusalem. a visitation that she is not expecting. prostrations. . With this in mind. the Buddhist era is counted from the death and parinirvana of the Buddha. the star shining above. .
the root. There. from his career as a preacher to his working of miracles and death and parinirvana.” In other words. Maha\na\ma (fifth century) was writing the great chronicle of Sri Lanka. The magnificence of this monument cannot be gone into here. rested on sapphire. the Maha\vam≥sa. what relics ideally embody is the whole of the Buddha’s biographical process that leads from his birth (or former births) through his enlightenment to his parinirvana. ordered the depiction of the entire life of the Buddha. in the relic chamber. But then. then. In this context. but it is worth considering the decoration of its inner relic chamber. the casket containing them opens of itself and the relics “come alive”. followed then by his biographical departure (absence) from it. The centerpiece of all this was “a bodhi tree made of jewels. the whole life story of the Buddha. King Duèèhaga\man≥i. we are told. several chapters are dedicated to an account of the Buddha relics enshrined in the great stupa in Anura\dhapura. Not long after this. . The relic chamber is thus transformed into a kind of permanent biographical diorama. is re-presenting. erected to the east of the bodhi tree. of course. . They recapture. from his wandering forth to his enlightenment. can help devotees re-realize first the biographical advent (or presence) of the bodhisattva in this world and his attainment of the status of being a Buddha. in other words. made of coral. the living presence of the Enlightened One. beautifully shining. from his appearance to his disappearance without remainder. that is. .BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 35 B. . and the relics to be enshrined in it have been obtained. or “biorama” if I may be allowed a neologism. it may be useful to argue that what is made “present” in the Buddhist relic is not so much the “Buddha” (conceived as transcendent or imminent or absent) but the whole course of the Buddha’s “life. using both statues and paintings. . It had a stem eighteen cubits high and five branches. Relics. The stem made of perfectly pure silver was adorned with leaves made of gems. . .40 The same message would seem to be reinforced in the conclusion to the Maha\vam≥sa’s account of the enshrinement of the Buddha’s relics into this “biorama. In it. [was] placed a shining golden Buddha image [whose] body and members . . and perform various miracles.” Once the relic chamber has been made ready.”39 What King Duèèhaga\man≥i is doing here. splendid in every way. and it is into this environment that the relics are then enshrined. from his past existences (ja\takas) to his birth as Gotama. On a throne . were duly made of jewels of different colours. they rise up into the air and take on the form of the Buddha together with all the bodily signs of the Great Man (maha\purus≥a). had withered leaves and fruits of gold and young shoots made of coral.
on a visit to Fécamp to venerate the remains of Saint Mary Magdalene. The abbot and monks. in that particular place. his “coming down from heaven. in spite of my unworthiness. his becoming present here on earth. It could be argued. but what Paula stresses in her joy at this vision is Christ’s taking on of a body. This too is a biorama of sorts.” But Saint Hugh replied: “If. and Duèèhaga\mani takes them and places them on a couch in the midst of the relic chamber. intending to appropriate them for himself. Although it does not deal with the whole of Christ’s life.36 JOHN S. This the relics do of their own accord. “We thought that the bishop had asked to see this holy and venerable relic for reasons of devotion. and the relic chamber is then sealed and closed off. even in the moment of death. and when I partook of it. Thus the experiential movement in Paula’s case is consistently from absence to presence in the relics. that other Christian bioramas in other settings—for example. bit off a couple of pieces of bone from her arm. it does feature one biographical episode from that life—his birth. from “presence” to parinirvana. in contrast to the vectorial forces in Buddhist relics. were understandably dismayed. the relics themselves also appear to recapitulate the Buddha’s biographical process from life to death. “What terrible profanity!” they cried. Hugh of Lincoln. The relics she sees in the Church of the Nativity enable her to reconstruct in her mind’s eye a whole creche scene. Toward the end of the twelfth century. except that they too tend to feature the theme of incarnation. which follow his biography in moving from presence to “absence. ROUTINIZATION AND MASS-PRODUCTION: ALTERNATIVES TO BODILY RELICS A. STRONG abandoning the form of the Buddha.41 Thus. and he has stuck his teeth into it and gnawed it as if he were a dog. they fall back down to earth.” We thus can come to a third hypothesis: Hypothesis 3: Christian relics : incarnation :: Buddhist relics : passing into parinirvana. The case of Paula’s vision in Bethlehem is rather different in this regard. a little while ago [at communion] I handled the most sacred body of the Lord of all the saints with my fingers. asking them to take on “the form of the Master as he lay upon his deathbed” and to thus abide undisturbed forever. one featuring Christ’s passion and crucifixion at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—would be different. in this legendary account.” Her experience in Bethlehem is thus more related to Christ’s incarnation than to his biography as a whole. seeing him do this. touched it . of course.
at this point.48 B. he managed to manufacture over seven hundred thousand of these. of course. Inside each miniature stupa was placed a written verse from a sutra.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 37 with my lips and teeth.”49 In this story. why should I not venture to treat in the same way the bones of the saints . and by this commemoration of them increase my reverence for them?”42 Hugh’s action. and so on.47 But it is also possible.44 Suffice it to say that. First of all.46 as well as for the proliferation of false relics. supplying a virtually unlimited quantity of relic-like substances by ‘mass’-production. By the eighth century in Japan. it reflects the close ideological linkage that was maintained in his day between relics and the elements of the Eucharist.45 But Hugh’s action also reflects something else: a situation in which there was an intense desire for the possession of relics.43 but it is more immediately significant for a number of other reasons. so that the name that was given to them was “dharma-óarêra” (fa sheli). . to enter into the debate over the nature of transubstantiation. made on a lathe. impanation. consubstantiation. a way of ritually. I do not wish. As another way of making Christ “present”—“incarnate”—the Eucharist was thus akin to a relic. fits into a long tradition of persons attempting to steal Christian relics by biting into them while venerating them with a kiss. he heard about a pious layman named Jayasena who spent all of his time making miniature stupas out of clay and incense paste. to view the growth of devotion to the Eucharist as an alternate way of dealing with the demand for more relics. that is. routinely. . a term I am tempted to translate as “textual body. in this context. A . These were miniature wooden pagodas. for example. in which relic demand had outstripped routine relic supply. When Xuanzang was in Ra\jagr≥ha. it is said. perhaps. periodically enshrining them in larger mahastupas built expressly to contain them. This was one of the causal factors. In the course of thirty years. though not actual remnants of Christ’s body. about fourteen centimeters high and about ten centimeters across the base. and Godefridus Snoek has recently devoted an entire book to a study of parallel ways in which they were conceived of and functioned in medieval times. the ritual bread and wine were nonetheless his body and blood and were made intimately close to the devotee by consumption. we would seem to have an Indian model for an activity that became common in East Asia and Tibet. various politically powerful laypersons would periodically take it upon themselves to produce “one million stupas” (hyakumanto\). for the well known phenomenon of relic thefts and trafficking.
his dharmaka\ya. and this through a process that might be called “textualization. has spoken of a process by which charisma is concretized and sedimented into objects.50 Similarly. it can also be said that. or a nail. the Subdued One. a method is described for the manufacturing of many small stupas (each about the size of a mango). in a host of different fetishistic articles. STRONG small hole was drilled into the top of each of them into which was inserted the printed text of one of several dha\ranê ≥ . by simply inserting into a lump of clay the dharma verse par excellence: “ye dharma\ hetuprabhava\s tes≥am hetum Tatha\gata uva\ca/ tes≥am ca yo nirodha evam va\dê Maha\óraman≥ah≥” (“the Tatha\gata has explained the cause of those elements of reality that arise from a cause. through transubstantiation. . once the charisma (or power) of a departed saint or master becomes objectified or sedimented in a relic.51 It should be noted that this verse spells out in a nutshell the same movement from presence (“the cause” that makes dharmas arise) to absence (“their cessation”) that we have seen in the context of the Buddha’s corporeal relics.” Stanley Tambiah. medallions. And likewise the dharma-óarêra “are” the body of the Buddha. Of course. and a host of other secondary or tertiary relics.38 JOHN S. the following hypothesis may perhaps be suggested: Hypothesis 4: Christian relics : Eucharist : transubstantiation ::: Buddhist relics : Dharma : textualization. and a ritual routine means of making—by the simple insertion of a dharma verse into a lump of clay—a virtually unlimited supply of “relics. But the examples we have looked at here are of a slightly different nature. called the “dharmaka\ya” (doctrinal corpus) of the Buddha and is said to be just as effective in the making of a stupa as the insertion of a bodily relic of the Buddha such as a tooth. among which he would include amulets and relics.” With this in mind. Amulets. has also spoken of their cessation”). something. all blessed by contact with saints. translated by Diva\kara in 680. may serve this purpose in both Christianity and Buddhism. we may have a Buddhist way of responding to the problems of relic supply and demand. This line is. the eucharistic bread and wine “are” the body of Christ and so are more akin to primary bodily relics in both their function and their conception. in this context. however. the process of routinization of that charisma does not stop.52 One way in which it continues is through the development of a means of ritual mass reproduction and distribution of that power. he claims. in these manufactured dharma relics. This objectification of charisma may be seen. Max Weber was not really attuned to. a hair. in a Chinese canonical work. he says. In a different light. and he. in his book on Buddhist saints in Thailand.
962. For instance in the year 1014. and the greater the ability to make merit. he figured.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 39 COLLECTING AND COUNTING A. We have already seen how Saint Radegund felt it important to amass a large number of relics for her convent in Poitiers.202 years and 270 days in purgatory. “counted these relics many times by putting them on the palms of their hands. sometimes dramatically over the years. which. in 581. the future emperor of China. the greater the merit of the place or person. to reproduce. But Frederick did not stop there. he owned 19. was Frederick the Wise who lived almost a thousand years after Radegund.443 years. [but] each time they arrived at a different number and could not determine the true quantity. Toward the beginning of his career. to grow. .”58 It should be explained that these relics are not bones or body parts but brilliant jewel-like beads of various colors and sizes. the chief monk Tanqian. Simply put. Buddhist relics were thought in some sense to be alive. “Since you . 4.”54 After the monk had left. Approximately a millenium earlier. so they were able to multiply themselves. roughly every twenty years. where. or he and his empress “often found relics in their food. and well before Martin Luther became connected with him. Frederick had collected 5.57 The number of relics in reserve would mysteriously increase. By 1520. Strangely. was visited by a mysterious Indian monk who gave him a bag of relics saying. 9 percent) since the last inventory. the number of grains of relics in each reliquary was found to fluctuate. The larger and more numerous the relics. I leave these relics for you to worship. Another great collector of relics. found that his supply was miraculously replenished in time for the next relic distribution campaign. .56 Tanqian tells Wendi that such discrepancies are due to the fact that the Buddha’s greatness is beyond measuring.801 grains of Buddha relics were counted—an increase of 390 grains (c. Sui Wendi. Thus Emperor Wendi. worth 1. albeit for somewhat different reasons. worship of which. together with his trusted confidant.53 B.” 55A similar phenomenon was experienced in Heian Japan.013 relics. after he had distributed most of his relics to various pagodas erected throughout the country (in emulation of the Emperor Aóoka who did the same in Ancient India). the emperor. but there is another reason for this “incalculability” of Buddhist relics. the relics in the treasury of the To\ji temple were inventoried. have good intentions towards Buddhism. was worth indulgences calculated to reduce time in purgatory by 1.005 bits of saints and articles of their clothing. for convenience . without anyone having had access to them.
or on altars. Thus. from the Sanskrit óarêra). or hair. in purgatory. that is. PATTERNS OF DISTRIBUTION A. an authority on the Shroud of Turin. or by the side of stupas. were outside picking them up. “sheli” (Japanese shari. Hypothesis 5: Christian relics : growth by addition :: Buddhist relics : growth by multiplication. there will be no relics for him. there is a Tibetan belief that if an enlightened monk dies but has no devoted disciples. According to Buddhaghosa’s commentary on the “Mahap \ arinibban \ a sutta” the sheli (Pal \ i sarêra) found in the remains of the Buddha’s cremation fire were of three types—“like jasmine buds. are a direct reflection of merit made and shared. and as split green peas. and “all the monastery. in 1970 (to give a modern example) the Swayambhunath stupa in Kathmandu began to produce thousands of sheli [=Tibetan ring bsrel] out of its Eastern side. sheli are still looked for in the cremation ashes of great monks. This is rather different from the case of Frederick the Wise. and like [nuggets] of gold”—and came in three sizes—as big as mustard seeds. There he was shown a large room which was lined from floor to ceiling with cabinets and shelves loaded with containers of every conceivable size . whose precise count of his hoard of relics earns him a set amount of personal merit (indulgences) not in this world but in the other. visited the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. STRONG sake I shall call by their Chinese name. Some years ago.”65 Relics. from their hands.63 Conversely. in contemporary Sri Lanka. including the highest lama who almost never left his room. however.”62 The presence and growth of such relics is a reflection of the merit and faith of devotees. then. here on earth. and number testify to the sanctity of the deceased. where their presence. during a person’s lifetime.60 They can also appear.”59 Today. and they represent also an opportunity to make and share more merit.”61 Alternatively. David Sox. the relics themselves can reproduce by a sort of mitosis: “One of them gets bigger and bumps appear on the side and then the bumps become small [relics]. Emperor Wendi’s distribution of relics in pagodas throughout China was intended not only to testify to his and the Buddha’s greatness but also to give the people an ongoing ever-growing opportunity to make merit.64 Similarly. offering plates. like washed pearls. or clothes. or images. Indeed. lack of faith may be marked by an absence of relics. For instance. by emanation. size.40 JOHN S. it is thought that “relics will disappear if they are not accorded proper veneration. as broken grains of rice.
nothing had been lost. Generally speaking.69 Much the same method may be found in Buddhism. In the Buddhist world. the equivalent. of the various “vams ≥ a” (chronicles) that focus on specific Buddhist relics. ashes. declares: I’ve got relics and pardons in my bag as good as anybody’s in England. however. in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. however. he divided and redistributed them in what was . clothing and whatnot. Instead. perhaps. various methods arose in Christianity for determining or asserting the authenticity of dubious relics.66 41 Of course. They were the relics required in the altars of new churches waiting to be shipped out.71 The distribution of Christian relics out from Rome. then.”68 In fact. still provides relics not only for churches but also for personal devotional use as well. Nonetheless. and others have described the evolution of rather different and often more chaotic patterns by which relics came to be distributed geographically. if it did not burn. who.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE encasing bone. perhaps. a pattern in which ties to the center were maintained and still felt. Peter Brown. all given to me by the Pope’s own hand. Even charlatans laid claim to this Roman Catholic pedigree.67 Nonetheless. The most spectacular of these. the authentification of a relic was (and still is) done with documents. Thus the pardoner. with the Vicariate of Rome. As the legend has it. perhaps the greatest collector and distributor of relics was King Aóoka. and it became common for the owners of individual relics to possess elaborate records of their relic’s pedigrees. B. it was genuine. Aóoka. he went around and gathered the Buddha’s relics from the ancient “dron≥a stupas” in which they had been enshrined just after the parinirvana. Anatole Frolow.70 Canon Law is quite specific on the importance of such authentifying documents though it waffles somewhat on their necessity. newly found relics should not be approved for public veneration without them. was the test by fire. did not keep all of these relics collected in his capital city for later farming out to individual sanctuaries. the control that Rome maintained and maintains here over the distribution and authentification of relics is noteworthy. in Buddhism. things were not always so centralized. was generally centripetal in nature. The questioned relic was put on a bed of coals. Overseeing the transfer and authentication of these relics occupies much of the time of the pope’s Vicar-General at the Vatican. Patrick Geary. Archbishop Peter van Lierde. if it did burn. and they must pass through approved channels of church hierarchy.
” He therefore resorted to more authoritarian measures (called “upay \ a” [skillful means] in the text): he announced that thirty-five koèis of people in Taksa ≥ óila\ would have to be summarily executed. and in that way the region would get only its one due share of relics.74 while the Sri Lankans spelled out ways in which stupas and bodhi trees were systematically established “at every league” throughout the island. had ordered the eighty-four thousand portions of relics to be sent throughout his empire to wherever there was a population center of a koèi of people. this one concerning the “end” of relics.72 The nature of his “distribution ideology” is perhaps most tellingly revealed in an incident recounted in the Aóokav \ adan \ a. . the founder of a Mon kingdom in Myanmar took thirty-three tooth relics of the Buddha and had them enshrined in his capital and in the thirty-two provinces of his kingdom. Without getting into debates on the subject. Aóoka realized that if he were to agree to this demand. Other examples of this sort could be cited: the emperor Wendi. \ however. the relationship with the center is rather different than that in the case of Christian relics and the Vatican. there occurs the phenomenon of bodily resurrection. it would be impossible for him to distribute the relics “far and wide. the Taksa ≥ óilans declared that their population numbered thirty-six koèis and that therefore they merited thirty-six shares of relics.73 The principle of distribution here thus seems to be one of division and equal dissemination. for one can often learn about the nature of things or persons by seeing what is to happen to them in the final days of the eschaton. Aóoka. STRONG perhaps his most famous legendary act—his construction of eighty-four thousand stupas throughout his empire.” The relics need to be distributed in a balanced pattern throughout the kingdom. A. and it might well be termed “mandalaic. any definitive “conclusion” at this point would be rather suspect. In Christianity.” CONCLUSIONS: ESCHATOLOGIES Given the tentative and somewhat idiosyncratic nature of the six hypotheses that have been set forth so far. a difference that perhaps can be expressed as follows: Hypothesis 6: Christian relics : centralized distribution on demand :: Buddhist relics : “mandalization. at the end of time. Perhaps it would be better. to end with yet another set of stories. likewise. The Taksa ≥ óilans quickly withdrew their demand for the extra shares. as we have seen. we are told.42 JOHN S. and Aóoka remanded his order. similarly distributed equal shares of relics to pagodas throughout China. as is well known. When it came time to send relics to the kingdom of Taksa ≥ óila.75 In all of these cases. therefore.
flowering plant. rebuilt temple. and the body of the Buddha will be seen no more. at Sr : av \ astê. they will perform once again the “twin miracle” like the one the Buddha performed during his lifetime.76 Its importance in terms of relics—the bones of the saints—lies in its showing what Christian relics finally are in the long run: bodies. fire. And as I looked. foetus.77 B. all the relics of the Buddha—including those in the nag \ a world and those in the realms of the gods—will come together at Bodhgaya. ivory. waterskin. and in midair. None. from now on. egg. 292 ff. Christian relics : eternal bodies :: Buddhist relics : impermanent bodies. mended pot. the description of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37: “there was a rattling. mosaic. crystal. the Dasabala [Buddha] will be parinirvanized. and the compara- . and the bones came together. According to this belief. too. overflow of the soul..” Though it is unlikely that this passage was originally intended as a description of events in the final days (it was rather a metaphor for the restoration of the Jewish state). complete with its thirty-two major and eighty minor marks. sphere. jewel. phoenix. Final Hypothesis: In the end. the resurrection body was variously seen as “angel. reforged statue. and flesh had come upon them. Thus far. Pauline seed. But then. there were sinews on them. As Caroline Bynum points out. But the metaphors used to describe these bodies and the manner in which they become resurrected were mind boggling in their variety. 1892).” and so on. we would seem to have a nice parallel to Ezekiel. city. the text specifies. Two Happy Years in Ceylon (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. it rapidly came to be linked to the theme of bodily resurrection and became in the popular mind an important eschatological image. will be lost en route. they will reassemble and take on the form of the Buddha’s body. Gordon Cumming. at least for the Buddha’s body: the so-called parinirvana of the relics. there will be darkness.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 43 I will mention only one such scenario. will completely consume all of the relics. emanating from the relic body (dhat \ usarêra) itself. At Bodhgaya. the gods will lament: “Today.” And then a great fire. glowworm. prior to the advent of Maitreya. not even those that are but the size of a mustard seed. NOTES 1. the sketch in C. there is an eschaton. for example. ship. mercury.F. bone to its bone. and skin had covered them. garment. That is the disappearance of the relics.78 The contrast with the Christian scenario of resurrection and bodily reconstitution could hardly be more clear. tent. bride. See. In Buddhism. reassembled bones.
Gregory Schopen. 180–84. O. Buddhism under Mao (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Le Reliquie della Passione del Signore (Rome: Basilica S. 4.” China Quarterly 54 (1973): 325. “Burial ‘Ad Sanctos’ and the Physical Presence of the Buddha in Early Indian Buddhism. 78 (1952): 951–55. 6. 1931). It has been argued that this decree was only meant to be against the sale of relics and not their “naked exposition.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 70 (1950): 161–64. 1988). See Nicole Hermann-Mascard. 214. 1987). “Relics. not with those of other traditions (Islam. STRONG tive set of drawings in J.” Encyclopedia of Religion. See John Strong and Sarah Strong. 2. John Wilkinson. Sharf. in this chapter.).” but see Hubert Silvestre. 49. For a more general survey. Leonardo Olschki. . be dealing only with Christian and Buddhist relics. 8. Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades (Warminster: Aris and Phillips. 1975). Les reliques des saints: Formation coutumière d’un droit (Paris: Editions Klinksieck. ed.).” Representations 66 (1999): 79. 1972). and P.d. E. Other Peoples’ Myths (New York: Macmillan. n. 2. 12. “Commerce et vol de reliques au Moyen age. Wendy Doniger [O’Flaherty]. See D. “The Crib of Christ and the Bowl of Buddha. 3. Donald K. 301. See also Jean Barthes. see The Buddha’s Tooth Relic Pagoda (Beijing: Buddhist Association of China. Balduino Bedini. Church Law on Sacred Relics (Washington: The Catholic University of America. See Eugene A. The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem (Rome: Basilica S. 9. Ennin’s Diary (New York: Ronald Press. see John Strong and Sarah Strong.” Japanese Religions 20 (1995): 1–33. 14. 10. 13. personal communication. “A Tooth Relic of the Buddha in Japan: An Essay on the Sennyu\-ji Tradition and a Translation of Zeami’s No\ Play ‘Shari’. 5. 12:275–82. On the Beijing tooth relic. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan. Croce.” Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 11 (1875): 141. 1966).” France-Asie 8. Croce. Dooley. 1987). On this visit in 1972. 1955). I will. Heinrich Drenkelfort.44 JOHN S. Reischauer. no. etc. Robert H. and Holmes Welch. “On the Allure of Buddhist Relics. 11.” Religion 17 (1987): 193–225. Gerson Da Cunha. 102–04. 7. see John Strong. “Memoir on the History of the Toothrelic of Ceylon. “Les reliques sacrées à Phnom-Penh (5–11 octobre 1952). “A Post-Cultural Revolution Look at Buddhism. 1977). Swearer.” Revue Belge de philologie et d’histoire 30 (1952): 726.
see other chapters in this volume (e. “Weishou on Buddhism. 35. 2092. 1985). Wang Yi-t’ung. 1974). Paul Mus. See James Ware. 1977].. Donald K. 51:859a).. . and Buddhist Monks (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 22. Mu\lamadhyamakaka\rika\h≥ [Madras: Adyar Library. see John Strong. 1992). M. 154. “The Power of the Buddha’s Absence: On the Foundations of Maha\ya\na Buddhist Ritual. 19. 28–32. ed. On this see James Bentley. 1886). 1896). Des reliques et de leur bon usage (Paris: Balland. 1984). Bentley. and Erik Zürcher. Na\ga\rjuna. 24.” Artibus Asiae 12 (1949–50): 282. Jerusalem. Wilkinson. 27 ff. 125 ff. The Legend and Cult of Upagupta (Princeton: Princeton University Press. and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lanka Therava\da Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 96 ff. Part 1.” T’oung pao 30 (1933): 156. 258 ff. For different versions of the tale. Swearer. Stephan Beyer. Gregory Schopen. “La mythologie primitive et la pensée de l’Inde. James Legge. 1997). 25. 35. Manorathapu\ranê ≥ : Buddhaghosa’s Commentary on the Anæguttara Nika\ya. 21. and Hermann-Mascard. Walleser and H. A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1959). “On the Buddha and His Bones: The Conception of a Relic in the Inscriptions of Na\ga\rjunikon≥d≥a. MA: Harvard University Press. 224–25. See also the passages from the Pa\li canon collected under the title “Questions Which Tend Not to Edification” in Henry Clarke Warren. 27. see Numbers 19:11–16 and Leviticus 21:1–4.g. 1997). and Kevin Trainor. The Buddhist Conquest of China (Leiden: E. Brill. 16. Stones. 2085. 17. 26. de Jong. Restless Bones: The Story of Relics (London: Constable. 1:382–84 (Eng. W. Buddhism in Translations (Cambridge.” History of Religions 34 (1995): 263–64. Ritual. 117–28. The Buddhist Experience (Encino: Dickenson. Restless Bones. On the defiling nature of any contact with tombs or corpses. Relics. Patrice Boussel. 20. 1971). those by David Germano and Jacob Kinnard) and see also Malcolm David Eckel. Bones. 39). A full bibliography cannot be given here but. 51:1021c–22a). See also Alexander Soper. 40. 18. for a variety of positions on this issue.” Journal of Ritual Studies 4 (1990): 61–95. 244 (text in T.J. 39 (text in T.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 108 (1988): 530. 17–18. Gregory Schopen.” Bulletin de la Société Française de Philosophie 37 (1937): 91. 23. A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang by Yang Hsüan-chih (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1924). Kopf (London: Pa\li Text Society.. “Aspects of Light Symbolism in Gandha\ran Sculpture.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 45 15. “Hypostasizing the Buddha: Buddha Image Consecration in Northern Thailand. 214 (text in J.
31. 1995]. 33. Emile Briand. Sainte Radegonde (Poitiers: Editions des Cordeliers. Li Ronxi. 1993). Paul Mus. Geiger. On this theme. Histoire de Sainte Radegonde. et des sanctuaires et pèlerinages en son honneur (Paris and Poitiers: H. trans. Geiger. 241–42 (Eng. Wilkinson. A Biography of the Tripièaka Master of the Great Ci’en Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty (Berkeley. On this dynamic. 1:74. ed. 1:89–90. November 19. 190. 2053. 34.. reine de France. 203–04). 217). 1994. See The Maha\vam≥sa. 38–41. 38. Maha\vam≥sa. Maha\vam≥sa. 46–47). Oudin. Des reliques. 157. see Strong. 1995. Thomas Head. 133 (Eng. 28. 36. Wilhelm Geiger (London: Pali Text Society. introduction. 255 (Eng. Wilhelm Geiger.. 1977). On her reception of the true cross in Poitiers. Relics of the Buddha (forthcoming). 1995). 191. John Strong.. Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton: Princeton University Press. . Maha\vam≥sa. 30. 1898). and Raymond Van Dam. 49–50. 116). Some of the wording here is based on the biography of Radegund by her contemporary. Histoire de l’abbaye de Sainte-Croix de Poitiers (Poitiers: Société des Antiquaires de l’Ouest. The Maha\vam≥sa or the Great Chronicle of Ceylon. 30–41. 109–116. Boussel. Upagupta. See also Peter Brown.. Maha\vam≥sa. 1917). [London: Pali Text Society. Barabud≥ur. Aigrain. Radegonde. On the recent history of the relic and its present location outside of Poitiers. Barabud≥ur: Les origines du stu\pa et la transmigration. 56–57 (text in T.” see René Aigrain. see John Strong. L’Abbaye Sainte-Croix de Poitiers à la Cossonière (Ligugé: Imprimerie Aubin. trans.46 JOHN S. 40. 1986). see Roger Gazeau. I would like to thank Thomas Head for this and other comments on the draft of this paper originally presented to the American Academy of Religion Seminar on Buddhist Relics. and Edmond-René Labaude. 35. 32. trans. 37. Sister Baudovonia. Numata Center. 14–15. 28–29. 50:229c-30a). personal communication. 1908). which was the occasion of the composition by Fortunatus of the hymn “Vexilla Regis Prodeunt. 39. 1935). 1968). 41. The Experience of Buddhism [Belmont: Wadsworth. Jerusalem. Mus. 29. STRONG trans. 104–28. 1912]. “Relics and Social Status in the Age of Gregory of Tours” (University of Reading: The Stenton Lecture. essai d’archéologie religieuse comparée (Hanoi: Imprimerie d’Extrême-Orient.
1961). 335 ff. 45. Roland H. Bainton. Hugh of Lincoln (Oxford: Clarendon Press. Daniel Boucher. was especially important given the dearth of corporeal relics of Christ. 1989). 381–82. The Eucharist. Farmer. Jinhua Chen. J. 54. For a still useful discussion of it. trans. 162. See sources listed in Anatole Frolow. 1985). 150). 53. in no way sums up the reasons for the gradual growth in the West in reverence for (as opposed to simple ritual use of) the eucharistic elements. and Li. 1896]. The verse was instrumental in the conversion of S:a\riputra and Maha\maudgalya\yana. Much the same tradition is mentioned by Yijing (see Junjiro Takakusu. 34–35. on which. Des reliques. G. 52:213b). For a recent linguistically informed discussion of the Eucharist.” 47. 16:800c–801b). Monks and Monarchs.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 47 42. 266 (text in T. 1978). See Boussel. 48.” Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies / Indogaku bukkyo\ gaku kenkyu\ 32 (1984): 1117. A Record of Buddhistic Religion as Practiced in India and the Malay Archipelago [London: Clarendon Press. J. 2087.” Monumenta Nipponica 30 (1975): 87–93. See also Patrick Geary. Stanley J. “Dharma-óarêra. see Snoek. and J. 44. Snoek. 43. C. see Louis Marin. 51:920a). Decima L. however. Medieval Piety from Relics to the Eucharist (Leiden: E. Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1. Here I Stand (Nerw York: Mentor Books. special security measures had to be taken at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to prevent pilgrims come to venerate the true cross there from biting off pieces of it. 53. See Mitomo Ryo\jun. Tambiah. 50.” 1118. . Mette Hjort (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. “The Pratêtyasamutpa\daga\tha\ and Its Role in the Medieval Cult of the Relics. La relique de la vraie croix: Recherches sur le développement d’un culte (Paris: Institut d’Etudes Byzantines. of course. 46. Brill. Furta Sacra. Food for Thought. 522 ff. This. Magna Vita Sancti Hugonis—The Life of St. See Geary. 51. 699. 1995). For example. See Brian Hickman. See also Mitomo.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 14 (1991): 8–10 (text in T. “Le vol. 49. 57–66. Le Lotus de la Bonne Loi (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale. 1984). “A Note on the Hyakumanto\ Dha\ranê. 181 (text in T. Medieval Piety. 2103. 52. Great Tang Record. 1950). Douie and David H. see Eugène Burnouf. and Silvestre. “Busshari and Fukuzo\: Buddhist Relics and Hidden Repositories of Ho\ryu\-ji. Edward Kidder. ch.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 19 (1992): 222. 1852). The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. according to Saint Silvia (fourth century). Kinship and Kingship: Tanqian in Sui Buddhism and Politics (Kyoto: Scuola di Studi sull’Asia Orientale). “An Aspect of Dharma-óarêra. 2:170.
ed. 27.” 283. they remained unsmashed. 66. 1981). Brian Ruppert. David Wright (Oxford: Oxford University Press. See also Martin. see Dan Martin. 1985). These were tested to insure their authenticity: struck with a hammer. 1931). see Bernard Faure. Geary.. Church Law. Chortens. 61. 60. Sévérac. Tsultrim Allione. 164 ff. William Stede (London: Pali Text Society. for discussion. Notice historique sur la Vraie Croix de Baugé (Angers: Briand et Hervé. Barrau. Relics.12. 137–43. 58. 329–32. “When Is a Theft Not a Theft? Relic Theft and the Cult of the Buddha’s Relics in Sri Lanka. Tertons and the Signs of Saintly Death in Tibet. trans. Relics and Shrines (London: George Allen and Unwin. n. see Thomas Head. For a discussion of sheli in East Asia. For examples. see Chen.p. 181. 70. . for Southeast Asia. 1993. 62. John K. Exposé historique de l’honneur et du culte qu’on rend au bois de la Vraie Croix dans l’église paroissiale de Notre Dame de la Chapelle à Bruxelles (Brussels: Antoine d’Ours. 189–90. For examples of this genre. Peter Brown. Furta Sacra. and J. 1984). David Sox. 1861). 68. and Arthur Wright. 71–104. “The Formation of Sui Ideology. for Tibet.” in Chinese Thought and Institutions. The Cult of the Saints (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ed. Guilhem-du-Désert (Lodève: n. 67. 1991). see Trainor. 1957). Monks and Monarchs. For a discussion of the legitimizing role of vam≥sas. On Wendi’s relic campaigns. “Pearls from Bones. Allione. 1985). Fairbank (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Monks and Monarchs. “Pearls from Bones: Relics. see Snoek. Chen. 203. ch. Frolow. Buddhaghosa’s Commentary on the Dêgha Nika\ya. 109. Jewel in the Ashes: Buddha Relics and Power in Early Medieval Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. B. Allione. 2. see Anonymous. 69. G. Monks and Monarchs. all dealing with relics of the true cross. 409. 203. The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 59. see Dooley. Notice sur la Vraie Croix de St. Women. Saints of the Forest. 64. Vraie croix. 57. Geoffrey Chaucer. Women. Chen. 2000). Women of Wisdom (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.” Numen 41 (1994): 273–324. Monks and Monarchs. 136. The Sumangala-Vila\sinê.” paper delivered to Davis Seminar. “Bodies of Truth: The Genesis and Abandonment of the Ritual Proof of Relics by Fire. 65. 2:603–04.” Numen 39 (1992): 15. see Tambiah. for the ritual.48 JOHN S. 51. STRONG 55. 63. The Canterbury Tales. Princeton University. 56. Medieval Piety. 203–04. 1790). Chen. Kevin Trainor. 1874). 7.
ed. “Bodhi Literature in Sri Lanka. ed. Dooley. ed. then proceed to the Ra\ja\yatana cetiya in Na\gadêpa.BUDDHIST RELICS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE 71. perhaps. Relics.. 484–85). 1994). Kiriwaththuduwe Pragnasara. 74. 75. See also Strong. S. “Resurrection. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan. 54). The Aóoka\vada\na. 1:90. trans. 180–81. Strong. Church Law. 110 ff.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 26 (1963): 572–91. J. H. Shorto. 76. 200–1336 [New York: Columbia University Press 1995]. Sujitkumar Mukhopadhyaya (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. Warren. In some versions of the story. See John S. See Sumangala-Vila\sinê. ed. “The 32 Myos in the Medieval Mon Kingdom.” Maha Bodhi Tree in Anuradhapura. The Legend of King Aóoka (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1983).” Encyclopedia of Religion. H. was the Jewish Talmudic tradition that featured bones rolling through underground tunnels so that they could be “reassembled in Jerusalem at the sound of the last trumpet” (see Caroline Bynum. Minayeff in Journal of the Pali Text Society 2 (1886): 36 (Eng. L. See Helmer Ringgren. The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity. 78. 54 (Eng. Even more graphic. Manorathapu\ranê ≥ . 49 72. 77. trans. ch. 8. Legend. 351–52.. . Nissanka (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House. before going all together to Bodhgaya to join relics from other parts of the world. 1987). 72–74. Bynum. Buddhism. 73. Much the same scenario may be found in the Ana\gatavam≥sa. Resurrection of the Body. 220). 3:899. 1963). 12:346. Strong. S. the relics in Sri Lanka stop first at the Maha\thu\pa in Anuradhapura.
.Page 50 blank.
creative force. objects of emulation or objects of negation. historical or cosmic. iconographic or doctrinal. massive cosmological Buddhas who create and host entire galaxies. there has remained a consistent humanist association stemming from the human origins of Buddhas. celibate or sexual. and the rejection of a creator deity who sits outside of interdependence. These figures proliferated in the shimmering pure lands. or institutions. there is a persistent and even defining concern with the figure of the Buddha(s). This process has been marked as much by transformation and diversity as by continuity and unity.CHAPTER THREE LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET David Germano INTRODUCTION BUDDHISM IS THE ONE INDIGENOUS RELIGION IN ASIA WITH A LONG AND continuous record of successful migration. and intimate interior Buddhas pervading the body’s interior. an impressive two and half millennia history from its northern Indian origins to the furthest reaches of Asia in every direction. And yet within this diversity and divinity. practices. Yet within this diversity. specific Buddha is present in this 51 . even when this rejection sits side by side with rhetoric that celebrates “Buddha” or “bodhicitta” in terms that seem all but indistinguishable from such a divine. With this humanism. while the simple historicity of a north Indian founder of a religion underwent similar transformations to the point of including primordial figures whose defining identity was their lack of historicity and temporal development. ritual or contemplative. and alternative cosmologies of later forms of Buddhism. doctrines. of how a discrete. there comes an equally persistent problem of presence and absence. whether we look to its literatures. whether serene or horrific. dense mandalas.
which are unified in their divine agency and derivation. Relics have been one of the most omnipresent and sought after phenomena of Buddhist material culture. including the attribution of such classic characteristics of ownership of property. and out of this matrix a vast array of material forms both animate and nonanimate are emanated. We might thus speak of relics and emanations. believed to have persisted orally in the hearts and minds of disciples before being committed to written. odd crystalline derivates of the cremated body. these distinctions are far from clear. rather than a mere remainder from. and China. ritual items. social. we also find a concern for what could only be termed “relics”—bits and pieces of the Buddha.52 DAVID GERMANO ordinary world of samsara when his/her self-transfiguration by definition involves extrication from that world. this persistent agency of the Buddhas in material form has been further formalized in the theology of the “three Bodies” of a Buddha: a Buddha’s innermost recesses become coterminous. and so forth. Indeed it has been argued that stupas. however. or incarnate a Buddha’s presence should be considered relics. Relics and statues of the Buddha are in many ways considered as the living Buddha. with reality (dharmata\). literary. In practice. They can also be verbal. or material items associated with a Buddha—clothing. divine figures. represent. or Buddha-like historical figures. and to yet another sit- . such relics are analyzed across a variety of situational contexts and functions—intellectual. Thailand. often presented in recent scholarship as a way to mediate the Buddha’s historical absence following death. and a wide spectrum of other items believed to derive from. images. Relics can be pieces of the material body—a tooth. as encapsulated in the Buddhist scriptures. Tibet.1 “Relics” also extend from the historical Buddha to other Buddhas. Japan. or image of. a bone. a distant past. the ability to be murdered. dried up flesh. and historical personages in a given tradition’s lineages. but different in being perceived as persistent forces that are a legacy of the past in contrast to newly emergent manifestations that are a direct outflow of the present. or other possessions. in some sense. This quality of personhood or agency has been demonstrated through examination of concrete social practices surrounding relics and statues. In Mahayana traditions. that is. ritual. It is thus not surprising that wherever we find Buddhism. which have retained a material presence in the world even when the Buddha has departed or is only accessible in brief glimpses of visionary experience or ritual evocation. as radically active agents. emulate. In the present volume. namely. and political—and across an equally diverse array of cultural contexts—India. canonical form. In this chapter I will turn to yet another cultural context.
namely. and (5) contemplative yogas based on death. we find a concern with relics blossoming in conjunction with an elaborate tantric synthesis revolving around death. It emerged in Tibet by at least the ninth century. These early texts are characterized by a lack of reference to funerary Buddhism. whether ritual and . (2) funerary rituals. DISEMBODIED RELICS IN THE EARLY GREAT PERFECTION We will begin with The All-Creating King.2 In this process of transformation. womb. thereby showing that there is not always a clear bifurcation between high intellectual traditions and a detailed interest in the material phenomenon of relics. It appears. that in fact its many variant traditions and corresponding bodies of literature emerged at different periods over many centuries as original Tibetan developments. We thus will see that the traditional connection of Buddha-nature with birth. The earliest public Great Perfection traditions in the ninth century are marked by the absence of presentations of detailed ritual and contemplative technique and by the absence of “funerary” Buddhism. vision. which abstracts from discrete particulars. 1308–1363). I will show how relics are closely tied with Buddha-nature theory inscribed within an elaborate and architectonic philosophical synthesis. (3) the signs of dying and death (particularly relics). Then there is a gradual incorporation of diverse ritual and contemplative techniques and funerary elements culminating in the eleventh-century rise of the Seminal Heart (snying thig). Sanskrit antara\bhava). (4) “intermediate process” theory (bar do. and the body in relationship to Buddhas. death. and genesis is here balanced by associations with cemeteries. the chief tantra of the early strata of the Great Perfection. Thus I will be concerned with the philosophy of the production of relics rather than practical issues of their subsequent use.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 53 uational context. however. The Tibetan tantric tradition known as the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen) systematically relates the bodily relics of a saint to the constellation of concepts and practices that assert a bodily presence of Buddha-nature within all living beings. a philosophical interpretation of relics in relationship to Buddha-nature. which was systematized in the fourteenth century by Longchenpa (klong chen pa. and relics. with tombs as much as with wombs. though claiming almost entirely to be Indian revelations concealed in Tibet during the eight and ninth centuries. “Funerary” Buddhism signifies the late Indian Buddhist tantric obsession with death on multiple fronts: (1) the focus on charnel grounds and their corpses. and a general tendency toward aestheticization.
Heroic Being.3 “Precious relic spheres” (ring bsrel) are generally etymologized as “held/proliferating (bsrel) for a long time (ring). ka\ya) of which Victorious Ones? “Bones” refers to the bones of which Buddhas? How should “precious (relic) spheres” be understood? The All-Creating King’s response: Listen. the All-Creating King! Even if the Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres are thus. Then the Adamantine Heroic Being made this inquiry: O original ancestor of all the Buddhas of the three times. “Bones” signifies my mind in the Victors of the three times.” The Adamantine Heroic Being made a further inquiry: O teacher of teachers. spoke about holding on to his own Bodily bones (sku gdung): O Great Heroic Being. the enlightening mind. it is the receptacle of offering to all the Buddhas of the three times.” based upon the notion . “Bodily” refers to the Bodies (sku. Having attained indivisibility with the virtues of that [act]. while The All-Creating King devotes its seventeenth chapter to a discussion of relics. it is an abstract and metaphorical account: Then the All-Creating King. you will be equal to me. how do you offer to the Buddhas of the three times therein? What are the virtues to be had in offering? The All-Creating King’s response: Listen. O Great Heroic Being! “Bodily” is the Spiritual Bodies of my sons.54 DAVID GERMANO contemplative processes or any other type of concrete detail. the original ancestor of the Victorious Ones. continually and without temporal [break]. you will become as potent as the King who creates all phenomena. teacher of teachers. If you hold on to this. O Great Heroic Being! You worship these Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres of mine by continually seeing the Buddhas of the three times as your own mind. This should be understood as the referent of “Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres. the All-Creating King! As to continually holding on to the Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres. Thus. grasp this! If you continually hold on to these Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres (ring bsrel). the All-Creating. the threefold Victors.
LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET
that unusual crystalline spheres collected out of cremation and other contexts are supposed to grow in number over time if kept in careful stewardship. The passage above plays off this etymology to reinterpret the stock phrase “Bodily bones and precious relic spheres”—usually referring to material residue of various types from the remains of a Buddha or saint—as “perpetually embodying the realization of the body and mind of the Buddhas.” The content and style of this passage is typical of the text, with its twin rhetorical strategies in interpreting normative Buddhist categories of theory and praxis: deconstructing them via a resolute denial of their cogency and reinterpreting them allegorically as applying to facets of the primordial enlightened mind (byang chub sems, Sanskrit bodhicitta). Bodhicitta is explicitly identified as the personified speaker of this tantra, as well as creator of the cosmos. The passage translated above is an example of the allegorical strategy, though the overall effect is still to suggest a negation or at least devaluation of the conventional understanding of theories and practices relating to relics.4 There hardly seems any flesh to these bones, either our own or those of the Buddhas. This is in line with the text’s general tendency to devalue the phenomenal characteristics of discrete items constituting one’s ordinary experience in preference for an emphasis on the in-visible reality body of the Buddha (chos sku, Sanskrit dharmaka\ya), also referred to as the “enlightening mind,” “the enlightened nucleus of Buddhas” (de bzhin gshegs pa’i snying po, Sanskrit tatha\gatagarbha), “ground” (gzhi), and the “All-Creating King.” At the core of this notion is reality’s (chos nyid, Sanskrit dharmata\) absence, latency (nang gsal), and indeterminacy, the total converse of our ordinary cyclic existence (sam≥sa\ra) with its manifest structures (phyir gsal) of discrete things and karmic laws of cause and effect forming a prison. While normally reality’s virtual character entails its retreat from the field of our awareness, the tantra asserts its primacy as the source, ongoing reality, and ultimate destination (‘byung gnas ‘gro) of ordinary modes of existence. The generalized phenomenological correlate to this emphasis on reality in this virtual sense is a turning from focal modes of attention (dmigs pa) on discrete manipulatable items (chos, Sanskrit dharma) to diffusive modalities (dmigs med) expressed as a “letting-go” (cog bzhag), which opens out to the all-embracing field (dbyings, Sanskrit dha\tu) constituting such discrete items. In traditional Great Perfection terms, this is characterized as the difference between karma (las) and gnosis (ye shes, Sanskrit jña\na), the world of discrete forms in rigid hierarchies in contrast to emptiness interpreted positively as a fluid web of paradoxical
presences (med bzhin snang ba).5 This simple dyad can be explored perceptually in terms of meditative processes, hermeneutically in terms of the different types of textuality, institutionally in terms of a contrast between diffuse village-based lay movements and more formal monastic organizations, and indeed in terms of the interpretation of any classic Buddhist phenomena. The text here utilizes this opposition to undercut relics as discrete physical items from which authority almost physically emanates, whether physical remnants of a Buddha or saint; miraculous excrescence from such remnants; or their possessions, texts, or other traditional categories of sacred relics suitable for worship and installation within a stupa. Such rhetorical tactics could have undercut scholastic ventures as well as popular practices, but we know too little about the significance of relic worship or stupas during this period or indeed any socioreligious contexts in the tenth century to determine what ideological significance such rejection might have had. For instance, it is not clear that authors of these texts shared the elitist approach and fundamental distrust of popular religiosity attributed by Faure to some elements of Chan, since such rhetorical strategies need not be automatically interpreted literally to signify a disregard for the object of denial.6 But at least textually or philosophically, the overwhelming stress is on absence as well as rhetorical disembodiedness in the body of the text; the “relics” of the Buddha are none other than one’s own mind, and their possession seems a bit intangible, to say the least. It is a discourse of the bare bones, and perhaps we can characterize the coming transformation of relics in the tradition as a discovery of the radical agency of these bones: they have something to say and a fully embodied presence with which to speak.
THE BLAZING UP OF RELICS IN THE SEMINAL HEART
The early foundational literature of the Seminal Heart is a collection of seventeen tantras revealed in Tibet gradually from the eleventh to the twelfth centuries, which were then systematically interpreted in the fourteenth century by the tradition’s great systematizer, Longchenpa in The Treasury of Words and Meanings and The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.7 The Seventeen Tantras range from lengthy texts surveying diverse issues to succinct texts discussing single topics.8 For instance, The Tantra of the Sun and Moon’s Intimate Union 9 is devoted to the subject of intermediate processes (bar do) and forms the earliest known literature outlining the characteristic doctrines and practices later shaped by Karmalingpa
LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET
(kar ma gling pa, 1327–1387) into The Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate Process.10 The Blazing Relics Tantra is instead devoted to relics and issues surrounding the moment of death from the perspective of the survivors.11 In contrast to The All-Creating King, this tantra discusses at length the types of relics and other odd signs emerging in the death of a saint.12 These are each correlated with the varying levels and nature of realization of the person in question, indicating that this detailed account of relics in part concerns the generation of belief, a legitimization of the deceased and the lineage s/he incarnated. But the manifestation of such marks is also explicitly connected to the theory of Buddha(s) located physically within human interiority and thus embedded within the broader architecture of the Seminal Heart. The Blazing Relics Tantra presents relics as a subset of a discussion of “signs” (rtags) marking enlightenment—“living” signs manifest in a visionary’s body, speech, and mind by force of contemplation, while relics mark enlightenment within death. Its three chapters correspond to signs emerging in a visionary’s body, speech, and mind (1) in the present due to contemplation in past lives, (2) in the present as immediate feedback on success in present contemplative endeavors, and (3) after death indicating attainments in the immediate postmortem future. The tantra is thus organized around signs relating to contemplative practice in the past, present, and future. Much of the text is focused on relatively straightforward accounts of the phenomenology of different contemplative practices along with descriptions of the various capacities thereby attained. Despite this, the text’s overall title of “blazing relics/bones” (sku gdung) points to relics as its overarching organizational rubric, in which capacity it signifies generally the bodily markers or transfigurations that authentic contemplation generates—literally, “the body’s bones blaze.” Its centrality no doubt derives from the importance of relics in Tibetan Buddhist practices concerning death and postmortem interpretation of sanctity but also from the tradition’s philosophical interpretation of the body and its indwelling gnostic agency described in terms reserved for a Buddha(s). Chapter 1 unfolds in response to a question from the audience asking what the signs are like for an enlightened individual. The Teacher responds by talking about the signs of enlightened Body, Speech, and Mind manifesting in someone via previous training. For example, training on the Buddha’s Body results in physical marks, which tend to be of three types: wrinkles, protrusions of skin, and light colorations in shapes resembling auspicious items such as ritual implements or sacred syllables appearing. Chapter 2 deals mainly with this life and signs that correspond
to success in various Great Perfection practices. In contrast to Longchenpa’s The Treasury of Words and Meanings, the signs tend to be more external indicators (such as flying through air, walking on water, or remembering teachings) rather than phenomenological indicators linked to procedures of contemplative practices. Chapter 3 unfolds in response to a D≥a\kinê asking what type of signs emerge when a yogi is unable to successfully bring contemplation to its fulfillment and dies. Buddha Vajra Holder’s (rdo rje ‘chang) response surveys five topics: Body images, bones, lights, sounds, and earthquakes. He correlates material events at death such as odd material objects appearing at cremation, strange phenomena observed in the surrounding environment, and so on to the timing of liberation for the deceased visionary—whether at death, four days later in the postdeath intermediate process, or otherwise. Longchenpa’s The Treasury of Words and Meanings has eleven chapters corresponding to the essential rubrics of the tradition and only includes topics he understands as crucial within a practice-oriented digest (lag len).13 The fact that the ninth topic corresponds to the discussion of relics in The Blazing Relics Tantra, citations of which pervade it, thus signifies that Longchenpa views relics as a vital topic within the overall system.14 Just like the tantra, it concerns the psychophysical and visionary signs manifesting in the practitioner’s body, speech, mind, and external environment as realization deepens in his/her contemplative path. Such analyses are presented as an aid for the practitioner to empirically observe his/her own progress, keeping alert for stagnation, deviation, and other pitfalls, as well as aiding teachers in evaluation and sequential instruction of disciples. The variety and remarkable nature of many of the signs are also intended to serve as a curb against intellectual hubris for those who may mistake intellectual comprehension with experiential realization, as the former will not issue forth in the extraordinary psychic powers and other measures marking the latter. Three sections correlated to the past, present, and future again constitute the bulk of the chapter: (1) the signs marking proper progress in the Great Perfection’s contemplations,15 (2) the signs naturally occurring in one’s current body, speech, and mind indicating successful engagement in these practices during previous lifetimes,16 and (3) the external environmental signs and internal signs evident in a person’s death and cremation.17 The first section is a complement to the contemplative practices discussed in the preceding chapter, with signs ranging over the feeling of being able to fly, an astonishingly youthful complexion, internal sensations, and psychic capacities. The discussion focuses on the specific trans-
and mind indicating successful engagement in these practices during previous lifetimes. The practice of direct transcendence itself involves the use of postures. gazes. strikingly similar to the postmortem events discussed elsewhere in the text. While the manifestation of such contemplation within the practitioner’s speech and mind is more straightforward (eloquence. speech. Or wrinkles going upwards like three tips [of a vajra. That yogi who trains on this Will in two lifetimes attain The time of utter assurance In being inseparable from the Buddha’s Body.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 59 formations occurring in the different elements of the visions in direct transcendence contemplation (thod rgal). The Blazing Relics Tantra describes these living bodily relics as follows: (i) A conch spiraling to the right. (ii) The fortunate individual Who previously spiritually trained On the Speech of all the Buddhas. Without allowing obstructions to gain sway. and breathing exercises to stimulate a spontaneous flow of visions that gradually shape into visions of Buddhas. The second section describes the diverse signs naturally occurring in one’s current body. trident and so on]. It is of note that much of the imagery involves the spontaneous unfolding of visual images of Buddhas and lights from within the body.). Or. etc. These range from a natural capacity for concentration to birthmarks which are remarkably similar to classic auspicious symbols. the signs manifesting within a practitioner’s body are of particular interest. likewise the letter Om≥ Will emerge in image or naturally protrude On the expanse of the forehead Of whoever tunes into the Blissful Ones. Thus you should value highly in this very life Diligence in meditative cultivation. Whoever has such signs emerge Previously spiritually trained on the Buddha’s Body. Has images or protruding shapes On the right and left side of the throat: . clairvoyance.
The individual who has these marks Has previously spiritually trained On the Speech of all the Buddhas. The shape of precious jewels. Will find their body marked by the following signs: At the location of the heart Is an upright trident and vajra. Without obstructions in three lives There can be no doubt that s/he will be expansively awakened Within the man≥d≥ala of the Buddha’s Mind. Speech. When diligent in meditative cultivation. Or likewise a four spoked wheel.60 DAVID GERMANO An eight petaled lotus. (iii) Whoever has previously become experientially familiar With the Mind of the Buddhas. and Mind are present naturally within all living beings as the all-pervading primordial potencies or self-emergent dynamic qualities of the ground. Or marked by the letter Ah. And thus in two lifetimes will come to attain the definitive fruit As s/he becomes one with Enlightened Speech. Flesh glowing in the form of a trident. and thus by previous spiritual refinement and training they become manifest in the present. Or likewise the tip of a silk prayer flag curling upwards. Also with this you should value the absence of obstructions— When you meditatively cultivate the Enlightened Speech without any obstructions It is certain beyond a shadow of a doubt it will be attained. Iron hook or sword. They also indicate imminent realization—bodily signs indicate that by further training on the . The person for whom these emerge Is a fortunate one who has experientially familiarized himself With the Mind of the Buddhas.20 The Enlightened Body.18 Longchenpa explains19 the rationale for these signs’ manifestation with respect to the primordial ground of being and nonbeing. Or the mark of the letter Hu\m≥. Conch spiraling to the right.
e. The images of Spiritual Bodies. the interpretative detail. verbal signs indicate that adamantine Speech can be accomplished within two births.22 Longchenpa concludes the chapter with an analysis of what we would consider “relics” proper: the various external environmental signs (such as weather. his/her possible enlightenment within death or in one of the phases of postdeath experience). death/nirvana]. and Mind). as we shall see below. the god Brahma’s level. is seamlessly interwoven with the Seminal Heart’s distinctive ideology of a radically active Buddha-nature.. bones. or earthquakes. or strange appearances) and internal signs (such as relics or marks on bones) evident in a given person’s death and cremation.e. lights. Earlier in the chapter. and (3) the measures and signs of gaining respite in a pure land following death: . and as a demi-god respectively (corresponding to the signs of Body. and Likewise lights.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 61 Enlightened Body one will attain the adamantine Body in two lifetimes. earthquakes. sounds. However. The signs of saintly death are described as “the signs of freedom for those with the right karmic fortune” or “the signs of a practitioner gaining the optimal measure of freedom”: When one passes beyond misery [i. The manifestation of these signs is clearly understood as the coming to the fore of the latent Buddhas based in the body rather than something fashioned anew by dint of diligent yogic practice. Speech. and mental signs indicate enlightenment within three lifetimes.. Otherwise the positive karma that led to those signs will become mixed with current negative karma and result in subsequent birth in the form realms. small spheres emerging from the cremated remains. The Treasury of Words and Meanings23 cites The Blazing Relics Tantra in its division of a quintet of signs marking saintly death: images on bones. These signs are interpreted as indicating an advanced visionary’s postmortem spiritual realization (i. he also stresses that the signs are not ultimate indicators and that everything depends on one’s current actions21—hence the signs should motivate further practice. Longchenpa25 cites The Tantra of the Adamantine Hero’s Heart-Mirror’s threefold classification of the signs of saintly death: (1) ascertaining the measures and signs of freedom in this very life for those of supreme diligence in practice.24 While the components of this fivefold classification in general are common aspects of Buddhist signs of saintly death. And earthquakes are present. sounds. (2) the measures and signs of freedom in the postdeath intermediate process.
you don’t cling to them with reifications. with light in vertical pillars or bands. cognition is radiantly clear without any depressed quality. If you stay alone your experience is joyous. you feel as if you could fly through the sky.62 DAVID GERMANO Hey friends. and the color green indicates the . if it emerges like a roaring sound then in fourteen days s/he is perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened. the color red indicates the pure realm of Limitless Illumination (Amita\bha). and though emotional distortions may arise. the color yellow indicates the pure realm of the Precious Matrix (Ratnasambhava). sounds. the color white indicates being perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened in the pure realm of the Adamantine Hero (Vajrasattva). bones. and the perfect manifest expansive awakening. As indicatory omens of a person passing beyond misery in transcendence. The light appearing as if a house indicates that in five days stability is attained. while for the person of the perfect manifest expansive awakening. lights. these occur. Sanskrit nirva\n≥a) is twofold: the perfect ultra-pure expansive awakening. The perfect ultra-pure expansive awakening is the expansive awakening of Buddhahood devoid of any remainder of the psycho-physical components. earthquakes and so forth emerge. you are unattached to body and life. Sound is also of two types: if it emerges in a humming fashion. As for bones. Transcending misery (mya ngan las ‘das pa. no emotional distortions whatsoever are able to rise up. they are fivefold: the color blue indicates being perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened in the pure realm of the Illuminating One (Vairocana). then in seven days s/he is perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened. you don’t long for companionship with people. you are comfortable in company. considerations of food and drink don’t come about by virtue of the potency of your contemplation. the light appearing as if a staircase indicates that in seven days s/he is perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened. no attachment develops to attractive forms and there is no aversion to unattractive forms. These are the indicatory omens of completely transcending misery. and is naturally at ease. when these appearances cease there is a joyous mood. teach the precepts thus to those individuals who abide within this teaching. your mind doesn’t get wrapped up within any appearances whatsoever. and when in the company of people you will act in accordance with others’ mental states. and the person is perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened. Light is of two types: appearance in the manner of a luminous home [circular in appearance]. and appearance in the manner of a ladder. your body is as light as cotton fluff.
sounds. from the highest rinpoche to the lowliest monk.26 63 In conversations with contemporary figures from the Great Perfection tradition. final enlightenment will be delayed by one more birth. one such instance I have heard of .LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET pure realm of the Efficacious One (Amoghasiddhi). a sacred item such as a stupa. footprints and handprints in stone. and the wrathful ones. These are all a matter of considerable interest in Tibetan religious culture from lay to monastic. with dark discolorations considered inauspicious. that individual will proceed to the site of the spontaneous fulfillment of these five Buddha-Bodies. Even “precious (relic) spheres” are in some cases said to come from living persons. or at least the “precious (relic) spheres” on upwards manifest. Monks within the relevant lineages often relay stories of the famous nineteenth-twentieth-century master Khenpo Ngakchung (mkhan po ngag chung. The Spiritual Body-images as well are twofold: the peaceful Bodies. or odd marks resembling sacred syllables or designs on a lama’s body in the forms of wrinkles or discolorations. while lighter marks are auspicious. I was told by a reliable source that the famous Khenpo Jikme Phuntshok (mkhan po ‘jigs med phun tshogs) on a visit in the early 1990s to Bylakuppe. If the peaceful Bodies manifest. bones. was very interested in getting Penor Rinpoche (pad nor rin po che) to write a mantra on a conch shell after hearing that such handwriting produced a protruding image on the shell. 1879–1941) having light colored designs of the symbolic hand implements of the five Buddhas on his body and wrinkles on his nose tip in the shape of an “A” syllable (which in some ritual contexts of introduction for special disciples would seem to emanate light rays). If the Wrathful Bodies manifest. If those signs don’t manifest. and is unable to emit Emanational Bodies. Spiritual Body-images. If a variety of colors occurs. and then it is impossible that they won’t manifest just like that. Penor Rinpoche is also said to have many such white marks on his body. In this way lights. For example. the deceased obtains stability the moment these appearances cease. the subject of relics has come up frequently as part of a general category of physical proof of mysticism or the materialization of psychic powers. These include the manifestation of “precious (relic) spheres” (ring bsrel) as tiny translucent spheres from cremated corpses. India. The patterns evident in skin from various shades of coloration are particularly a focus of attention in religious circles. or in rare cases a living person. s/he obtains stability right there and in twenty one days can emit Emanational Bodies. handwriting on conch shells. particularly white spheres around his waist.
Two types of Bodily Images show up on the bones.” Some visiting lamas were invited to view the relics subsequently but to their disappointment found that “mere bones” were the object of valorization. is hard to miss. the speaker. who kept it in a box. Conversely. very translucent spheres. but rather directed toward others. He gave one of his teeth to his attendant Kunzang lama (kun bzang bla ma).27 The fact that such legitimization is also indirectly. For whoever tunes into the deity yogas Visualizing the forms of these two types of Spiritual Bodies. which then themselves have continued to multiply. after which his Western disciples gathered together “relics. the former is located in the heart and the latter in the skull within the subtle body’s internal map): In the passage beyond misery of one of the select. The disparaging character of the remark was clear (see figure 3. that is. especially when the subject of discussion pertains to the person’s own root teacher or recent lineage masters. that is. white. Images of both forms will manifest at death.64 DAVID GERMANO again relates to Penor Rinpoche. I have encountered considerably more enthusiasm than skepticism on these issues. this first category of signs involves images of Buddhas protruding from the cremated bones of the saint so as to be visible to the naked eye. One conversation I remember in particular concerned a famous Tibetan teacher who died in the United States. Should both become evident in death. even if sincere respect is also manifest. This indicates s/he will thus come to be possessed of the assurance . yet clearly. Corresponding to the peaceful and wrathful Bodies. Just as direct transcendence contemplation involves images of Buddhas literally projecting from the visionary’s eyes as an exteriorization of internal Buddhas into experience. other lineages about which the speaker may have little invested. an authentication of the disciple. Later this produced small. By cremating what remains of the body (His/her contaminated material remainder). Such discussions usually tend to revolve around convincing the listener of the genuine sacredness of the person in question and are often framed by obviously genuine exhortations to the listener to be thus inspired to diligence in contemplation. disparaging remarks tend not to be about the phenomena in general. The Blazing Relics Tantra classifies them as twofold in accordance with the peaceful and wrathful Buddhas (in life.1).
65 FIGURE 3. Photograph by David Germano . illustrating how relics can continue to be dynamic agents in a monastery or nunnery. and daily circumambulation rituals. with a prominent white stupa to the right containing the relics of its charismatic leader. dreams. The stupa is the basis for her continuing active role in the community in terms of visions.1. Shukseb Jetsunma. Tibet. Shukseb nunnery.
. for Great Perfection practitioners these Bodily images emerge via experientially tun- .66 DAVID GERMANO Of the great originally pure essence. precious items. thereby supporting the direct transcendence imaging of “truth” as a body-based process of unfolding rather than a more epistemological process of correspondence: Their essence is the manifestation of the deities’ appearance—a single Body. Longchenpa then clearly specifies that these relics are to be understood as activated aspects of the visionary’s primordial Buddha-nature. location. swords and so forth. a cluster of deities. . while from the complete perfection of these two meditative phases there manifests the pairs in sexual union. O D≥a\kinê!28 The corresponding section in The Supreme Vehicle discusses these images in terms of their essence. classifications. Without even having to pass onto the postdeath intermediate process. It indicates s/he will come to be freed in five instants Within the postdeath intermediate process of reality. When merely latently present these Spiritual Bodies are unripened in their own being. a half body. Their causal impetus is twofold. while when directly manifest the ripened Spiritual Bodies and bones appear clearly . and fruit. And dissolve into the expansive awakening of Buddhahood. causal impetus. half Bodies and single Bodies. If the peaceful Bodies’ signs show up. a full man≥d≥ala. hand emblems. . they predominantly show up on the skull or backbone. “wheels. lotuses. whereas in the current context a practitioner’s vivid visualization in the developing and perfecting meditative phases acts as the causal impetus of these images’ direct manifestation. It indicates that in five days s/he will see the truth. Although they may show up elsewhere as well. as they emerge out of his/her body’s vibrant energies being thus concentrated. Their essential cause is the primordial presence of the luminously radiant Spiritual Bodies and “bones” within all sentient beings. Manifesting from the sustained practice of the developing and perfecting phases of tantric meditation are letters.29 The opening description of the variety of images is identical to passages laying out the initial visionary appearances of Buddhas within direct transcendence contemplation. or their concordant images of stu\pas. Should the wrathful Bodies’ sign show up. Mother-Father consort pairs. crossed vajras. clusters of deities and the man≥d≥alas . .” vajras. In terms of location.
If the image of a peaceful Body emerges. of the “sky”) ceases. and thus are taught as emerging from these two locations (where our internal radiant light is especially concentrated) . when in dying the practitioner’s consciousness dissolves into the sky. the self-presencing visions of radiant light will dawn and the practitioner will become free in five contemplation-days.” The practitioner for whom a peaceful Body-image manifests focuses on the path of radiant light. and rays manifests s/he will be freed in five instants. who can emit emanations in the forms of the six types of living beings following twenty-one days of contemplation.e. after death “the guiding rope of the Adamantine Hero” emerges from the practitioner’s eyes.. the practitioner gains stability. lights. s/he becomes free right when this sky arises (original purity’s natural radiation). . which can be short or long depending upon the practitioner. In terms of corresponding meditative fruit. as soon as this vision (i. and is able to emit Bodies of Emanations in twentyone days. though this ability emerges subsequently as the ground’s spontaneous dynamics reawaken within the empty energy of enlightenment. thus becoming directly free within . the manner of these images’ manifestation indicates the sequencing in this practitioner’s attainment of freedom.e. of the “sky”) ceases. If both peaceful and wrathful images emerge. “Contemplation-days” refers to contemplation’s stability. This is opposed to those practitioners who become freed within the postdeath intermediate process of reality.. (the practitioner) gains stability right there. though s/he cannot emit Emanational Bodies (sprul sku. after death as soon as this vision (i. and as the self-presencing of sounds. Sanskrit nirma\n≥aka\ya). since their freedom takes place in the latter portion of the process during which they become separated from their current life’s physical basis (i.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET ing into radiant light. and thus is expansively awakened without passing through the postdeath intermediate process of reality. Thus these practitioners are included within the category of those who become freed within this very life. . If the image of a wrathful Body emerges.30 67 This is followed by a long discussion of how those freed within original purity without passing through the postdeath intermediate process cannot emit Emanational Bodies right then and there. If the image of a wrathful Body should manifest. which is a direct continuation of the energy of his/her style of awakening: The Adamantine Hero’s Heart-Mirror says: “If the image of a peaceful Body should manifest.. death).e.
In this way. Having erred as to this discussion of whether or not the freed practitioner is able to emit emanations (in a “self-presencing” style rather than “other-presencing” style). Subsequently the six types of living beings’ experiences manifest through the impure gateway of self-presencing cyclic existence. lights and rays (of the postdeath reality intermediate process) as self-presencing. are uncertain in duration. Having emitted emanations. and in fact that is impossible. Even so it must be recognized that original purity in itself is devoid of any manifest dimension of emanations. the self-presencing emanations don’t emerge from the intermediate process—since this site of originary purity is devoid of the emanations’ appearances. it is not believed that there are any Buddhas that once expansively awakened don’t or can’t act for others’ benefit. If. Sanskrit sambhoga) and Emanational Spiritual Bodies which manifest to and for others (“other-presencing”). and while they in fact endure longer than that. since if you are not free yourself there is no way any benefit to others can derive from a person who has not perfected his/her own spiritual telos. lack emanations. However. the enlightened ones didn’t act for others’ welfare by means of emitting emanations within these impure appearances. The significance of whether or not emanations can be emitted is as follows: those who are freed directly within original purity without pausing within the postdeath intermediate process’s manifestation of the gateways to spontaneous presence. and thus completes twenty-one days of contemplation. In the Great Vehicle (theg chen. since that dimension is the pure grounding potential of the Enjoyment (longs. many fret over whether or not a Buddha is able to act for others’ spiritual benefit following his/her expansive awakening—this is a major mistake. Like a magical illusion acting for illusory ends. these self-presencing emanations efficaciously act within this self-presencing world. These emanations are explained as resembling shooting stars. while through the pure gateway Emanational Bodies diffuse forth in forms corresponding to those requiring spiritual training. once the gateways to spontaneous presence subsequently remanifest.68 DAVID GERMANO the site of original purity. cyclic existence’s appearance would . it is not a dimension where the self-presencing emanations manifest from your own side. it is necessary that prior to that you have already taken hold of freedom. s/he remains for a while in the manifestation of the spontaneously dynamic ground-presencing. and thus efficaciously act for others’ welfare. Sanskrit mahay \ an \ a). since the impure “training fields” of emanations don’t manifest at this time. enlightened activity for others’ welfare does eventually emerge in dependence upon it.31 When the practitioner for whom a wrathful Body-image manifests frees him/herself through recognizing the triad of sounds.
and so forth. often translated into English as “relics. as opposed to subsequently emerging due to extrinsic considerations such as disciples’ needs). in addition to signifying “bodily remains.32 69 BONES Literally the honorific form of bone.” in the present context it refers to tiny luminous spheres filled with color found amidst the cremated remains of a saint.e. the term is used to refer to such minute spheres rather than the general bodily remains and is used with the verb to descend or happen (‘babs).” The former sense is connected to belief that these spheres physically divide and multiply long after their initial emergence. emanations are then dispatched by these newly enlightened ones. Sanskrit óarêra). the individual three Spiritual Bodies are not directly differentiated within it aside from its being their pure source potential. The term translated below as “precious (relic) spheres” (ring bsrel.” appears to have two senses etymologically: “multiplying long afterwards” and “to hold. as well as the subsequent limitless display of enlightened activity.” The Blazing Relics Tantra classifies the “bones. as fivefold in dependence . The sense of “heritage” or “descendants” is present in the sense that these derive from one’s affinity with the individual Buddha families and embody their energy. This distinction is the basis of the story I cite above concerning how some Tibetan lamas were dismayed by Western Buddhists claiming to possess “precious relic spheres” but in fact having only “bones. which culminates in a death that gives birth to “bones.” earthquakes. In colloquial Tibetan. Since this site of original purity is beyond manifestation or non-manifestation.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET not subside. Having emptied out cyclic existence through these emanations’ efficacious action. Thus to perfectly complete the Buddhas’ activities which were not perfected in self-presencing fashion (i. while the latter sense would appear to indicate that these are items of enduring value. again these manifest emanations proceed to the site of original purity as they dissolve inside the eight gateways to spontaneous presence. right out of the very force of awakening. the benefiting of others comes about. gdung also signifies “heritage” or “lineage” (the bone connection).” these tiny spheres that emerge from the cremated remains of a saint. However.. or the “remains” of a dead person (since bones survive the decay or burning of flesh and tissue). In addition they are the “progeny” or effect of one’s spiritual endeavors in this life. keep or revere for a long time. Thus you should understand the way in which once the ground-presencing dawns externally out of its dimension.
Correlating this to Longchenpa’s discussion of Buddha-nature in The Treasury of Words and Meanings’ third chapter with its emphasis on the five “families. causal substance. A lustrous sphere with shining color The size of a single pea. Or single small pea.” The five are named with evidently Tibetan transmutations of the standard Sanskrit term for relics. The specificity of bodily location echoes the very specific locations indicated for the mind. and locations. gnosis.70 DAVID GERMANO upon the five Buddha “families” (rigs). It ripens from the vibrant quintessence of bone And thus condenses into a sphere.33 Longchenpa characterizes the tantra’s following detailed explanation as indicating these bones’ individual colors. It is the concentration of warmth’s vibrant quintessence And emerges from the space between the ribs. Emerging from the head of one who has actualized the path’s meditative techniques. (ii) Bariram is a dark blue The size of a white mustard grain. and universal ground (a\laya) in the fourth chapter of The Treasury of Words and Meanings. Reality Body (dharmaka\ya). óarêra: Shariram is the bones of the Blissful Ones’ family And likewise Bariram Is the bones of the adamantine family. O D≥a\kinê! . Churiram is the precious family’s bones.” this again emphasizes how these signs are simply the manifestation of indwelling forces signified as “Buddhas. In addition to such detailed mapping out of the body being a strong evocation of the physical inherence of the “Buddha” within all life. Similarly Nyariram is the activity family’s bones. size. And seriram is the lotus family’s. it illustrates how the entire spectrum of philosophical inquiries pursued elsewhere in abstract language is additionally thought out through the detailed medium of the body’s interiorities and capacities. From the same tantra: (i) Shariram is a lucent white.
but also are themselves granted a philosophical significance: . these latter are a quite common phenomenon. Their presence indicates the deceased practitioner has gone to the pure land of emanations. which he labels “precious (relic) spheres. The size of a mustard seed. And emerges from the kidneys of the fortunate one. It is synthesized from the concentration of bodily elements. O D≥a\kinê! (v) Nyariram is an emerald green. And have a depth-hue of the five colors.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 71 (iii) Churiram is yellow in color.” Which are a mere sesame seed or dust mote in size. Bones in contrast cannot be destroyed by anyone at all. He cites The Blazing Relics Tantra thus: Similar to these bones Are the subtle and fine “precious (relic) spheres. And with this hardness impervious to all fear.35 In prefacing the first citation in The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. It emerges atop the lungs. Also a mere mustard seed in size. It emerges on top of the liver. And are liable to destruction by the elements. All these practitioners attain the fearless expansive awakening of Buddhahood. Longchenpa again describes these as a manifestation of a primordially present Buddha-nature inherent in all living beings. Thus these passages on relics not only legitimize such rhetorical assertions.34 Longchenpa characterizes these “bones” as indestructible and contrasts them to another type of minute sphere that emerges in the cremated remains. The size of a mustard seed with radiant color. (iv) Seriram is a lucent red.” These are liable to destruction by the elements. From the vibrant quintessence of cognition. Longchenpa interprets the latter as a sign indicating the practitioner has found respite within a pure land of emanations following death. and my own experience among contemporary Tibetan communities is that while the former are extremely rare. and the vibrant quintessence of blood. All of these are unified in a general spherical shape.
you will be freed within your particular spiritual family. the color white to that of the Adamantine Hero (Vajrasattva). condensed. nyariram is a dark purple. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle identifies these as relating to the “peaceful bones. whether one type of “bone” or all five types together manifest in a person’s remains following death. and panytsaram (corresponding to seriram) is a dark red-green.” while the color correspondences for the “wrathful bones” are given from The Self-Arisen Tantra as follows:38 shariram is a lucent white. The others are as big as a white mustard seed. multicolored bones signify proceeding to the site of the five Spiritual Bodies’ spontaneous presence. from the regions south of central Tibet). The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle indicates that the color correspondences (based on these bones embodying the five Buddha families) are for the “peaceful bones. and spherical. the color yellow to that of Precious Matrix (Ratnasambhava).” while the “wrathful bones” are specified from The SelfArisen as deriving from the following quintessences:41 shariram from the . and are lustrous. bariram is a burnt yellow. The attuned practitioner ripens them into direct manifestation by training on the path of the radiant light nucleus. which is equivalent to the size of a white pea. churiram is a black-blue. In this way. and by one of this quintet (shariram and so on) thus emerging in your death. As to their respective sizes. and the color green to that of the Efficacious One (Amoghasiddhi). As for the “causal impetuses” described here. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle40 says that the shariram are the size of a “mon” pea (i.e. it is a sign indicating that the practitioner will become free as a Buddha of that familial lineage in his/her vision of the five families’ mandalic cluster.72 DAVID GERMANO Since in general all living beings are primordially expansively awakened. the nature of the Buddhas’ five spiritual affinities is present within them in both an individualized and non-individualized fashion. He also cites39 The Adamantine Hero’s HeartMirror to the effect that the color blue corresponds to being perfectly awakened within Illuminating One’s (Vairocana) pure realm. the color red to that of Limitless Illumination (Amita\bha). or a small pea.. However the affinity and sustaining life-force of their (particular) Buddha-body is not ripened into the five bones and thus is only a latent presence.36 In followup remarks37 Longchenpa clarifies that the particular Buddha family manifesting in a practitioner’s bones indicates that in the postdeath intermediate process of reality the practitioner will see the Body corresponding to his/her own spiritual family and thus become free as s/he is enlightened within that Buddha’s pure land.
Some will be born in high rebirths. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle42 says that with the peaceful bones the deceased is free within the site of the spiritual family ascertained to be his/her own particular manifestation. and with panytsaram the adamantine reality itself. those emerging from warmth. This is because they can also manifest in ordinary living beings. while for others the effect is uncertain. and those emerging from breath. As for the location of their ripening. As to their causal impetus. red-yellow. while with the wrathful bones s/he obtains respectively the Reality Body. As for the location where they develop and emerge. with bariram the Enjoyment Body. The corresponding colors are white. the Emanational Body. and the Body of Unchanging Adamantine Reality.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 73 gray matter of the skull. they emerge from the condensation of the white and red quintessences and the vibrant quintessence of flesh. warmth. and bones. the Enjoyment Body. the latter possess the five lights. The difference between the bones and “precious (relic) spheres” is dealt with at length in The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. In particular there are four types: those emerging from the flesh. bones. skin. The difference between the precious (relic) spheres of an ordinary individual and those of a Buddha is that the latter are extremely vibrant and clear. with churiram the efficacious and meaningful (also translatable as the Efficacious One). and panytsaram from the body’s four elements’ vibrant quintessence. and skin. Finally.43 The precious (relic) spheres are spherical and possess different combinations of the five colors. with nyariram the Emanational Body. while the former lack . flesh. bariram from the joints’ vibrant quintessence. As for the fruit of the precious (relic) spheres. since they exist in all the bones. and so forth. dogs and other animals. churiram from blood’s vibrant quintessence. fortunate ones who have meditated on the “heart-essence” teachings will find respite in the pure land of natural emanations. some will be born in miserable rebirths. those emerging from the blood. and green-blue. Thus in the latter list Longchenpa has correlated the five as given in The Self-Arisen to the standard enumeration of five Spiritual Bodies—The Self-Arisen specifies that with shariram you obtain the unborn. evil people. birds. and virtuous teachers overly given to intellectual pursuits. whereas the “bones” emerge from the utter quintessence of these vibrant quintessences. nyariram from marrow’s vibrant quintessence. the Body of Efficacious and Meaningful Manifest Enlightenment. they subsequently emerge from all over. lymph. while the former are not. and quintessence. red. it is between the body’s joints or between its flesh and skin. and breath.
divisions.” the precious (relic) spheres will be destroyed by too much exposure to the heat. horizontal beams. then it is important not to overdo the burning—unlike “bones. or alternatively this light is found in the manner of a staircase leading into the sky. If the light manifests in horizontal beams. and horizontal beams in accordance with The Blazing Relics Tantra: Light has three aspects: For whomever light-walls of encircling hoops Emerge in the wake of their cremation.74 DAVID GERMANO them. causal impetus. Finally.44 The Supreme Vehicle discusses light in terms of its essence. while the former are merely its leaf. contemplative practices. This person will attain the definitive fruit. it can be seen as the triad of vertical pillars. vertical pillars. A distinctive description of odd shapes of light gradually forming into pure lands of Buddhas is at the heart of its innovations in cosmogony. and postdeath theory. Thus the manifestation of various patterns of light as a classic sign of saintly death is described in terms directly drawn from that context. Longchenpa classifies lights into encircling walls. . As for its internal classifications. if it is hoped that precious (relic) spheres will be retrieved from a cremated body. and encircling hoops of light. and fruit: Light’s essence is the natural radiance of the five colors. and the latter are the tree of enlightenment. Without the intermediate process manifesting. LIGHTS Light is at the heart of the Seminal Heart system. this person Is expansively awakened into Buddhahood in an instant. and in its arriving at the sky’s center it manifests as a luminous circular house. At the end of the postdeath intermediate process S/he will attain manifest enlightenment. Its causal impetus: light is summoned forth at the time of passing away (indicating both transcendence and death) through the conjunction of the dyadic natural radiation deriving from the practitioner’s experiential tuning into his/her internal vibrant elements and awareness. Within the first part of the postdeath intermediate process Should pillars of light emerge.
the enlightened one radiates forth emanations. our impure worlds being “fields” where living beings need.. In this external diffusion of emanations from within its range for the benefit of sentient beings in the worlds’ ten directions. you will be free without proceeding through the intermediate process of reality by directly passing to original purity. If it is beams of light.47 Longchenpa divides these funerary sounds in accordance with their particular direction and aural quality.2). and may receive spiritual teachings)—emanations as self-presencing reflection-forms corresponding to the six types of livings beings. their welfare is actualized by two forms of emanation in the “training environments” (i.e. Here also when the ground’s spontaneous presence manifests. s/he will be free in five days at the manifestation of “clusters” of deities (also a phase in the postdeath visions). if the light emerges in encircling hoops.48 citing The Blazing Relics Tantra as follows: . . SOUNDS The odd sounds marking a saintly death are interpreted in terms of the Seminal Heart’s distinctive and unusually strong concern for sound. the practitioner will be free during the final intermediate process. or crematorium’s walls. terminology drawn straight from the tradition’s descriptions of a visionary experience of light flowing from the internal divinity of the Buddha-nature to gradually pervade the sky in the form of pure lands. If the light emerges like a luminous house. and emanations as other-presencing (see above) self-characterized concrete-forms corresponding to the six types of living beings.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET As for the corresponding fruit it indicates. If staircases of light are found around the deceased’s body.45 75 My translation emphasizes the architectural imagery of light in these visions. house. If it emerges like vertical pillars leading you into the sky.46 Longchenpa’s interpretation is explicit. evident in its core tantra. you will be free in the first intermediate process. . which introduces motifs relating to sound not found elsewhere in esoteric Buddhism. The Tantra of Unimpeded Sound. describing the lights of a saintly death as an exteriorization of inner divine light that echoes the explosion of cosmogonic light as well as its manifestation in the contemplative practice of “direct transcendence” (see figure 3. in seven days of contemplation s/he will become free in the four unified primordial gnoses (a phase of the postdeath visions explained in the tenth chapter of The Treasury of Words and Meanings). .
Photograph by David Germano . here displayed as mandalas and associated strings of light spheres and other items in the concentric circles located in the lower half of the picture (Lukhang Temple. Yogis contemplating luminous visions of their inner Buddha-nature.76 FIGURE 3.2. Lhasa).
As for the fruit it indicates. fierce and short. causal impetus. it is the family of action. and fruit. And a smooth flow of long mellifluous sounds respectively. in general sound’s causation is said to stem from the condition of two things striking against each other in space’s openness. In the north. and the diffusion of Emanational Bodies from within it. The nature of such sound is That it can be distinguished as peaceful or wrathful— There is roaring and humming.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 77 If the sound is particularly resonant In a spot near to the eastern direction From the resting place where s/he has passed away. divisions. Though sound can be classified into melodious. the practitioner attains the Spiritual Body of Enjoyment. Furthermore. a long and smooth flowing sound. As to its impetus. which can also be expressed as “humming” and “roaring” sounds respectively. and the thunder clap of the wrathful deities. This practitioner is of the adamantine family. in addition to the fivefold Buddha family emphasized in the preceding. If the death is marked by such sounds. smooth flowing humming the practitioner .49 The Supreme Vehicle discusses sound in terms of its essence. in this context there is said to be two: the drum roll of the peaceful deities. In so doing it emphasizes the peaceful and wrathful dualism so pervasive of the tradition’s iconography. and neutral types. by the long. discordant. It indicates the deceased has obtained the fruit Of the Spiritual Body of Complete Enjoyment. while here it emerges via the causal impetus of obtaining meditative stability. And similarly to the zenith (above) it is the family of the realized (tatha\gata). Likewise if in the southern direction. While if in the west. These also directly echo the description of sound in direct transcendence and postmortem visions of internal Buddhas emerging out of the body: Sound’s essence is resonance in the auditory faculty. The sound indicates a manifestation of the family of preciousness. it is thus the lotus family. a staccato of sharp jangling sounds.
yo) marks the visionary’s impelling (g. The fruit of expansive awakening will not manifest. Since the term for “earth” is the same used in describing stages (sa. the west indicates the lotus family. it enables a word play: the earth quaking (g. O D≥a\kinê! Should the earthquake come to pass In nine days. in the north the action family. he simply cites The Blazing Relics Tantra: The individual for whom earthquakes emerge Obtains the “spiritual level” of a Listener At the same time of his/her being divested of breath. Sanskrit bhu\mi) of realization. The five spiritual families apply to both of these (peaceful and wrathful).50 EARTHQUAKES The final sign of saintly death is the ancient motif of earthquakes (sa g. the south indicates the preciousness family.78 DAVID GERMANO attains stability regarding the peaceful Bodies in seven days of contemplation. while by the short and fierce staccato of roaring s/he is freed in terms of the wrathful Bodies in fourteen days.yo) him/herself to a new spiritual level. Likewise if in three days after death The earthquake comes to pass. For the one with the fortune of earthquakes appearing. Longchenpa thus interprets earthquakes in terms of very specific stages of realization attained by the deceased. In The Treasury of Words and Meanings. S/he attains the level of a Self-Awakened One. If the sound resonates to the east of the deceased practitioner’s residence or the place where his/her corpse has been carried and cremated. Sanskrit vidya\dhara).yo). and the examination of the characteristics indicating which of the five spiritual families the practitioner becomes free in is as follows. s/he accomplishes expansive awakening in the adamantine family. . S/he enters the level of an “Awakening Hero/ine” (Sanskrit bodhisattva). and sound emerging from above indicates the realized ones’ family. If it emerges in six days. S/he will be able to enjoy at his/her own pleasure The status of “the spiritually aware” (rig ‘dzin.
Herein are the ten causal spiritual stages of Intense Joy. if the earthquake occurs in the center of that area as soon as the deceased is without breath. and a widespread major earthquake. causal impetus. the great seal. which has the four stages of maturation.53 or even those ordinary individuals who wear “liberation upon wearing” amulets with aspiration and diligence towards the spiritual paths.. If the earthquake is in the south within six days. Dispersion Far Away. and Clouds of Spirituality. an even greater earthquake.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 79 But rather s/he will continue for a long time to train in and remain within The spiritual levels and paths. As to its corresponding fruits. the practitioner has attained the stage of the Spiritually Aware. as well as the eleventh fruitional stage of Universal Light. the Radiant. the Stainless. the Illuminating. As to its internal classifications.e. the practitioner has gained the level of a Spiritual Hero. nonreturner. an intense earthquake.55 If the earthquake takes place from the eastern direction three days after death. internal classifications. the practitioner has attained the level of a Self-Awakened One. Superior Wisdom. the Difficult to Refine. that practitioner attains the vision of a Listener’s “white exalted level. or the life-transference (i.” “the eighth. mastery of life span.” “listener.” “realizing completion.” “diminishment. Its causal impetus is that the deceased individual’s potency incites winds.51 The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle discusses these earthquakes in terms of their essence.” and then continues to train in its seven subsequent stages—with the stages of “spiritual affinity. earthquakes are a sign marking common people who belong to the family of Spiritual Heroes and so forth52 and die while training in the preliminaries (for direct transcendence contemplation) though they haven’t seen the gateway of this (probably referring to direct transcendence visions). Coming to the Fore. which thus cause the earth to quake.” and “self-awakened. which supports and sustains living beings. and corresponding fruit: Its essence revolves around the lower foundation of the physical environment.54 Furthermore. and spontaneous presence. the Unwavering. and vanquisher. there is the quartet of an earthquake. with its four successive stages of neophyte. . death) of those involved in practices for the intellect wrapped up in objective references.” “vision. If the earth should quake nine days after death from the zenith together with a little sound.” These are the eight levels of the inferior path. once-returner.
involving dissolution of all structures. it is said that from this attainment of the first in their particular succession of meditative stages up until they successfully master those stages’ total perfection. which is described in terms of traditional Buddhist representations of pure lands. (2) The second path is the process of straying and pollution as the distorted worlds of suffering and alienation materialize out of that formless primordiality via a lack of such self-recognition. This functions to internalize the pseudo-cosmogonic account of topic one within ordinary experience and the human body. (6) Four gnostic lamps are the operators enabling this inner gnosis to manifest through the “gateways” of the practitioner’s eyes into the external . Sanskrit jña\na). The focus is on an ongoing fluid intelligence that constitutes. that is. Sanskrit dharmaka\ya) and primordial gnosis (ye shes. Sanskrit a\laya) and mind (sems. Following The Seventeen Tantras. Two paths open up in this process.80 DAVID GERMANO Furthermore. the first of which is the liberation of a primordial Buddha Samantabhadra upon self-recognizing this process. This consists of differentiating between two linked pairs—the Buddhas’ Reality Body (chos sku.56 RELICS AND BUDDHA-NATURE These accounts of relics must thus be understood within the tradition’s own broader discursive architecture. which is an absence brimming with possibility. It ceaselessly gives rise from its interior self-contained potentiality to exteriorized actuality in the groundpresencing.” (4) Longchenpa next turns to the location of primordial gnosis within one’s body/mind and its relationships to one’s ordinary distorted psychic activity. (1) A cosmogonic “ground” is presented as a primordial pure potentiality. these practitioners remain a long time in the intervening period. (3) The ground’s primordial purity and virtual potentiality continue to pervade all living beings with its fivefold dynamics as an “enlightened nucleus” or “Buddha-nature. tantric physiology presenting the pathways via which gnosis operates within one’s own body. This process is characterized by the fabrication of rigid laws and structures. in contrast to ordinary beings’ universal ground (kun gzhi. ordinary existence. yet remains distinct from. Sanskrit citta). We thus have a psychological version of the source-derivative opposed pair first presented cosmologically in the first two topics. Longchenpa’s Treasury of Words and Meanings uses a structure of “eleven adamantine topics” to present the Seminal Heart’s system. (5) The fifth topic is subtle body theory. since these individuals will not quickly attain their respective definitive spiritual fruits.
Longchenpa discusses the nature of the activities and gnosis issuing directly from the ground (i. which is presented as being a supplement to the preceding two chapters for those practitioners unable to bring their contemplation to fruition prior to death. (11) Finally. where s/he can contemplatively tune into its inner significance. The manifestation of the Buddha’s indicators manifesting in the practitioner’s body during this life and at death is intertwined with the system’s overall emphasis on Buddha-nature as the core of everyone’s physical being (topic three).LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 81 space surrounding him/her. While the overarching term for the ninth chapter is thus literally “signs” or “marks” (rtags). Sanskrit dhat \ u) in which this gnostic energy exteriorizes itself and the key points of contemplation with regard to this expanse as well as the awareness or “intelligence” (rig pa) that is an inherent quality of the expanse. (8) The eighth topic presents the specific contemplative techniques and systems that will ultimately enable one to reexperience the primordial grounds and thus eradicate corporeality and neurosis. (10) This is an analysis of the phases in dying and postdeath “intermediate processes” with an eye toward the special opportunities they afford for spiritual enlightenment. a practice unique and central to the Seminal Heart. While by just looking at its discussion in The Blazing Relics we could doubt the centrality of this expanded notion of relics within the overall tradition. a “Buddha”) as the ultimate climax of the entire process. (7) This concerns the objective sphere or “expanse” (dbyings. its placement here dispels any such doubts. as well as a discussion of relics stemming from the death of a saint.. The turn toward issues of death at the chapter’s end then naturally leads into the tenth chapter on postmortem intermediate process theory and praxis. (9) This describes the various external and internal psycho-physical and visionary signs that should be used as indicators informing one’s progress in deepening contemplative realization that stays on track toward the goal of ultimate enlightenment. These practices culminate in the spontaneous vision of pure lands known as “direct transcendence” contemplation. In fact contemporary Nyingma lamas frequently stress that particularly striking examples of relics or bodily based marks can only stem from the practice of direct transcendence. The forms gnosis takes externally are pure lands.e. Longchenpa turns to a discussion of the types of experiences and psychophysical effects or capacities generated by those procedures. Following the lengthy eighth chapter devoted to Seminal Heart contemplation. it simultaneously constitutes an expansion of the notion of “relics” as the traces and signposts of spiritual realization. The pseudocosmogonic discussion of the ground and .
a process with the two interpretative pathways of Samantabhadra and sentient beings (topic three). we could characterize the ordinary individual as conventionally the relics or “remains” of the Buddha. one of the main images of topic one is the “youthful-body-within-a vase. Topics six through eight then present the means by which one’s relationships to this interiority and its structuration can be reapproached.82 DAVID GERMANO its presencing (topic one) is an exteriorized dramatization of the Buddhanature’s unfolding. They also function as signposts both to lead the practitioner into this evolving new configuration of experience and relationships and to invest specific Teachers with authority within these alternative pure cultures. our lived bodies are both womb and tomb to the Buddha. an interiority that thus functions as the ultimate source of value and authority since the ground is identified as the always potent Buddha. The tenth topic then explores in general the issue of reformulation that takes place in crucial periods of breakdown and collapse. Thus the third topic’s treatment of Buddha-nature concludes with an extended reverie on the human body as a temple. that is. is powerful evidence of this indwelling presence of the Buddhaas-absence and the pure lands to which he inexorably gives rise. represented as the mandalic retinues that constitute pure lands. Sanskrit dha\tu). In these contexts. Yet at the same time this absence that is at the core also gives birth always to a culture. The Buddha is understood as a continuing virtual presence with the moment of enlightenment (byang chub. Two important themes running throughout this are absence and pure lands. while the eleventh topic is a meditation on the nature of the new pure land that comes into being as a result of all the preceding. Sanskrit bodhi) being a full dissolution of all structure or manifest actuality into the original purity (ka dag) of the internal expanse (nang dbyings. the ninth topic of signs or relics. In other words. Given the strong emphasis on the Buddha-nature as life’s ongoing source and ordinary psycho-physical structures as its distortion. . This is then relocated within the self-structuring interiority of a distinctively human space in the subtle body discourse (topic four to five).” evoking the still dynamic Buddha now entombed within an obscuring funerary urn. they are the site of both the pure lands and cyclic existences correlating to the environments set up by the Buddha’s two types of absence—the divine absence deriving from the Buddha’s own retreat into the perpetual internally radiant (nang gsal) creative absence (med pa) of the Reality Body and the mundane absence deriving from the nonrecognition and latency of this force in ordinary individuals. the living Buddha’s natural setting.
Buddhas and sentient beings are my funerary grounds— I.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 83 It is of interest that the theme of the ultimate Buddha being a type of cemetery in which sentient beings and Buddhas alike perish is a motif in several of the tantras in their presentations of the “view” of the Great Perfection. Should take it into his/her experience with deepening attunemnt. . I am the locus of all sentient beings. . The Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness: I am the cemetery of all the Buddhas! The cemetery grounds of the unchanging exists in me. The cemetery of all Buddhas and sentient beings! All the Buddhas of the three times emerge From my inspiring blessings. The yogi who understands this Within the sky of pure consciousness. . the all creating. If you “liberate” all sentient beings simultaneously In order to experience the dimension of insight. All appearances become empty. Where their karmic propensities appear in deceptive bodily forms.58 Finally: I am the great cemetery.60 The Tantra of the Lion’s Perfect Dynamism: If you “liberate” the Buddha and dispatch him to the cemetary For the sake of the manifestation of the three Enlightened Bodies The realization of self-aware self-presencing will ensue. For example. .57 Subsequently: The non-conceptual adamantine body itself Emerges authentically also from your own body— The funerary grounds of the Buddhas are placed Within sentient beings’ own bodies. am a great intrinsically radiant manifestation.59 The Great Esoteric Unwritten Tantra: The esoteric emotional distortions are my magical displays.
They ask for a detailed prophecy of events after his death. even classic Buddhist ones. as well as the use of coded language. which culminate in the present tantra.61 The Garland of Precious Pearls Tantra: Because it is adorned with the expanse of reality. asking what will be those “supports” after he passes into nirvana.” with the divine speaker essentially coterminous with reality—“I am the ancestor of all the Buddhas!”—and thus at the center of all existence. replete and omnipresent. Finally the rhetoric is marked by lengthy celebrations of “I. transcendent of all conventionalities. while extreme states of human being can also be the locus for extreme realizations of truth. The significance of this motif is even clearer when we turn to another passage in The Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness. You will meet with the object of self-awareness. and implicitly his relics. and thus the chapter is presented as an account of this Buddha’s legacy.63 All of the Buddha Youthful and Mighty Hero’s retinue together petition him.62 All of these passages make a consistent association of the death of the Buddha. it also makes very . Speech.” and he describes the fivefold nature of bones in detail. while the support for his Speech is the more traditional body of canonical teachings he leaves behind. He also says that his “manifestations” (snang ba) will be in the eyes of all living beings as the blazing lamps one must gaze upon in direct transcendence praxis. The gnostic body of all the Buddhas Is the cemetary of all Buddhas and sentient beings. and Mind after death.84 DAVID GERMANO If you kill yourself In order for compassion to be unceasing. While partially a traditional account of the enduring presence of the Buddha’s body. to the bodies of sentient beings. subtle heart) of all living beings. The passages are all embedded within classic Great Perfection rhetoric expousing a negative theology of transcendence of formal structures and programs. The support for his Body is the triad of “Bodies (images on bones). which devotes its eighty-fifth chapter to the subject of how the Buddha leaves behind “supports” (rten) for his Enlightened Body..e. his enduring presence after his manifest absence. and mind as his postnirvana legacy. The rhetoric is also marked by the tendency in radical forms of tantra to claim that transgression can free the mind. bones and precious (relic) spheres.64 The support for his Mind is the inner luminosity he leaves behind in the tsitta (i. speech.
which the visionary can perceive in direct sensory immediacy (mngon sum). With the qualification that the stupa or relic chamber has now become the human body. In this way this indwelling absence gives rise to mandalically patterned visual images that are its reflection (gdangs). community life and its organization. the relics in the kidneys. without feeling compelled to replace it with real or imagined presence. or the ground-presencing within crystal channels within the body’s center. and elsewhere. it echoes Schopen’s characterization of the relic as “a living presence animated and characterized by the same qualities that animated and characterized the living Buddhas. This focus on the Buddha as an absence that is productive of presence points to a valorization of the unarticulated other that underlies all articulation of self. the Buddha emerges as a radically active agent within the womb/tomb of one’s body.65 Thus conceptions of presence and absence are more complex than notions of “true” or “imagined” presence mitigating “actual” absence. Since the body also has social meaning and significance. a dialectic imaged by the Buddha’s absence as invisible being in contrast to a visible present. between the invisible ground and visible worlds of appearances. absence is instead seen as laced with intelligence (rig stong) and profoundly active when one has the wisdom to leave it in itself as the invisible. whether construed as focal modes of attention and the organism’s unconscious processes. not a vague potential or the result of painstakingly constructive activity. is what is at stake. the figure of the Buddhas themselves. liver. when listened to instead of looked for. this absence emerges as the Buddha’s Reality Body “without face or hands” (zhal phyag med). the mind between the lungs and heart. these conflicts over understanding of the body also inscribe cultural struggles. especially when the ultimate authority in Tibetan culture. the wrathful deities within the skull. When one lets go (cog zhag). Though this notion of indwelling . the Buddha’s visionary coming to light (snang ba) within the field (dbyings) opened up by contemplation in contrast to his ultimate dissolution back into reality at the vision’s end. or the hermeneutical play of reason and the principle of reason. The ongoing tension between these oscillating relations between the visible and invisible is mediated by the human body.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 85 clear the intimate identification of the relics of the Buddha with the Buddha-nature contained within our body’s interior. In the Seminal Heart tradition. which speaks in strange voices yielding the literary equivalent of glimpsed pure lands.”66 This is in fact the central dialectic of the Seminal Heart. which in part explains the intense focus on physically locating every key doctrinal facet: the “universal ground” within the aorta.
in fact constitute and animate. and relics. as well as how they are integrated into the mainstream of a philosophical system. The analysis and classifications of “relics” as powerful icons or living presences are deeply contextualized within the tantric contemplations and theories that form its matrix. Throughout the tradition we find this constant focus on the Buddha as an active agent similar in general to the continuing conception in Indian Buddhism of relics as a means of making the Buddha present again:67 “[T]he relics are characterized by—full of—exactly the same spiritual forces and faculties that characterize. the living Buddha . . surge up from within—earthquakes. to preserve and value the otherness of the Buddha’s absence precisely as the ongoing source of renewed vision. In direct transcendence the pure land can be seen directly (mngon gsum) with one’s own two eyes naturally (rang bzhin gyis).moreover. can thus be misleading. paradoxically proof requires discrete material things. but physically it was believed to continually imprint marks on saints’ very flesh and bones and to give rise in death to small spheres. bones.] the relic is not a part or piece of the departed Buddha that is there in the chamber. from the letter A outlined in the tip of a nose to the sparkling spheres found in the funerary ashes of a saint. . mark one’s bones. Not only does this agent well up as a voice within refusing all efforts to quiet it.86 DAVID GERMANO Buddha is all about absence and latency. namely.” The literature stresses the literal living presence of the Buddha as the premier active agent within all life. [. PROVISIONAL CONCLUSIONS I have tried to present systematically one of the most important Tibetan literary traditions with regard to classifications of relics. Thus along with the stress on the apophatic discourse of the ground. . light up one’s life. Thus this Buddha force can still shake one. we find an emphasis on concrete signs of legitimization and authority. the spontaneous ground that gives rise to all of samsara and nirvana. Relics too offer such physical evidence. lights. which would then continue to multiply in living ferment long afterward. or even as making present an absent Buddha/saint. Focusing exclusively on relics as lingering physical influences or residues of a deceased saint. The Seminal Heart tradition suggests an alternative strategy complementing the desire to make the Buddha(s) present again. but the Buddha himself who is wholly present there. I have shown how relics are treated within a broader topic of signs of contemplative practice. bodies. The discussion of relics is thus closely intertwined with the Buddhanature theory that forms the backbone of Seminal Heart thought.
LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 87 Important issues that I have not dealt with adequately at this point include biographical discussions of how these groups were treating or experiencing relics on the ground during this time period. The Sovereign All-Creating Mind—the Motherly Buddha (Albany: State University of New York Press.68 This final body of literature is particularly interesting in its discussion of disembodied forces called “the three sources of the teachings” (bstan pa’i btsas gsum)—essentially a flying statue.” forthcoming. See the discussion in David Germano. 1992). ch. however paradoxical that may seem at first glance. Neumaier-Dargyay. Thus it may well be that in some systems relics precede Buddhas. This is translated in E. Finally. but the Seminal Heart also includes an extensive body of narrative literature in which relics figure prominently. The latter involves such things as the omnipresent stone “chests” (sgrom bu) from which visionary documents are revealed. which are similar to stone relics containing the literary heart of saints.” in The Journal of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (volume one. However tentative my conclusions may thus be. K. “The Content of Stu\pas and Images and the Indo-Tibetan Concept of Relics. in Tk 1:65. NOTES 1. as well as the larger issue of material evidence for mysticism.jiats. 2. even if such contexts remain at present only the bare bones. See Yael Bentor. 2 (1995): 248–61. around which a whole cult formed in the Nyingma tradition with the “treasure” (gter ma) movement. 3. the tradition is driven by very complex notions of the body—the Buddha’s multiple bodies. and vajra—which suggest that relics.7–66. and so forth are not just the legacy of the historical Buddha but are themselves originally generative forces that create Buddhas in their own right. see www. statues. and so on—and more nuanced consideration of relics in this light is necessary. no. The All-Creating King (kun byed rgyal po).org). “On the Indian Origins of the Tibetan Practice of Depositing Relics and Dha\ranê ≥ s in Stu\pas and Images. subtle body discourse. 17. and idem. 98–99. . I have limited my treatment to the philosophical and contemplative materials.6 (see note 8 for the sigla). book. “The Funerary History of the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen).” Journal of the American Oriental Society 115. and the importance of fleshing out seemingly discrete topics within their broader literary contexts. forthcoming. In addition. the paper has both sketched out an alternative significance to “relics” and the Buddha’s absence in an important Buddhist tradition. embryogeny. The translation here is my own.
1983). 160.88 DAVID GERMANO 4. Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State (Bar do thos grol) belongs to a larger cycle. this text deals with the particular issue of “signs of saintly death” rather than the general classifications of relics per se. 10. a canon existing in different editions available at http://iris. These are located in most editions of The Collected Tantras of the Ancients (rnying ma rgyud ‘bum). The Tantra of the Sun and Moon’s Intimate Union (nyi ma dang zla ba kha sbyor ba rgyud). The Seventeen Tantras (rgyud bcu bdun).. 1992). 13. 2. Tb (mtshams brag ed. 184. Guenther interprets this dyad in terms of “process and structure. 1989).. Longchenpa.org). and idem. 1987). such as Karmalingpa. 5. Its three chapters take place within a dramatic setting involving a dialogue between the Teacher Vajra Holder (rdo re ‘chang. 11. 3. New Delhi: Sanje Dorje. Ab (a ‘dzom ‘brug pa ed. 1991). This has become well known in English as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Bhutan: Jamyang Khytense Rinpoche. Bernard Faure. and many other passages. Sikkim: Sherab Gyaltsen and Khytense Labrang. 1982). in Tb 12:491–560 and Ab 3:152–233. trans. I use abbreviations in the citations to signify editions. Bhutan: National Library of Royal Government of Bhutan. 9. . Thimphu. The Rhetoric of Immediacy. Sanskrit Vajradhara) and a D≥a\kinê. As Martin indicates. Sikkim: Sherab Gyaltsen and Khytense Labrang. Francesca Freemantle and Chogyam Trungpa (Boston and London: Shambhala Publications.1.lib.. 1983).” though he ultimately interprets gnosis in terms of “process-structures. ed.” in Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 5th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. See Daniel Martin. Karmalingpa (Kar ma gling pa). 87–95. All further citations will refer to these texts by the English titles for ease of reference by the nonspecialist. The Profound Doctrine of Wisdom’s Natural Freedom (in Encountering) the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities (zab chos zhi khro dgongs pa rang grol) (Delhi: Sherab Lama. 6. The Blazing Relics (sku gdung ‘bar ba).edu/tibet/collections/literature/ngb (in www. in Ab 3:15–151. 8. 1973). 12. 7. Hearts and Tones from Fire: Points of Relic Controversy from Tibetan History. followed by the volume and page numbers (i. See Longchenpa. From Reductionism to Creativity: rDzogs-chen and the New Sciences of the Mind (Boston and Shaftesbury: Shambhala.e. The Tibetan Book of the Dead.” See Herbert Guenther. 1973). Tk (gting skyes ed. The Rhetoric of Immediacy (Princeton: Princeton University Press.thdl. See a description of similar rhetorical strategies in Chan in Bernard Faure. The Treasury of Words and Meanings.virginia. Tk 4:43–45): 1. “Crystals and Images from Bodies. 1975–76). The Treasury of Words and Meanings (tshig don mdzod) (Gangtok.. Thimphu. Ihara Sho\ren and Yamaguchi Zuiho\ (Narita: Naritasan Shinshoji. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle (theg mchod mdzod) (Gangtok.
1–399. Longchenpa. 29. Ibid. 411–437. Longchenpa.3–427.4.6. The Blazing Relics Tantra. The Blazing Relics Tantra. 2:357. for a description of these five.5 and Ab 120. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.5 and Ab 377.. 17. 18. 2:356.4–7. The Tantra of the Adamantine Hero’s Heart-Mirror (rdo rje sems dpa’ snying gi me long gi rgyud). The Treasury of Words and Meanings. Tb 808.3 and Ab 142. 32. 30. 2:359. See Longchenpa. Tb 238. 433. It is cited by Longchenpa. This specific citation is in Tb 808.6.1–386.7 and Ab 143. “Crystals and Images. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.6–437. In the latter contexts. . Longchenpa.6. 31. Ibid. 2:358. It is cited by Longchenpa. Chapter 9 of Longchenpa.4–424.6–433.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 89 14. 2:383. 23..1.4.2 ff. 22. 20. It is cited by Longchenpa. 2:358. Tb 790.7. This passage provides a general outline for the ensuing discussion. Ibid..2..3 and 427..4–359.1)—in our present context the reference is to the five-colored light-cord rather than the four-colored one.3–386.2. Longchenpa. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. The latter text is essentially an expansion of the former text. 15. 433.5.” 183). in Tb 12: 193–245 and Ab 1:315–88. 2:371. 411. 16. relics themselves become active agents working wonders. 26. This “guiding rope” is discussed subsequently as “path to the Adamantine Hero’s interior” (464. 24. The Treasury of Words and Meanings. 413. Longchenpa. 2:385. The Treasury of Words and Meanings. 25. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. 424. they are other presencing. 21.4. 2:361.2. Ibid.3. I would agree with Martin’s characterization of Tibetan relic cults emphasizing “the miraculous nature of some of the relics in and of themselves” rather than “the wonder working power of the relics” (see Dan Martin. 19.5 ff. The Treasury of Words and Meanings. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. 27.3. 2:383. The Blazing Relics Tantra.4 corresponds to chapter 22 in Longchenpa. It is cited by Longchenpa.6.6 and 384. impelled forth out of empty potential by the needs and perspectives of others. Ibid. 28. 478. 2:383.4. The Treasury of Words and Meanings. Rather than the emanations being self-presencing out of the force of enlightenment’s own dynamics. Longchenpa. though in many contexts this is definitely not the case. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.
Tb 12:1–173 and Ab1:1–205. horizontal rays of light). “The Elements. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.1–2.2–391. vertical rays of light). Tb 811. Ibid.2–390.2. and so forth in their involvement with the exoteric Mahayana teachings. It is cited by Longchenpa.6 and Ab 146.. 44. The Blazing Relics Tantra. Mysticism and Rhetoric in the Great Perfection (forthcoming).4. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.1. 38. 50.4. Insanity. 387.1. Tb 810. 2:390. . 34. Ibid.7.. 51.7.4. 313–34. 2:386..e. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. The Tantra of Unimpeded Sound (sgra thal ‘gyur rgyud). The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. 389. 45. Tb 809. It is cited by Longchenpa.. It is cited by Longchenpa. The Blazing Relics Tantra. For an example of the tantra’s distinctive practices regarding sound. “Pillars” literally means “standing upright” (i.6 and Ab 147. 42. 2:388.4. Longchenpa. 2:391. Tb 811. The Blazing Relics Tantra. 2:390. The Blazing Relics Tantra.5 and Ab 144. Donald Lopez (Princeton: Princeton University Press. and “beams” the corbels. Longchenpa.5.3.4–6..7–387.2. Ibid. Longchenpa..3 and Ab 144. 388. 2:391. 39. 43. Ibid. Ibid.” in Religions of Tibet in Practice.. 52.4–392. Ibid. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. “walls” the “circumference. 35. Ibid.5..” though the term can refer to “walls” around a city. 46.4. and Lettered Subjectivity.2 and Ab 146.6–7.6. 36.2 and Ab 145. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.6. ed. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle 2:393. It is cited by Longchenpa. This evidently signifies those who have taken the bodhisattva vows. 387. or the “ribs” of a tent (i. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.. The Treasury of Words and Meanings.1–3. 436. generated the altruistic desire for enlightenment. 2:390.90 DAVID GERMANO 33. Ibid.. 41. 1997). 387. Tb 812.e.2. see David Germano. 37. 389.. 40. 47. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. Tb 812. It is cited by Longchenpa. Ibid. The corresponding section on “bones” is in Longchenpa. 49. 2:386–390. 2:386.2. 48. It is cited by Longchenpa. These are discussed in detail within David Germano.
4 (1988): 533. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. ch. which are subordinated to Seminal Heart practices proper characterized as “for those to whose intellects awareness is self-manifest. for a description of these practices. 85. 57. no. The Great Esoteric Unwritten Tantra (yi ge med pa’i gsang ba rgyud chen po).. Radical Hermeneutics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 56. 58. This specific citation is in ch. The Garland of Precious Pearls Tantra (mu tig rin po che phreng ba’i rgyud). 51. 8. The Tantra of the Lion’s Perfect Dynamism (seng ge rtsal rdzogs chen po’i rgyud).7. in Tb 12 304–93 and Ab 2:417–537. See. 61. 60. in Tb 12:560–712 and Ab 2: 245–415). ch. in Tb 11 323–696 and Ab 1:389–855. See Gregory Schopen. 209–35.. .. See my forthcoming Prophetic Histories of Buddhas. 78. 63. 66. This specific citation is in ch. Ab 222. Ibid. D≥a\kinês. Ab 640. ch.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 108. the chapter entitled “Toward a Postmetaphysical Rationality” in John Caputo. Ab 546.” though here faith is described as activating them. The Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness. These are amulets containing graphic representations of mandalas or scriptures believed to have the potency to grant liberation merely by “wearing. in Tb 689. 313 ff.4 and Ab 844. 4. 532 and 535. Ibid. 67. 68. 65. The Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness (rig pa rang shar chen po’i rgyud). This specific citation is in ch. 64..3–849. in Tb 11:298–322 and Ab 2:215–44. Ibid. 1987). These represent the standard list of eight levels or grounds of spiritual progression used to systematize the path of Hinayana. See Longchenpa. Ab 436. “On the Buddha and His Bones: The Conception of a Relic in the Inscriptions of Na\ga\rjunikon≥d≥a. 59. 1.2–693.” 54. 55.2. Longchenpa. 2:392. Ibid. corresponding to the famous “ten stages” of a bodhisattva in Mahayana. for example. The Treasury of Words and Meanings. Ab 785. Ab 346.LIVING RELICS OF THE BUDDHA(S) IN TIBET 91 53.4–393. 848. This specific citation is in ch. 34. 62. and Saints in Tibet from Princeton University Press.
there were several centers of more or less legitimate power: the ruling emperor (tenno\). dha\tu) in the sectarian context of Chan/Zen and in the devotional context of popular Buddhism. However. the notion is in fact extremely complex and polyvalent. relics served as an index for differential power and contributed to the empowerment of specific social groups. the hair relic of the Buddha is said to have insured victory in war to Prince Gopalê. the definition of the óarêra as “pearl-like” substance commanded its association with jewels and above all with the “wish-fulfilling jewel” (cinta\man≥i). it now seems clear that I presumed a little too quickly that I knew what relics are. In particular. For instance.4 In medieval Japan. the regent (sessho\) during the Heian period. already used by Buddhist rulers such as the Indian king Aóoka and the Chinese emperors Liang Wudi and Sui Wendi.1 Relics are by no means simple objects. it is a bundle of different elements and at the same time itself an element in a larger bundle that includes a variety of regalia. If at first glance óarêra seem to be what remains of a body reduced to its simplest form.CHAPTER FOUR BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA Bernard Faure I HAVE ELSEWHERE EXAMINED THE ROLE PLAYED BY BUDDHIST “RELICS” (óarêra. and of levels of discourse.2 On the symbolic level. One of these levels of discourse is the royal ideology. of protagonists. During this time. I want to focus here on the role of relics and of the cinta\man≥i in the political rivalries that divided Japan between the end of the Heian and the beginning of the Muromachi periods. relics are part of a broad semantic field and enter a variety of metonymic and metaphoric associations.3 On the pragmatic level. the cloistered emperor (in)— 93 . relics became the main object of worship (honzon) of many esoteric rituals aimed at destroying the enemy. neither for the believer nor for the scholar.
between the Heian and the Muromachi periods (eighth through fifteenth centuries). the sho\gun and his bakufu. What complicates things. The medieval period is indeed marked by a radical Buddhist reinterpretation of earlier imperial . GoDaigo. the warriors of the Taira and Minamoto clans. In the Heian period. In all these political fights. Buddhist symbols of legitimacy came to play a central role. while the emperors remained the ultimate source of symbolic authority. the Yamato clan was able to impose its leader as the legitimate ruler of Japan (tenno\) and thus to monopolize power in the seventh and eighth centuries. As Buddhism became the dominant ideology. retired emperors (in). the actual ruler of Japan was the sho\gun. came to be established. the main element of this new ideology centered on the enthronement ritual (sokui kanjo\) was the emergence of an alternative to the relics as instruments of legitimization. with the Kenmu Restoration (1333–36) and the subsequent Nanbokucho\ period. using the same technique. However. whose internecine fight precipitated the end of the Heian period. After emerging as primus inter pares in the sixth century CE.94 BERNARD FAURE particularly during the so-called Insei or Cloistered Government period (1087–1192) and during the Kenmu Restoration (1333–1336)—and finally. But already at that time. tried to reclaim power. merging Buddhist teachings and local cults. the Kojiki (712) and the Nihonshoki (or Nihongi. Thus. because it is during the Insei and Kenmu periods that a new ruling ideology. usually members of the Fujiwara clan. 720). however. The relics of the Buddha played a major role in this discourse. the real power was coopted by the regents. This official mythology provided a divine legitimization for royal/imperial power. a new type of legitimacy became necessary. the so-called three regalia (sword.7 The essential symbol in this system was a series of regalia. but once again. In the following Kamakura period. among which the óarêra of the Buddha and other relics came to play a prominent role. from the Kamakura period (1185–1333) onward. imperial legitimacy was redefined to encompass both local and Buddhist foundational ideologies. mirror). which was supported by the theory of the “identity of royal law and Buddhist Law” (o\bo\ soku buppo\). jewel. however. whose first parts deal with the mythical age of the gods.6 This political accomplishment was furthered by the compilation of two chronicles.5 Imperial attempts to wield power away from the bakufu deserve special emphasis. is that we do not have merely one center of power (and therefore one such ideology) throughout the period(s) considered. an emperor. were able to assert an influence that they never had while on the throne. they had to compete with another source of power. governing from Kamakura. During the Insei era.
8 While they were seen at times as potentially subverting the dominant insignia. whereas the relics were those transmitted to China by the Indian master Vajrabodhi (671–741). sword. and due to a metonymic drift between the “divine jewel” (as one of the three regalia). RELICS AND THE TENNO| The main effort of the imperial house was to establish the legitimacy of the emperor by giving mythological and metaphysical weight to the three regalia (jewel. S:arêra were distributed to fifty sanctuaries at the beginning of each new reign. however. owing in particular to his ability to summon the “dragon” Zennyo to Shinzen’en in 827. It is not clear how many cinta\man≥i were used in Shingon. the latter also came to play a central role in imperial ritual. This imperial use was based in particular on the rituals elaborated in the Ono branch of the Shingon school around the relics brought by the priest Ku\kai (774–835). mirror).BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 95 mythology.10 Relics were also at the center of the rain rituals performed by Ku\kai’s successors at Shinzen’en. The tradition usually mentions two of them. as these regalia met with various kinds of disasters (fire. When these rituals did not succeed right away. loss). a name that suggests a relation with (or transmission from) the na\ga king. closely related to this jewel. delimiting a field of discourse that has been labeled “chu\sei Nihongi ” (medieval Nihongi ) because it took this text as its ultimate scriptural and metaphysical authority. This was not an easy task. Japanese nyoi ho\ju). The Goyuigo\. to artistic and literary realms. Ku\kai is said to have received them from a monk appropriately named Qinglong (“Blue Dragon”).11 Thus. the officiating priest had to perform a “dragon offering” by wrapping relics in a gold leaf and placing them in a small dragon figure made out of miscanthus. an exegetic movement that extended. an apocryphal testament of . they were also used to reinforce imperial power.9 Another of Ku\kai’s titles to glory. which was then placed into a larger similar figure. was the efficiency of his rain rituals. beyond Buddhist doctrine as such. Next to the regalia. the three regalia. the Buddhist man≥i jewel (or cinta\man≥i. The cinta\man≥i and the óarêra on which the imperial house drew much of its legitimacy had been allegedly transmitted by Ku\kai. and the óarêra. but it could also mean two portions of the same original cinta\man≥i. with the help of the Buddhist clergy. theft. The cinta\man≥i was said to come from the na\ga palace. However. beginning with the Usa Hachiman Shrine. the success of the ritual was finally achieved by the symbolic return of the relics/cinta\man≥i to the na\ga king.
known precisely for its rain rituals. Although different in name. Inariyama. According to another tradition. in Nara). and Muro\zan.e. south of Kasuga). Sho\ko\myo\-in). he moved to Ko\zan (Incense Mountain. and Ninnaji in Omuro (on the western outskirts of Kyoto). the story of the na\ga king of Shinzen’en is intimately connected with the cult of the dragon hole of Muro\zan. the “Precious Repository” or Treasure (ho\zo\) of Toba (i. also a dragon god. but after a maiden (otome) drowned herself in it. states that Ku\kai disseminated relics on Muro\zan.” which legitimized their religious prestige and their ritual efficacy. and the jewel. Muro\’s “dragon hole” (tatsu no ana) was the dwelling place of the na\ga king Zentatsu.. is guarded by all the gods and na\gas who protect the country. This tradition is somewhat paradoxical in light of the fact that the founder of Muro\ji was said to be the Hosso\ priest Shubin (var. at Ko\fukuji.19 The “trace” of the jewel (that is. but we are also told that Ku\kai himself deposited the seven pearls of this cinta\man≥i in seven different places: To\koku (eastern Japan).14 Because of this. written toward the beginning of the fourteenth century by an abbot of Sho\myo\ji in Kanazawa. Kasuga Shrine. Ko\yasan. with the usual word play with Dai Nihon koku. which is also the source of the three regalia. Relics were also used as the main object of worship (honzon) in the rain rituals of Shinzen’en. Ise. the same person who was defeated by Ku\kai in a ritual contest at Shinzen’en.18 We are also told that. only two places are mentioned. this place is none other than the “original country of Dainichi” (Dainichi no honkoku. “Great Country of Japan”).13 They were perceived by Shingon priests as “saintly relics. This legend shows the close relationships between Ko\fukuji. .e.16 The legend suggests the role of the Fujiwara in promoting the site (and its dragon) to official status. of Dainichi) is the sun goddess Amaterasu. When a commoner (genin) in turn killed himself there. Muro\zan became a very sacred place indeed. Saikoku (western Japan).17 At any rate. Shu\en).15 According to the Kojidan. the na\ga king who was at the center of the ancient cult of the dragon-hole of Muro\zan was the same Zennyo who came to dwell in the pond of Shinzen’en. A recension of the Muro\zan goshari so\den engi.. and they were secretly deposited in the “dragon hole” of the central island of the pond. This na\ga king originally dwelt in Saruzawa Pond (i. since the jewel of Muro\zan is the body of the Buddha Dainichi (Sanskrit Maha\vairocana). the na\ga king of Muro\zan is in essence identical with the deity of Kasuga Shrine.96 BERNARD FAURE Ku\kai.12 Most of the time. To\ji and Muro\zan (alias Ben’ichizan). Zentatsu moved back to Muro\zan. indicates that the óarêra of To\ji must not be dispersed because they constitute the cinta\man≥i.
the jewel was periodically taken to the imperial palace to serve as honzon (main object of worship) for rituals aimed at the prosperity of the reigning emperor. in other words.25 . ultimate (and often invisible) goal of pilgrimage. Ben’ichizan was also perceived as the abode of Maitreya.22 One pearl of Ku\kai’s cinta\man≥i (or. by the na\ga king).23 It was finally given by the priest Hanjun (1038–1112) to the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa. but they were prevented by a storm (that is. Maitreya. and in particular of its dragon hole.”21 The Ben’ichizan ki gives a detailed description of the sacred geography of this mountain. the Oku no in. returned to the na\ga palace. from where it had come).24 This complementarity also reflects a tension between two modalities of the relics: as a fixed presence defining a sacred site.”20 Or again: “Ben’ichi is the center of the country of Japan (Nihonkoku). The na\ga king is assimilated to Kurikara (Sk. the other is visible (at least by some) at To\ji. Uda District. This country has the form of a one-pronged vajra. disseminating the sacred presence among growing networks of believers. with several sets of relics (thirty-six grains in all) said to belong to Ka\óyapa. This moutain corresponds to the center of this vajra. It is also called Peak of Energy (Sho\ji[n] no mine). This mountain is a sacred site unequalled in the whole Empire. a manifestation of the Wisdom king Fudo\ as a dragon coiled around an erected sword. the two parts of the same tessera (fu): one jewel remains hidden on the sacred mountain. and is part of a cycle of exchange between Shingon priests and the rulers. the homeland [honkoku] of Dainichi. The only person said to have been able to enter this hole after Ku\kai was Ningai (951–1046). was another crypt identified with the Inner Court of Tus≥ita Heaven. the other sacred site of Shingon. The distinction between the two jewels seems to reflect one between two levels of truth (ultimate and conventional) or the two hierarchical aspects of the Chinese dynastic treasure (bao).BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 97 According to the Ben’ichizan ki: “In Jambudvêpa. Another was transmitted within the To\ji lineage and kept in the Treasure House of that temple. one grain of óarêra) had been deposited on Muro\zan (it was said to have been thrown in the dragon hole or in the pond. another Shingon priest known for his rain rituals and believed to be a reincarnation of Ku\kai. according to one variant. just like Ko\yasan. whose spiritual center. in Yamato Province. and S:a\kyamuni and to represent the Three Bodies of the cosmic Buddha Maha\vairocana. It is the first secret place of Japan. The dragon hole was apparently an initiatic circuit symbolizing the stages of the bodhisattva career. or as a circulating token of salvation. Kulika). there is an excellent place called Mount Ben’ichi. Before that time. Others did try.
the Futama. the imperial house was ritually protected by high priests (gojiso\) belonging to the two esoteric schools of To\mitsu (Shingon) and Taimitsu (Tendai). the imperial cult remained dependent on such monks. In the latter case. their number decreases. reaching over four thousand grains toward the mid-Heian. and it marks the beginning of the custom of “requesting” the relics. These rites consisted essentially in a visualization of the cinta\man≥i of Muro\zan. in a small room adjacent to the emperor’s bedroom in the inner palace (Seiryo\den). and its honzon was the relics stored by Ku\kai in the Treasure House of To\ji. but their number came to vary considerably. There were originally eighty grains.98 BERNARD FAURE Yet another ritual center was the imperial palace itself. when “Shinto\” rites came to be more strictly separated from Buddhist rites. a task that became quite difficult as their number increased. We have a document related to this. the body of the emperor. The distribution was entrusted to the abbot (cho\ja) of To\ji and to selected officials. The relics of To\ji. were periodically brought to the palace by imperial order.”27 During this week-long ritual the officiating priest had to count the relics. When the country declines. until a theft of relics in 1216 . many oral traditions developed in Shingon about them. These “protecting monks” performed every night their rites in front of an icon of the bodhisattva Kannon (honji of the sun goddess Amaterasu).28 The tenno\’s control over the relics took two complementary forms: either the form of a ritual performed by his “protecting monks. The main duty of these spiritual bodyguards was to watch over the “jade body. During the Heian period. Even after the Heian period. during which the ruling emperor or the Cloistered Emperor were given a few grains. The Shichiko hiketsu. whose number tended to increase with time. according to the belief that “When the empire prospers. for instance. they fragment and their number increases. to which we will return. or the display of his property rights through a request that the relics of various temples be brought to the palace and inventoried by him.” that is. and thus over the prosperity of the imperial house and of the state.26 These rites show clearly the relation between mikkyo\ and sacred kingship. much of the symbolism was inherited from the “monstration” of the “regalia” of the Fujiwara in the Treasure House of Uji. and tags indicating their number were pasted on each bottle. This ceremony took place either in the palace or in the Seiryo\den. to be officially “counted” there.” and centered on the relics or the cinta\man≥i. and from the eleventh to the twelfth centuries.29 The first mention of a numbering goes back to 950. describes a seven-day ritual during which an abbot of To\ji entered the Seiryo\den and performed rites in front of the emperor. the To\ji busshari kankei ki.
perceived in Tendai as an emanation of Sanno\ Gongen. Scholars have discussed the sexual connotations of the term jade woman. He first meets a jade woman who is keeping the palace gates. the tutelary god of Hieizan. In his Jichin wajo\ muso\ ki. symbol of the sun goddess Amaterasu and ultimate source of royal power. after the tragic loss of one of the regalia (the sword) during the battle of Dan-no-ura (1185). In the Xiyou ji this jade woman is a “dragon-woman. Moreover. the jade woman. Ichiji Kinrin. For three centuries. himself a Fujiwara. and the mirror). At the beginning of the Kamakura period.” that is. Jien comments on a dream that he had in 1203. One of the most significant attempts was made by the Tendai prelate Jien. we find an interesting example of the relations among the jewel. Jien had the intuition that the sword represents the king’s body. The outcome of this union is the divine mirror. it is the union of the esoteric figures Butsugen Butsumo and Ichiji Kinrin. In Buddhist terms. The kernel of this story has the same structure as the legends of visits to the palace of the sea king in the Kojiki and the Nihonshoki: during his visit to the dragon palace.33 . Jien offered the Muso\ ki to Emperor Go-Toba. This dream has drawn a lot of scholarly attention recently. and imperial power. of the king’s consort. to emphasize the interdependence between kingship (o\bo\) and Buddhism (buppo\). the daughter of the dragon king who keeps the cinta\man≥i.31 In the Sanbo\ ekotoba (984) by Minamoto Tamenori. In Japan. came to be associated with the óarêra. and the jewel (or the sword’s sheath) that of the “jade-woman.BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 99 caused it to be held at To\ji. as well as the number of relic grains.30 It is centered on a vision of the three regalia (the sword. a term with a long history in China. the samaya or “convention” form of Nyoirin Kannon. the jade woman becomes metaphorically associated with the divine jewel.32 The jewel is said to be a transformed relic of the ancient Buddha. and their frequency. It is a legend taken from Xuanzang’s Record of a Journey to the West (Da Tang Xiyou ji): in order to improve the life of his people. so I shall give its outline here. the jewel. increased considerably in the fourteenth century due to civil war. then the dragonking himself. several attempts were made to regild the imperial blason (and Fujiwara prestige) by finding new sources of legitimacy and redefining the symbolism of the enthronement ritual. This story suggests that the jade woman and Toyotamahime are functionally similar. Hohodemi no mikoto marries Toyotamahime and receives from her two jewels that control the tides. a prince goes to the palace of the dragon king to get the magic jewel. and more precisely the cinta\man≥i.” that is. such ceremonies took place repeatedly.
we find the idea that the ho\zo\ and its content magically protected the Regent’s House (Sekkanke). the deity of Narutaki (“Pure Waterfall”). for instance. The cinta\man≥i at the center of this ritual was the one allegedly offered to the priest Saicho\ (767–822) by Narutaki Myo\jin. known as “Entering Uji” (Uji-iri). icons. an episode reminiscent of the offering of the na\ga girl to the Buddha.35 This Uji entering ritual. which symbolize Ichiji Kinrin and Butsugen Butsumo. and it seems that the “dragon” Yorimichi was perceived as the ancestral spirit of the regent line. a number of óarêra. texts. the stupa between the two buildings symbolizes the result of the union of the two polar opposites (the two buildings. built in 1069. and the Byo\do\in came to serve as a focal point for funerary cults. Yorimichi lived at the end of the Fujiwara rule. the Shijo\ko\-do\ (Hall of Blazing Lights) and the Butsugen-do\ (Hall of Butsugen). as well as sutras and statues. where the Uji entering ceremony took place. In other words.34 The anchin (Pacification) and shijo\ko\ (Burning Lights) rituals were major Tendai rituals influenced by yin-yang cosmology (onmyo\do\). this power is symbolized by the legend of Yorimichi’s apotheosis as a dragon. Gradually. This Treasure House (ho\zo\). RELICS AND THE REGENTS According to the preface of the Uji shu\i monogatari. the Womb and Vajra mandalas. However. The ritual act of opening it. the Treasure House itself came to be seen as charged with the same aura of sacredness as its treasures. was thus intimately related to the power of the Sekkanke. the king and his consort—as jade woman). find another expression in the architectural symbolism of So\ji-in on Hieizan. expressed in Jien’s dream. whose function was to protect the Treasure House and its contents. In the Keiran shu\yo\ shu\. the treasures mentioned in legends about Uji. contained the regalia of the Fujiwara. the rite of opening of the gates of the Uji Treasure House. the two rituals. the head of the demon Shu\ten Do\ji.100 BERNARD FAURE The sexual connotations of the óarêra. The ritual was performed at a nondual stu\pa erected between two halls. was reserved to the Fujiwara leaders. which took place on the second day of the second month of each year. At the basis of this rite. Uji was a burial site for the Fujiwara clan. where relic worship took place every year. became for the Fujiwara a ceremonial expression of power. no longer have anything to do with those mentioned in diaries and other such documents—which include music instruments. performed at a time when the power of the Sekkanke was already wan- . The ho\zo\. and not surprisingly.
is precisely a cinta\man≥i. Among the symbolically significant objects of the na\ga palace were the óarêra and/or the cinta\man≥i. was apparently an attempt to restore Fujiwara prestige by capitalizing not only on the fame of the historical Yorimichi but also on the fear inspired by his imaginary. opened the Treasure House from time to time to consult its inventory and to admire its treasures. we find the same conception as that in the Aizen ritual. In the Byo\do\in gokyo\zo\ mokuroku. it is only with the cloistered emperors of the Insei period that the óarêra become the object of a hagiographical discourse centered on the question of royal power. The emphasis on óarêra . namely. Kanezane himself is described as performing the ceremony in 1187 and rejoicing over the miraculous increase in number of the óarêra grains. The source of the prestige of the ho\zo\ was now sought in the dragon who protected it.BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 101 ing. as well as by the Chinese monk Ganjin. we are told that the regent (kanpaku). the inventory made in 1187 (Bunji 3/ 8/21) records sixty-nine grains of Buddha relics. and Aizen Myo\o\. similar objects were preserved in the Treasure House of Uji. However. after worshipping the relics and Aizen Myo\o\. the symbolic identity of the relics. the association between dragons and the Uji River did not begin with Yorimichi’s legend. This ceremony showed the prestige of the Sekkanke and confirmed its legitimacy. RELICS AND CLOISTERED EMPERORS Although the logic of legitimacy at work through the relics was already present in the cases of the emperor and of the Fujiwara regents. these treasures also had intrinsic sacredness. In the background. After the long dominance of the Fujiwara regents. rather than in its precious content. In the Gyokuyo\. new myths were needed to legitimize the shift to the Insei rule. The Treasure House of Byo\do\in inherited from the na\ga palace motif its power to imbue hidden treasures with sacrality. Not surprisingly. went on pilgrimage to Uji in 1072 (Enkyu\ 4/10/26). the honzon of the Treasure House of Byo\do\in. There was indeed such a jewel in Uji. Yorimichi offered him this cinta\man≥i. the cinta\man≥i. Although the cinta\man≥i is not explicitly mentioned. we know that the samaya form of Aizen Myo\o\. The Byo\do\in gokyo\zo\ mokuroku lists the relics of the Buddha brought by Ku\kai and Ennin. Indeed. Shirakawa. This is probably also related to the fact that Uji had long been a cultic center for water deities. when the new emperor. According to the Hyakurensho\. reptilian double. in response to a dream. icons and precious musical instruments. In the Gyokuyo\.
which promoted the alliance of the Buddha Law and the kingly law.” The medieval conception of the relics provides a convenient index to relations of power.38 The symbolic prestige of the cloistered emperor depended largely on the wealth (real and imagined) and the perceived sacredness of his Treasure House. which became the source and guarantee of his Buddhist and divine “mandate. the honzon of the “Circular Hall” of Ho\ssho\ji.37 This jewel thus constituted a bridge between the “royal law” of the cloistered emperor and the Buddha Dharma. the Buddhist clergy. It is only as a representative of the Buddha that the ruler was entitled to possess the latter’s relics. Among the people who transmitted relics. such as Shirakawa-in and Taira no Kiyomori. was associated with many secret rites of Shingon centered on the óarêra and the cinta\man≥i. The destinies of these two men were connected. the Sho\ko\myo\-in. The jewel transmitted at To\ji was said to be the convention (samaya) form of Aizen Myo\o\. By the periodical inventory of his Treasure House and the transfer of precious objects from Byo\do\-in to Sho\ko\myo\-in. was more than an architectural symbol: it significantly contributed to the transfer of power from the Sekkanke to the cloistered emperor. The relics contained in the Treasure House protected not only their owner but also the country of which he was the de facto ruler. This Treasure House. Shirakawa-in. In the background of several records of relic transmission. built in 1136 after the model of the Byo\do\-in. we find the Shingon theory of the identity between óarêra and cinta\man≥i. not only through marital alliances but also through the transmission of relics. a monastery closely connected with the Insei rule. we find Shingon priests. this legitimacy was to a large extent controlled by an external authority. in particular members of the Ono branch. in particular.102 BERNARD FAURE reflected an attempt by the cloistered emperors at finding a basis for their own “royal power” with new regalia that would counterweigh the three regalia held by the tenno\.36 Behind such rites.39 By linking ancient myths about royal power and the cult of relics that develops . They were therefore indispensable to the ruler or to a would-be ruler. The relics used in these ceremonies were identified with the three jewels brought to Japan by Ku\kai. where Shirakawa-in’s name often recurs. This transmission in particular can be read as an expression of the new form of power that begins with Shirakawa-in in 1096. Although they provided the ideal legitimacy for medieval kingship. the cloistered emperor Shirakawa reasserted the relations between the sacrality of the Treasure House and the sacred kingship of its owner. we find figures known as “protectors” of the imperial house.
Shirakawa-in also claimed to possess the “heavenly” tooth relic transmitted by the Chinese priest Daoxuan (596–667).43 We learn that the relics of Raiganji were the property of a dragon king. agrees in part with the Busshari so\jo\ shidai and describes the transfer of Kiyomori’s relics to the Kannonbo\. According to this text. but there seems to be no other record of this.BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 103 around that time. says that the tooth of the Buddha preserved at Jo\ju\ji (in Kyoto) came from Daoxuan. as well as at Rengeo\-in in Rokuhara. and of several former imperial consorts who had become nuns at Hokkeji in Nara. we find an echo of the myth of Hoori no mikoto and the daughters of the sea king in classical Japanese mythology. the . the óarêra obtained by the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang from a Southern Indian monk were transmitted to Japan by the Tendai priest Gishin (780–833).41 After being eventually transmitted to Shirakawa-in. for instance. according to the Goshari so\den shidai. a new ideology exalting the cloistered emperor was constituted. the son of the Deva-King Viru\pa\ks≥a. the relics come from the outside—and in the case of the palace of the dragon king.44 Court ladies seem to have played a significant role in the transmission of the relics. The Kyo\shi Ho\onji butsuga shari engi. For instance.40 When the latter performed a ceremony with three hundred óarêra grains. Toba-in had to get them from Taira no Kiyomori. of the cloistered emperor Toba.45 Although Shirakawa-in supposedly gave relics to the Gion Consort. before eventually reaching Emperor Shirakawa in 1092. who had received it from the god Nazha (Sanskrit Nad≥a).42 Other documents show an attempt at synthesizing the two traditions concerning the provenance of the relics in the possession of Shirakawain—that of the Chinese relics and that of the relics obtained directly from the na\ga palace. The cloistered emperor derived legimacy from the possession of the “Chinese” relics of the Buddha (by opposition to relics in direct provenance from the na\ga palace). the óarêra contributed to the legitimacy of the cloistered emperor in the same way as the three regalia did for the tenno\. and one hundred grains were deposited at Uji. whose palace was at the bottom of the Nunobiki waterfall in Settsu\. it passed into the hands of the Gion Consort. before coming into the possession of the Ritsu priest Eizon (1201–1290). Indeed. In all cases. a miracle is said to have taken place. the Ga shari bunpu hachiryu\ of Raiganji. Ayuwang and from Yanta shan (Goose Stu\pa Mountain) in China. This implies that they had been transmitted by the Gion Consort to Kiyomori. Another document. The Busshari so\jo\ shidai states that the cloistered emperor had two thousand óarêra grains coming from Mt. as claimed precisely by the Busshari so\jo\ shidai.
who according to a tradition was Shirakawa-in’s own son. Thus. It produces an account of the origins of the Insei rule. The identification of Shirakawa-in with the dragon king. After Shirakawa-in. underscored that. Go-Shirakawa-in gave his cinta\man≥i to the Daigoji priest Sho\ken and asked him to perform rituals on his behalf. the mention of the Gion Consort and of her sister in the Busshari so\jo\ shidai has to do with their role as female mediums (miko). the Gion Consort and her sister merely served as intermediaries in the transmission of male power. the relics were no longer transmitted through a single line. in 1192. Sho\ken kept the jewel. Whatever the truth of this. beginning with the transmission from the Gion Consort to Taira no Kiyomori. The two mythological sisters played an important role in the birth of the imperial lineage. and how did she come to be entrusted with such important symbols? Tanaka Takako points out that this imperial concubine remained an “empress without rank nor diadem” and that it is therefore unlikely that she received the emblem of kingship for herself. Toyotamahime and Tamayorihime. Kiyomori saw his authority established as leader of the Taira clan.46 The younger sister of the Gion Consort was married to Taira no Tadamori (1096–1153). which triggered a symbolic association with the sea king’s daughters. Like them. According to Tanaka. Why did this line thus extend to the Gion Consort. the óarêra. Thus. Through their dissemination. Fujiwara no Muneyori was sent to the residence of the abbot with a request that the . ruler of the sea world. a new form of royal power that began with Shirakawa-in. According to an inventory of Sho\ko\myo\-in. and she gave birth to Kiyomori (1118–1181). in the Kojiki. not only his royal blood. the child of Hoori no mikoto and Toyotamahime was raised by the latter’s younger sister. all kinds of ties between various people were created. The Gion Consort brought up Kiyomori as her own child. just as.104 BERNARD FAURE transmission from the cloistered emperor to the Gion Consort took place at the time of Shirakawa-in’s death. and with ancient legends about jewel transmission. and their image was deeply rooted in medieval imagination. through the intermediary of the Gion Consort. centered on the jewels. texts such as the Busshari so\jo\ shidai tried to reconstruct for medieval kingship a mythological discourse similar to that of the emergence of ancient kingship. but his regalia as well. the Buddhist version of the jewel of the na\ga palace.47 In this way. Tamayorihime. it is clear that this unusual “consort” was seen to be closely related to the óarêra and/or the cinta\man≥i. that is. After the fall of the cloistered emperor. The cinta\man≥i in question was that of Ku\kai. were transmitted to Kiyomori. at the time of Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s rebellion against imperial rule (1184–85). transmitted in the Ono branch of Shingon.
and to influential mikkyo\ monks and wandering fund raisers (kanjin hijiri). whereas the sectarian lineage of transmission of the relics. by creating a kind of “commodity fetishism. as it was performed in the Ono branch of Shingon. we have here a lineage of relic transmission that begins as an imperial lineage and ends up as a sectarian (Ritsu) lineage (from Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa and Kiyomori to Eizon. The relics “offered” by the cloistered emperors and distributed to ministers and imperial consorts. in the Ono branch. A document of Raiganji also claims that the tooth possessed by this temple and that had been transmitted by Kiyomori. the structure of the lineage given in the Busshari so\jo\ shidai text changes significantly: it is no longer a transmission within the imperial family nor the prerogative of To\ji priests. On the other hand.52 It should be clear by now that the relics and the cinta\man≥i constituted for the cloistered emperors an emblem of legitimacy similar to the three regalia for the tenno\. It was also offered by Hanjun to Shirakawa-in.” in particular women. it is also because they solved a problem that the transmission of Buddhist regalia such as the ka\s≥a\ya (monastic robe) or the three imperial regalia left unresolved: that of the dissemination of power. However.51 Thus. relics could not simply be thesaurised if power was to circulate between the various levels of the imperial system. after Kiyomori. reflected (or “produced”) the cloistered emperors’ prestige. We recall that one of the two jewels made by Ku\kai with the relics was deposited on Muro\zan. while the other was transmitted at To\ji and eventually offered by Hanjun to Shirakawa-in. the function of these relics and of their transmission line also changes. the honzon of the Circular Hall of Hossho\ji. through the court lady Takakura).50 The nuns of Hokkeji served as female mediums (miko).48 This jewel is said to have been inserted into an icon of Aizen Myo\o\. By the same token. another name for relics). and they came to symbolize medieval kingship. of obscure origin. delivering oracles through rituals centered on the cinta\man≥i.BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 105 jewel be returned to the palace. in which many former court ladies had taken their monastic vows. After the latter’s death it was returned to Sho\ko\myo\-in. came originally from the na\ga palace. It passes into the hands of the Ritsu monks and nuns (at Saidaiji and Hokkeji in Nara). If they became so important. conversely. a nunnery affiliated with Saidaiji. Through fragmentation the relic could be multiplied and create a network of “dependents. had become that of the imperial lineage. It is no longer centered on the secret rite of the dha\tu (Japanese dato. and Toba-in then gave it to one of his ministers. their dissemination. It is a transmission centered on Hokkeji.49 As noted above. On the one hand.” led to their . our source mentions another jewel.
they lost their aura of mystery and saw their power eclipsed. to watch over the imperial regalia in their Treasure House. both secretly worshipped relics from Mt.53 The Darumashu\ lineage was centered on the transmission of the relics of the six Chan patriarchs and of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Japanese Fugen). From that time onward.55 The structural equivalence between Tus≥ita Heaven and the na\ga palace is striking. He deposited it in turn in a monastery.u. in a way.54 A document concerning these relics. a theory which can be seen as supporting Kiyomori’s usurpation. also received from Maitreya a relic of the Buddha. the founder of the rival Darumashu\ (“Bodhidharma School”). we find the tradition that makes him an illegitimate child of Shirakawa. Eventually. In his Ko\zen gokokuron. .106 BERNARD FAURE devaluation. They continued. During the Kamakura period. Despite his violent criticism against Dainichi No\nin. they saw their symbolical value eroded. and all the members of the Taira clan were to be reborn in the na\ga palace. they were influenced by eminent Zen monks such as Myo\an Eisai (1141–1215) and Dainichi No\nin (d. Ayuwang. In this.). merging the sufferings of rebirth in an animal destiny with the glories of the na\ga palace. By becoming available as spiritual currency.57 After Kiyomori’s death and the Genpei war that ensued. described by the Heike monogatari. the real center of power shifted to the bakufu government in Kamakura. where the sacred sword had returned after their defeat. By being exposed to the light of day. the clan chiefs whose rivalry would cause the decline of imperial power at the end of the Heian period. reports that No\nin. now under water. he mentions the miracles caused by the relic of the Ayuwang monastery. the third sho\gun Minamoto no Sanetomo (1193–1219) also received the tooth of the Buddha from the Chinese monastery Nengrensi (No\ninji). however. Kiyomori was to fail in his attempt to found a new dynasty. RELICS AND THE SHO\GUN Taira no Kiyomori and Minamoto no Yoritomo.56 Although he never became sho\gun. At the background of the theory concerning the transmission of the relics from Shirakawa to Kiyomori through the Gion Consort. This vision of the imperial consort Kenreimon’in. other ceremonies focused on the relics brought back by the monk Eisai.58 According to the Butsuga shariki (Chronicle of the Relic of the Tooth of the Buddha). Kiyomori skillfully used the relics and the cinta\man≥i to enhance his prestige. dated 1460. Eisai shared with him a deep interest in relics and in the tradition of Mt. after ascending in a dream to Tus≥ita Heaven. is an ambivalent one. Yoritomo assumed full power as sho\gun. Ayuwang.
and heard there a sermon from a priest who. supposedly brought by the Tendai master Gishin and transmitted for a long time within the Fujiwara family. Sanetomo had Eisai officiate a ceremony welcoming relics of the Buddha from Daoxuan’s monastery. had had the same dream. He then decided to send an envoy to China to ask the Nengrensi monks for the tooth. built for the occasion. which was finally sent to the capital. 1353–1371) ordered the Zen master Muso\ Soseki to request the relic. it was moved to Sho\kokuji (the Kyoto monastery that is the homonym. and for which he ordered the celebration of an annual ceremony. because it was perceived as the protector of Kamakura (that is. shows clearly the rivalry between Go-Daigo and the sho\gun for the relic and the mediating role played by Muso\. Muso\ suggested that the sho\gun Takauji build stupas in all the provinces.BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 107 Daijiji. in which the relics of the Buddha would be deposited. In the dream. they seem to have believed) from their relic. After the death of Go-Daigo. of the sho\gun). founded by the Vinaya master Shunjo\ (1166–1227). despite some obscurities. of Xiangguosi.60 This short text. The text adds that. the sho\gun’s puzzlement grew all the greater when he learned that two prominent Kamakura monks. Ryo\shin and Senko\. an emperor of the brief northern dynasty. apparently convinced by his dream (and by the substantial gifts offered by the Japanese delegation) finally agreed to part (temporarily. in Japanese reading. A relic assembly was held every year on the fifteenth of the tenth month. also . The Sennyu\ji. he heard the reply that holy men transcend time and space. This is how Daoxuan had been able to be reborn in Japan under the name of Sanetomo. he was told. in 1214. to contribute to the prosperity of the state. to a Chinese monastery that turned out to be Nengrensi. Go-Ko\gon (r. In 1396. This gesture was in clear imitation of King Aóoka and a symbolic attempt to claim control over the whole country. although Emperor Go-Daigo wanted to worship the relic. the tooth was transferred in 1285 to Engakuji in Kamakura. The emphasis on this tooth relic may have been to undermine the credibility of another tooth relic mentioned above. risho\to\ (life-benefitting stupas). he had gone to China. The monks of this monastery. As a result of this dream. former shelter of the relic). First deposited at Daijiji. The relic eventually disappeared during the O|nin war (1467–1477). in Southern Song China. When he expressed his surprise that Daoxuan had already been dead a long time. According to a variant. Nengrensi. Then. After he woke up. Sanetomo had a dream that identified Eisai as an avatar of Daoxuan. was the Vinaya master Daoxuan (596–667).59 This story deserves closer scrutiny: it was as the result of a dream that Sanetomo came to take a great interest in this relic. he did not.
108 BERNARD FAURE claimed to possess the tooth of the Buddha transmitted by Daoxuan. during his entire reign (1308–1318). king of the Ko\shi kingdom in India. He also tried to prevent these relics from circulating among other hands. to create or reinforce networks of adhesion. On two occasions. who was the avatar of a celestial (golden) dragon and who had obtained awakening because of sermons. which are said to have turned into a cintam \ ani ≥ . Monkan seems also to have conferred the “unction of enthronement” (sokui kanjo) \ on the emperor. giving a jewel to the patriarch Prajña\tara. on the eighth of the ninth lunar month. He was also ordered to distribute some of these relics to other temples. we find instructions attributed to him. Thus. EMPEROR GO-DAIGO AND THE CINTA|MAN≥I Emperor Go-Daigo (whose official reign is dated 1318–1339. although he spent much of it under siege or in exile) made a large use of esoteric rituals and drew in particular on the power of the regalia to establish his legitimacy as ruling (and not merely reigning) emperor.63 . that is. concerning the three honzon of a state ritual (one of the Buddha. Emperor Hanazono.62 The cinta\man≥i. the priest who had “protected” him through these difficult years. He had the relics of Toj \ i and other major temples brought to court at least fourteen times over a three-year period (from 1334 to 1336). at the center of which were two jewels or óarêra. Just before dying. the symbolic associations of relics with the na\ga palace were alive. in 1324 and 1333. was promoted to the highest clerical offices. Monkan. Muso\ transmitted his jewel to his disciple Shun’oku Myo\ha. A relic assembly took place each year in this monastery. In the Himitsu gentei kuketsu (dated 1338). in essence identical with the cintam \ ani ≥ and with the sun goddess Amaterasu. as many times as his father. a form of abhise ≥ ka in which the ruler identified with Vairocana. The central icon is identified with the emperor himself. here. The text compares this event to the na\ga girl’s gift of her jewel to the Buddha and to Bodhidharma’s father. he brought on several occasions the relics of Toj \ i to court and used them as honzon in his rites. according to the Rokuo\ zen’in nyoi ho\ju\ ki. With Go-Daigo’s return to the throne in 1333. Muso\ Soseki received a cinta\man≥i from a mysterious old man. As abbot (choj \ a) of Toj \ i. These icons were placed in a five-degree stupa. remains a sectarian treasure. and two wisdom kings. The most obvious expression of this is his frequent “requests” for the relics. symbolizing the two mandalas). he ordered an interdiction to request the relics. the honji (essence) of his mythical ancestor Amaterasu. even in Buddhist circles close to the sho\gun. Fudo\ and Aizen.61 However.
The goal of the presentations of relics at court was apparently auspiciousness. the thirty-two grains of óarêra brought to the palace in 1330 (Gentoku 2/3/11) by the abbot of Toj \ i. and the shog \ un was informed. The ambivalent nature of the relic. Fudo\ Myo\o\. decided to perform himself a goma ritual to the elephantheaded god Shot \ en (alias Kangiten. as in the case of Chinese and Japanese regalia. Again. Sanskrit Vinay \ aka). Go-Daigo. the Taiheiki reveals that the real goal of this ritual was to subdue the bakufu. made them the perfect instruments for rebirth and rebellion strategies. according to the Toj \ i busshari kankeiki. but which could also serve as apotropaic symbols. Even if their function can be traced back to Indian and Chinese precedents. Toba) and the Fujiwara regents. when the ritual continued for four years (until 1329). In particular.64 The relics also played a central role in rituals of power. destined at bringing down an enemy. he was in fact merely enacting on a larger scale the same rituals already performed by the cloistered emperors of the Insei period (Shirakawa. This agonistic function. However. developed considerably in medieval Japan. particularly in Japan from the eleventh century onward. Thus. were destined to serve as honzon for a secret rite aimed at defeating the enemy. These rituals used the relics or the cinta\man≥i as part of the worship of specific deities. and Dakiniten. Among the most popular of these esoteric deities. we find Sho\ten (Vina\yaka). to make a show of imperial legitimacy. deities that were at first marginal in the Buddhist pantheon but that came to assume a central role in Tantric Buddhism. Benzaiten. Shoj \ in. secondary deities . it became clear that the consort’s pregnancy was an ominous one. placed in a delicate situation. the besson. whose fecundity symbolism justifies relic use at the time of childbirth. in a time of intense political strife. mentioned earlier. Horikawa. Unfortunately. Aizen Myo\o\. the development of the theme of the identity between the óarêra and the cinta\man≥i deviated the relic cult from the worship of the Buddha (as honzon) to that of the “Special Worthies” (besson). Although the image of Go-Daigo performing black magic has left a deep impression. the relics presented in 1326 (Kanreki 1/8/30) were allegedly destined to serve as honzon for a ritual aimed at the safe delivery of the imperial consort. in Japan the relics of the Buddha were reinscribed in specific symbolical or pragmatic and political networks.BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 109 RITUALS OF POWER The “presentations” of the relics were not intended merely.
Rengeo\-in. 1 (1987): 25–55. texts written in blood. but the stupa. as it were. The relics of the Buddha where circulating in several circles (or rather ellipses) of power whose real centers were the various incumbent rulers or challengers of the time (the emperor. or Tenryu\ji). In this way. or the sho\gun) and major Buddhist monasteries (To\ji. Catherine . See Bernard Faure. which the sho\gun disseminated throughout the country. They became. the relics also circulated between the periphery of these circles and their “symbolic” centers (the Treasure Houses of To\ji. no. the cult of the relics was put at the center of the Buddhist ideology of royal power that developed toward that time. The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press. and if we see the same rhetoric of invisibility at work in their case. other relics—the óarêra of the saints—continued their traditional trajectory as cultic objects in monasteries and among the faithful. and So\to\ Zen. etc.” and this precisely because of their uncanny capacity to sink and resurface. the cloistered emperor. Hieizan. 132–47. a Life-Benefitting Stupa (risho\to\) was erected after the death of Emperor Go-Daigo to receive some of the relics of the Buddha. the “crypt” or the reliquary is not the na\ga palace or its earthly replicas.) and sometimes broke out of these circles of power to disseminate among clerics and the faithful. Do\gen. Meanwhile. “The Daruma-shu\. This shows that the distinction between the two types of relics (those of the Buddha.110 BERNARD FAURE that take the center stage in rituals from the Insei period onward. They do not seem to have been associated to the cinta\man≥i or to the regalia. A case in point is the Peak of the Five Elders (Goro\ho\) at Yo\ko\ji in Noto peninsula. those of the saints or patriarchs). bones. In the same temple.” Monumenta Nipponica 42. a mound where the Zen priest Keizan Jo\kin (1268–1325) buried various relics (óarêra in the strict sense.” in Bouddhisme et lettrés dans la Chine médiévale. while generally valid. the Fujiwara regent. etc. However. Sho\ko\myo\-in. which came to circulate among the nuns of Hokkeji in Nara and pursued their centrifugal trajectory among the faithful of the provinces. must in some cases be nuanced. after sojourning for a time in the na\ga palace. “Les cloches de la terre: Un aspect du culte des reliques dans le bouddhisme chinois. NOTES 1. This is for instance the case of the relics transmitted by Shirakawa-in to the Gion Consort and Kiyomori.) of the five patriarchs of the So\to\ tradition (including his own “preposthumous” relics). “floating signifiers. ed. 1991). the Treasure Houses (ho\zo\).
after the Nanbokucho\ period. 6. Nihon shiso\ 2 (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten. no. ed.” trans. 2. Strictly speaking. and the Dynamics of Secrecy in Japanese Buddhism. fasc. 1924–34). On the cinta\man≥i and Japanese kingship. and 1253 (Kencho\ 5). vol. 5. See To\bo\ ki. 2040:66. 2 (2002): 143–74. the sho\gun used a similar method. 8. see Brian D. et al. and T. no. the tenno\ is not an emperor (at least at this time). Despite the inadequacy of the term relics (even in the Western context). which covers some of the same ground. As we will see later. 4. 2000).BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 111 Despeux (Paris.” On this question. Paul Varley.. Imperial Restoration in Medieval Japan (New York: Columbia University Press. 3. Such distributions took place for instance in 1038 (Cho\ryaku 2). I chose to continue using it here as shorthand for the Sanskrit terms dha\tu and óarêra. see Kuroda Toshio. 1930). The following chapter is a shortened version of a paper written in 1996. “Shinto\ in the History of Japanese Religion. see in particular Abe Yasuro\. ed. On Ku\kai’s rain rituals at Shinzen’en. and “Dato. See Koji ruien. See Faure. James C. 9. Ruppert. 1086–1185 (New York: Columbia University Press. However. 2 (Tokyo: Yoshikawa ko\bunkan. see H. Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve.” in Rending the Veil: Concealment and Secrecy in the History of Religions. Insei: Abdicated Sovereigns in the Politics of Late Heian Japan. by Go\ho\ (1306–62). ed. 1435:415. to avoid complicating the matter further. “Ho\ju to o\ken: chu\sei to mikkyo\ girei. 1 (1981): 1–21.” in Ho\bo\girin: Dictionnaire encyclopédique du bouddhisme d’après les sources chinoises et japonaises. Regalia. 50. On the Insei period. 1192 (Kenkyu\ 3). I will retain the established translation. for lack of a better one.” in Iwanami ko\za to\yo\ shiso\ 16. which reflects the medieval (and modern) Japanese perception of the tenno\ as universal ruler by divine inheritance. Journal of Japanese Studies 7. 1989). 1229 (Kanki 1). Takakusu Junjiro\ et al. in Zoku zoku gunsho ruiju\ 12. 1977).” History of Religions 42.). Dobbins and Suzanne Gay. 2002). no. see also Taisho\ shinshu\ daizo\kyo\ (hereafter abbreviated as T. Wolfson (New York: Seven Bridges Press. Shu\kyo\-bu. Sylvain Lévi. 170b. some of whose material was published under the title “Relics. pointed out by several scholars. fasc. 115–69. 271–87. “Buddhist Rainmaking in Early Japan: The Dragon King and the Ritual Careers of Esoteric Monks. 23 (Tokyo: Taisho\ issaikyo\ kanko\kai. 2003: 1127–1158. 1999). 8. . 7. 2 (Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve. 1971). vol. Cameron Hurst III. 247–48. I use the expression local ideology here. Elliot R. 242. I have unfortunately been unable to take Ruppert’s findings into account.. Bouddhisme et lettrés. See “Buppatsu. 10. to designate the first elements of a system of beliefs and rituals that will only much later come to be called “Shinto\.” Ho\bo\girin. 1976). On the Kenmu restoration. see G. It was written before the publication of Brian Ruppert’s Jewel in the Ashes: Buddha Relics and Power in Early Medieval Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
19. Shubin. 22a (hereafter DNBZ). Quoted in Tsuji. At the beginning of the Kamakura period. see Tsuji Zennosuke. See Zoku gunsho ruiju\ 27b:296–99. 76. See also. 7/23. thereby causing a terrible drought.” Indogaku bukkyo\gaku kenkyu\ 33. 2410:545c. 374–79. However.. on the etymology of these places named Sho\ji(n). See Kakuzensho\.. DNBZ 51:134–35. a group of Shingon adepts also obtained a few grains of those óa\rêra. and a dragon god tried to steal it. see Ruppert. in Dai Nihon bukkyo\ zensho. According to one tradition. vol. eds. 4 (1995): 646–71. and the jewel was returned safely to the capital. because of this theft he came to be called the “Saint who spread the óarêra of Muro\[zan]” (Muro\ shari ru\fu sho\nin). Jishi jo\sho 3. whom Ku\kai invited to reside in Shinzen’en Pond. which they later disseminated in the Kanto\ region. see Mimi Hall Yengpruksawan. 15 (Tokyo: Chikuma shobo\. It is this na\ga. the jewel of Ninnaji (the so-called no\saku jewel) had been sent to the sho\gun. 1970). See the Ben’ichizan ki. 20. 51. and who remained free. and No\tomi Jo\ten. According to the Taiheiki. and he was arrested at Ko\fukuji. quoting the Goyuigo\. his attempt failed. See Kakuzensho\. T. When an emissary left Kamakura with it. s. no. no. Muro\ji oyobi Hasedera no kenkyu\. There was only one na\ga king in the Heatless Lake on the Himalayas. 13. 21. See for instance Robert E. See The Taiheiki: A Chronicle of Medieval Japan. 22. from a “Shinto\” standpoint.v. “Passage to India Denied: Zeami’s Kasuga Ryu\jin. In 1272. “The Phoenix Hall at Uji and the Symmetries of Replication. the Ben’ichi himitsu ki (compiled toward the Nanbokucho\ period). rather than from the Buddhist term sho\jin (Sanskrit vêrya. Tsuji Hidenori. 15. 2 (1982): 179–200. derived from sho\ji = sae (obstacle). trans.112 BERNARD FAURE 11. Jewel in the Ashes. Shakujin mondo\ (var. 18. 99. 90. Nihon bukkyo\shi (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten. However. Ishigami mondo\ ). one of the six pa\ramita\ ). 125–26. 16. 2 (1985): 32–36. On this question. had captured the dragon gods and locked them up in a jar. lightning fell. whose power was greater than his. “Kamakura jidai no shari shinko\. and Zoku gunsho ruiju\ 27: 299. On Sho\ko\myo\-in. 1989–1991). See on this question Azuma Kagami 11. stole several grains of relics from Muro\ji. 17. in Yanagita Tamemasa et al. vol. in DNBZ.” Monumenta Nipponica 37.” The Art Bulletin 77. 14. See Keiran shu\yo\ shu\. See Zoku gunsho ruiju\ 27: 299. 41. a monk named Ku\tai. See Yanagita Kunio. Helen Craig McCullough (Tokyo: Tuttle 1979). On this site. . Kenkyu\ 2 (1191). Zennyo. as it was wrapped in a ka\s≥a\ya. 12. Morrell. Yanagita Kunio zenshu\. Muro\ji oyobi Hasedera no kenkyu\ (Kyoto: Seika Gakuen 1970). a Chinese disciple of Cho\gen (1121–1206) of To\daiji. in a fit of anger.
At one point. See Kakuzensho\. 31. as we will see. 12. 28. Edward Kamens. and Ruppert.406 to 4. the University of Michigan. See for instance Ryu\ichi Abé. Jewel in the Ashes. 32. 34. 136a. DNBZ 51:116b. This symbolism also partly explains the association between Tus≥ita Heaven and Amaterasu’s Heavenly Rock Cave. one of the three regalia. “Da\kin≥i et l’Empereur: Mystique bouddhique de la royauté dans le Japon médiéval. respectively. 1999). The repeated injunction not to disseminate the relics of Toj \ i suggests reluctance on the part of some monks to entrust their temple’s treasure to power-hungry prelates and rulers. on one occasion.” 124–25. See Kakuzensho\. in the chapter “Zo\kai” (Opening of the Repository. see Ruppert. We are told that. The fact that the relics were stolen on several occasions shows that the monks’ fears were justified. 1986). See To\bo\ki. as Yanagita Kunio and Orikuchi Shinobu have shown. 33. 26. 76:578c–79a. 76:557a. When Nakatada. 1:4. See the numbers given over fifteen generations in Kakuzen sho\. DNBZ 51:133b. On this question. vol. 25. trans. the tags on the two bottles were interverted. the dragon of Shinzen’en flew to Toj \ i. We find the same story in the Utsubo monogatari. 30.BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 113 23. The symbolism of rebirth in Tus≥ita Heaven is suggested by its forty-nine courts. whose content varied from 3. These relics were contained in two bins (“a” and “b”). 35. a number reminiscent of the forty-nine days of the liminal period between death and rebirth.486 grains and from 390 to 740. Commentaries on the Nihonshoki emphasize the importance of this story to understand the origin of the “divine jewel” (shindama). see Kageyama Haruki. 136–38. The Three Jewels: A Study and Translation of Minamoto Tamenori’s Sanbo\e (Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies. Shari shinko\: Sono kenkyu\ to shiryo\ (Tokyo: To\kyo\ bijutsu senta\. 24. 29. in 1054. 102. amidst thunder and lightning. 363–66. and the culprit subsequently confessed. the grandson of Toshi- . 1988).” Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici 83–84 (1999): 75–79. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei (Tokyo: Tsunakoya shobo\. On this topic. and Toyotamahime may be a generic term for the female mediums (miko) who were possessed by such spirits. means “divine spirit” (shinrei). See Sanbo\ ekotoba. Despite these threats. See Abe. The Weaving of Mantra: Ku\kai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse (New York: Columbia University Press. See Keiran shu\yo\ shu\. and Tanaka Takako. Iyanaga Nobumi. See T. first part). Jewel in the Ashes. “Ho\ju to o\ken. 27. The transmission went as follows: Ku \ k ai—Shinga—Gennin—Sho \ b o \ — Kanken—Ichijo \ — Genko \ — Ningai— Jo\zon—Hanjun. 118–20. T. The “tama” contained in Toyotamahime. 1993). while their role as symbols of transmission diminished. the number of relics tended to increase with time.
Next to the tooth of the Buddha. See Tanaka. See Gunsho ruiju\ 716:19. See Daijo\in jisha zo\ji ki.v.v. 134. Strong and Sarah M. 36. another relic appeared. 127. was married to Tadamori in order to settle things. by the priest Gyo\ki in 736. “Ho\ju to o\ken. Gyokuyo\ (Tokyo: Kokusho kanko\kai. Strong. 117. no.v. While she was pregnant by Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa. however. and all those who come near it die. 45. 1907). See Tanaka. he is warned by an old man who passed by that it is guarded by a dragon.” 155. See Hokkeji shari engi. whereas the relic of the Buddha’s right eye had been enshrined in the Jiabaozi (“Temple of Treasure A”) in China. . The name of that temple. See for instance Kujo\ Kanezane (1149–1207). 39. s. 167–68. “A Tooth Relic of the Buddha in Japan: An Essay on the Sennyu\-ji Tradition and a Translation of Zeami’s No\ Play “Shari. it is the younger sister of the Gion Consort who. See also John S.” Shu\kyo\-bu 2:119. which means literally “Temple of Treasure B. he married her to his vassal Tadamori to reward him. She died two years after giving birth. 152. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei. 41. See Abe. See Tanaka. Consequently. and Butsuga shari ki. Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan. but in the Utsubo monogatari it is the spirit of Nakatada’s grandfather who keeps the repository to transmit it to his legitimate heir. the relic of the left eye was brought to Japan by an Indian priest known as the “Brahmin Priest” (Baramon so\jo\) and enshrined in the temple founded for that purpose. 70. on imperial order. reproduced in Busshari to ho\ju: Shaka o shitau kokoro. the Gion Consort. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei. Another source. 42. the Nyorai ha-shari denrai (dated 1367). According to documents of Komiya Shrine. ed. No one can open it. 44. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei. Tanaka. pregnant by Shirakawain. Just before dying in 1192. 37. and Kiyomori was raised by his aunt. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei. See Koji ruien. that of the left eye of the Buddha. The Heike monogatari claims that the Gion Consort was the mother of Kiyomori. Shirakawa-in gave the Gion Consort two thousand grains of relics. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei. 1 (1995): 1–33.” Japanese Religions 20. said to be in the possession of the Shingon temple Oppo\ji (in Niigata Prefecture). This text is included in the Saidaiji Eizon denki shu\sei. 40. quoted in Tanaka. ill. Kansei 3/10/4 = 1462. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei. 43. (Nara-shi: Nara Kokuritsu. discovers the repository left by his grandfather and wants to open it. and 213–4.” is said to derive from the legend that. Kenkyu\ 3/4/8. 156. 153.. The story resembles that of Yorimichi. ibid. Kiyomori was not the son of Tadamori but of Shirakawa-in. Tanaka. 151.114 BERNARD FAURE kage. The Sennyu\ji in Kyoto also claimed to be in possession of that relic. 38. “Shari-e. 2001). mentions that this relic was transmitted in Japanese Tendai before eventually reaching the Fujiwara clan. s. quoted in Tanaka. s. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei.
56. the sho\gun deposited at Jufukuji in Kamakura the óarêra transmitted by Eisai. 162. See Helen Craig McCullough. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei. 58. trans. another took place at Yo\fukuji.” Bulletin de l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient 17 (1916): 53. 1968).” Shu\gaku kenkyu\ 26 (1984): 116–21. “Ho\ju to o\ken. According to the Azuma kagami (in Kokushi taikei 32–33).” 60. 81–86.. The relics of Hokkeji included those transmitted by Ku\kai. See Faure. Amino Yoshihiko. See also “Hokkeji nyoi ho\ju engi no koto. and Hosokawa Ryo\ichi. trans. 52. quoted in Tanaka. 809–23). “Le dieu Wei-t’o. 426–38. Philippi. this tooth had been transmitted to the Chinese Vinaya master Daoxuan by Nazha (Sanskrit Nad≥a). those of the Baramon so\jo\. ceremonies were repeated at Daijiji. See Asabasho\ 187. See Abe Yasuro\. The Tale of the Heike (Stanford: Stanford University Press. see Noël Peri. and So\to\ Zen. T. those brought by Ganjin.” Kokugo to kokubungaku (May 1987). 1985). “Chu\sei nanto no shu\kyo\ to geino\. see Kojiki. in Kenryaku 2 (1212). 158–59. See the Saidaiji chokushi Ko\sho\ Bosatsu gyo\jo\ nenpu. and Kamakura kanryo\ kyu\dai ki. One tradition claims that it was transmitted to Japan under the reign of Emperor Saga (r. Kojiki. Tanaka. 76. or by the god Weituo (Sanskrit Skanda). 57. 2543:15c. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei. 49. . Do\gen. See McCullough. In other medieval texts. quoted in Koji ruien.BUDDHIST RELICS AND JAPANESE REGALIA 115 which she is said to have transmitted to Kiyomori. “Sanbo\ji no Darumashu\ monto to rokuso Fugen shari. trans. the first ceremony (shari-e) took place at Daijiji. See Donald L. and those brought from the dragon palace. See for instance Shasekishu\. 73–74. Donald L.” in Retto\ no bunkashi. “The Daruma-shu\.” in Keiran shu\yo\ shu\. when she felt threatened by her impetuous brother Susanoo.. 150–58. 59.” 25–56. See Gunsho ruiju\ 19:286–87. the Tus≥ita Heaven is also assimilated to the RockCave of Heaven into which the sun goddess Amaterasu withdrew temporarily. 47. “O|ken to amadera: chu\sei no sei to shari shinko\. 1988). Shu\kyo\-bu 2:119. by Sho\cho\ (1205–82). ed. In 1220 and 1226. In 1214. 2410:545b. 168–69. 46. Robert Morrell. 5 (Tokyo: Nihon edita\ suku\ru shuppanbu. DNBZ: 41:120b. DNBZ 51: 123a). See Abe. 55. trans. In 1217. Kojiki (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. see Peri. 53. Sand and Pebbles (Albany: State University of New York Press. “Le dieu Wei-t’o. See Tanaka. Depending on the sources. On the episode of the Rock-Cave of Heaven. 54. The Tale of the Heike. 50. vol. See T. 217. 48. Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei.” 129. See Takahashi Shu\hei. and in 1231 at Yo\fukuji. the son of the Deva-King Viru\pa\ks≥a (see Kakuzensho\. 51. 1988). 83. Philippi.
Shu\kyo\-bu 2:121. ed. see Anna Seidel. 291–371. 19. Michel Strickmann. 2 (Brussels: Institut Belge des Hautes Études Chinoises). 288–89. See Abe. 64. Stein. “Imperial Treasures and Taoist Sacraments: Taoist Roots in the Apocrypha. vol. vol. See Gunsho ruiju\ 443. A. On Chinese regalia. 63. . “Ho\ju to o\ken.116 BERNARD FAURE 61. see Strong and Strong. Koji ruien.” 153. On the Sennyu\ji relic.” 62. “A Tooth Relic of the Buddha in Japan.” in Tantric and Taoist Studies in Honor of R.
CHAPTER FIVE THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE Jacob N. such language is also inherently vague and carries with it significant and sometimes troubling philosophical and theological overtones. and even an accurate.’ or physical 117 .”3 Relics and the cults that surround the ‘traces. has the presence necessary for veneration. what sort. A sampling of such “presence talk” is illustrative: “The stu\pa is an important symbol in early and later Buddhism because of its ability to render the Buddha and other departed saints spiritually present. —Hans Belting. Kinnard THE PERSISTENCE OF PRESENCE Only the portrait. equally loaded terminology. not in any way unique to Buddhist studies. AND images of the Buddha without recourse to the language of presence. is by no means self-evident. On the contrary. rubric for what these objects effect. however. relics and images obviously involve and produce some sort of presence. that the texts upon which we base our studies are frequently either entirely silent or extremely cryptic regarding such matters. whereas the narrative exists only in the past. Likeness and Presence IT HAS BECOME VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO DISCUSS STUPAS. RELICS.”1 “The stu\pa is the Buddha. or image. Added to this is the familiar problem. Although presence may be a convenient. the Buddha is the stu\pa.”2 “The stu\pa symbolised His presence. This is not to say that talk of presence should therefore be abandoned—no doubt to be replaced by some equally vague.
”4 “[T]he Buddha’s eternal presence is contained in the Stu\pa. for instance. the worshipper sees it as the eternal Buddha. . or even another. . therefore further muddying an already murky discourse—and thus a stupa does have a kind of ontological link to the onceliving teacher. and so on. that is. and a kind of commemorative presence. . In the above quotations. and even images or pieces of images.118 JACOB N. remains of the Buddha—although the relics contained within a stupa can also be relics of use. it is compounded and further confused by a tendency to treat all relics—and here I mean the term in the broadest sense—as the same. it signifies the relics it contains (and by extension the Buddha as the source of these relics). or nirvana. but what should be abundantly clear is that although there is some scholarly agreement on the fact that presence is involved with images and relics and stupas.”7 “The stupa is at one and the same time the body of the whole world and the Body of the Buddha.10 a kind of symbolic presence. the living Buddha. [T]he stupa and the Buddha image are interchangeable. to call to mind.12 though? What sort of presence does it. at least in terms of their function. evoke? It has been rather common to see images as functional extensions. more significant stupa with relics. and although enshrining relics. or do they. given the many historical and intellectual layers such statements encompass. KINNARD remainders. Although such a state of ambiguity may be appropriate to the context. ideally contains physical. such as a bowl. A stupa. “seem to evoke a continuing presence of the Master. A stupa also evokes a symbolic presence. uddes≥ika relics.”9 Such a list could go on for several more pages. there is little consensus as to what exactly this presence is. the Buddha’s life. What about a Buddha image. the image is the Buddha’s story. by convention. if not in terms of their classification.11 Such an amalgamation is problematic. since.”8 “[I]n being the Buddha. there is posited a kind of ontological presence—to which one might add a kind of ontological absence. of stupas: “Other trends. in fact constitute and animate. thus even a stupa without relics can symbolize the Buddha. of the Buddha as the universal type or norm of the human. his nirvana. his teaching. which is the body of perfected Man. and therefore equivalents.”6 “[T]he relic in early Buddhist India was thought of as an actual living presence” and was “characterized by—full of—exactly the same spiritual forces and faculties that characterize. or bodily. A stupa also effects a commemorative sort of presence.”5 “[T]hese are thought to contain something of the spiritual force and purity of the person they once formed part of. . in that it is a place to remember. for instance.
. the whole story is implicitly present.14 Steven Collins has articulated a significantly more complex notion of this kind of narrative presence. or should we. a kind of Buddhist version of Proust’s madeleines. narrative function of these images—that is. textual accounts of the events the images depict—his analysis does not perhaps go quite far enough. bodhisattvas. S:a\kyamuni) in artistic images during the Pa\la period.e. and thus the specific object acts as a kind of mental seed. . .THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 119 such as the cult of the image. [I]t functions like a stu\pa in making the saint present. What might have enabled the tenth-century pilgrim to recognize and value such images? What is it that was valued? Furthermore. can equally be seen as developments of the stu\pa cult. as well as the countless illustrations of the Ja\takas found in temples throughout the Buddhist world. his attainments. In short. his teachings and the benefits of faith in his life to his followers. . . or when an enshrined relic is venerated. what was the field of presence in Pa\la India? . not only visually narrates the specific episode of Ma\ra’s calling into question the Buddha’s powers but also implicitly tells the story of all of Buddhism. . This is most obvious with the early examples of Buddhist art from such places as Bha\rhut and Sa\ñcê.”18 Although Huntington provides a detailed discussion of the literal. why is there a continued emphasis on the life of the historical Buddha (i. . and the places at which those events took place. images tell a story. from the young Siddhartha’s first journey outside of the palace to the parinirvana. the As≥èamaha\pra\tiha\rya. so easily blend images into the relic/stupa discourse? Or does a Buddha image involve other sorts of presence that ought to be discussed as such? One way images involve a different sort of presence is in their narrative function. the As≥èamaha\stha\nacaitya.”15 What Collins means by this is that the larger narrative is already familiar. [T]he As≥èamaha\pra\tiha\rya epitomizes the whole life of the Buddha.”13 Can we. for instance. . An image of the seated Buddha displaying the bhumiópars≥amu\dra\. and deities that come to inhabit the greater Buddhist pantheon? In short. . for instance.17 John Huntington. In short. he says that when an “image is encountered and recognized . the set of eight scenes epitomizes the whole of Buddhism. says of these stelae: “The sequence is a kind of epitome of the life of S:a\kyamuni. An example of the sort of narrative presence that images evoke is the comparatively late stelae—most of these images date to the Pa\la period (750–1200 CE)16—depicting the eight great events in the Buddha’s life. particularly when in contemporary textual practices S:a\kyamuni is increasingly nudged aside by the plethora of Buddhas.
—Pierre Bourdieu.22 Thus what I shall attempt here is a kind of archaeological explication—not in . chronicles or memoirs. because they were part of the self-evident givens of the situation. In so doing. he rejects Foucault’s concept of the ‘épistemè’ because.’ Pierre Bourdieu characteristically emphasizes the relational nature of artistic production and reception. i. “The Field of Cultural Production” In his articulation of the notion of the ‘field.”20 In order to understand the work of art in its original context.. all of the accounts of the significant events depicted on these stelae are contained within the Pa\li Canon. such as the Asè ≥ amaha\pra\tiha\rya images. to positions occupied within the field of cultural production. We know that the field of Buddhist practice during this period was far from unified. in much the same way. tells the original story of Jesus. he thus refuses to relate works in any way to their social conditions of production. Orissa. but it is precisely the earlier conceptions of the presence of the historical Buddha in artistic images that inform and underlie the later production and use of sculptures and paintings. plus the substantial international traffic through the region—it seems clear that what we have here is at the very least a diverse field.e. Given the broad expanses of time and space (including large parts of the modern Indian states of Bihar. a field that was made up of a whole range of strategies of production and reception. though? What strategies were available to Pa\la-period Buddhists for making the Buddha present? One place to begin is with the Pa\li Canon.21 What constitutes this field. art or literature is that it has to reconstruct these spaces of original possibles which. Bengal. it is necessary to reconstruct the field in which that work was situated. .”19 Bourdieu also argues explicitly against Kant’s “pure gaze” aesthetic. Indeed. Certainly these stories are retold and reworked throughout Indian Buddhist history. plus parts of modern Bangladesh). in the Western Christian context. KINNARD THE CONCEPT OF THE ‘FIELD’ One of the major difficulties of the social history of philosophy. but there is a strong sense in which such images implicitly tell the original story. Bourdieu argues. It may seem odd to direct our gaze back to the Pa\li materials here. remained unremarked and are therefore unlikely to be mentioned in contemporary accounts. say.120 JACOB N. insisting that the “work of art is an object which exists as such only by virtue of the (collective) belief which knows and acknowledges it as a work of art. Foucault “refuses to look outside the ‘field of discourse’ for the principle which would cast light on each of the discourses within it . . that the cross.
would be relatively straightforward—given the precision of modern dating techniques—and for the most part it is. I will leave this to be argued by archaeologists and art historians. It is this layered system. IMAGINING THE BUDDHA: IMAGE TALK Honor these: an elder of the sangha. one would think. a Bodhi tree. it is the field that creates the “belief which knows and acknowledges” the kinds of presence evoked by physical images of the Buddha. Samantapa\sa\dika\ Beings are contented. except that some art historians have recently begun to introduce “new” data that would push the date back in time. and therefore involves a cognitive act of “making present” the Buddha. drawings.THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 121 Foucault’s sense. having heard the uttering of the discourse [of the Buddha]. a reliquary. Beginning with the debate between Ananda Coomaraswamy and Alfred Foucher over the indigenous or exogenous origins of the Buddha image.24 and progressing through the very recent debates about the “aniconic” period in early Buddhism. inherited beliefs and practices. Another important element in the field of presence is the concept of ‘buddha\nusmr≥ti’ (Pa\li anussati). even just by seeing the Buddha. in Jayawickrama. or “recollecting the Buddha. —Buddhaghosa. in the deepest sense. this field. a complex system of beliefs and practices made up of many layers of prior. or through. Here I am concerned. they obtain deathlessness. Buddhavam≥sa and Cariya\pièaka SEEING THE BUDDHA A great deal of ink has been spilled on the topic of Buddha images. —Buddhavam≥sa. but in the sense of Bourdieu’s methodological conviction that the field of art at any given time is constructed on.25 scholars have been wrangling over two very basic questions: (1) When did Buddhists begin representing the Buddha in sculptures. in particular. an image. that allows for the recognition.” Although this technique is explicitly meditational.26 Although this temporal debate is of considerable empirical interest. of the object. and paintings? and (2) Why did they do this? The first question. with the relatively few references to making and worshiping visual images of the Buddha in the Pa\li material and also with those passages that emphasize the importance of being in the physical presence of the historical Buddha in this literature and with the strategies employed when this physical presence is unavailable. . it too is an essential part of the Pa\la-period habitus—what Bourdieu calls the “principles of the generation and structuring of practices and representations”23—of Buddha images.
≥ 34 more literally “make visible”) the Buddha’s dhamma-kay \ a. the Buddha’s own speech. the Sumang æ alavilas \ inê: the text states that the “evam≥ me sutam” ≥ with which An | anda begins each narrative is intended to “make present” (paccakkham. though.31 seeing the Buddha is itself a tremendously significant event—seeing not just as an analytical act but also as David Eckel has claimed with respect to Bha\vaviveka’s vision longing. This visual emphasis is seen. legitimized by the fact that it was heard directly from the mouth of the Buddha—it is buddhavacana. in the episode preceding An | anda’s lament. Indeed. the Buddha’s disciples wish to be in the Master’s presence in order to hear the dharma directly from him. the dumb speak. as well as the Divya\vada\na and Maha\vyutpatti: Upon seeing the Buddha. What. is it about being in the presence of the Buddha? On the most basic level. in order to receive his direct guidance. And the Teacher is about to pass away from me—he who is so compassionate to me!”28 A|nanda here is expressing several layers of distress. a would-be disciple learns that the Buddha is preaching the dhamma somewhere and resolves to go hear for him. The emphasis on visibility here is noteworthy. of course. the mad recover their rea- . at least on a very superficial level. one who has [more] work to do.29 Hearing the Buddha’s words directly from the Buddha’s mouth is not the only rationale for being in the physical presence of the Buddha. he will remain a mere learner. throughout later Buddhism. “the blind see. not the least of which is the emotion of losing a dear companion.” The text that follows this stock beginning is. with all of the vagaries and polyvalent resonances of this phrase. is A|nanda’s fear that without the present Buddha there to teach and to guide him.”32 We find this emphasized in the stock phrase that occurs in later texts such as the Lalitavistara and Pañcavim≥óatiprajña\pa\ramita\. KINNARD Turning then to the second question—Why did Buddhists begin making images of the Buddha?—as we have seen. though. What is perhaps most emphasized in the passage. or satisfaction. “Thus have I heard. the gods—who have heard that the Buddha is about to pass from the world—come to see him (tathag \ atam≥ dassay \ ana) one last time. sadness. frustrations. This is also emphasized by the familiar opening of so many of the suttas: Evam≥ me sutam≥. seeing as “an emotional vision of a beloved object that fills the eyes with tears of joy. they did so in order to make the Buddha present.27 One of the most well-known and oft-cited expressions of this general theme is A|nanda’s tearful lament in the Maha\parinibba\na-Sutta when he knows that the master’s death is imminent: “Alas! I am still but a learner. the deaf hear.122 JACOB N. We see this explicitly addressed in the commentary on the Dêgha-Nikay \ a.or herself. We see variations of this throughout the Pa\li Canon.
the Van≥n≥u-patha-ja\taka. They want a living god. require something other than a ‘dead god’ of whom only the ‘remains’ (óarêra) could be revered. Satthu-santikam gantva\ (Having gone to the presence of the Teacher). it is noteworthy for its dual emphasis on seeing and hearing and for the especially efficacious effects of this sight and sound. goes off to the forest to meditate.35 Lamotte is probably correct in emphasizing the relative lateness of this tradition. and after having been given a topic of meditation by the Buddha. perform wonders. a young member of a Sa\vatthi family. Buddha-sarêram olokento (looking at the body of the Buddha).THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 123 son. are able to resign themselves to regarding their founder only as a sage who had entered Nirva\n≥a. however. I will live looking at his most excellent body and listening to his honey-sweet teaching. to be in his physical presence. he makes no progress. he made known the Four Truths. at the end of this the remiss Brother was established in the highest fruit. and whose worship (pu\ja) will be something more than more [sic] recollection (anusmr≥ti). and having gone to the presence of the Teacher. a rather striking emphasis on the physical body of the Buddha here. “Having delivered this dhamma-discourse. after being admitted to the first stage of the sangha. he was not able to obtain even a hint of insight. but also the phrase. for instance. He thinks to himself: “I will go back to the Teacher. who can predict the future. Arahatship. the sick cured. There is. although there are certainly earlier strata that emphasize the importance of seeing the physical Buddha. Dwelling there.”33 Étienne Lamotte links this desire to see the Buddha and behold his miraculous qualities to an essentially lay-devotional impulse that took place after the Buddha had died: If monks. a ‘god superior to the gods’ (deva\tideva) who will continue his beneficial activity among them. After living there for three months. who are exposed to the difficulties of their times. the infirm regain their wholeness. hunger and thirst are appeased. however. indeed. lay followers.”36 Although the intent of this jat \ aka is quite clearly the need for perseverence. it is significant that the . not only do we get the stock phrase. admonishes him for giving up so easily and then delivers a story about the need for perserverence in which the now-remiss Bhikkhu is shown in his former life as an energetic young man. In Ja\taka 2. Although I wish to avoid the temptation to make too much of this use of sarêram. The young Sav \ atthin does not want merely to receive the Buddha’s words.34 Leaving aside the problems of seeing the devotional aspect of early Buddhism as a lay affair. he also wants to look at the Buddha. devoted to a life of study and meditation. nakedness is covered.” The Buddha.
Vakkali replies that he has long desired to see the Blessed One (Bhagavantam≥ dassana\ya).”38 As in the ja\taka story above. however. he delivers a short sermon. he sees me. the point of this passage is quite clear: attachment to the physical body of the Buddha is pointless—if not actually a hindrance—since the vision of the Buddha and the “vision” of the dhamma are equal. is that seeing the Buddha is linked to progress on the Path and that this is one of the basic tenets underlying the construction of Buddha images from the earliest periods of Buddhist history. In the Dhammapada commentary. As a monk. the message of the Vakkali story is somewhat more ambiguous. Once the Buddha sees that Vakkali is out of danger. The Buddha finally attempts to cure Vakkali by forbidding the young monk to accompany him on the rains retreat.37 In this version. the sight of the Buddha that immediately prevents Vakkali from committing suicide in the Dhammapada commentary version of the story and enables him to absorb the Buddha’s wisdom. Vakkali is overjoyed at the sight of this image. however.40 what is most relevant at this point. he is so attached to the physical form (sarêrasampatti) of the Buddha that he follows him everywhere. although the immediate message of this episode is the danger of becoming too attached to the physical form of the Buddha. An even more striking example of this desire to see the living Buddha is found in the story of Vakkali. The Buddha upbrades him with the Samyutta verse (equating seeing the Buddha with seeing the dhamma). It is. As Reginald Ray has put it recently. Much more could certainly be said about the dynamics of vision in the Buddhist context. but the visually obsessed Vakkali is unable to leave the Buddha’s side. with specific reference . he sees the dhamma. the Blessed One creates an image39 of himself for Vakkali. after all. he who sees me. there is also a kind of celebration of the joy one receives from a vision of the Buddha. Vakkali! What is the sight of this putrid body to you? He who sees the dhamma. In order to save him. When the Buddha asks him how he is faring. In this version. Again. and Vakkali is cured of his visual obsession and obtains arhatship. however. Vakkali is a rather frail monk who has fallen ill and is visited by the Buddha. Vakkali responds by vowing to hurl himself off a cliff. Vakkali. KINNARD emphasis in this episode is placed equally on hearing the dharma and on seeing the physically present Buddha. to the point that he neglects his dhamma study and meditational exercises. who is concerned about Vakkali’s health. as it occurs in the Samyutta Nika\ya.124 JACOB N. Vakkali is a young Brahmin who one day sees the Buddha and is so struck with his appearance that he joins the sangha in order to see the Blessed One constantly. but due to his illness he has been unable to satisify this desire. The Buddha sharply rebukes him: “Enough.
however. At Samantapas \ ad \ ika\ 1142–43 (8:32). wherein one is able to participate in the holy charisma of the Buddha. \ the commentary on the Vinaya. a single reference to images of the Buddha. the other under which he achieved enlightenment—and the eldest member of the sangha is almost by definition worthy of respect and veneration. there is not. Certainly shortly before and immediately after his death there is discussion of his corporeal remains. however. What is striking about this is the inclusion of the paèimam.45 Both cetiya and bodhi resonate with the presence of the Buddha—the one in which are deposited his physical remains. but there is simply no mention of images. . It enables one to know the Buddha.42 There are. but understandable.THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 125 to Aóvaghos≥a’s Buddhacarita. that images are simply a different sort of reliquary. This is certainly important. . ≥ 44 Most of these references are not of particular value in the present context in that they fail to explain why Buddhists made images. . commune with him. but with implications for all of Buddhism: The sight of the Buddha. This is striking. buddhadaróana.46 This is not to say. in contrast to Lamotte’s “out of sight” remark. there are a few specific references to why images were made.43 there are several references to both viggaha and paèimam.”41 SEEING IMAGES Despite the scholarly debates over the earliest Buddha images and the origins of these images. They were intended. only if it is sadhat \ uka. In the Samantapas \ ad \ ika. There are two. references that demonstrate that images were in part made to fill the void left by the absent Buddha. we encounter this passage: . . however. an image. there are suprisingly few textual references to images and image making. ≥ truly is an “accurate measure” of the Buddha. significant only because a relic is contained within. . to spontaneous acts of devotion. references to images in the commentaries. ≥ particularly without the modifier sadhat \ uka—with relics—in the list. [D]aróan is a vehicle to knowing who the Buddha really is. worthy of note. In all of the Pa\li canonical literature. however. The first is embedded in a list of objects deserving of veneration: “cetiyam≥ paèimam≥ bodhim≥ sang æ hattheram vandatha\ ti” (Samantapas \ ad \ ika\ 627). largely concerned with events contemporaneous with the living Buddha. but the degree to which the image truly is a paèimam. . is also significant. and actively participate in his charisma—experiences that rouse those who see him to faith. “is a vehicle of transformation. to insight. and although a detailed analysis of the Pa\li commentarial literature is beyond the scope of this chapter. after all. to my knowledge. to bring him back into sight. is usually worthy of veneration only if it contains relics. The Canon is.
and perhaps one of the earliest.48 the language in this passage comes very close. mediates his presence: offerings are made to the Buddha (to the Buddhas. As the passage from Buddhaghosa demonstrates. headed by the Buddha. the praesentia on which such heady enthusiasm focused was the presence of the invisible person. he was the leader of the sangha.51 expressions of a reason for making images of the Buddha occurs in the many versions of the Prasenajit story. the Blessed One sat in the middle.”49 As in the early Christian context.126 JACOB N.. however. having [first] set up either a reliquary [cetiya] or an image enclosing relics. though. While the Buddha was alive. then he had them given to the Bhikkhus.52 The story. then the Blessed One himself received the gifts and also enjoyed them himself. the Bhikkunis sat on the left. that is) via the medium of the statue (or cetiya). learned people. and particularly the cults surrounding their bodily relics. they say.e. the emphasis on before (pubbe) and now (etarahi). Although Collins is certainly correct in his reservations about the use of the language of “presence” with regard to Buddhism. KINNARD Formerly. Peter Brown describes the milieu in which the cult of the saints. Having set a bowl on a stand in front of the image or reliquary. as recorded by Faxian. the one who first received gifts from the laity. beginning in the fourth century. the most relevant of which is the temporal dimension.”47 There are many points of interest here. the one who sat at the head of the assembly. and having given water as an offering. even if we encounter no emic terms in the Buddhist materials. arose as being one in which Mediterranean men and women. to just the sort of presence we see in early Christianity. Now. they gave gifts to both sides of the sangha [i. the Bhikkhus sat on the right. And also as in the Christian context. goes as follows: .”50 One of the clearest. male and female]. When the Buddha is gone to nirvana. . . relics were perhaps the primary means by which Buddhists brought the absent “invisible being”—the Buddha—into the visible present. give gifts to both sanghas. to invisible beings who were fellow humans and whom they could invest with the precise and palpable features of beloved and powerful figures in their own society. visual images such as sculptures could also serve this function. indeed. headed by the Buddha. “We will give to the Buddhas [buddha\nam≥]. inspiration and protection in this life and beyond the grave. a kind of ersatz Buddha replaces him. [and] the Blessed One was the Sanghathera of both. this presence was always in dialectical tension with absence: “The carefully maintained tension [in early Christianity] between distance and proximity ensured one thing: praesentia . however. “turned with increasing explicitness for friendship.
buddha\nusmr≥ti is also a mediating practice. caused to be carved in sandal-wood from the Bull’s head mountain an image of Buddha and placed it where Buddha usually sat. in that it can make present the absent Buddha.. “Return to your seat: after my disappearance you shall be the model for the four classes in search of spiritual truth. Later on. Xuanzang records an almost identical story. or whether it is in fact a much later “explanation” for the existence of Buddha images. longing to see him.”54 IMAGINING THE BUDDHA. he tells the sandalwood image that King Uda\yana has had carved: “The work expected from you is to toil in the conversion of heretics. Recollection of the .THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE When the Buddha went up to heaven for ninety days to preach the Faith to his mother. where he has been preaching the dharma to his mother for three months. trans. “recollection of the Buddha. In that version of the story. the image went back to the seat. in Hopkins and Lati Rimpoche. it was the result of a gradually developed and multilayered habitus. Whether this is in fact a very early story that was still popular in Faxian’s time. and is that which later ages have copied. and to lead the way of religion in future ages. the image straightaway quitted the seat and came forth to receive him. king Prasenajit. a habitus constituted by a range of strategies intended to respond to the absence of the Buddha. the Buddha himself explicitly expresses the function of the image. An important strategy to negotiate this absence of the Buddha as a teacher and guide is the practice of buddha\nusmr≥ti.” Although this is typically portrayed as a meditational practice.53 127 The degree to which the image mediates the absence of the Buddha here is obvious. Rather. It was the very first of all such images. Buddha cried out. The Precious Garland and the Song of the Four Mindfulnesses Buddhists did not begin making images of the Buddha as a result of some “wave of visual theism”55 that swept across Buddhist culture with the rise of Mahayana. the image is intended to “fill in” for the Buddha in his absence.” At this. when Buddha returned to the shrine. although King Uda\yana replaces Prasenajit. PART TWO: IMAGE THOUGHT Therefore in the presence of an image Or reliquary or something else Say these twenty stanzas Three times a day —Na\ga\rjuna. Upon his return from the Tra\yatrim≥óati heaven.
”60 Buddhaghosa. .128 JACOB N. the Blessed One. There is thus a sort of mimetic rationale for the development of buddha\nussati in the Pa\li texts. In the Pa\li materials.”57 Anussati. sublime. but of the most abstract kind. [T]his type of meditation never reaches that deep inner isolation of consciousness. is “a kind of exercise in the power of positive thinking. that takes place in the jha\nas. Winston King. enlightened and blessed. KINNARD Buddha also often explicitly involves the use of physical images in addition to the creation of a mental image of the Buddha—what might be called “iconographic thought” about the Buddha. opens his description of buddha\nussati in this way: Now a meditator with absolute confidence who wants to develop firstly the recollection of the Enlightened One among these then should go into solitary retreat in a favourable abode and recollect the special qualities of the Enlightened One. This leads to tranquility and bliss: “When he is blissful. buddha\nussati is a kind of meditational warm-up. Edward Conze notes that the descriptions of the recollections are “rather sober and restrained. for instance.” says Buddhaghosa. .59 it is “a name for mindfulness with the Buddha’s virtues as object. the knower of worlds. “As he continues to exercise applied thought and sustained thought upon the Enlightened One’s special qualities. calls the different forms of anussati “preliminary low-level” techniques “in which one’s mood is set favorably toward the meditative process but that produce no recognized level of higher awareness. This is the way of the Theravadins. becomes concentrated.”58 Buddha\nussati is the first item in a larger list of either six or ten things to which one should devote one’s thoughts. endowed with (clear) vision and (virtuous) conduct. completely cut off from outer stimuli. . fully enlightened.”56 In this light. with the Enlightened One’s special qualities for its object. and so the jhana factors eventually arise in a single moment” (Visuddhimagga 229–30). according to Paul Harrison. his mind. without great emotional fervour. the teacher of gods and men.”61 The effect of this practice is the greater concentration of the mind that then enables one to move on to the cultivation of the higher jha\nas. “happiness arises in him” (Visuddhimagga 229). as follows: “That Blessed One is such since he is accomplished. anussati tends to be rather low on the scale of things. a preliminary step in the more complex systems of meditation. a rather simple exercise intended to “clear the slate” for the higher levels of jha\nic attainment. . the incomparable leader of men to be tamed. in his long exposition of the different forms of anussati.
on hearing the dharma directly from him and.64 It is not. In the Vimuttimagga. He attains fullness of faith. mindfulness. in the process. It is not too difficult to conceive how buddhan \ usmrt ≥ i was pressed into service in such circumstances. . later. to develop those virtues he exemplifies. the Buddha becomes not so much a figure to be emulated as one to be worshipped.”66 The text does not mention meditation on the Buddha’s physical form anywhere. This paradigmatic quality. and inexorably enlarged. a text that includes both a more standard discussion of meditation on the physical body of the Buddha.65 however. Mimesis is not. He is able to endure pain. he has awareness of conscience and shame as vivid as though he were face to face with the Master” (Visuddhimagga 230).”67 Harrison sees a gradual movement in terms of the conception of the Buddha. transmitted. create a visual image of the Buddha. . as we have seen. the Buddha was a teacher and exemplary religious figure. the only rationale for recollecting the Buddha. Buddhaghosa states: “When a bhikkhu is devoted to this recollection of the Buddha. perhaps. immediately clear what these recollections—these mental images—have to do with visual images made of stone and wood. until practices were evolved that entailed not merely a reminiscence of the Buddha. such that: “When he encounters an opportunity for transgression. however. however. conforming to the model he had established while alive. He comes to feel as if he were living in the Master’s presence. he should worship Buddha images and such other objects. this reference in the Vimuttimagga is “a tantalizing clue.62 At the end of the section in the Visuddhimagga enumerating the various qualities of the Buddha. understanding and merit. and the emphasis was. in a way.69 and . the meditator creates a mental picture so vivid and lifelike that the absent Buddha is made present. He has much happiness and gladness. Buddhaghosa does not introduce any specifically visual language here. . At first. He conquers fear and dread. but as Harrison has noted.”63 Thus by recollecting and concentrating on the Buddha’s many virtues.THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 129 one is to concentrate on the qualities of the Buddha in order to emulate him and. he is respectful and deferential toward the Master. is according to Harrison gradually replaced. his followers must still have felt keenly how unfortunate it was to be deprived of his actual presence.”68 Harrison has written extensively on an early Mahayana text that represents a developed form of buddhan \ usmrt ≥ i. “As much as the corpus of his teachings (the Dharma) was preserved. this visual aspect is made explicit: “If a man wishes to meditate on the Buddha. but an imaginitive evocation of his presence by means of structured meditative procedures. although his long elaboration of the special qualities of the Buddha does.
that these Buddhas are “simply idealized clones of Sa : k \ yamuni transposed to different world systems. which they subsequently remember and propagate to others. Are large.”75 This idea that the Buddha’s physical body resembles an image is seen elsewhere in early Mahayana texts. resemble the colour of gold. images act as a kind of visual cue: If you desire this most excellent of sama\dhis Paint pictures well. The text is appropriately entitled the Pratyutpanna-buddha-samm ≥ ukhav \ asthita\ ra on the direct encounter with samad \ hi-sut \ ra (henceforth PraS ). the Dao-xing jing of Lokaks≥ema (compiled in 179 CE). the practitioner is thus able to conjure up a detailed mental image of the Buddha. Harrison notes. it is via this “mental visualization” that one is fully able to recollect the Buddha. however. in much the same way as we have seen in the Pa\li texts. even this “direct encounter” with the Buddha is described in the PraS in specifically iconographic terms: “In that way those bodhisattvas will see the Tatha\gata (like) a beautifully set up beryl image. When they see these images. KINNARD a detailed treatment of the importance of images in devotional practice. In what may be the earliest Mahayana sutra in India. As Harrison puts it. and flawless. Significantly.70 the “Sut the Buddhas of the present. but with even greater attention to the iconographic qualities of the Buddha’s physical body. practitioners are encouraged to imagine the Buddha’s body as resembling an image.”72 Although the PraS is largely concerned with meditational techniques (hence the sama\dhi in the title). “To aid this detailed iconographical visualization.”74 By gazing at the artistically created physical image. we encounter this passage: The Buddha’s body is like the images which men make after the Nirva\n≥a of the Buddha. For instance. there is not one of them who . effectively brings the Buddha into the present. in turn.” The main point of this sutra is to “provide practitioners with the means to translate themselves into the presence of this or that particular manifestation of the Buddha-principle for the purpose of hearing the Dharma. but such figures as Amitab \ ha. if perfected. Which have the marks complete. the sama\dhi itself is attained through an extremely detailed visualization of the Buddha. a process that.”71 The Buddhas discussed in this text are not the historical Buddha Sa : k \ yamuni. and construct images of the Incomparable One.”73 In the PraS. there are several very relevant discussions of the use of images in the cultivation of this sama\dhi.130 JACOB N.
the image is there as a reminder: “If there is a man who has seen the Buddha in person.”80 The evidence I have presented here concerning images is consistent with Schopen’s assertion.” The passage tells us that in the past (pubbe) the Buddha himself was at the head of the sangha.” On the other hand. they perfectly resemble the Buddha and when men see them they all rejoice and take flowers and incense to revere them. These images are upright and handsome. then they too will constitute a perfect Buddha body.”79 Pramukha. . it is this conception of presence that is passed on through the Pal \ a period and beyond. and. the rationale for making and venerating Buddha images passes fluidly between a commemorative sort of representation of the absent Teacher. I wish to return briefly to the passage from the Samantapas \ ad \ ika\ and the reference to the gifts given to the sangha. the image is more than a reminder. and the substitution of the image for the departed Buddha in the midst of the assembled sangha as described in the Samantapa\sadika\.’ but always referred to actual individuals holding certain responsible positions. “headed by the Buddha. The interplay between these conceptions of the significance of visual images is particularly evident in Dharmodgata’s discussion of images in the Daoxing jing.78 CONCLUSION: THE PERSISTENCE OF PASTNESS In closing. As we have already seen in the Pa\li texts. and Dharmodgata. and be endowed with wisdom” (see figure 5. one that explicitly makes present. but an image or a reliquary (paèimay \ a va\ cetiyassa va) \ . the Buddha. On the one hand. who guides and instructs Sada\prarudita. indicates “that the Buddha himself was thought to actually reside in the specifically named monastery. with the creation of the sandalwood image in the Prasenajit story. Gregory Schopen has analyzed the use of the word pamukkha/pramukha in medieval inscriptional data.THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE does not bow down and make offering. then after [the Buddha’s] Nirva\n≥a he will remember the Buddha and for this reason make an image. but now it is not the Buddha himself.76 131 The context of this passage is a conversation between the Bodhisattvas Sada\prarudita. and he concludes that “the designation—pramukha was never applied ‘symbolically. and a more ambiguous sort of recollection.77 The close interplay between the present (inanimate) image and the absent (animate) Buddha is striking here. who is in search of the Prajña\pa\ramita\ teachings. I would argue. Schopen argues.1). really present. since it is capable of activity: “If men constantly see the Buddha [in the form of a visual image] performing meritorious deeds.
Kinnard .132 FIGURE 5. The central figure depicts the Buddha at the time of his enlightenment and his “victory over Ma\ra. birth. and the miracle at S:ra\vastê (representing the triumph of the Buddha’s teaching over all others).” The other seven scenes are. gift of honey to the monkey at Vaióa\lê (the Buddha’s compassion and the importance of giving). first sermon. Photograph by Jacob N. Asè ≥ amaha\pra\tiha\rya image (tenth century. descent from the Tra\yastrim≥óa heaven where he had gone to teach his mother. Bihar. taming of the wild elephant Nêlêgiri (the power of the teachings).1. from the top and moving clockwise: the Buddha’s death (parinirvana). currently in the collection of the National Museum in New Delhi).
in summary form. even ontological presence—is perhaps too narrow and too neat. for Smith. if taken literally. they ask the bear for permission to kill it. however. is that this way of characterizing presence—real.THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 133 What the evidence I have examined also illustrates. then. and they kill it without shedding any blood. a way of creating an ideal world in . simply put. With images the field of presence is constituted by several layers of overlapping discourse.”81 In this article. that “the Buddha was thought to actually reside” in the object in question. say. . Smith specifically examines a group of bear hunting rituals in which the participants are said to go through an elaborate. in how we characterize the way Buddhists themselves have conceived of and perceived the presence of the Buddha in relics and stupas and images. of creating an idealized version of the world. though. the language of the ritual. images such as the As≥èamaha\pra\tiha\rya stelae—we can see how such images represent. as those who actually gave gifts to the sangha with the Buddha at the head in the form of a statue—did indeed believe that the living Buddha was there in the stone image? Jonathan Smith has examined a similar problem in a very different context in his article. that those who composed these texts and inscriptions—as well. commonplace. there is a gap “between their ideological statements of how they ought to hunt and their actual behavior while hunting. and the ritual itself. uncontrolled. that to take such texts literally is to miss the point. [T]he ritual is unlike the hunt. among other things.”84 If we apply Smith’s view of ritual to the Pa\la period—to. commonsense understandings of reality no longer apply. a strategy of choice. say. several different conceptions of presence that are not always consistent with one another. formalized ritual every time they kill a bear. once more. or are. “Ritual is a means of performing the way things ought to be in conscious tension to the way things are in such a way that this ritual perfection is recollected in the ordinary. This is a kind of idealized language. The language of the texts and inscriptions may seem to indicate. course of things. a text that. however. Smith reproduces. what all rituals represent—is a conscious strategy intended to bridge the gap. is intended as a way of making up for an incongruity. does it necessarily follow. . As Smith puts it. daft: “[I]f we accept all that we have been told by good authority. unambiguously. “The Bare Facts of Ritual. the “text” of these rituals. It is. . We should be more cautious. a perfect hunt with all the variables controlled.”82 Smith argues. we will have accepted a ‘cuckoo-land’ where our ordinary. indicates that the participants in the rituals are.”83 What the bear hunting ritual represents— indeed.
according to Bourdieu.”85 What I have attempted to demonstrate here. Thus a piece of stone or clay. in Collins’ words. just broad enough. then. with all of its baggage. what sorts of conventions are handed down (param≥para)—but also the reception of such images. a reminder of a significant journey (or a token in lieau of such a journey) and also a representation of the Buddha’s entire life and entire teachings. the larger habitus in which the work is situated. these are the “self-evident givens” that. is the idealized world? Precisely that contained in the As≥èamaha\pra\tiha\rya images. defeating Ma\ra. What I have attempted to uncover here are merely some of the highlights of that field. be it intended for decorative purposes. such an image creates an opportunity to remember the Buddha in the anusmr≥ti sense and thus to conjur him up mentally. and the ability to recognize it depends on the field of practice. Certainly I am not suggesting that a Buddhist layperson living in. however. is that there is more to the picture than meets the eye. Here the Buddha is not so much made present. then. and I would also say that he is correct in positing the “total” representation of Buddhism in the image. constitute any field of practice. Bihar in the middle of the tenth century would have necessarily—or even possibly—been consciously aware of all of the layers underlying the image to which he or she was performing a buddhapu\ja or buddha\nusmr≥ti exercise. the language of presence. must be recognized as such.134 JACOB N. the image transports the viewer into a time when these places were not merely shrines and the Buddha was not merely a presence but a living being. In the end. . What. such as the small terra cotta versions of Asè ≥ amaha\pra\tiha\rya that were common in medieval northeast India. Let us recall Bourdieu’s point: A work of art. KINNARD contrast to the actual one. The real world. and just elusive enough to encompass such a field. is at once a pilgrim’s memento. Perhaps.1). and so on. “the whole story is implicitly present. for commodity exchange. There is a field of practice underlying not only the production of such images—that is. is marked by the absence of the historical Buddha. of course. such an image also creates the Buddha’s very presence (see figure 5. but the believing viewer is made past. is ultimately fitting for discussing the field of Buddha images. say. almost instructive function of images such as the Asè ≥ amaha\pra\tiha\rya. preaching the dharma. for presence is just vague enough. such that. I would agree with John Huntington’s emphasis on the narrative. On the contrary. The image transports one into the past—into the pubbe of the Samantapa\sa\dika\—the ideal time when the Buddha was alive. for religious worship.
There is a short text—extant in Chinese and Tibetan only—that describes these eight places. no. 6. “To Gaze on the Sacred Traces. Paul Mus. 16. 1992). no. 17. See Vidya Dehejia. 344. “The Buddha as an Owner of Property and Permanent Resident in Medieval Indian Monasteries.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 18 (1990): 181–217. no.” History of Religions 16. “Nirva\n≥a. “On Modes of Visual Narration in Early Buddhist Art. 4. Gregory Schopen. Reginald Ray. no. See Malcolm David Eckel.THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 135 NOTES 1. Akira Hirakawa. see also Schopen. 15. 360. Peter Harvey. Time. 11. 416. Relics. 4 (1987): 55–63. History of Religions 34. no. See below for a discussion of the indigenous terms for images.” Religion 17 (1987): 203.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 108. 1985). “Etude sur le stu\pa l’inde ancienne. See Kevin Trainor.” Art Journal 49 (1990): 374–92. “The Origin and Development of the Stupa Architecture in India. particularly the lengthy note (20) on page 208. 4 (1990): 181–217. 4 (1977): 283. 9. Ray. 12. 8 (1987): 56–68. Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations (New York: Oxford University Press.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7. “The Symbolism of the Early Stu\pa. see John Huntington. Reginald A. 3 (1995): 15. and part 2. “The Asè ≥ amaha\stha\nacaityastotra and . Buddhist Saints.” Memoires of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunkyo 22 (1963): 88. and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Therava\da Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.” Bulletin de l’Ecole Francaise 50 (1960): 51. The Symbolism of the Stupa (Ithaca: Studies in Southeast Asia. and “On the Buddha and His Bones. 3 (1973): 472.” part 1. Steven Collins. 363. 13. Donald Swearer. 2. see Hajime Nakamura. 5. 14. 3. quoted in Benisti. Sushila Pant.” Journal of Indian History 51. “The Rise of Maha\ya\na Buddhism and Its Relationship to the Worship of Stu\pas. and Narrative. Orientations 18. 8. 1994). For some tentative suggestions on dates.” History of Religions 31 (1992): 241. no. To See the Buddha (San Francisco: Harper/Collins. Orientations 18. “Pilgrimage as Image: The Cult of the Asè ≥ amaha\pra\tiha\rya. 7. “Burial ‘Ad Sanctos’ and the Physical Presence of the Buddha in Early Indian Buddhism. no. Ritual. 1997). 2 (1984): 69. 10. Adrian Snodgrass. Nancy Falk.
2:67–68. 1980). 9. K. K. emphasis added. originally published in Poetics (Amsterdam) 12. Ibid. 1993). see also Foucher.” Annales du Musee Guimet. Institute Orientaliste. but it is now placed within the context of a new vision of history framed by the theology of creation and redemption. 4–5 (1983): 311–56. or: The Economic World Reversed. and vol. 231–72. Pierre Bourdieu. the “entire ancient symbol system is assumed.” trans. In this highly influential article. Hence it takes on a cosmic dimension. In the eyes of the Christian. 24. 35. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature.” in Foucher. 33. John Huntington. Richard Nice. Étienne Lamotte (Louvain-La-Neuve: Universitea\ Catholique de Louvain. Perhaps the most vocal opponent of this theory was Ananda Coomaraswamy.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 46 (1926): 165–70. “First Images of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas: Ideology and Chronology. Foucher first articulates the view that the origins of the earliest Buddha images were Greek. 1:55 and pt. and also his “Indian Origin of the Buddha Image. See also Bourdieu’s discussion of habitus in The Logic of Practice (Stanford: Standford University Press. especially chapter 3.” in Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia. 19. originally published in Journal Asiatique. nos. and a soteriological dimension” (Encyclopedia of Religion. See Susan Huntington. 21. “The Origin of the Buddha Image: Early Image Traditions and . 25.136 JACOB N. 1–29.” Art Journal 49 (1990): 401–07. 1917).” 215–37. Jan. 72. 4 (1927): 1–43.” in Indianisme et bouddhisme: Mélanges offerts à Mgr. 1–2 (1991): 45–64. ed. The Beginnings of Buddhist Art and Other Essays in Indian and Central Asian Archaeology (Paris: Paul Geuthner.” Buddhist Studies Review 8. ed. no. as well as John Huntington’s article. the cross is considered inseparable from the mystery of the divine Logos. 1913). “The Beginnings of Buddhist Art. See Lal Mani Joshi’s “Preliminary Observations” to his “Religious Changes in Late Indian Buddhist History. Mircea Eliade [New York: MacMillan. 4:165). in the same volume. KINNARD the Chinese and Tibetan Versions of a Text Similar to It. Bibliotheque de vulgarisation.” pt. 18. 1987]. and intro. 1985). no. 22. for a useful survey of the relevant points here. A. 1–21. Narain. ed. See his “Origin of the Buddha Image. Also see A. tome 38 (Chalon-sur-Saone..” The Art Bulletin 11. “L’Origine grecque de l’image du Bouddha. 1911. in the same volume. 1977). Randal Johnson (New York: Columbia University Press. “Outline of a Sociological Theory of Art Perception.–Feb. nos. “The Field of Cultural Production. a biblical dimension. Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Early Buddhist Art and the Theory of Aniconism. 20. “Pilgrimage as Image. See Alfred Foucher. 2 (1992): 153–68. 1990). See also. As Julien Ries has put it: In the cross. Narain (New Delhi: Kanak Publications. 23. reprinted in Pierre Bourdieu.
Gunasena. 191.. eds. Rhys Davids and J. History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the S:aka Era. Peter Connolly (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications. 27. Estlin Carpenter. “Nirva\n≥a. van Lohuizen-de Leeuw. Buddhism and Language: A Study of Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism (Albany: State University of New York Press. 28. See for instance J. particularly pp.” 236.” See his “Visions and Symbols in the Maha\ya\na. Herbert Hartel (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag. see George Bond.” RES 14 (1987): 5–28. “A Note on the Opening Formula of Buddhist Su\tras. “New Evidence with Regard to the Origin of the Buddha Image. Eckel. trans. “‘Thus have I heard . ed. 32. 34.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 13. Ibid. The Word of the Buddha (Colombo: M. There are many places in both the Canon and the Commentaries in which this point is emphasized. Jonathan A. For a useful discussion of buddhavacana in the Pa\li Theravada context. 1986). Dêgha Nika\ya (DN). 1994). 1. T. Sara Webb-Boin. especially chapters 2 and 3. no. he must be diligent and earnest in his own efforts (DN 2:144).” At the heart of this sudden appearance is a “transformative experience”: “This experience was nothing less than direct contact with the Buddha. that Dhamma and Vinaya has been made known and taught to you by me. 1981). 1 (1949): 416–26. 33. see John Brough. W. no. See also Paul Mus. He sees the Mahayana appearing “suddenly and with great power. Bibliotheca Indo-Buddhica. 1 (1987): 158–63. 46–41. 1982). he and the other disciples must realize that after the Buddha’s parinibba\na the dhamma will continue: “Oh Ananda. 26. see also Paul Griffiths.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 12. 1–33. more recently. Andrew Rawlinson has gone so far as to argue that seeing the Buddha and hearing the sound of his voice were the defining motifs in the emergence of the Mahayana.” in South Asian Archaeology 1979. 30. . ed. after me (after I’m gone) that is your Teacher” (DN 2:154). 24–58. The Buddha’s advice to him in this matter is twofold: first. Silk. By ‘direct contact’ I mean three things: (a) a vision of the Buddha (buddha-daróana) (b) hearing the Buddha’s voice (buddha-óabda) (c) immersement in the Buddha’s knowledge (buddha-jñana). and second. 1949–60). 1988). D. (Louvain-la-Neuve: Université catholique de Louvain. Institut orientaliste. 31. Étienne Lamotte. (London: Pali Text Society. 30. and. The phrase evam≥ me sutam≥ has generated a fair amount of controversy in Buddhist studies.’. 645. no. E.” pp. “The Iconography of an Aniconic Art.THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 137 the Concept of Buddhadaróanapunya\. . See Collins. 29. On Being Buddha: The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood (Albany: State University of New York Press. and also José Ignazio Cabezón. . 1994).” in Perspectives on Indian Religion: Papers in Honour of Karel Werner.
ed. A picture of the actual Indian Buddhist monk and nun is gradually emerging. . 37. Wiltshire. 43. 4. 167). nos. The episode concludes with Vakkali committing suicide. Stephan Beyer. Alex Wayman. “The Buddhist Theory of Vision. According to the evidence Schopen presents. See his “On Monks. For more on such suicides. Mathura Inscriptions (Gottingen. The actual monk. Ananda Coomaraswamy’s interesting article. appears to have been deeply involved in religious giving and cult practice of every kind from the very beginning” (155.’” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 7 (1942–43): 174–79. nos.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 6. Janert. It is perhaps significant that these references occur in the Vinaya commentary. The Pa\li is obha\sam. or achieves it—rather paradoxically. 1961). since much of the fuel behind the aniconic thesis about early Buddhist art has been a purported ban on images in the Vinaya. 9. 1–2 (1988): 153–68. George Elder (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.” since the ossaha can also have the sense of “put forth. Lewis Lancaster (Berkeley: Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series. exactly. 29. The earliest textual references to images seem to be from the Mathura\ inscriptions.” in Prajña\pa\ramita\ and Related Systems: Studies in Honour of Edward Conze. Buddhist Saints in India. 153–61. ed. only one such passage . In fact. 1977). although it is difficult to say. See. in fact. Nuns and ‘Vulgar’ Practices: The Introduction of the Image Cult into Indian Buddhism” Artibus Asiae 49. in the Anæguttara Nika\ya (AN). Reginald Ray. There are several versions of this story. See H. no. Sam≥yutta Nika\ya (SN) 3:120. “Notes on the Vision Quest in Early Maha\ya\na. unlike the textual monk.” in Buddhist Insight: Essays by Alex Wayman. Luders and K. 39. “The ‘Suicide’ Problem in the Pa\li Canon. 38. it was the monastics who “initiated and disproportionately supported the cult of images at Sa\rna\th [among other places] in the early periods.” although the commpound “ossaèèhaviriyo” means literally “one whose energy (viriyo) is let loose (ossaèèha). 52. as well as the commentary on the Dhammapada. 167. 74. and these monks and nuns differ markedly from the ideal monk and nun which have been presented on the basis of textual material alone. 329–40. I have translated the Pa\li “ossaèèhaviriyo bhikkhu” as “remiss bhikkhu. . . 135.138 JACOB N. L. 36. 1984). for instance. among others. KINNARD 35. see Martin G. “Sam≥vega. 42. and 180.” The redactors of this Ja\taka are obviously playing on this compound. ‘Aesthetic Shock. although the Buddha then declares that. how they intend it to be taken. Vakkali had already been parinibutto at the time of his death. Either the young monk achieves arhat status as a result of his former diligence. 41.” 40. Gregory Schopen has argued that this is a fundamental misconception about Indian Buddhism. the most immediate sense of which is “appearance.” It would make equal semantic sense to translate this phrase as “diligent bhikkhu. in my opinion—as a result of seeing and hearing the Buddha. 2 (1983): 124–40.
such as vesa (i. These are perhaps the most common terms for physical (i. leave garlands and wreaths at the gateway of the Buddha’s chambers. One of the most commonly cited passages to support the purported ban on images is the Kalingabodhi Ja\taka (J 4:228). however. or copied. Hence the viggaha “seizes” that which it depicts—or it enables the viewer to seize on to it.. and by convention referable to the absent being” (201–02). however. Viggaha (Sk. Other terms can also refer to images. He asks A|nanda to speak to the Buddha in order to find out whether there is a place for such offerings. since there is no place for the laypeople to deliver them.. or the particularly interesting episode in the Samantapas \ ad \ ika\ (SP) in which Aóoka convinces a nag \ araj \ a to create an image of the Buddha for him to see. See also G. “The Physical Presence of the Buddha. 44. and obhas \ a. See the appendix to Arthur Waley’s article. a bodhi tree (here.e. without the four requisites. in the absence of the Buddha. mentioned in this passage.” often as buddharup \ am—see Visuddhimagga (VM) 228. “grasp.” with the suffix paèi functioning here as a comparison. as in that which is “measured against” the original.. arbitrarily.e. Tambiah is placing a great deal of emphasis on the word avatthuka here. 304–05. they are only artificially. bimba and paèibimba (see VM 190. in fact. Tambiah has suggested that the Buddha rejects “personalized” (i. The precise distinction between the two is not at all clear. In this ja\taka. dress. The Buddha thus allows A|nanda to have a bodhi tree planted.’ that is. Literally. appearance). “Did the Buddha Die of Eating Pork?” Mélanges chinois et bouddhiques 1 (1932): 352–54. Stanley Tambiah has seen in this passage “an early Buddhist view against the representation of the Buddha in human form”. 202).e. Ana\thapin≥d≥ika learns that while the Buddha is away from Jetavana on pilgrimage. 1984). The Buddha informs A|nanda that of the three kinds of memorials (cetiya\ni). this means “without ground. in the Mulasarva\stava\din-Vinaya. artistic) images. where the Buddha is said to have explicitly prohibited the use of images.” in Investigating Indian Art (Berlin: Museum für Indische Kunst. Rather. the people of Sa\vatthi. although in a more general sense. a bodily memorial (sarêraka) is not proper because the Buddha is not dead.. and occasionally sarêra (J 5:98). presumably. Roth. vigrah \ a) derives from the Vedic root /grah. . is not some general indictment of image worship (or an iconoclastic “precedent. Other terms from images are rup \ am (“form.” SP 43–44). or no Buddha to receive them) while the Buddha is on pilgrimage.THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 139 occurs. Ana\thapin≥d≥ika goes to A|nanda and tells him that the monastery is “unsupported” (nipaccaye—i. see his Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of the Amulets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. at which point the text reads: “Buddha-rup \ am≥ passanto satt-divasan \ i akkhi-puj \ am≥ nam \ a akas \ i. pratima) \ comes from the verbal root /ma. a pa\ribhogika shrine). 1987). is fit for worship. the specific discussion is about what sort of structure would be most appropriate to allow laypeople to bring alms and flowers to the monastery in the Buddha’s absence. disguise. No images are. uddesika) symbols “because such are ‘groundless and merely fanciful.” as Tambiah suggests on p. \ “measure. grab. an uddesika memorial is not proper because it depends on imagination (uddesikam≥ avatthukam≥ manamattakena hoti). 201. Vima\navatthu 50). however.” This.e. seize. Paèima\ (Sk.” with the prefix “vi” here serving as an intensifier.
Ibid. . no. 30–31. 1933).1979). Roth’s excellent article.. 1978). Ibid. 37). Symposien zur Buddhismusforschung. “The Origin of the Buddha Image: Early Image Traditions and Concept of Buddhadaróanapunya\. 53. ed. 49. Gunasena. to which the Buddha responds: “Oh Sa : r \ iputra! When I am gone or when I attain parinirvan \ a ≥ . K. Philologisch-Historische Klasse. 1985).140 JACOB N.” See his History of Buddhism in Ceylon (Colombo: M. 126. including Chinese materials. Heinz Bechert. [my] body is to be made [as a] well-proportioned body [or image]. 1956).” in Studies in Pali and Buddhism: A Homage Volume to the Memory of Bhikkhu Jagdish Kashyap. ed.” in Investigating Indian Art (Berlin: Museum für Indische Kunst. 183–88. H. a óilpasas \ tra (the date of which is far from clear) that describes in great detail the proper proportions of a Buddha image. [T]he image is completely ignored. here Jaini discusses a Thai story in a Burmese manuscript of the Prasenajit story. Walpola Rahula is thus incorrect when he states that “the Buddha image.” See Jitendra Nath Banerjea’s extensive notes in “Pratimal \ aksa ≥ na ≥ m” Journal of the Department of Letters 23 (Calcutta: Calcutta University Press. 48. 52. as well as various Mahayana and Hênayan \ a texts translated into Tibetan and Chinese. 46.” 47. Rahula notes. 1981). 1. K. A story similar to the Prasenajit story occurs at the beginning of the Pratimal \ aksa ≥ na ≥ m. . A. Jaini. Without them it was a thing of little or no religious value. contained within the Burmese Jat \ aka collection as the Vaèèang æ uliraj \ aJat \ aka (no. 1923). See also Richard Gombrich’s interesting discussion of the Kosala-Bimba-Vann ≥ a ≥ na. Giles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 281–303. A. trans. “An image was considered important only if relics were enshrined in it. was not given a place in the scheme of worship by the Pa\li Commentaries. 108 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.” in Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia. see also G. 51. . D.” 237. 1987). 50. R. KINNARD 45. . “On the Buddha Image. 32–33. Göttingen. See John Huntington. \ a medieval Sri Lankan text in Pal \ i (the text as well as Gombrich’s translation are printed in the article). Dritte Folge. see “Did the Buddha Die of Eating Pork?” 353–54. A. A. Narain (New Delhi: Kanak. Waley notes that there is a version in the Ekottarag \ ama. 291–312. 88. though in existence at the time. For a particularly thorough account of the literature on this topic. Narain (Delhi: B. See also Padmandabh S. in Buddhism in Ceylon and Studies on Religious Syncretism in Buddhist Countries. The Travels of Fa hsien. Publishing. Akademie der Wissenschaften. See note 30 in this chapter. Collins writes about a remarkably similar passage that occurs in “Nirva\n≥a. Peter Brown. ed. “The Physical Presence of the Buddha and Its Representation in Buddhist Literature. 50. The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. In this version it is Sa : r \ iputra who asks the Buddha how he is to be honored when he is away (in the Tusi ≥ ta Heaven).
THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 141 54. 63. Pinægiya responds that he is old and frail. trans. that his body is decaying. later in the same volume. Lewis Lancaster (Berkeley: Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series. . AN 3:285). 56. the episode is almost the mirror opposite of the Vakkali story. “Commemoration and Identification in Buddha\nusmti. This is Ña\n≥amoli’s translation. ed. is asked why he does not spend all of his time with the Buddha.. this is your work. 38. In a footnote. Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World (London: Routledge. Pali Text Society Translation Series. 1980). emphasis mine. 59. 57. that is spent away from the Gotama. see his “Notes on the Vision Quest in Early Maha\ya\na. from Stephan Beyer. Buddhist Meditation (London: George Allen and Unwin. 28. for a particularly good discussion of this “rationalizing” construction of Buddhism. 17. 11. to open the way for guiding future generations. 64. See Philip Almond. 206. The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 62. however small. nos. p. in night as well as day. 1884). to my mind. 33. Edward Conze. Harrison has noted that there is an apotropaic function to anussati. ed. Beal gives the somewhat less hyperbolic: “To teach and convert with diligence the unbelieving. VM 230. out of context. 216–17. 226. This is Pe Maung Tin’s translation of the Visuddhimagga. there is not. calls practices “which offered salvation at a cheap price” (p. Conze here is following in a long line of “rationalizers” of Buddhism— those who wish to portray as “pure Buddhism” that which has no taint of what Conze. Paul Williams has drawn attention to a scene from the Sutta Nipa\ta that illustrates precisely this sort of presence created via the practice of buddha\nussati. Samuel Beal. he says that “there is no moment for me. Winston King. 61). and 21 (London: Luzac. “Commemoration.” 55. 58. 329–40. at S 1:218. from this universe of wisdom. Significantly. this world of understanding. . Buddhaghosa’s commentary is on the standard formula for buddha\nussati: “Iti pi bhagava\ araham≥ samma\sambuddho vijja\caran≥a-sampanno sugato lokavidu\ anuttaro purisadammasa\rathi sattha\ devamanussa\nam≥ buddho bhagava\ ti” (D 1:49. See AN 5:328–32 for the six-fold list and AN 1:30 for the ten-fold. a single moment spent away from him” [vv. And since I spend my nights revering him. 1971).” in Prajña\pa\ramita\ and Related Systems: Studies in Honour of Edward Conze. [W]ith constant and careful vigilance it is possible for me to see him with my mind as clearly as with my eyes. 61.” 218. I borrow this phrase. 1992). 1988).” in In the Mirror of Memory. Paul Harrison. 60. 1:236. a monk. . Therava\da Meditation: The Buddhist Transformation of Yoga (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press. See Harrison. In the SN. However. Pinægiya. the Buddha is said to have prescribed the first three anussati as a method to ward off fear while meditating in solitary places. for instance. Janel Gyatso (Albany: State University of New York Press. 1956). 1977). .
Ibid. V. 1989). 68. See Paul Harrison’s edited version. See Paul Williams. that they call to mind the body and the countenance of the Buddha and then his moral and mental qualities. Harrison has pointed out that in the Chinese translations of the Sanskrit A|gamas. 141. 40. “Commemoration. Bapat.” 220. The relationship between these two texts is. In Ehara’s translation. 69. 217–18. Lewis R. and is not really relevant here. 78. mediation. “Image” here is denoted by the Chinese hsing. 75. buddha\nusmti is propounded “as the one practice for realizing all spiritual goals and [it] recommends that practioners contemplate the image of the Buddha without taking their eyes off it..” Artibus Asiae 36. Harrison. 76. Harrison. 1142]. 1937). C. 70. 74. Maha\ya\na Buddhism (New York: Routledge. 72. and the cognition and vision of liberation” (see Harrison.. no. 67. 65. Ibid.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 6 (1978): 37.. 71. He contemplates the image of the Tatha\gata without taking his eyes off it” (see ibid. 1990). Sarkhel. KINNARD 1140. “Commemoration. to say the least. 4 (1974): 289. Lancaser. 73. 38).” 220).142 JACOB N. Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga: A Comparative Study (Calcutta: J. arranged under the traditional rubrics of morality. Direct Encounter.. wisdom. or both. liberation. Ibid. The Sama\dhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present (Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies. the text upon which Lokaks≥ema’s Dao-xingjing is based. . “An Early Mahayana Sermon. Lancaster. “An Early Mahayana Sermon about the Body of the Buddha and the Making of Images. 47. p. xx. “Buddha\nusmr≥ti in the Pratyutpanna-Buddha-Sam≥mukha\vasthita-Sama\dhi-Su\tra. 66. in particular the Ekottara\gama III. This part of the story is not contained in the Sanskrit recension of the Asè ≥ asa\hasrika\prajña\pa\ramita\su\tra. 77. 222.” 289. Harrison produces a translation here of a particularly relevant passage in the Ekottara\gama (extant only in the Chinese translations of the Sanskrit) in which buddha\nusmr≥ti is discussed: “Without entertaining any other thought he earnestly calls to mind (anusmr≥-) the Buddha. See P. Paul Harrison. I say “more standard” here because this attention to the magnificant qualities of the Buddha’s body are common in the Pa\li materials as well as the early Mahayana texts. along with a translation. and Harrison notes that it is unclear whether it refers to a mental image or a physical one. ambiguous.
no. 123. “I Am a Parrot (Red).THE FIELD OF THE BUDDHA’S PRESENCE 79. Ibid. 4 (1971): 391–413. 83. 82. .” History of Religions 11. Ibid. 85.” 122. Ibid. Jonathan Smith. “The Bare Facts of Ritual. “The Bare Facts of Ritual. no. 80. “The Buddha as an Owner of Property. Jonathan Smith. 192. 125. See note 15 in this chapter.” 191.” History of Religions 20. 84. 143 81. 127. 2 (1980): 112–27... See also Smith. Schopen..
THE HIGHLY REVERED THAI MONK BUDDHADAS \ A BHIKKHU died. 1993. Even when the body dies. The debate focused on whether Gotama Buddha would be presenced by his teaching. or in objects such as bodily relics or other material signs. Just as if I never died. the Dhamma-body lives on.1 The sides in the debate cannot be precisely delineated. it will not listen. the dhamma will be his successor. My voice still echoes in comrades’ ears. Wherever it is or goes is of no consequence. there’s no dying. although it is much too simplistic to identify the dhamma contenders with a monastic elite. Prior to his death he penned the following verses: Buddhada\sa shall live. Clear and bright. Even when I die and the body ceases. Pa\li sources reveal a dispute regarding not that but how the absent. as loud as ever. Swearer INTRODUCTION ON JULY 8. Buddhada\sa’s poetic necromancy is reminiscent of Gotama Buddha’s admonition that after his death. It is only something passing through time. namely the dhamma.CHAPTER SIX SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA IN NORTHERN THAI CHRONICLES Donald K. and the material sign advocates with lay devotional piety. “parinibbaned” Buddha will be presenced. 145 .
lead to the hoped for result. the Tatha\gata has regard for future generations. but that it arose during the Buddha’s own lifetime.” The commentary stipulates that A|nanda was concerned lest people honor monks as a way of ensuring the fulfillment of their mundane wishes and “lose faith in the sanægha if their displays of honour do not bring the success they desire. From the very beginning of his career. and bring other benefits. saying. Descending from the verandah to greet the Blessed One. The Buddha’s claim that he is not a god or a divine being but the fully enlightened one (samma\sambuddha) represents but one side in a debate about his nature and mission. the laity might lose faith in the Buddha and his sangha. the Buddha’s answer to the question about his identity or nature connects with the Buddha’s parinibba\na legacy. hoped to have a son. “Venerable sir. however. that it may lead to my welfare and happiness for a long time. Prince Bodhi invited the Buddha and his disciples to receive the noon meal at Kokanada. let the Blessed One step on the cloth. the context popularized in current scholarship by the terminology of absence versus presence. indeed. let the Sublime One step on the cloth. an ascetic sage whose very touch could heal. a yogi with supernatural powers. “The Blessed One will not step on a strip of cloth.146 DONALD K. The white cloth touched by the Buddha—or his bhikkhus—might.”3 The commentary’s disclaimer regarding the power of a material sign—in this case a relic of association—appears to be a qualified one. but if it does not. his newly constructed palace. an episode also recorded in the Cullavagga. in the following account of the Prince Bodhi Sutta in the Majjhima Nika\ya. Illustrations of disagreement about the Buddha’s nature and mission abound in canonical and commentarial literature as. protect. SWEARER The Pa\li suttas suggest that the disagreement was not framed solely in terms of the post-nibba\ned Buddha. Prince Bodhi asked the Buddha to step on the white cloth he had draped over the staircase saying. In this chapter I propose to examine the signs of the Buddha and their power as constructed in a particular northern Thai text representative of a . It should be pointed out that the onus appears to fall on the laity’s act of veneration rather than power of the material sign. From this perspective.”2 The commentary specifies that by this act Prince Bodhi. After making the request a second and third time A|nanda asked the prince to remove the cloth. who was childless. On one occasion when the Blessed One was staying at Sums ≥ umar \ agira. the Blessed One was revered not only as the enlightened teacher of the dhamma realized on the night of his enlightenment but in a variety of other ways—a divine being. for example.
conveys the sense of dynastic annals. The story then continues . he contends. The Rise of Ayudhya: A History of Siam in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (1976). For example.4 Charnvit does not specifically mention the Thai term wongsa (Pa\li and Sanskrit vam≥sa). Dynastic history or phongsa\wada\n history appeared in the seventeenth century and “to a great extent still governs the modern writing of Thai history. a late nineteenth-century chronicle compiled by Praya\ Pracha\kitkorajak.6 Tamna\n history or the history of Buddhism. flourished from before the fifteenth century into the seventeenth century from which point its influence began to decline. as for example in the Phongsa\wada\n Yo\nok (The Chronicle of Yo\nok [Northern Thailand]).SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA 147 popular literary genre that flourished in northern Thailand between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. This sense of the meaning of phongsa (vam≥sa) reflects one of the root meanings of the term. perhaps because it comprises the first segment of phongsa\wada\n (Sanskrit vam≥sa + a\vata\ra).5 Kasetsiri proposes that premodern Thai records or historical documents fall into two main categories. The chapter is divided into two sections. and jotmaihæt. Metaphorically. THE CHRONICLE GENRE In the first chapter of his influential book. an account of a royal line or kingdom. the history of Buddhism and the history of dynasties. the sixteenth-century Jinaka\lama\lêpakaran≥am≥ (The Sheaf of Garlands of the Epochs of the Conqueror) begins with the lineal succession of the sa\sana commencing with the time of the aspiration of Gotama to become a Buddha and a sketch of his life.”7 Tamna\n history highlights the Buddha and particular events in the development of the tradition (sa\sana). a background discussion of the literary genre known in northern Thai as tamna\n (chronicle) followed by a study of the narrative from the perspective of the material signs of the Buddha. Phongsa\wada\n. Etymologically the Thai term tamna\n conveys a meaning quite similar to vam≥sa. which refers to the connecting links in a stalk of bamboo. the best known northern Thai Pa\li chronicle.” was coined during the reign of King Ra\ma VI (1910–1925). royal genealogies link together to constitute a dynasty just as sections of bamboo join to make a stalk or a trunk. phongsa\wada\n. “history. he points out that prior to the twentieth century the words most frequently used to denote history were tamna\n. Noting that the Thai word prawatsat (Sanskrit pravatióa\stra). Charnvit Kasetsiri analyzes the conceptualization of ancient Thai history.
that the broad. religious and royal. and the future are parts of one whole. The distinction between different types of historical documents representing differing views of the nature of history10 challenges the relatively loose sense of the meaning of the English word chronicle. but it hardly fits another noted Pa\li chronicle. the history of Buddhism. Kings and kingdoms come into the picture in so far as their actions contribute to promoting Buddhism. Kasetsiri summarizes the nature of tamna\n history in the following manner: The main theme of tamnan history is clearly religion and it is the Gotama Buddha who is the moving force in it. the Ca\madevêvam≥sa. In particular. consequently. The past is continuous with the existence of the present and the present is also part of the future. Thus the past. written by Bhikkhu Bodhiram≥si in the early fifteenth century. History in this sense is concerned not only with the past. in fact. and an account of Buddhism in Sri Lanka before moving to the establishment of Buddhism in northern Thailand. however. structural distinction between tamna\n and phongsa\wada\n history does not account for the subtle and sometimes blatant distinctions among differing kinds of historical documents. however. King Asoka. The distinction between two types of historiography. combining both ways of reading history. Its purpose is to describe the development of Buddhism. the first ruler of Haripuñjaya . There has been a tendency to use ‘chronicle’ rather carelessly as a generic term for both tamna\n and phongsa\wada\n views of history. be hybrids. The basic change is the growing autonomy of the king and the court from the religious order. SWEARER through the major Buddhist councils.8 Kasetsiri traces the origin of phongsa\wada\n history to changes in Thai society and contact with Europeans during the reign of King Narai (1657–1688) of Ayutthaya\ (Ayudhya). Phongsa\wada\n history.”9 Kasetsiri’s characterization of the dual historiography of premodern Thailand has both strengths and weaknesses. He fails to make the point. the tamna\n type of document Kasetsiri outlines fits what might be characterized as “classic” tamna\n such as the Pa\li Jinaka\lama\lêpakaran≥am≥ composed about 1517 by Bhikkhu Ratanapanna.11 That the chronicle of Queen Ca\ma. Kasetsiri himself acknowledges that chronicles may.148 DONALD K. tends to “begin with the foundation of a kingdom and then list the activities of successive kings. Historians were now men who served the court rather than the monk scholars who composed the religious chronicles. needs to be refined. the present. unlike the tamna\n histories which begin with the Buddha and have the history of Buddhism as their central concern.
16 The term tamna\n covers such a wide variety of texts that it may be best understood in the primitive sense of the term.17 This suggestion goes against the propensity of Western analytical scholarship toward classification. the writer is even more interested in legends surrounding Queen Ca\ma’s accession to the throne of Haripuñjaya. namely. although in a vestigial manner they retain the form of a Pa\li commentary. his encounter with different ethnic and occupational . is it possible to classify under only one genre the muang tamna\n (city-state chronicles) such as The Chiang Mai Chronicle14 and the various kinds of Buddha tamna\n about the Buddha’s travels in northern Thailand such as Phra Chao Liap Lo\k (The Buddha Travels the World)? Other students of northern Thai literature have suggested more diversified tamna\n taxonomies. historical accounts of sectarian religious history. That is. inscriptions. These Buddha tamna\n come under the general classificaton of vohara texts. a hollow stalk or container. that is. they are written in the Tai Yüan vernacular.SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA 149 (modern Lamphu\n). chronicles about Buddha images. Pa\li words and phrases are interspersed throughout the text—often corrupt and ungrammatical—giving the impression that the vernacular functions as an explanation of the Pa\li.15 Hans Penth proposes five descriptive classifications: chronicles that deal with the history of Buddhism. They treat in varying detail the Buddha’s wanderings in northern Thailand. David K. Although the Ca\madevêvam≥sa contains dynastic chronology. In general terms. Buddha tamna\n texts share a similar content. That is to say. King Adittara\ja’s discovery of the Buddha relic enshrined today at Wat Haripuñjaya. or at least they did before monks began limiting their study almost exclusively to the national monastic curriculum prescribed by the Thai national sangha.18 This chapter focuses on the signs of the Buddha in the genre of popular Buddha tamna\n that abound in northern Thai monastery libraries. is a vam≥sa might suggest that it should be classified as dynastic rather than religious history. are as noteworthy for their differences in style and content as they are representative of a type of religious chronicle. and a miscellaneous category.12 Even the Mu\lasa\sana\ chronicles of the Wat Pa\ Daeng and the Wat Suan Dok monastic lineages. and the Buddha’s visit to the region. but it may more accurately represent the variety of documents that bear the title tamna\n.13 Furthermore. chronicles of religious sites. Wyatt divides northern Thai tamna\n into two broad categories: the tamna\n of the distant past or “universal histories” in Pa\li and Thai. a tamna\n takes its definition from its particular content rather than the other way around. and “monumental histories” concerning Buddhist images. and institutions. relics.
Consequently.20 In many cases. farmers. we shall know much more about the nature of the early religious history and practice of the Tai than at present. the Buddha did not confine his travels to northern Thailand. doi) topped by a cetiya reliquary (Thai chedê) has its tamnan \ . images. Very little critical. and cultural milieu that led to such a rich proliferation of ja\taka and Buddha tamna\n? 21 Perhaps future scholars of northern Thai Buddhism will find an answer. The name apparently derives from a basinlike depression on the top of the mountain better known today as Doi Chiang Dao (the Mountain of the Abode of the Stars) located about seventy kilometers north of Chiang Mai on the way to the town of Fa\ng.19 These legendary accounts of the Buddha and his material signs presuppose developments in the Theravada tradition associated with Buddha cult and devotion found in texts ranging from the Mahap \ arinibban \ a Sutta to the Pal \ i commentaries of the fifth century and later. they invoke his presentness through his signs. When they do. and so on—their conversion to the path of the tatha\gata. Of course. then the question naturally arises: What was there in the northern Thai religious. seventh century). the histories in booklet form that are sold today at various wats in northern Thailand are adapted from the tamnan \ histories of these sites. reminiscent of late Pal \ i texts composed in Sri Lanka such as the Dhat \ uvams ≥ a and Thup \ avams ≥ a as well as the stories recorded in the diaries of the Chinese pilgrims Faxian (Fa-hsien. historical. these narratives not only evoke the Buddha as a figure of the past. furthermore. and footprints to ensure the success of the Buddha’s religion. comparative work has been done on the northern Thai Buddha tamnan \ . SWEARER groups—Lawa. In addition to lengthy Buddha tamnan \ of several palm leaf bundles that provide a broad. artisans. and a passing on of a legacy of Buddha relics. The particular text that serves as the backdrop for our examination of signs of the Buddha is the Tamna\n Ang Salung (The Chronicle of [Sacred] Water Basin Mountain). They are. the establishment of particular historical and religious sites or the prediction of their future appearance. Legendary chronicles have him traveling throughout Buddhist Asia. comprehensive history of the Buddha’s travels in northern Thailand. virtually every significant monastery temple (Thai wat) and every hill or mountain (Thai.150 DONALD K. If that is the case. fifth century) and Xuanzang (Hsüang-tsang. Burmese. but one can speculate—and with more research possibly demonstrate— that northern Thailand produced a larger body of vernacular ja\taka stories and Buddha tamna\n than other regions of Buddhist Asia. Chiang Dao resembles a molar tooth jutting abruptly above its immediate surround- .
that is. Natural rock and mineral formations in the Chiang Dao cave have been given supernatural attributions.22 Through the attainment of extraordinary mystic trance states he gained the ability to communicate with the spirits inhabiting the site. not in historical information that might be derived from it. hatred. Various supernatural beings—devata\. . The sage left an inscription in which he stipulated that those who wished to see these magical creations must strictly observe the Buddhist precepts to overcome greed. Chiang Dao chronicles have various names—Tamna\n Doi Luang Chiang Dao (The Chronicle of Chiang Dao Mountain). without. and powerful spirits (devata\) are believed to assemble in the largest cavern. yakkha—bestowed upon the holy man miraculous rewards including a gold Buddha image. and delusion. horse.23 but my interest is in the mythic and legendary aspects of the chronicle. Today. and. the Chiang Dao cave mountain is a sacred site in and of itself. I propose to explicate the chronicle for what it can tell us about the worldview of the northern Thai and the nature of the Buddha as revealed through his signs. beginning two thousand five hundred years after the founding of the sas \ ana. In the cave’s antechamber visitors encounter Burmese style chedês and alabaster Buddha images partially illuminated by a window of light permeating the darkness through crevices in the vaulted ceiling.25 The Tamnan \ Ang Salung can be analyzed as a composite of three different stories: the Buddha’s travels in northern Thailand. Chiang Dao was an early Tai historical site. One of the Chiang Dao chronicles attributes the discovery of this holy site to a legendary hermit who over a thousand years ago happened across the cave mountain while searching for a peaceful place to pursue his religious practices. ascertaining the moral qualifications of tourist or pilgrim. his relics. finally.24 In particular. however. a golden pagoda and bodhi tree. Deep overhangs on the mountain’s western side have served as retreats for hermits and holy men and women for generations. Tamna\n Tham Chiang Dao (The Chronicle of the Chiang Dao Cave)—although they are similar in content to Tamna\n Ang Salung. na\ga. and sword. and a magical elephant.SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA 151 ings. including northern Thailand. Chiang Dao cave guides unhesitatingly point out formations representing and corroborating this ancient tale. The three stories are linked by Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao: Chiang Dao is one of the sites visited by the Buddha. the decline of Buddhism in Jambudêpa. the mountain is associated with the concept of the Righteous King (dhammikaraj \ a) who will bring peace and order to the chaos of the declining world aeon. and the story of the Chiang Dao cave.
he spoke to the arahants: “Before I came here. Residing temporarily at a mountain to the south of the Lawa village.26 In conclusion. or recount the development of Buddhism in India and Sri Lanka. After the Buddha and the monks eat their meal. wandering primarily in the Chiang Mai valley with occasional forays into the broader reaches of the mythical space of Jambudêpa. cosmological. the Buddha meets a Lawa farmer turning a water wheel to irrigate a field. Lawa. the Buddha and the arahants accompanying him are offered food by the villagers. comprehensive Buddha chronicles. “O. The Buddha’s precepts are precious. SWEARER The text incorporates many Buddhasized folkloric elements. the Lawa irrigated their fields with a water wheel . Now that we have taken the Buddha’s precepts we find that everything has turned to gold. material representations of the Blessed One. there is no longer any need for you to irrigate your fields with a water wheel. and ontological. and the relationship between the two as constructed within the chronicle narrative.152 DONALD K. When he wraps the turban around his head again. who refers to the text as a tamnan \ nidan \ a or a folklore tamnan \ . the emergent picture of the Buddha and his material signs will be interpreted from three perspectives—magical. indeed! We will observe them all of our lives. the text begins with the Buddha already present in the Chiang Mai region. Take the precepts of the Buddha and you will have sufficient food to eat. In the remainder of this chapter I shall explore passages from each of the three sections of the text in order to discern the tamnanic view of the person of Buddha. “In the past we worked our fingers to the bone and still didn’t have enough to eat. On his journeys. SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA IN THE TAMNA\N ANG SALUNG In contrast to larger. they exclaim. Seeing the Buddha approach. The folkloric dimension of the text is acknowledged by the compiler himself. Rather. the Tamna\n Ang Salung does not begin with previous existences of the Buddha. King Asoka says to the Lawa.” The Lawa then take the five precepts from the Buddha. it miraculously turns into gold. a sacred mountain site south of Chiang Mai proper. The Blessed One starts his travels at Doi Kung. Amazed. his appearance as Prince Siddhattha.” After the Buddha gave the Lawa the precepts. the farmer unwinds a turban from around his head and uses it to wash the Buddha’s feet. When the Lawa return home they find that everything both inside and outside of their homes has turned into gold.
Those who live here but who do not reach Nibba\na in my lifetime will do so in the lifetime of Phra Ariya Metteyya.” The Buddha then proceeded to the home of a wealthy potter. led by a wealthy merchant. There he preached a sermon on the meritorious blessing (a\nisam≥sa) of building a monastic dwelling place (a\ra\ma) and of constructing Buddha images. . and enshrined it in a gilded container seven hands high. .” After King Asoka and the arahants buried the Buddha images. Consequently.” 153 The author of the text continues the Buddha’s itinerary with little regard to geography. this place shall be known as Hot. manussa\) so that they may be worshipped in this city now and in the future. After putting the relic in a hole in the earth. these images will appear before both human and divine beings (devata\. .SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA because this is a very dry area. Blessed One. then consecrated the images and worshipped them. but towns in Burma and northern India31 are also included. a bone relic from my right hand will be enshrined in this chedê. He ordered his neighbors and the Lawa to bring all the things needed to make 3. The potter who had listened to the sermon decided then and there to make [many] Buddha images.300. The Lawa will worship you by raising tall banners (Thai tung)27 in your honor.29 The Buddha then spoke to the arahants and to King Asoka.30 After I have passed away this place will become a great city (maha\na\gara) [Chiang Mai] where my religion will flourish. they worshipped it. . Indra placed a spear in the ground at the site to protect the relic. Chiang Mai. It is good that you have made these images of me because I cannot always be here with you. encased it in a container of bamboo. O. “Bhante Bhagava\ . “Sa\dhu . It will be a major center for monks and scholars.000 images. and Brahman ascetics will burn their robes. [After they were made] the images were put in an appropriate place and everyone worshipped the Buddha. the hole was covered up. The Lawa. and . known as Jotika\ra\ma. the Buddha made the following prediction: “After I have passed away. The Buddha blessed the people saying. A large dwelling place (a\ra\ma) will be constructed for you and your disciples. The officials of the kingdom as well as the common people will have great fortune (puñña) and my religion will flourish.”28 The arahants and King Asoka then took a hair relic (kesadha\tu) from the Buddha. “After I have passed away (parinibba\na). and predictions are made regarding the future rulers of La\n Cha\ng (in Laos). Most of the sites are in the Chiang Mai region. you should establish your religion (sa\sana) here. and over it a chedê three hundred wa\ (600 meters) high was constructed.” The arahants and King Asoka then said to the Buddha.
The tatha\gata leaves hair relics and footprints and grants permission for the construction of Buddha images. and offered it to the Buddha . body relics figure into postmortem or postparinibba\na predictions. or venerate this Buddha image will be the same as venerating the tatha\gata when he was alive. As we would expect. . In the Tamna\n Ang Salung the Buddha’s hair is the predominant preparinibba\na relic. [Seated respectfully beside the tatha\gata] the na\ga made the following request. as in the following encounter with a na\ga. “O.” Delighted. Occasionally. the farmer sits down beside the tatha\gata: As they were sitting under the tree. The Buddha predicted that in the future this site would be known as Phrapa\da Yang Vijjha. Blessed One. Having nothing to offer the Lord Buddha except a honeycomb from a tree by the river bank. It will be known as the reclining Buddha of the honey inlet (Thai phra non nong phung) in remembrance of the gift of honey given to me by the na\ga king. “the Buddha felt the urge to relieve himself. .” In another unusual incident the Buddha sits under a tree near a paddy field being tilled by a Lawa farmer. however. the na\ga king made a reclining image of the tatha\gata for both human and divine beings to venerate in the future. mucus dripped from the tatha\gata’s nose but miraculously floated up to the leaves of the Asoka . “Since there’s no suitable flat stone for my footprint. In the Tamna\n Ang Salung the bodhi tree. as evidenced in the following examples. an important commemorative relic in other parts of Buddhist Asia. occasionally the text suggests a preference for one material representation over another. the na\ga king who lived there [the Ping River] was overjoyed. [The monastery is known as Phrapa\t Yang Wit/the Holy Footprint Bathroom Resting Place located in Sampadong district]. the na\ga assumed the form of a human being. climbed the tree. repair. A na\ga king dug a hole and Indra built a shelter (mandapa) over it.32 Although there appears to be no hierarchial value assigned to one type of Buddha sign. Seeing the Buddha approaching from a distance. While walking in an area north of Chiang Mai. Mistaking the Buddha for a demon. please leave a footprint here.154 DONALD K.” The Buddha replied. brought down the honeycomb. Reassured by the Blessed One that he is not a yakkha but the Lord Buddha. is insignificant. SWEARER Ham≥sa\vatê (in Burma). the peasant starts to run away. I grant you permission to make a Buddha image. physical parts of the Buddha other than hair become relics in rather surprising ways.33 To build.
SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA tree giving them a golden hue. The apocalyptic sections of the Tamna\n Ang Salung only briefly mention material representations of the Buddha. A more momentous mark of the degeneration of the Buddhist age in the third millennium after the death of the Buddha. Afterwards. the author sees the selling of images and amulets as a sign of the decline of the sa\sana. Lay people will not respect monks who observe the vinaya.”34 155 Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao is visited by the Buddha during his travels in northern Thailand and serves as a kind of axis mundi from which the righteous world ruler (dhammikara\ja) will address the evils of the world described in great length. parents will encourage their very young daughters to marry. Girls ten years old will engage in sexual intercourse. they will sell images and amulets of the Buddha and of the king. people will not respect those with knowledge. They will be illiterate and without skills. In a possible critique of contemporaneous practice. both monks and lay people. old and young. doing as they please. At the beginning of the third millennium after the founding of the religion of the tatha\gata. undisciplined laity interested only in eating and sleeping will ordain as monks. In the age of the decline of Buddhism. made a reliquary tower (prasa\da) [to house the relic]. Indra. the Buddha spoke to them. they will be governed by greed (lobha) . husbands and wives will commit adultery and families will disintegrate. A|nanda collected the mucus-covered leaves and fashioned them into a relic which he gave to the Lawa farmer. “This relic will be here as long as you live. images and amulets. I quote only a brief passage from this apocalyptic—and resonantly prophetic—vision. and both laity and monks will follow their own selfish interests. This relic has the power to determine who is good (puñña) and who is evil (pa\pa). is the degeneration of the dhamma and the sangha. and of suffering. the learned and ordinary folk will be unable to discern the difference between right and wrong. “monks will not study the dhamma. It will be a time of the ascendency of evildoers. in this case. In the future it will be known as Chom Thong because the relic was given to the farmer on the leaves of the Thong tree. discipline and tradition will disappear. however. who together with the arahants and Vissukamma had joined the Buddha and A|nanda. the sa\sana will suffer decline. These also are important signs of the Buddha. although they figure into the Tamna\n Ang Salung more by their absence in the Ka\la Yu\ga than by their presence during the lifetime of the Buddha. good and evil. of war.
36 . The wise will care for the image and the relics. . devaputta and King A|nanda Ra\japingmuang. to keep the precepts. Brahma. Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao is a place where the Buddha image. whether they come from far or near. puffed rice. four flowering plants. Chao Luang Kham Daeng [Lord Burnished Gold]35 with ten thousand attendants guard the cave. a na\ga king named Viru\pakkha. and with the devata\ they fashioned a golden standing image of the Buddha for both divine and human beings to worship. form part of a nexus for various sacred representations.156 DONALD K. red. Moreover. and hermits (isi) are kept. . five hundred disciples took his relics to Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao. in turn. . Whoever enters the cave—monk. a priceless golden bodhi tree. SWEARER and craving (tan≥ha\). . . . After the Buddha passed away at Kusina\ra\. will be blessed (a\nisam≥sa) beyond calculation. . built a large golden chedê to a height one ga\vut [4. The ruler of the yakkhas. In the cave are the possessions of divine beings and of kings.000 meters] for the Buddha’s relics (dha\tu). Chao Luang Kham Daeng and his attendants stand guard over these precious objects that are encircled by a fence.” Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao emerges at the end of the tamna\n as a locus for signs of the Buddha after his parinibba\na that. eight flags in each of three colors—black. Even those who see it from a distance and venerate the image make merit. layperson. . The Lord Indra. if one enters the cave in order to make offerings to the Buddha and the relic. one will be greatly rewarded by the guardian yakkhas and will be able to leave the cave. Such an act guarantees them a long and successful life. Everyone who knows this tamna\n nida\na. and relics of all the previous Buddhas. a golden Buddha image. the Buddha relic. Together with Indra. they will not seek the way to heaven or nibba\na and will do only those things that lead to continuous rebirth (sam≥sa\ra). yellow. By making these offerings. and to practice meditation you will be blessed with good fortune.000 meters]. . the ruler of Chiang Dao. or Brahman ascetic—should first bathe. This precious image was erected in the cave [of Chiang Dao]. and a golden chedê. A hermit by the name of Brahma Isi dwelt on the mountain one yojana high [16. arahants. who pays respects to the Buddha image and the relics of the Buddhas and the arahants at Doi Ang Salung. then take the five or the eight precepts and offer flowers. the devata\. Ten thousand yakkhas also guard Doi Ang Salung. and white—and one thousand small clay lamps. Brahma. three hundred gold and three hundred silver candles.
furthermore. and the third is the overarching reference to which events and objects refer. They are his continuing presence. These pious acts not only guarantee the survival of the sa\sana. which existed from before the fifteenth century up to the modern period. a custom associated with folklore. instrumentalist view characterizes the installation and maintenance of bodily relics and Buddha images. in the act of naming he creates order.37 The second and third levels of meaning point beyond a magical. In short. The Blessed One’s journey throughout northern Thailand is a cosmogonic event that creates an ordered. contact with the Buddha. The tatha\gata’s itinerary establishes a map that is simultaneously both topological and cosmological. particular places are named—that is. For example. . yakkhas. But the Buddha is more than a mere name giver. whether his bodily person in the story’s narrative present or contact with his relics in the Buddha’s absence.SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA 157 INTERPRETATION Tamnan \ Ang Salung opens a window into the tamnanic or popular worldview of northern Thai Buddhism. taking the precepts leads to an abundance of riches. legendary or otherwise. Indeed. The Buddha’s wanderings in northern Thailand constitute the region as a buddha-desa or “Buddha-land. but they accrue specific blessings to the patrons.” The presence of the Buddha literally gives the region an identity. the presence of the conqueror (jina) to whom the untamed forces—be they barbaric Lawa. or na\gas—render service and pledge allegiance. The same magical. The first is the most transparent. his very presence defines the region ontologically as a buddha-desa.38 In the Tamna\n Ang Salung. many aspects of this worldview are very much alive today. instrumentalist view of particular events associated with the Buddha and his relics to the topological and cosmological map in which they are imbedded. in the episode of the Lawa village. they now have a location—as a consequence of the Buddha’s visit. and ontological. meaningful world. and the turban of the peasant who washes the feet of the tatha\gata turns into gold. the second is the underlying meaning of the interrelationship among particular events and objects. cosmological. Part of that identity is constituted by the giving of a name. His physical signs are much more than mere reminders of a visit. is at the basis of the popular Buddhist understanding of blessing (a\nisam≥sa) and merit (puñña). The first is the instrumental significance of a particular event or object. I propose that the tamnanic worldview constructs the Buddha and material representations of the Buddha on three different yet related levels: magical.
4. present. Indra. That is. the powerful forces operative throughout the story (Asoka and other dhammikara\jas. Phanphen Khru\’ngthai (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. not as a historical memory but as a living reality. NOTES An earlier version of this chapter appeared in Wannakam Phutasa\sana\ Nai La\nna\ (Buddhist Literature in Northern Thailand). In this sense. I suggest that in the tamnanic worldview the Buddha is “read” from his relics or material signs rather than the other way around. the seemingly world-extended Jambudêpa. footprint. 2. the cosmic center is Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao. 1995).39 What is of utmost importance is the presence of the Buddha. and even a bodhi tree). That the tamnanic story of the Buddha’s visit to the Chiang Mai valley may offend our modern historical consciousness in its utter disregard of time. as does vam≥sa. 705. image. Both cave and mountain. Finally. it re-presents the object or is a surrogate for the object. 1. Udom Roongruangsri and the late A|cha\n Bumphen Rawin of the Department of Thai Studies. 5. The Rise of Ayudhya: A History of Siam in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Oxford and Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. In this chapter. Brahma and various other superhuman forces). even the most mundane material objects such as excrement and mucus become hierophanies of the Buddha’s presence. that is. ed. SWEARER In the Tamna\n Ang Salung. Ang Salung Chiang Dao brings together all of the signs of the Buddha (bodily relics. Na\la refers to an empty stalk and conveys a similar metaphorical association to lineage.158 DONALD K. and history is totally irrelevant. It integrates time—past. The tamna\n was not written to be read as history but as a story of the Buddha’s living presence represented in his signs. suggest that the term tamna\n is derived from Pa\li through Khmer. It does not merely point toward or symbolize an object. and the guardian hosts of the area (Chao Luang Kham Daeng and his retinue). see note 26 below for the complete citation. tam + na\la. Passages from the Tamna\n Ang Salung included in this chapter were translated by the author in collaboration with Phaitoon Dokbuakaew. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. 1. 1996). the sign in some sense participates in the object it represents. Charnvit Kasetsiri. space. and future—and space. tr. Ibid. I use the term sign in the strong sense of Charles Peirce’s notion of index. Bhikkhu Ña\n≥amoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi (Boston: Wisdom Publications. 3. . 1976). Dr. Chiang Mai University.
13. 1926–1932). Hall. the Social Research Institute of Chiang Mai University has published several northern Thai muang tamna\n in Thai script. E. Ibid. 3 vols. 159 10. Camille Notton. see Donald K. G. From this perspective. 7. 9.” in Southeast Asian History and Historiography: Essays Presented to D. Swearer and Sommai Premchit. Swearer and Sommai Premchit with commentary (Albany: State University of New York Press. 8. David K.. namely. have endured until quite recently. 16. with differing emphases. 12. Wyatt. ed. “Mu\lasa\sana\ Wat Pa\ Daeng: The Chronicle of the Founding of Buddhism of the Wat Pa\ Daeng Tradition. The Rise of Ayudhya. In addition. the building of a Buddha image. . 1976). 74. ed. D. The Sheaf of Garlands of the Epochs of the Conqueror (Jinaka\lama\lêpakaran≥am≥). 1.. Bodhiram≥si. N. 1995). Jayawickrama. Bodhiram≥si states unequivocally that his story is based on written records (maha\carika). cha\t) as the basis of Thai identity and loyalty alongside of Buddhism and the king. 11. Documents sur l’histoire politique et religieuse du Laos Occidental. Tamna\n in this sense has a meaning similar to the contemporary use of the term monograph. Cowan and E. Pali Text Society Translation series. and trans. Thai chronicles have served to root Thai identity in Buddhism and in kingship. 1925). the Buddha’s visit to northern Thailand.. (Paris: Imprimeries Charles-Lavauzelle. 3 9. “Chronicle Traditions in Thai Historiography. See David K. 1998). C. 17. BEFEO. One assumes that the translation was from Tai Yüan and that he was translating a legendary story.. W. prawatsat. Ibid. no. trans. N. 1968). Important northern Thai chronicles have been translated into French: George Coedés. Hans Penth. He also claims to have translated the story into Pa\li. communal. 2. Ratannapanna Thera. Annales du Siam. he propagated the “nation” (Thai. it is a writing or a document about a particular subject such as the founding of a town. A. Kasetsiri. 25 (Paris: l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient. For a translation of the Mu\lsa\sana\ of the Wat Pa\ Daeng lineage. Ibid. The Chiang Mai Chronicle (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. 36 (London: Luzac. 15. Wolters (Ithaca. and national identity. The Legend of Queen Ca\ma. “Literature on the History of Local Buddhism.Y.” Journal of the Siam Society 65 (January 1977): 73–110. vol. Donald K. 14. trans. 107–22. Historical documents can be interpreted as offering constructions of ethnic.SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA 6. These two foci of Thai identity.” Wannakam Phuttasa\sana\ (The Literature of Northern Thailand). Wyatt and Aroonrut Wichienkeeo. It is relevant to note that the reign of Ra\ma VI not only coined a new term for history.: Cornell University Press.
See Tamna\n Ru’ Prawat Tam Luang Chiang Dao (The Chronicle or History of the Chiang Dao Cave) (Chiang Mai: Phra Singh Press. Pra Chao Liap Lo\k. That the colophon claims the Phra Chao Liap Lo\k was brought from Sri Lanka may be a way of giving the text authority rather than recording a historical fact. 23. Myanmar. 20. It might be more accurate to ask. “The Lion Prince and Related Remarks on Northern History. 19. I classify the Phra Chao Liap Lo\k (PCLP) as a Buddha tamna\n. It is dated C. 1 (Jan. 64. 2513/1970). that is. The tamna\n on which this chapter is based is a microfilm copy in the Social Research Institute.. are of the opinion that the structure of the Buddha’s travels and legacy of relics that characterizes Buddha tamna\n texts as a genre was simply appropriated from Sri Lankan sources but then creatively adapted to the northern Thailand context. 25. Chiang Dao seems to have been a way station between the larger centers of Chiang Mai and Fa\ng. It is worth noting that in Thailand the collection of paritta texts are referred to as tamna\n. Laos. Scholarly study of Buddha tamna\n as a genre must first compare the various northern Thai texts and then seek to identify comparable sources in Sri Lanka and other Buddhist countries. SWEARER 18. 22. “What was there among the Tai?” which not only includes the Thai of central Thailand but other Tai ethnic groups in north and northeastern Thailand. although I have been informed by scholars who have studied both texts that the Buddha Tamna\n is more nida\nic in the sense that it contains more miraculous legends. It is impossible to date the root text. In the early days of Tai occupation of the Chiang Mai valley. vol. and Assam.S. It is similar to the PCLP in form. In addition to constituting a genre. Katanyoo Chucheun. after the end of the sixteenth century. Katanyoo Chucheun. Some scholars of northern Thai Buddhist religious history and literature. Yunnan.” Journal of the Siam Society. 24. furthermore. Buddha Tamna\n is a specfic text. Colophons in manuscripts of both the Phra Chao Liap Lo\k and the Buddha Tamna\n record the earliest transcriptions in northern Thailand in the late fifteenth century and subsequent copies into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Pra Chao Liap Lo\k Chabap La\nna\. Botwichro (Pra Chao Liap Lo\k Archives in La\nna\: An analytical study) (Bangkok: Silpakorn University. 1982). how- .160 DONALD K. The Phra Chao Liap Lo\k states explicitly that the text was brought from Sri Lanka. Chiang Mai University. 69. pt. See Michael Vickery. Mention of Burmese monks might suggest that the text was subsequent to Burmese suzerainty over northern Thailand. although to the best of my knowledge no one has discovered the prototype text. More important for dating purposes. Michael Vickery warns against using tamna\n in historical reconstruction. 1976): 326–77. 1306 (1941 CE) and was transcribed at a monastery in the Muang district of Lamphu\n. of a manuscript located in the San Pa Khoi monastery in the Muang district of Chiang Mai. 21. A master’s thesis on the Phra Chao Liap Lo\k appeared in 1982.
30. See The Jâtaka. indeed. Heinz Bechert (Göttingen: Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenchaften.” thereby problematizing a specific identification. “The Stu\pa and the Cosmic Axis: The Archaeological Evidence. Chiang Mai University. 1977.e. 1901).” South Asian Archaeology. E.” in Buddhism in Ceylon and Studies on Religious Syncretism in Buddhist Countries. Sommai Premchit. Place names of Buddhist sites in India are ascribed to locations in “greater India. Today the image is located at Wat Phra Non in the district of Saraphê. 1979).. Maurizio Taddei (Naples: Instituto Universitario Orientale. 4:142–43. The custom is also practiced among the Shan and the Lao. Generally it is said that the length of the flag provides an opportunity for those being punished in the Buddhist hells to grab the tail of the banner and thus escape from their kammic punishment. 799–839. The Buddha’s absence is the standard Buddhist apologia for the making of Buddha images. A possible reference to Wat Chedi Luang (Pa\li. 1978). ed. In Thailiand today it is still true that in relationship to other representations of the Buddha—images. namely. trans. 26. Wat Chom Thong in Chiang Mai Province is a highly revered pilgrimage site. relics. Cowell (Cambridge: Cambridge Universty Press. 31. see the complete translation of this text in Donald K. B. Indrakêla). and Phaitoon Dokbuakaew. a research associate at the Social Research Center. Phaitoon Dokbuakaew. vol. 34. footprints—the bodhi tree is of secondary importance. 29. It is customary to erect long banners or flags (tung) at northern Thai Buddhist merit-making festivals. See John Irwin. Chiang Mai Province. 33. Swearer. The reliquary located there is. ed. A similar rationale applies to Buddha relics. . 28. a major Chiang Mai monastery connected with the ruling family of the kingdom. 2. “The Kosala-Bimba-Van≥n≥ana\. For example see Richard Gombrich. the power of the merit generated by the ritual produces a beneficent effect for the dead as well as for the living. 281–301. that is. collaborated with me in translating the Tamna\n Ang Salung. south of Chiang Mai. 32.SIGNS OF THE BUDDHA 161 ever. Jotika\ra\ma). The colophon at the end of the eleventh bundle of the Wat Ku Kham palm leaf manuscript of the Phra Chao Liap Lo\k states that the text was first copied in BE 2071/CE 1471 at a wat near the foot of Doi Kung now in the Hot district of the province of Chiang Mai. 27. 2004). in a prasa\t style. that they function as reminders of the Buddha’s presence. The Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand and Their Legends (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. This would place the origin of one of the prototype Buddha tamna\n texts of northern Thailand in the fifteenth century during the high classic period of Chiang Mai. may be the reference to King Kawila who ruled Chiang Mai in the later half of the eighteenth century. This passage conforms to recent cosmogonic interpretations of the meaning of the stupa (cetiya) built around an axial pillar (i.
36. and footprints. the Lawa guardian spirits of the Doi Suthep/Doi Kham area adjacent to the city of Chiang Mai. It is noteworthy that Buddha tamna\n are often characterized not as the story of the Buddha but as the story of the Buddha’s relics. While there is an etiological signification to naming in the tamna\n. that is. Chao Luang Kham Daeng is revered as the guardian spirit of Chiang Dao. images. . instrumentalist understanding of the Buddha and lacks the more profound levels of interpretation also present in the Buddha tamna\n. He is the functional equivalent of Phu Sae/Yae Sae. Conventionally “naming” within the context of folklore is given an etiological significance. why a place is named such and such. Popular Buddhist devotion in Thailand today often reflects a magical. 37. The conclusion of the text reminds us that relatively brief Buddha tamna\n such as Tamna\n Ang Salung were desana\ or preached texts. 38. 39. I find deeper cosmological and ontological significations having to do with creating order and meaning. SWEARER 35.162 DONALD K.
” Do “primitives. Lévy-Bruhl himself went to great lengths to clarify and qualify his thesis in his later writings. an early champion of cultural relativism in the social sciences. from their very nature. “since everything that exists possesses mystic properties.”2 Lévy-Bruhl’s thesis was subjected to considerable criticism soon after it appeared. if anything. of “divergent rationalities”? In an attempt to characterize the thinking of so-called primitive peoples as recorded in the ethnographic literature available at the time. the charge of ethnocentrism is largely misleading. are much more important than the attributes of which our senses inform us. primitive mentality does not clearly distinguish between subject and object. Indeed. rather. for example.1 According to Lévy-Bruhl.3 163 . such that primitives perceive themselves in “mystic participation” with the world. the world is not comprised of lifeless natural objects. that what he called “primitive rationality” is not characteristic of primitives alone but is rather a universal mode of thought that can and does coexist with logical thinking. the difference between animate and inanimate things is not of the same interest to primitive mentality as it is to our own.” or less contentiously.CHAPTER SEVEN ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS Robert H. and to this day his work tends to be summarily dismissed for its supposed ethnocentrism.” to resort to the early but now unfashionable term. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl posited a prelogical kind of thinking that does not abide by the law of noncontradiction. apprehend and reflect upon the world in a fundamentally different way than do we moderns? Does it make sense to talk of “primitive mentality. Lévy-Bruhl was. To the primitive. He insisted. Sharf FOR ALMOST A HUNDRED YEARS CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGISTS HAVE BEEN carrying on a lively and ofttimes rancorous debate over the issue of “how natives think. and these properties.
ritualism.164 ROBERT H. as did Edward Tylor. and other early comparativists. James Frazer. the issues he raised could not be ignored. in the final analysis. and idolatry. the more fundamental issue is whether the distinction between emic and etic is conceptually viable in the first place. but they do not perceive with the same minds. for they decide whether. For Lévy-Bruhl’s notion of the “collective representations” or “collective mentality” of a people presaged the emphasis on “culture” in modern anthropology. or vice versa. as attested by the recent and somewhat vitriolic exchange between Gananath Obeyesekere and Marshall Sahlins.”5 Indeed. found themselves retracing his footsteps.”4 Ironically. It would no longer be possible to simply assume. There is a newfound enthusiasm for supplementing the study of canonical texts with a variety of extracanoni- . we privilege etic analysis over emic description. Asian apologists and Western scholars alike felt confident in treating Buddhism as a critical and essentially rational tradition that has more in common with Occidental philosophy and ethics than with religion per se. Lévy-Bruhl raised the possibility that different peoples conceptualize in different ways: “Primitives see with eyes like ours. later generations of anthropologists.) There is still no resolution in sight. and the insistence that a given culture be understood “in its own terms. (Indeed. Earlier generations of Buddhologists seemed confident in the belief that whatever the final verdict might be with regard to primitives. such debates have had little impact on the study of Buddhism.6 Despite the obvious significance of these issues for the study of comparative religion.7 In the last few decades this notion of “pure” or “essential” Buddhism has come under considerable scrutiny. Standard treatments of the topic assured the reader that Buddhism was and remains an atheistic creed that categorically rejects superstition. many of the questions raised by Lévy-Bruhl are still very much with us: To what extent is the world of human experience itself a social or cultural product? Do modern scientific modalities yield a more objective view of the world than do premodern systems of thought? Are different “conceptual schemes” ultimately incommensurable? Such hermeneutic quandaries cannot be ignored. SHARF No matter what one’s opinion of Lévy-Bruhl’s thesis. Buddhists were not to be numbered among them. that primitives are essentially no different from ourselves—that the gap between primitive and modern societies is merely the product of the relative gap in factual knowledge and scientific know-how. magic. many of whom held Lévy-Bruhl’s theories in contempt. If Buddhists occasionally act otherwise it merely attests to the degree to which they have lost touch with the roots of their own tradition.
Patrick Geary. a pivotal player in the revaluation of early Indian Mahayana. to date Buddhologists have done little more than document the phenomena. the discovery of relic and image worship was the smoking gun that provided irrefutable evidence that Buddhists are not bourgeois rationalists after all. epigraphic. Taoism. The earlier reconstruction of an essential Buddhist teaching on the basis of canonical sources—sources that were often compiled and edited in the West—is beginning to appear as little more than a Western fiction. shamanism. not a few scholars are combining their study of Buddhist canonical languages with extended periods of fieldwork in Asia. social. valued not so much for what they say as for their inherent charismatic or apotropaic powers. Peter Brown. Gregory Schopen. Gananath Obeyesekere. and Jacques Le Goff. experiencing Buddhist culture firsthand. and economic context of the elite clerical tradition. and some scholars now prefer to speak not of Buddhism but rather of multiple regional Buddhisms. to name but a few—many Buddhologists are beginning to focus on reconstructing the institutional.8 For many scholars who found themselves disenchanted with the romanticized and/or rationalized versions of Buddhism that once dominated the field. Stanley Tambiah. While they readily attest to . Rather than envisaging the spread of Buddhism through Asia as the propagation of a sacred creed or faith. and others. and various forms of “popular” religion. while scholars of Tibet. At the same time. including archaeological.10 But despite their enthusiasm for the subject. and art-historical materials.” perhaps the most fruitful development has been the discovery of the seminal role that images and relics have played in Buddhist culture throughout its history. Scholars of Theravada are now able to consult the rich ethnographies compiled by Melford Spiro. In the reappraisal of Buddhism “on the ground. Confucianism.9 The worship of relics exemplified the newfound otherness of Buddhism. Caroline Bynum.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 165 cal sources. along with the esoteric technical knowledge required to manipulate them. most notably icons and relics. has argued that the scriptures themselves were actually regarded as a kind of relic. Fieldwork has proven to be a potent corrective to earlier idealized notions of pure Buddhism construed on the basis of scriptural representations alone. and Japan pay increasing attention to indigenous regional traditions. Inspired in part by the work of social historians of medieval Christianity—Philippe Ariès. including Bon. for it would seem to involve the sanctification of that which is utterly profane and loathsome—the corporal remains of the dead. China. the movement of Buddhism might be better understood in terms of the diffusion of sacred objects.
a relic did not repre- . That is to say. relics. with few exceptions. is that with few exceptions Buddhist sources do not speak of relics in terms of absent presences or present absences. By instantiating a numinous absence. SHARF the extent and popularity of relic veneration. would anyone attribute apotropaic or salvific power to scraps of dead organic matter. It is no longer acceptable to casually dismiss the worship of relics and images as aberrant or un-Buddhist. denote the presence of the Buddha in his very absence. alluring. much less a contact relic surrogate (that is. And when they do offer something by way of explanation they tend to conflate relics proper with virtually every other object of Buddhist ritual devotion. we are told. images. so-called aniconic symbols. it renders the worship of relics and images consonant with Buddhist doctrine. however.12 The notion that relics denote the Buddha’s enduring presence in his very absence has proved an effective bulwark against the marginalization of this popular form of Buddhist piety. The relic is a potent vestige of the death of an enlightened being. including David Eckel. the clerical elite found nothing objectionable in the worship of relics but enthusiastically engaged in and promoted such activities themselves. and even scriptures and incantations. stupas. as a sop to the plebeian needs of the unlettered masses. an object such as a piece of clothing whose sacred status is derived from its having been in physical contact with a saint or holy man)? On this issue scholars have had little to say.13 On the contrary. including sculpted and painted images. There is thus little reason to believe that the display of relics contravenes either the letter or the spirit of Buddhist teachings. images. This rubric of presence in absence has proved particularly. and their kin function as a physical locus for the saint’s enduring charisma. and myself on several occasions.11 This argument has been made by a number of Buddhologists. and I think understandably. For one thing. why is a relic any less appropriate a signifier for nirvana than the word nirvana itself? The problem. and grace. John Strong. and words of the Buddha or his enlightened disciples are deemed worthy objects of veneration insofar as all serve as manifestations or instantiations of the formless dharma itself. The same holds true for the image of the Buddha and his stupa— they all signify the unfathomable freedom of nirvana.166 ROBERT H. a memento of his or her abiding liberation. All of these. Scholars now appreciate that. the materials at our disposal suggest that relics were treated as presences pure and simple. they have yet to say much with regard to the question “Why?” Why have Buddhists been so obsessed with bits of desiccated or otherwise transmogrified remains of the dead? Why. apotropaic power. The relics. for that matter.
strategies that do not rest on an appeal to quasitheological notions such as absent presences. or anything in between. One way to break the impasse might be to pause for a moment and reflect on the nature of the current scholarly fascination with relics. At this point scholars tend to fall back. or Lévy-Bruhl in their analyses of Buddhist relic veneration. And this was. sympathetic magic. implicitly rather than explicitly. For example. and other signifiers of Buddhahood. other strategies available with which to deal with the “Why” question. While there was only one “historical Buddha. There is. I shall return to this issue further on. institutional. but as answers to the “Why” question they remain incomplete since they tend to presume. rather than explain. transforming the landscape into a sacred Buddhist domain. (We do not typically think of President Clinton as representing the president—he simply is the president. Those predisposed to more down-to-earth explanations can avail themselves of a number of functionalist accounts. considerable evidence that the mobility of relics contributed to the success of Buddhism as a missionary religion. in fact. relics facilitated and legitimized the Buddhist appropriation of indigenous religious centers throughout Asia.” his relics. any more than the person of the Buddha represented or symbolized the Buddha. upon some version of animism. precisely the issue with which Tylor. the popularity of relics was easily exploited by the ecclesiastic.15 There are obvious parallels with the well-documented manipulation and exploitation of relics by the clergy in medieval Christendom.) The source of the muddle is due in part to the tendency to conflate images. are eminently portable. Frazer. all of which were undeniably objects of veneration. if not eager. or denote a transcendent presence. of course. can be multiplied virtually ad infinitum. it is clear that relics. As . numinous absence. explain why masses of people throughout history were willing. While few would publicly invoke the names of Tylor. in and of themselves.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 167 sent.14 At the same time. There are.16 Such functionalist accounts have their utility. relics. to impute supernatural power to the remains of the special dead. not to mention the relics of his enlightened disciples. or even primitive mentality. the widespread and almost visceral fascination shown toward relics in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist cultures. stupas. of course. unlike sacred sites. Frazer. They do not. symbolize. we are still left with the fact that Buddhists appear to ascribe intentionality to what we view as inanimate objects. and thus they aid and abet the decentralization and propagation of the cult. and secular authorities who oversaw their dissemination. and Lévy-Bruhl were struggling.
some scholars would now judge them too successful. but it has come to bear an uncanny resemblance to medieval Christianity: both were preoccupied. or enlightened rationalism. Does the current interest in relics emerge from the call of scholarly duty alone? Are scholars merely trying to enlarge and ameliorate our collective understanding of Buddhism. at least at first glance. or to wax sublime over the ethical and environmental implications of codependent origination. It is another thing altogether to come to terms with belief in miracles. just as was true of those who preceded them. They sought to legitimize the study of Buddhism by establishing its credentials as a “high religion” complete with its own sophisticated philosophical and ethical teachings. relics. The more bizarre the phenomenon the better. As professional intellectuals we tend to be acutely aware of the limitations of our craft. For one thing. Of course. decidedly irrational. It is one thing to argue the provenance of the Madhyamakaka\rika\. to decipher the logic of Dharmakêrti. mysticism (the “perennial philosophy”). and they want to set the record straight. with saints. intelligible. Indeed. These scholars realized considerable success in rendering Buddhism a species of rational humanism worthy of our attention and respect.168 ROBERT H. scholars may take comfort in the realization that certain phenomena steadfastly resist all efforts at explanation. magic. or does it spring from something deeper? The fascination with relics is clearly overdetermined. Buddhism may no longer resemble European humanism. We may suspect that our . In their attempt to redress the domesticated image of Buddhism bequeathed by their elders. Thus some may be drawn to the study of relics in part by the intellectual challenge of offering a rational interpretation of a phenomenon that appears. at some level. whether Buddhist or Christian. and miraculous images. SHARF mentioned earlier. the bizarre is not altogether unfamiliar. At the same time. they have turned their attention to phenomena that resist rational appropriation. Earlier generations of Buddhologists focused on putatively philosophical scriptures and treatises for laudable reasons: they were battling the deeply entrenched Eurocentrism that characterized the Western academic establishment. This has been a significant discovery. and has allowed Buddhologists to establish a new set of conversation partners in the academy. But parallels with medieval Europe in and of themselves do not provide a theoretical foundation that renders the alterity of the phenomena. and the supernatural power of bits of human flesh and bone. the discovery of the significant role played by relics in Buddhism raises the intellectual stakes. the intellectual interests of contemporary scholars are determined in part by historical circumstances and developments within the discipline.
As mentioned earlier. the allure of a relic lies elsewhere. ICONS. we now project our irrationality. The corporeal remains of the dead may elicit a powerful response in the living.) But this may be making too much of the otherness of relics.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 169 discursive hold over reality is ephemeral at best and that our scholarly endeavors are ultimately of little or no significance. stupas. I sense that there is something almost voyeuristic or prurient in our fascination with relics. insofar as they all denote or signify the Buddha. in keeping with the current zeitgeist in the humanities. images. While the stupa or icon may possess considerable aesthetic appeal. Our interest in a sacred finger bone. or a lacquered mummy does not seem to be of the same order as our interest in a stone stupa or icon. but in and of itself this may not reveal much about Asian Buddhist beliefs or attitudes. of course. a skull. However. THE SEMIOTIC LOGIC OF IMAGES. Is it possible that we are drawn to the Buddhist obsession with relics because it resonates with something close to home? (I clearly recall my own childhood fascination with the macabre Egyptian mummy—partially unwrapped. Except that this time. relics evoke a more visceral response. contorted face. it may be little more than yet another projection of contemporary needs and concerns onto the complex ink blot that is Buddhism. in ignoring our personal response altogether we may be forfeiting a singular opportunity to illuminate the enigma of relic veneration. This conflation has served a purpose. It might thus be useful to reflect upon our own response to the corporeal remains of the dead. instead of projecting our own rationality as did a previous generation of scholars. and even scriptures have typically been conflated. AND RELICS My first task. in which undermining our confidence in the foundations of our own knowledge is construed as the only authentic game in town. decayed toes. and wisps of hair clearly visible—on permanent display in the Royal Ontario Museum. a desiccated tongue. Our attraction is not. While this may well land us in a hermeneutic muddle—how can I be sure that my own “visceral” response has anything to tell us about the response of a medieval Buddhist?—my hope is that the muddle will ultimately prove a fruitful one. of a purely intellectual nature. Some of us may find the thought that we do not have sole purchase on reality—that critical analysis is merely one of several ways of engaging the world—oddly reassuring. in that it underscores the pietistic and devotional . (This is.) But here we must be cautious. will be to delineate the meaning of the term relic. however. I suspect.
or image. it developed out of certain Judeo-Christian issues entailed in rendering a likeness of God. even when removed from its original religious setting or ritual context. This rubric is. Thus any attempt to manifest the divine through contingent forms is both theologically and existentially problematic. whether the divine or absolute is construed in transcendent or immanent terms. Scholars now appreciate the wide range of objects that were deemed bearers of supernatural power. here I am concerned primarily with representations of humans and deities in sculpted or painted form. and relics. Clearly. the absolute. this technical understanding of “icon” can be used to illuminate the structural relationships among images. By icon I mean a specific sort of religious image that is believed to partake or participate in the substance of that which it represents. Nevertheless. A relic. Western in origin. must grapple with the ontological problem of reference.” images and stupas are manufactured.18 In other words. symbol. an icon does not merely bear the likeness of the divine but shares in its very nature. since the noncontingent object of reference is kept one step removed from the sign through which it is made known. we should not lose sight of the features that distinguish relics proper from objects such as Buddha images and stupas that are unambiguously representational. however. that served as the focus of veneration. with few exceptions.170 ROBERT H. and that were thought to literally embody the essence of Buddhahood. In many respects the differences could not be more obvious: whereas corporeal relics are procured or “discovered. requires a “frame” in space and time that explicitly signals its status as sacred object. Denotation is always mediation. Note that any representation of the divine. it was impossible to authorize an image of the divine on the basis of the veracity of the portrayal itself. SHARF aspects of Buddhist praxis. Removed from their gilded and jewel-studded reliquaries most relics resemble so much dirt. We can then further distinguish images in general from icons in particular. The notion of shared substance allowed the church to circumvent the problem of likeness by focusing on a rather rarefied conception of “substance” or “essential nature. While the term image can refer to a wide range of material objects. modeled by human hands after established prototypes.17 A buddha image or stupa is. icons. across religious traditions. clearly recognizable as such. of course. That is to say. in either case it must remain essentially noncontingent and nonrelational and thus cannot properly be the ostensive referent or signified of a word. the holy.”19 Despite its Western pedigree. .
one can eliminate. they are what remains after the human form has been destroyed and the material substrate purified by the funeral pyre. ritual baths. and Buddhist traditions. Second. prior to the offerings proper. Insofar as relics are devoid of discernible representational qualities.21 But the most striking example of the incorporation of a relic into an image is mummification. they were well situated to serve as instances of purified essence or vital substance. wrapped in layers of lacquer-impregnated cloth. in which the entire corpse of an eminent master was desiccated. dha\tu. There are a variety of ways in which Buddhists could incorporate a relic into an image. As is well known.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 171 Broadly speaking.22 In some cases . is also used to refer to the fundamental or constituent element(s) of the universe itself. and as such they came to play a significant role in the transformation of a mere image into a living icon.) The rites of offering can include feedings. within the body of the image itself. Eastern Orthodox. by fiat if necessary.20 The initial consecration is reiterated through regular invocation rituals that compel the deity’s presence within the image. one can simply prohibit the direct signification of the divine. one can contend with this problem in one of two ways. This is the road taken by certain Catholic. fitted with robes and other adornments. Note that one of the two common terms for relics. Buddhists employ a variety of means to eliminate the distance between manifest form and divine essence. and relics in particular. (Buddhist pu\ja\ or “rites of offering” typically include an invocation sequence. The most common was to simply wrap the relic in cloth or ensconce it in a small reliquary and insert it in an opening in the base or back of the image. the numerous Jewish and Muslim prohibitions against uttering the name of God or rendering his image come immediately to mind. and entertainments. such that pure substance—that which is devoid of all representational or contingent qualities—is held to be immanent within the sign itself. however brief. In East Asia relics were sometimes mixed together with clay and the clay then used to fashion an image creating an “ash icon” thoroughly infused with relics. But perhaps the most striking example of the effort to collapse form and substance is the installation of charismatic objects in general. Buddhist relics are construed as the distilled essence of human corporeality. and installed on an altar in the same manner as any other icon. First. Incorporated relics literally vitalize a sacred likeness. all of which imaginatively reinforce the identity of image and god. Buddhist images are consecrated through elaborate eye-opening ceremonies believed to transform a mere likeness into a divine presence. the distance between signifier and signified.
in Japanese pronunciation. is considered the “fundamental ground” (honji) of Kasuga Myoj \ in. for example.26 Nevertheless. SHARF the resulting image so closely resembled a dry-lacquer sculpture that it was difficult to tell the difference.” The image of Fukuk \ enjaku-kannon enshrined in the Nan’endo\ at Kof \ ukuji in Nara. for example. Take. Mummies aside. since the rendering of an individual’s likeness was always a potentially “magical” act. the native Japanese god Kasuga is regarded as an avatar or incarnation (suijaku) of the Fukuk \ enjaku enshrined in the Nan’endo.24 But what about the formal distinction I am suggesting between image and icon? At first glance one might assume that the distinction does not hold in medieval China. a relic or sheli (Sanskrit óarêra. but rather the sculpted or painted image enshrined on an altar in a place of worship. for example.” the principal object of worship in a Buddhist ritual setting. One thinks of the celebrated portraitist Gu Kaizhi (ca. each is used to denote a visual representation or likeness and thus is not applicable to a relic proper. Thus multiple icons of one and the same Buddha or bodhisattva are regarded in some sense as separate individuals with unique identities.172 ROBERT H. Buddhists do make a terminological distinction between images and relics. East Asian Buddhists do have a term that corresponds rather well to “icon” in the restricted sense stipulated earlier. The same is true of the other terms used for Buddhist images and portraits. that gives it its “personality. the main deity of the Kasuga Shrine complex. \ 28 Other Fukuk \ enjakus do not enjoy this relationship with Kasuga. symbol. as he is known in Japan. 345–406) who sought to animate portraits of secular subjects by dotting the eyes. like their counterparts in India.27 The honzon is not some unseen transcendent deity. Which is to say that the vast majority of Buddhist practitioners in East Asia. honzon (Chinese benzun) or “fundamental deity. much less an abstract conception of Buddhahood. including zhen and dingxiang. There are a number of images of Fukuk \ enjaku situated throughout Japan.25 or the widespread use of portraits in ancestral rites as resting places for the soul of the deceased (ling. In China.23 In the case of a Buddhist mummy the identity of relic and image—substance and form—has been fully realized. Japanese shari) would not be confused with a xiang (image. Fukuk \ enjaku-kannon. each bearing roughly the same iconographic attributes. shen). In other words. often tied to a particular temple or locale. do not make a distinction between the consecrated visible image of the deity and the deity itself. and so on) and vice versa. namely. the particular manifestation of Avalokiteóvara Bodhisattva known as Amoghapaó \ a Avalokiteóvara. But each is embedded within a specific historical/mythical narrative. or. but they too may .
31 The Zenko\ji triad. One classic example is the cult of the Seiryo\ji Shaka. The cult proliferated throughout Japan via the medium of over two hundred reproductions. which is kept hidden from public view. . some of which manifest cross-culturally. as documented in Donald McCallum’s recent study of the subject.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 173 be tied to their own local traditions and religious narratives. This exalted status is reaffirmed through the use of various artistic and architectural conventions. each may have its own area of competence. The same is true of the Zenko\ji Amida triad. giving rise to multiple replicas that partake in the “spirit” of the original. is explicitly regarded as a “living Buddha” (sho\jin no hotoke). It is based on this assumption that the iconic composition has become universal in various religious art traditions around the world. but rather the specific deity ensconced at Zenko\ji.29 There are also cases in which an icon effectively reproduces. “Honzon” is thus a functional approximation of the English “icon”— it is not merely a representation of a god but the god itself. while another might be known for success in treating arthritis or heart disease. For example. Like the Seiryo\ji Shaka. replicas that are viewed not so much as images of the historical Buddha.30 As the center of a major cult in Japan it has served as the prototype for over a hundred replicas. the openness of the composition is based on the assumption that there is a worshiper who is engaged in direct relationship with the icon. the focus of the Zenko\ji Amida cult is not so much an august Amida abiding in his distant Pure Land. To quote Wu Hung. In fact. for example. a Chinese sandalwood image of S:a\kyamuni brought to Japan by the pilgrim Cho\nen (938–1016) in 986 and now enshrined at Seiryo\ji in Kyoto. This individuation extends to the powers associated with specific icons. One image of Yakushi may be renowned for its power to cure emphysema.”32 In East Asia the status of the honzon is also marked by its altar setting. which will include a small table placed in front of the image upon which are arrayed various ritual paraphernalia and offerings such as candles. icons are typically constructed and displayed so as to engage the viewer directly. so called because it is believed to have been produced at the behest of King Udayana during the Buddha’s lifetime. and as such has been the center of an influential cult since the Heian period. each of which was believed to partake in the vitality of the original. According to local tradition this magnificent sculpture is the original “Udayana image” of S:a\kyamuni. but rather as offspring or doppelgängers (even though they are rarely exact copies) of the deity enshrined at Seiryo\ji. “[The icon’s] significance relies on the presence of a viewer or worshiper outside it.
the transgression lies in the ritual and symbolic significance of the act. I would reserve the latter term for objects that are sometimes called “icons. most forcefully. “We will only come to understand response if we acknowledge more fully the ways in which the disjunction [between the reality of the art object and reality itself] lapses when we stand in the presence of images.35 Freedberg documents the tendency to impute intentionality to images.174 ROBERT H. sacred and otherwise. But this is precisely what is not given at the level of our emotional and cognitive response to images. This setting is part of the icon’s frame—it is present even when never used—and signals not only the presence of a supernatural being but also the authority and technical mastery of the institutionally sanctioned priests who are able to muster and direct the divine forces. rather than in the loss of the material object itself. Thus some might call the American flag an icon on the basis of the rituals that surround its use and the powerful emotions that the flag elicits. A raised seat for the ritual officiant is set in front of the offering table. and flowers. identification. perhaps.” but only in a metaphorical sense. While these terminological distinctions may strike the reader as unnecessarily abstract or scholastic. and additional implements are often arrayed to either side. . they do serve to draw attention to a class of sacred objects that are not regarded as mere signs or signifiers but rather as vital forces or animate entities. association of ideas. This point has been made repeatedly before. or what have you. much like an individual person. evocative resonance of symbols. Insofar as flag burning is a profanation.33 Insofar as an icon is a living presence. But to speak of the flag as an icon is to speak metaphorically. from Frazer’s laws of similarity and contagion to more contemporary notions of sympathy. He notes that virtually all such theories. the destruction of which is a far more serious concern. symbolic linkage.34 This is not the case with an icon. Each icon is in a certain sense unique and irreplaceable. SHARF food. however.”36 Any account of envoûtement or “image magic” that presumes the disjunction between representation and reality is already at a level of abstraction so removed from the phenomena it seeks to explain that it is unable to find its way back. albeit a powerful one. Some Americans go so far as to regard the intentional desecration of the flag as a sacrilege. incense. assume the disjunction between the symbol and the symbolized—between representation and reality. and in the process exposes the impotence of many of the theories proffered to explain the phenomena. I would propose a further terminological distinction between “icon” and sacralized sign. the flag is surely only a symbol of the nation. by David Freedberg in his tome The Power of Images.
”37 While this may tell us something about the mystique of Buddhist images. what is the relationship between different images of the same deity? When the corporeal remains of a saint are transformed into relics and disseminated. or clay is alive? Such problems are not the concern of modern rationalists alone. for all intents and purposes. in other words. PRIMITIVE MENTALITY OR EXISTENTIAL BEFUDDLEMENT? The veneration of corporeal relics and manufactured icons would seem to violate the “law of noncontradiction” (as Lévy-Bruhl would put it). it does not get us very far with Buddhist relics. a fact that would have allowed multiple incarnations of the same “proto-deity” to assume their own unique identities. a single Buddha or bodhisattva can have multiple nirma\n≥aka\ya. can a single being be in several places at one and the same time? And more basically. how could anyone seriously believe that an image fashioned by human hands of wood. In China these localized avatars were called “response bodies” (yingshen) or “transformation bodies” (bianshen. It is not primarily what relics look like that we find arresting. or more precisely. it is what they are. figuration. “transformation or manifest bodies. According to buddhaka\ya doctrine.38 . Scholastic theories of multiple buddhaka\ya or “bodies of the Buddha” appear to be addressing similar issues of identity and particularity. he cannot escape the issue of representation. huashen). formless. but while he wants to distance himself from the traditional aesthetic concerns that preoccupy art historians.” each of which is the local instantiation of a more rarefied prototype. what happens to the integrity of the saint’s spirit? How.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 175 Freedberg’s point is well taken. at least not initially. If the deity is indistinguishable from the image. as it entails a host of conceptual conundrums. It is their unabashed yet impenetrable corporeality that evokes such a powerful response. Freedberg documents a seemingly innate human tendency to search all variety of images for the human form. in part because they were believed to appear and function purely in response to the needs of those who invoked them. in China at least. and in the process to “reconstitute the material object as living. which are. Rather. stone. in connection with reflections on invocation rites. Such doctrines evolved. which suggests that medieval commentators were grappling with some of the same issues that perplex us today. nor is it what they represent or signify. The response body was thus somewhat autonomous from the relatively immutable “true body” (zhenshen) or “Buddha body” (foshen).
SHARF Nevertheless. and neuroscience. I suspect.40 But for every committed materialist there is a diehard dualist who insists that. or electrochemical processes. going back to Greek views of the psyche. and animating life force on the other. the way many in the West learn to conceptualize death: something is there one moment and gone the next. uncritical. and so on. But before we rush to the conclusion that these forms of Buddhist piety bespeak a prereflective. it is doubtful that such scholastic formulations ever had much purchase on the ground. no single coherent. biological. “rational. at least. it would be prudent to consider our own understanding of the relationship between manifest form or embodiment on the one hand. many North Americans today continue to resist scientific or philosophical theories that reduce the individual to “mere” physical. Nor did they need to. led some theologians to reject theories of a fully disembodied soul. of course. genetics. leaving behind a lifeless cadaver. At the same time. And it takes but a moment’s reflection to realize that there is. try as we might. molecular biology. Whatever it may be. consciousness will never yield itself to a strictly biochemical account. soul.41 . as seen in the recent interdisciplinary debates over the nature of consciousness. or primitive relationship to sacred objects. it is not something that reveals itself to the probing of a surgeon. that we are our bodies and that at the same time we are something more. Occidentals tend to think of this “something” in immaterial terms. The notion of an independent psyche or soul continued to play an important role in medieval Christian thought.176 ROBERT H. and that we are on the verge of a comprehensive physicalist account of consciousness. There are. as the mind. and the need to maintain social and gender distinctions in the afterlife. many who insist that the mind-body problem is the result of a conceptual muddle. in fact. This is. Most of us would allow. Individual icons and relics were powerful forces to be approached not conceptually or philosophically. we have made little progress in our understanding of how a nonphysical process could interact with physical ones.” or “scientific” perspective on the issue. The notion that we are comprised in part of an immaterial or at least a highly rarefied animating constituent has a long heritage in the West. as Caroline Bynum has shown.39 And despite developments in behavioral psychology. The mindbody problem is as intractable as ever. but rather through the medium of worship and ritual. ego. although. the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. There is little indication in either the textual or ethnographic record that the vast majority of practitioners were cognizant of a problem at all. consciousness.
Both the prolifers and the prochoicers tacitly accept the notion that life must begin at some point at or following conception. and it is by no means the norm in other societies. In the West the moment of death. The abortion issue is a case in point. psyche. social scientists. as many ethicists have duly noted. of course. Whether or not one holds that the self continues to exist. or legal theorists. Yet our cultural attitudes in this area are surely not so simple. is generally understood as the point when the person is no longer present in the body. or something in between. the issue is when. Yet at the same time we know full well that life must be present before conception for conception to take place. immaterial. in many cultures death is not a moment. Most Americans thus attribute little significance to the metamorphosis of the body after death.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 177 It would appear that several thousand years of reflection have not brought about anything approaching a consensus on the seminal issue of whether our “essential nature” is material. it yields little in the way of clarity on the fundamental ontological issue. in which the dried bones or fully desiccated corpse are moved to their final resting place. is certain: the concept of an immaterial soul. or mind has occasioned a panoply of ontological and ethical problems. culturally determined. but a process that stretches out over a considerable period of time. we might think ourselves on firmer ground when we contemplate its end.) Thus. albeit in a suitably decorous manner. however.43 The fact that North Americans pay relatively little heed to the transformation of the corpse after death bespeaks the enduring influence of the notion of a soul—our sense that the once living person is no longer present in his or her physical remains. (Both sperm and egg must be living for anything resembling a person to emerge. . This terminal point in the life cycle is marked by the “secondary treatment” of the corpse. however defined by the medical or legal communities. This view of death is. the physical remains are viewed as an inanimate or lifeless lump of organic matter to be disposed of posthaste. but rather the point at which we emerge as persons.42 One thing. In other words. What we view as the decomposition of a lifeless cadaver is viewed by many others as the final stage in the evolution of a still vital being. Witness the crash of the TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island on July 17. the issue is not so much the point at which life begins. continuing until the physical transformation of the body has resulted in a state of changelessness. While we may concede our confusion as to the precise moment at which the “self” or “soul” or even “person” comes into existence. We are still not sure to what exactly we refer when we use the first-person pronoun I. While the notion of a person may provide a toehold for medical ethicists.
of the corpse. Why this emphasis on the recovery of the bodies. in which resurrected body would the shared matter reside? Bynum argues that while these topics may strike us as outré or jejune. of the referent of the pronoun I? Is progress indeed possible? Or does the fact that “embodiment precedes essence. a fact that continually frustrates our attempts to adequately denote or ostend the immediacy. such that individual salvation and life in the hereafter necessitated the physical resurrection and reassembly. but of being a body. that no expense would be spared. American analytic philosophers hone their positions on the nature of mind. compounded by bad weather.” to take liberties with the existentialist credo. not of having. despite the continued belief in some form of body-soul dualism. Like the medieval Christian scholastics.44 Bynum demonstrates that. we too ponder the meaning of “self” through reflecting on the nature and constraints of our physical embodiment. gave rise to a number of conceptual puzzles that were to task the best minds of medieval Christendom: What age and sex is the resurrected body? Are foreskins. umbilical cords. Have we made progress in our search for the nature of consciousness. The self was by definition an embodied self. which quickly became church orthodoxy. and personal identity through thought experiments on artificial intelligence.178 ROBERT H. doom any and all attempts to conceptualize the corporeal self? We seem to have returned to the problem of reference: signification entails mediation. we too resort to delimiting and oftentimes bizarre scenarios as we probe the enigma of our own corporeality. The body that constitutes the epistemological object of . even at the risk of the safety of the divers? Is it merely to provide the remains with a proper burial? Or do we feel that there are still “people” down there? Caroline Bynum has pondered similar issues in the context of her extensive work on the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection. SHARF 1996. fingernail and hair clippings resurrected as well? Are aborted fetuses resurrected? What about cannibalism: if one person eats another. if necessary. of the self. brain transplants. by the early fifth century Christian thinkers had come to view the self in decidedly materialistic terms. The doctrine of the resurrection of the whole body. the authorities in charge repeatedly assured the public that every effort would be made to recover the remains. and that the search would take precedence over the investigation into the cause of the crash. consciousness. and even teletransportation (“Beam me up Scotty”). Despite the technical difficulties. we too resort to the fantastic and bizarre as we contemplate the nature of personal identity and selfhood. The loss of the plane in over a hundred feet of murky ocean posed considerable problems for the recovery team.
We too are not quite sure what. or of neuroscience. unlike sentient beings. are alive. what their interrelationship might be. We too are far from clear as to the distinguishing marks of consciousness. between conscious beings and mere things. RELICS AND THE HERMENEUTIC CONUNDRUM We began with Lévy-Bruhl’s notion of primitive mentality. The fact that “inert” objects are regarded not merely as animate entities. once freed from the rationalizing gloss of earlier apologetic accounts. of genetics. And yet I suspect that the clue to the singular allure of relics lies precisely here. a distinguishing feature of which was the inability to distinguish between the animate and the inanimate. images of wood or stone. of intentionality. talking human beings on the other. any more than a person’s body is regarded as a representation of that person. it is equally evident that Buddhists are able to distinguish between bones or images on the one hand. Yet the ethnographic record suggests that icons and relics were not regarded as representations of the divine or ultimate. they are alive in a rather special way. At the same time it is clear that. We too are perplexed as to whether consciousness and matter are ultimately one thing or two. of the self. is never quite that immanent body that is me. While there is considerable evidence suggesting that Buddhists regard relics and icons as presences. if anything. and walking. if bits of bone. But we should be wary of concluding that Buddhists are any more primitive in their thinking than are we. or what have you. in the confusions and anxieties that attend our somatic identity. our subjectivity. but as charismatic objects of ritual veneration. That is. relics are what they . the Buddhist treatment of icons and relics indicates that such objects were treated as animate entities capable of intentional acts. animates us. is tacit acknowledgment of difference in kind. If we failed to fully appreciate this before. Thus our discursive ruminations seem destined to remain forever a step removed from the existential and psychological weight of our physicality. it was due to our tendency to think of icons and relics as mere signs or representations—whether of a divine presence. a transcendent truth. To acknowledge the limits of our understanding is to provide grounds for a reconsideration of the Buddhist case. We have seen that. I have suggested that the allure of relics lies in what they are—their corporeal essence—rather than in their representational or iconic qualities. of biology. and if two. a divine absence. what it is that constitutes our personhood.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 179 medical science.
is one of the reasons that corpses. me. In other words. as modern cultural theorists are so fond of pointing out. Anthropologists. and discourse exploit this very ambiguity: “In the dim region where art. the body. if not paradox. To put it simply. ritual. my body. sympathetic magic.’ Here we can recognize an attempt to deny the difference between map and territory. sociologists. human beings have evolved the ‘metaphor that is meant. And yet the immanence or raw physicality of the body. and yet remain hidden at the same time. and those conceptions are in turn reflected back upon the body.) As Bateson notes.’ the flag which men will die to save. My immanent and primordial somatic being antecedes and frustrates all attempts at discursive appropriation. is a cultural construct. social. and religion meet and overlap. (While spoken words must be heard to be understood. if it is true that the recognition of a relic as an instance of unmitigated corporeality is actually abetted by the relic’s absence of representational features. or figure from ground.”45 While an explicit or implicit frame of some sort is necessary to discriminate signified from signifier. which.”46 There may be no more ambiguous an object in this regard than the human body. linguists. And such framing suggests a more complex attitude toward charismatic objects than that evoked by notions such as animism. or mystical participation. then the lion’s share of the denotative work must be borne by the frame. entails the ability to distinguish “map” from “territory. and religious domains. Somatic metaphors and images structure our conceptions of everything from the natural world.” This follows from the simple recognition that “a message. he argued. to the political. and to get back to the absolute innocence of communication by means of pure mood-signs. given unto us. is more than a shifting field of significations. and literary theorists all attest to the manner in which the body is implacably inscribed with a host of significations and values. of whatever kind. and (2) draw attention to itself. and the sacrament that is felt to be more than ‘an outward and visible sign. mummies. This is because the frame must (1) straddle both realms—map and territory—yet belong to neither. psychological.180 ROBERT H. SHARF are by virtue of how they are physically and/or ritually framed. does not consist of those objects which it denotes (‘the word “cat” cannot scratch us’). This. and relics seem so compelling: they confront us in the starkest . Gregory Bateson introduced the notion of framing in his analysis of primate communication. the status of the frame itself remains couched in logical ambiguity. I would suggest. magic. many forms of religious art. understanding becomes difficult if we attend too closely to their phonetic or acoustic qualities.
50 The methodological issues that animated the virgin birth debate are recapitulated in the more recent exchange between Obeyesekere and . is never a thing except virtually. To Spiro. Leach. Bronislaw Malinowski. just as the scream of the one that is killed is the supreme affirmation of life. that final and insensible scream that is the “supreme affirmation of life. R. This point has been made most eloquently by Georges Bataille: The spirit is so closely linked to the body as a thing that the body never ceases to be haunted. notably the Australian aborigines and the Trobrianders.47 The relic is framed as a singular specimen of pure corporeality unencumbered by discernible form—the logical terminus in the reduction of the person to his or her material essence.” In the so-called virgin birth debate of the 1960s. argued that it was “highly improbable on common-sense grounds” that anyone should be ignorant of the male role in conception. were or were not ‘ignorant of the facts of physiological paternity’ when first encountered by early ethnographers. and besides. Relics are the delimiting instance of our somatic existence stripped of all signification.” as James Frazer. and others had claimed. What death’s definitive impotence and absence reveals is the very essence of the spirit. Leach’s assumption that what is obvious to us must be obvious to the Trobrianders constitutes. There is nothing irrational in the Trobrianders’ apparent ignorance of certain biological facts. the spirit is more present than ever: the body that has betrayed it reveals it more clearly than when it served it.48 E. Ashley Montagu. so much so that if death reduces it to the condition of a thing. the more pernicious form of ethnocentrism. In a sense the corpse is the most complete affirmation of the spirit. anthropologists returned to a long-standing controversy about “whether certain primitive peoples. since it equates difference with irrationality.49 Leach went on to accuse anthropologists who believed otherwise of crude ethnocentrism.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 181 possible way with our irreducible “thingness” and at the same time with the puzzle of life itself. anthropologists have an obligation to take the Trobrianders at their word. the issue is not one of ignorance versus rationality but of ignorance versus knowledge. Melford Spiro disagreed. native claims to the contrary must be understood as a species of religious dogma. according to Spiro. waving the banner of positivism.
But it should be clear that I have no intention of turning Buddhists into bourgeois rationalists. but is rather a universal mode of relating to the world that exists alongside the rational superstructure characteristic of modern Western culture.51 This time the debate concerns the Hawaiians and whether they did in fact mistake Captain Cook for a god. or medieval Chinese Buddhists for that matter. For them. on the other hand. This anthropological struggle with the hermeneutic circle shows no immediate sign of abating.182 ROBERT H. I might be seen to be siding with Leach and Obeyesekere. fear that such an approach infantilizes the native.” that mark our own “collective representations. as historians and anthropologists have claimed. or whether this is merely a seductive but historically untenable Western myth. Insofar as I suggest that medieval Buddhists may have experienced similar confusions and anxieties as ourselves concerning matters of life. indeed the “irrationality. the principle of charity requires us to grant the native the same rationality we grant to ourselves. even at the risk of incomprehension? Spiro and Sahlins (like Lévy-Bruhl before them) believe that the principle of charity demands that we take the natives “at their word. As mentioned above. the existential confusions and anxieties. the ignorance. Lévy-Bruhl insisted that primitive mentality is not the mark of others alone.53 And in his meditation on religion. While the players have changed. and corporeal embodiment. SHARF Sahlins. In a different context Paul Veyne talks of the phenomena of “mental balkanization” as a way to explain the Greek ability to maintain several disparate and even irreconcilable views of the world at one and the same time. Georges Bataille invokes an ear- . death. the underlying theoretical question remains the same: given the fact that we must begin somewhere.”52 I am certainly not the first to try to split the difference between presuming commonality and presuming radical difference. If my own analysis is agenda driven. so resemble ourselves that we may aver to our own experience in deciphering theirs? Or is the intellectually and ethically prudent course to presume difference—to historicize and contextualize rigorously. the agenda is not to render the other like us but rather to render us more like the other—to expose the discursive fissures. should we begin by presuming cross-cultural similarity or difference? Should we assume that the Hawaiians.” Leach and Obeyesekere. In this analysis I may seem to be guilty of projecting a set of specifically North American cultural assumptions onto Asian Buddhists in an attempt to render intelligible the phenomenon of relic veneration. and thereby avoid emasculating the other’s otherness. the Trobriand Islanders. and that where we begin may well determine where we end up.
and Randolph Starn for their comments and suggestions on earlier drafts. utterly irreconcilable with our modes of rational comprehension. reprint ed. Special thanks to Susan Blum.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 183 lier state in which we did not imagine ourselves as objects in the world. Chinese bu ke de). no way to split the difference.”54 is all too reminiscent of Lévy-Bruhl’s notions of primitive mentality and mystical participation in the world. NOTES This chapter was originally prepared for the Seminar on Buddhist Relic Veneration. American Academy of Religion. But the immediate lesson vis-à-vis ourselves still holds. New Orleans. that are equally ungraspable (Sanskrit anupalabdhi. 3. There may be no room for compromise when it comes to the question of cultural incommensurability. The puzzle of selfhood and our corporeal embodiment. See. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl. no way to render others intelligible without at once domesticating or emasculating them. November 23. which is precisely the enigma that confronts us as we ponder the veneration of relics. the following passage from How Natives Think: “[W]e are allowed to think that [Edward] Tylor’s dictum that ‘spirits are personified causes’ does not suffice to account for the place held by spirits in the collective . there are aspects of our own world. How Natives Think. The recurring theme that connects LévyBruhl to Bataille—the tendency to emphasize a primordial or primitive mode of existence in which the distinction between self and world is blurred or nonexistent. 1985). trans. a “mentality” less beholden to rationality or internal conceptual coherence—may ultimately tell us more about our own romantic yearnings than it tells us about anyone else. our own personal and cultural experience..) But of course. in which we are in the world “like water in water. 1.. It is reprinted here with only minor stylistic changes. Bataille’s vision of a primordial state of intimacy and immanence. finding myself in good company may simply exacerbate the hermeneutic muddle. (In this regard we might also mention Freud and his theories of primary process thinking and the id. for example. may be such an area. and was first published in Representations 66 (Spring 1999): 75–99. in which we did not distinguish between subject and object. 40. Lilian A. Ibid. For just as there may be areas in which the otherness of peoples culturally and temporally removed from ourselves may remain forever beyond our reach. Steven Collins. 2. 1996. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Elizabeth Horton Sharf. Donald Lopez. Clare (1926.
ROBERT H. SHARF
representations of primitives. To us however, interested first of all in analysing these representations without any preconceived ideas about the mental processes upon which they depend, it may possibly be the ‘spirits,’ on the contrary, which will help us to understand what certain ‘causes’ are. Perhaps we shall find that the effect of the efficient cause—vexata quæstio to the philosophers—is a sort of abstract precipitate of the mystic power attributed to spirits” (ibid., 26). 4. Ibid., 44. 5. On the intellectual legacy of Lévy-Bruhl see Scott C. Littleton, “Introduction: Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and the Concept of Cognitive Relativity,” in Lévy-Bruhl, How Natives Think, v–lviii. For a succinct study of the evolution of the category “culture” see Tomoko Masuzawa, “Culture,” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies, ed. Mark C. Taylor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). 6. See Gananath Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of James Cook: European Mythmaking in the Pacific (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), and Marshall David Sahlins, How “Natives” Think: About Captain Cook, for Example (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). Note that Sahlins has borrowed the English title of Lévy-Bruhl’s original work (How Natives Think) for his own recent study. 7. This presentation of Buddhism, with its attempt to distance Buddhism from “primitive religion,” is aptly captured in Henry Olcott, The Buddhist Catechism, 44th ed. (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1947), 43–45; see, for example, the discussion of relics and images: Q. Did the Buddha hold to idol-worship? A. He did not; he opposed it. The worship of gods, demons, trees, etc., was condemned by the Buddha. External worship is a fetter that one has to break if he is to advance higher. Q. But do not Buddhists make reverence before the statue to the Buddha, his relics, and the monuments enshrining them? A. Yes, but not with the sentiment of the idolator. Q. What is the difference? A. Our Pagan Brother not only takes his images as visible representations of his unseen God or gods, but the refined idolator, in worshipping, considers that the idol contains in its substance a portion of the all-pervading divinity. Q. What does the Buddhist think? A. The Buddhist reverences the Buddha’s statue and the other things you have mentioned, only as mementos of the greatest, wisest, most benevolent and compassionate man in this world-period (Kalpa). . . . Q. Are charms, incantations, the observance of lucky hours, and devil-dancing a part of Buddhism? A. They are positively repugnant to its fundamental principles. They are the surviving relics of fetishism and pantheistic and other foreign religions. On the historical development of the field of Buddhist studies, see Guy Richard Welbon, The Buddhist Nirvana and Its Western Interpreters (Chicago: University
ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS
of Chicago Press, 1968); J. W. de Jong, A Brief History of Buddhist Studies in Europe and America, 2nd ed. (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1987); Philip C. Almond, The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Donald S. Lopez Jr., ed., Curators of the Buddha: The Study of Buddhism under Colonialism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). 8. Gregory Schopen, “The Phrase ‘sa prt ≥ hivêpradeóaó caityabhut \ o bhavet’ in the Vajracchedika: \ Notes on the Cult of the Book in the Mahay \ an \ a,” Indo-Iranian Journal 17, no. 3–4 (1975): 147–81. Schopen has been responsible for much of the attention paid to the role of relics in medieval Indian Buddhism; see idem, “Burial ‘Ad Sanctos’ and the Physical Presence of the Buddha in Early Indian Buddhism: A Study in the Archeology of Religions,” Religion 17 (July 1987): 193–225; idem, “On the Buddha and His Bones: The Conception of a Relic in the Inscriptions of Nag \ ar \ junikonda,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 108, no. 4 (1988): 527–37; idem, “Monks and the Relic Cult in the Mahap \ arinibban \ asutta: An Old Misunderstanding in Regard to Monastic Buddhism,” in From Benares to Beijing: Essays on Buddhism and Chinese Religions in Honour of Prof. Jan Yün-hua, ed. Gregory Schopen and Koichi Shinohara (Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1991), 187–201; idem, “The Monastic Ownership of Servants or Slaves: Local and Legal Factors in the Redactional History of Two Vinayas,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 17, no. 2 (1994): 145–73; idem, “The Suppression of Nuns and the Ritual Murder of Their Special Dead in Two Buddhist Monastic Texts,” Journal of Indian Philosophy 24, no. 6 (1996): 563–92. 9. The fascination with relics reached a watershed with the American Academy of Religion Seminar on Buddhist Relic Veneration, which met annually over a four-year period (1994–1997), and culminated in the present volume. The participants, who were working with a wide variety of materials representing diverse historical periods and geographical spheres, unanimously attested to the importance of relics at every level of the social and clerical hierarchy since the dawn of Buddhism. 10. The notion that relics are somehow ill suited as objects of veneration is not merely a contemporary Western conceit; the story of Trapus≥a and Bhallika suggests that the early Buddhists had to overcome a considerable degree of resistance to the cult of relics in India as well. (The two merchants are initially shocked at the Buddha’s suggestion that they venerate specimens of his hair and nail clippings; the Buddha has to talk them into it! See André Bareau, Recherches sur la biographie du Bouddha dans les Su\trapièaka et les Vinayapièaka anciens: De la quête de l’éveil à la conversion de S:a\riputra et de Maudgalya\yana [Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1963], 109; and John S. Strong’s chapter, “Buddhist Relics in Comparative Perspective: Beyond the Parallels,” in this volume.) 11. I am using grace as an approximate equivalent for Sanskrit adhisè ≥ ha\na (Chinese jiachi, Japanese kaji). 12. David Eckel, “The Power of the Buddha’s Absence: On the Foundations of Maha\ya\na Buddhist Ritual,” Journal of Ritual Studies 4, no. 2 (1990): 61–95;
ROBERT H. SHARF
John S. Strong, “Images,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade, 16 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 5:97–104; idem, “Buddhist Relics in Comparative Perspective”; Robert H. Sharf, “The Idolization of Enlightenment: On the Mummification of Ch’an Masters in Medieval China,” History of Religions 32, no. 1 (1992): 26–47; T. Griffith Foulk and Robert H. Sharf, “On the Ritual Use of Ch’an Portraiture in Medieval China,” Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 7 (1993/94): 204. 13. The one exception of which I am aware might be the sophisticated commentary on image worship found in the recorded sayings of Ch’an masters, in which they attempt to “deconstruct” the practice in the very act of engaging in it. However, such an attitude was not directed to images and relics alone, but rather to every aspect of Buddhist monastic life, including the study of scripture, the practice of meditation, and the aspiration for enlightenment. See Bernard Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), and Foulk and Sharf, “On the Ritual Use of Ch’an Portraiture.” 14. Note, for example, the manner in which configurations of Buddhist holy mountains, such as the si da mingshan, came to dominate the sacred geography of China; see Chün-fang Yü, “P’u-t’o Shan: Pilgrimage and the Creation of the Chinese Potalaka,” in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, ed. Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), 190–245. 15. See, for example, Bernard Faure, “Relics and Flesh Bodies: The Creation of Ch’an Pilgrimage Sites,” in Naquin and Yü, eds., Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, 150–89, where Faure documents the use of relics in the Buddhist “conquest” of Song Shan and the establishment of Caoqi as a major pilgrimage site. 16. See esp. Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); and Patrick J. Geary, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978). 17. There are, of course, marginal cases, such as lacquered mummies, which are both relic and image. I will discuss the attempt to fuse relic and image later in this chapter. 18. On the term icon see esp. Moshe Barasch, Icon: Studies in the History of an Idea (New York and London: New York University Press, 1992), 6–8; and Hans Belting, Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). 19. Barasch, Icon, 6–7. 20. On Buddhist image consecration ceremonies see Yael Bentor, Consecration of Images and Stupas in Indo-Tibetan Tantric Buddhism (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996); Richard F. Gombrich, “The Consecration of a Buddhist Image,” Journal of Asian Studies 26, no. 1 (1966): 23–36; and Donald K. Swearer, “Hypostasizing the Buddha: Buddha Image Consecration in Northern Thailand,” History of Religions 34, no. 3 (1995): 263–80.
ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS
21. See Kosugi, “Nikushinzo\ oyobi yuikaizo\ no kenkyu\,” To\yo\ gakuho\ 24, no. 3 (1937): 405–36; and Faure, Rhetoric of Immediacy, 159. 22. On Chinese mummies see Kosugi Kazuo, “Nikushinzo” \ ; Paul Demiéville, “Momies d’Extrême-Orient,” Journal des Savants, Troisieme centenaire (Paris, 1965), 144–70; Doris Croissant, “Der Unsterbliche Leib: Ahneneffigies und Reliquienporträt in der Porträtplastik Chinas und Japans,” in Das Bildnis in der Kunst des Orients, ed. Martin Kraatz, Jürg Meyer Zur Capellen, and Dietrich Seckel (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1990), 236–50; Faure, Rhetoric of Immediacy, 150–56; Faure, “Relics and Flesh Bodies”; and Sharf, “Idolization of Enlightenment.” 23. In John Blofeld’s autobiographical account of his visit to Huineng’s mummy, he notes his uncertainty as to whether the image he saw was a mummy or a skillfully executed fake; John Blofeld, The Wheel of Life: The Autobiography of a Western Buddhist, 2nd. ed. (London: Rider, 1972), 90–91. 24. On the significance of the terms xiang, zhen, and dingxiang in China, see Foulk and Sharf, “On the Ritual Use of Ch’an Portraiture,” 158–63. 25. Gu Kaizhi described his task as one of “transmitting the spirit” (chuan shen) or “using form to depict the spirit” (yi xing xie shen). He is said to have placed particular emphasis on “dotting the eyes,” sometimes refraining from doing so for several years. Audrey Spiro argues that for Gu Kaizhi, “dotting the eyes transmits the spirit and pours forth [xie] the shining [zhao]. It permits the spirit to take up its abode in the image. . . . Which is to say that dotting the eyes animates the image, literally infusing it with life” (Audrey Spiro, “New Light on Gu Kaizhi,” Journal of Chinese Religions 16 [Fall 1988]: 12–13). See also Chen Shih-hsiang, Biography of Ku K’ai-chih (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), 14–15; Richard B. Mather, trans., Shih-shuo Hsin-yü: A New Account of Tales of the World, by Liu I-ch’ing with commentary by Liu Chün (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1976), 368; Susan Bush and Hsio-yen Shih, eds., Early Chinese Texts on Painting (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 14; and Foulk and Sharf, “On the Ritual Use of Ch’an Portraiture,” 160, n. 14. 26. Foulk and Sharf, “On the Ritual Use of Ch’an Portraiture.” 27. The term is apparently derived from translations of Tantric scriptures, and modern lexical works cite the Maha\vairocana su\tra as the locus classicus (see esp. the section entitled Benzun sanmei, T.848: 18.44a–b). The term seems to have lost its explicitly Tantric overtones rather quickly and is now used by all sects, especially in Japan; see Mikkyo\ Jiten Hensankai, ed., Mikkyo\ daijiten, rev. ed. (1970; reprint, Kyoto: Ho\zo\kan, 1983), 2068b–c (where the reconstructed Sanskrit is given as Sayadhidevatah≥); Mochizuki Shinko\, Mochizuki Bukkyo\ daijiten, 10 vols. (Tokyo: Sekai seiten kanjo\ kyo\kai, 1933–36), 5:4697b–4698a; Ding Fubao, Foxue dacidian (1919; reprint, Beijing: Wenwu, 1984), 427a; Komazawa Daigakunai Zengaku Daijiten Hensanjo, ed., Zengaku daijiten (1978; reprint, Tokyo: Daishu\kan, 1985), 1166a–b; and Roger Goepper, “Some Thoughts on the Icon in Esoteric Buddhism of East Asia,” in Studia Sino-Mongolica, Festschrift für Herbert Franke (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1979), 245–54.
The Miracles of the Kasuga Deity (New York: Columbia University Press. See Susan Tyler.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 52. Switzerland: Artibus Asiae. this image was associated with Takemikatsuchi-nomikoto of the Kasuga First Sanctuary. Wu Hung. On the legends of the Udayana image see esp. A classic example of a landscape painting exhibiting such “iconic” characteristics is the three-panel frontal depiction of the descent of Amida (Amida raigo\) dating to the Kamakura period and now housed at Konkaiko\myo\-ji. Such paintings of Amida rising over an earthly landscape were placed by the bed of the dying. 1 (1992): 130. see Gregory Henderson and Leon Hurvitz. Zenko\ji and Its Icon: A Study in Medieval Japanese Religious Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press. no. Carter. we . 1990). When the image was opened for the first time in 1954 it was found to contain manufactured relics—a miniature set of internal organs fashioned out of silk—in addition to various valuable coins. The dislocation. Donald F. Okazaki Jo\ji. Literary Evidence for Early Buddhist Art in China (Ascona. The Mystery of the Udayana Buddha (Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale. and Alexander Soper. According to Wu Hung. 31. 86–87. 1992). 137–44. this compositional feature allows us to distinguish images of deities in narrative paintings from icons proper. “The Buddha of Seiryo\ji: New Finds and New Theory. this sort of individuation would have been fostered in part by the economic interests of the local temple. 33. To make matters more complex. 1992). trans. and historical documents relating to the history of the image. 29. The expiring worshiper would grasp strands of thread that were affixed directly to the hands of Amida and then gaze at a reassuring scene of Amida and company coming to welcome him or her. no. “What Is Bianxiang?—On the Relationship between Dunhuang Art and Dunhuang Literature.188 ROBERT H. 82–83. Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis (Tokyo: Kodansha International. The Cult of Kasuga Seen through Its Art (Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies. University of Michigan. there was also a tradition within some Fujiwara circles that the honji of Kasuga was actually Shaka Nyorai (S:a\kyamuni) enshrined in both Ko\fukuji’s Central Golden Hall (Chu\kondo\) and Western Golden Hall (Saikondo\). crystals. I would note as an aside that there has been much criticism of the “orientalist” penchant for removing holy images from their religious settings in Asian temples and sacred caves. 1 (1956): 5–55. 1959). Royall Tyler. whereas the gaze of the icon extends out beyond the painted scenery to encompass the viewer. scriptures. SHARF 28. More specifically. even when the latter are set within a landscape. but the various Kasuga deities are commonly approached as a single entity under the rubric of Kasuga Myo\jin. and Allan G. 140–42. 32. 1994). In a narrative scene the attention of the deity will be focused within the landscape itself. Grapard. The Protocol of the Gods: A Study of the Kasuga Cult in Japanese History (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Martha L. and reinstalling them in museums. Pure Land Buddhist Painting. Needless to say. 1990). 30.” Artibus Asiae 19. McCallum. 1977).
is predicated on the progressive reconstitution of material object as living” (ibid. Thus. however. we still seek to reconstitute the reality of the signified in the sign. “Material Continuity. The mistake lies in viewing the icon as a sublime representation of the divine.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 189 are told. 1989). Ibid.” But he immediately moves on to state that (2) we also imaginatively project sentience onto things that do not possess such qualities. Freedberg’s book is frustrating in part precisely because of the manner in which he elides the distinction between “lifelike” images (i. however obliquely. 34. few besides those with a financial interest in the enterprise would be troubled. idem. sentient or “lifelike. emasculates the power of the image. 38. 1991). reducing it to a mere “object of art” to be appreciated for its aesthetic or exotic qualities alone. and not only ones perceived as being more or less realistic. “Bodily Miracles and the Resurrection of the Body in the High Middle Ages. anthropomorphic or zoomorphic representations) as opposed to images and objects that lack physiognomic references: “Almost every image provides its beholders with clues to the organic presences registered upon it. When those clues are so abundant and exact that they combine to form what is regarded as an unusually lifelike image.” New York Review of Books (February 14. But when the clues are less exact and less abundant. 35. In other words.e. 100–11. ed. 1990): 6–9. Freedberg explains the power of images in terms of (1) our (natural?) tendency to impute intentionality to things that look. “The Edge of Delusion. 436. 37. Response to all images. Sign fuses with signified to become the only present reality. H. Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise (Honolulu. David Freedberg. for his claim that the second phenomenon is derivative of the first. 2002). rather than as a powerful supernatural presence that must be assuaged lest it unleash its power in unforeseen ways.” in Belief in History: Innovative Approaches to European and American Religion. Should a warehouse holding hundreds of flags accidentally burn to the ground. Personal Survival and the Resurrection of the Body: A Scholastic Discussion in Its Medieval and Modern Contexts. The smallest number of clues suffices to precipitate the search for more. While I would not want to condone the pilfering of sacred images. Thomas Kselman (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. On the Chinese adaptation of buddhaka\ya doctrine see Robert H. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. He does not offer any evidence.” in Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and .. so too does the temple.. I would note that the critique is somewhat misguided.. it seems to me that the evidence he adduces to support proposition (2) can only compromise the explanatory value of proposition (1). 245). For a similar critique see the review by E. Gombrich. then responses to it are predicated on a sense of its living reality. Sharf. 39. 68–106. If the museum acts to curtail or restrain the power of sacred icons. See Caroline Walker Bynum. 36.
argues that the mechanism for consciousness is located at the level of subatomic physics. Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. trans. for example. Wet Mind: The New Cognitive Neuroscience (New York: Free Press. Evan Thompson. in gravitational phenomena acting through microtubules in neurons (Roger Penrose. and 3. On secondary treatment see esp. and 4 (1996). The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity. ed. Roger Penrose. Consciousness Explained (Boston: Little. who insists on the irreducibility of the “subjective point of view”. Recent attempts to explain conscious awareness without appealing to immaterial forces often rely on computational models in general. 3 (1995). and Alwyn Scott. 1996). See Francis Crick. “Some Further Ideas Regarding the Neuronal Basis of Awareness. Death. 1991). no. Kosslyn and O. See. Many analytic philosophers influenced both by the neuropsychological evidence and by Wittgensteinian “deconstructions” of mind-body dualism have enthusiastically jumped on the physicalist bandwagon. and neural-network modeling in particular. 1992). But not all physicalists subscribe to the computational approach. see the papers in the series of special issues of Journal of Consciousness Studies entitled “Explaining Consciousness—The ‘Hard Problem. 40. for example. 3. and . Chalmers. and Eleanor Rosch. Richard Huntington and Peter Metcalf. 1995). For an overview of the diversity of work in this area. for example. and The Right Hand. 239–97. Christof Koch and Joel L. 1995). The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1994). One candidate for “something in-between” might be accounts of consciousness based on nonlinear dynamics and emergent properties.’” 2. Brown. 1994]). 1991). idem. for example. nos.” in Large-Scale Neuronal Theories of the Brain. 200–1336 (New York: Columbia University Press.190 ROBERT H. 1979). Stairway to the Mind: The Controversial New Science of Consciousness (New York: Springer-Verlag. 93–109. 1960). 43. the work of Thomas Nagel. 1. Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness [New York: Oxford University Press. 42. SHARF the Human Body in Medieval Religion (Cambridge: Zone Books. 1991). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Cambridge: MIT Press. See. 41. Rodney Needham and Claudia Needham (Aberdeen: Cohen and West. Francisco J. Robert Hertz. Davis (Cambridge: MIT Press. see. Koenig. and idem. Christof Koch and Francis Crick. Daniel C. 1994). who believes that consciousness is a “fundamental feature” of the universe irreducible to anything more basic. “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Philosophical Review 83 (October 1974): 435–50. Dennett. For an overview of the neuropsychological research in the area see Stephen M. And the neurobiologists Francis Crick and Christof Koch have put forward an alternative theory that sees consciousness arising as the result of the synchronized firing of neurons in the cerebral cortex with rhythms in the range of 40 Hertz. or that of David J. Varela. The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (New York: Scribner. The View from Nowhere (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1986).
” Proceedings of the Royal Anthropology Institute for 1966 (1966): 39. “A Theory of Play and Fantasy. 45. which Clifford Geertz calls “self-nativising”. Georges Bataille. 52. and Physiological Paternity. Paul Veyne. the truth which it expresses does not relate to the ordinary matter-of-fact world of everyday things but to metaphysics. “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation.ON THE ALLURE OF BUDDHIST RELICS 191 Loring M. See note 6 in this chapter. 107. no. On the latter page Leach states: “An alternative way of explaining a belief which is factually untrue is to say that it is a species of religious dogma. “Virgin Birth. The Truth in Painting.” 183. Robert Hurley (New York: Zone Books.” Of course. 1982). 40. Danforth. Spiro. Michael P. . trans. Leach. 2 (1968): 242–61. Bateson. “A Theory of Play and Fantasy. 54 ff. E. 1992).” in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (New York: Ballantine Books.” 41 and 45.” 50. 53. R. 54. 49. For the background to the debate see the references mentioned in “Virgin Birth” (46 n. “Us/NotUs: Benedict’s Travels. Paula Wissing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 47.” 51. “Virgin Birth. Theory of Religion. 1972). The Death Rituals of Rural Greece (Princeton: Princeton University Press. “Virgin Birth (The Henry Myers Lecture). Banton (London: Tavistock. 46. trans. 1966). Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (Boston: Northeastern University Press. in addition to “Virgin Birth” by Leach see Melford E. Bataille. everything hinges on who wields the authority to declare a belief “factually untrue.” in Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author (Stanford: Stanford University Press. and Physiological Paternity. 1987).” Man 3. Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination. Theory of Religion. Gregory Bateson. 48. on the notion of framing see also Erving Goffman. ed. Parthenogenesis. Leach. 1986).” in Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion. trans. Parthenogenesis. an Essay in Cultural Interpretation. 1). Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. idem. 180. This is a well-established rhetorical strategy in American anthropology. See note 39 in this chapter. see the analysis in Geertz. 1988). 1988). and the correspondence in the 1968 and 1969 volumes of Man. See also the analysis of the parergon in Jacques Derrida. 44. For the revived debate of the 1960s. Spiro. “Virgin Birth. 19 and 28.
H. His research centers on ritual and art in Indian Buddhism. His research centers on religion in China and Japan. His is the co-editor of The Many Canons of Tibetan Buddhism and the founder and director of the Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library (www. ROBERT H. KINNARD is assistant professor at the Iliff School of Theology.org). His publications include The Power of Denial: Buddhism. He is the author of Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise and co-editor of Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context. JACOB N. SHARF is D. Berkeley. and Gender. and Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism. His research focuses on the history of Tibetan religion. DAVID GERMANO is associate professor of Buddhist and Tibetan studies at the University of Virginia.CONTRIBUTORS BERNARD FAURE is George Edwin Burnell Professor of religious studies at Stanford University. The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality.thdl. especially among the Nyingma and Bon traditions. 193 . He is the author of Imaging Wisdom: Seeing and Knowing in the Art of Indian Buddhism and a co-editor of Constituting Communities: Theravada Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia. Chen Professor of Buddhist studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California. Purity. His areas of research include religion in medieval China and modern Japan and critical theory in the study of religion. especially Chan and Zen traditions.
SWEARER is Charles and Harriet Cox McDowell Professor of religion at Swarthmore College. and The Buddha: A Short Biography. STRONG is professor of religion at Bates College. The Legend of Queen Cama (with Sommai Premchit). His publications include The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia. particularly in Thailand.194 CONTRIBUTORS JOHN S. His areas of research include Indian Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka. His publications include The Legend of King Asoka. Ritual. His research is focused on Buddhist legendary and cultic traditions in South Asia. and Representation in Buddhism and Buddhism: The Illustrated Guide (general editor). and Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand. . KEVIN TRAINOR is associate professor of religion at the University of Vermont. His publications include Relics. The Legend and Cult of Upagupta. His research centers on religion in Southeast Asia. DONALD K.
9–11. seeing the 195 . 122. See also under Buddha alternatives to. Gregory. Buddha. 41. 145 Buddha-nature. Mount. 127 past lives. 152. 102 All-Creating King. after death. 188n32 Amoghapa\óa Avalokiteóvara. 155 A|nanda. 10. 158 As≥èamaha\pra\tiha\rya. 61. 137n31. 9 sculptures and paintings of. 121. Nyoirin Kannon Bataille. 35. 149 Aizen myoo\. 80–86 Buddha Tamna\n. King. 75. 120–21 Aóoka. 153. 156 arahantship (arhatship). 7. 71. 155 Ana\thapin≥d≥ika. 16 seeing the. 52 Buddha Gotama. 126 Buddha body of. 66. “precious (relic) spheres. Pierre. 129 between sa\la trees at Kusina\ra\. 73–74. images. The. 14. 132–34 Avalokiteóvara Bodhisattva. 180 Ben’ichi. 123. The. 125 bodhicitta. imagining the Buddha state of. 160n20 buddhadaróana. 10–11. 51–52. 36 Blazing Relics Tantra. 57–61. 71. 54–55. 181. 34–36 “bioramas. 35 presence of. 146. 15. 155. 77–79. 81 bodhi tree. 31–32 “three Bodies” of. 64. 11. 121–25. 36–38 bones.” 35.” 54–55. 41–42. 124 art. See also relic spheres Bourdieu. See also Buddha. 139n43 aniconic period in early Buddhism. 119. See Fuku\kenjaku-kannon. 148.INDEX Adittara\ja. 69–74 vs. 134 Brown. See Fuku\kenjaku-kannon amulets. 148n36. 9–11. Peter. 55 Bodhiram≥si. King. 74. 34. 14. 97 biography. 152–53. See also buddhadaróana. See presence reasons for recollecting. 35. Bhikkhu. 15 on his own identity and nature. 121 Anura\dhapura. 148 bodily relics. 125. 70. 54–55 Amaterasu. 128 arahant (arhat). 35 anussati. Georges. 182–83 Bateson. 96 Amida. 71 relics and. 120. 53. 101. 14. 146 “iconographic thought” about.
23–24nn12–13 death of the Buddha. 161n29. 164–65.196 INDEX routinization and mass-production. W. 16 hearing it directly from the Buddha. See also direct transcendence contemplation contradictory negations. 106 Davids. 96–97 Dainichi No\nin. 61–63 “descendants. 58–59. 128 Coomaraswamy. 49n78. Rhys. Caroline. 147–48 Chiang Dao. 31. 152–54 Christian and Buddhist relics. Ananda. 30–31. 102 Ca\ma. 22–23 Buddhist relics. 80 Dharmodgata. 51 past and future. 28 charisma. 81 Buddhada\sa bhikkhu. 52 Buddhist revival in Asia. 64. 119. vam≥sa chronicle genre. 121 Crick. See also Dharma Dharma. 156. 5–6. Edward. 95–102. 158 Chapel of the Holy Cross. 31–32. 55. 106 Dalada Maligawa. 148–49 Carus. the. 150–51 Chiang Mai. 122 dharmaka\ya. See also thu\pa Ceylon. 104. 28–29 stories about. 190n40 contemplative practices.” 148. 121. Steven. 145 buddhaka\ya. 14 Buddha’s Tooth Relic Pagoda. Queen. 105 Bynum. 178 Byo\do\-in. 127–29 Buddhas figure of. 176. 125–26. 37–38. 150. John. 43. See also dhamma embodying the. 34–36 direct transcendence contemplation. 123 dhamma. 27 Daoxuan. 24n22. 146. 28 “chronicle. 5 Busshar so\jo\ shidai. 4–6. 34 signs of saintly. 27. 36–37 consciousness. 167–68 compared with other religions. 93. 32–34 Christianity. 8. 9–11. See also specific topics beyond superstition. 86. 30 cinta\man≥i (“wish-fulfilling jewel”). 190n40 Dainichi. 155. 29–32 collecting and counting. 39–40 dioramas and biography. 175 buddha\nusmr≥ti. 34. 104. 4–6 history. 105. 36–38 seeing and experiencing. T. 103. 34–36 patterns of distribution. 42–43 approaching and touching. 131. 139n43. See also tooth of the Buddha Buddhism.” 69 devotionalism. 5–7 Chao Luang Kham Daeng. 40–42 . 131 dioramas. 67. 38 Charnvit Kasetsiri. 147–52 Buddhist Relic Traditions Web site. 9. St. 26n33. 108 Collins. Francis. 33–34 cetiya. See also phongsa. Paul. explanations of. 169–75 types of. 178 Buddhism compared with. 119. 16. 66. 107 Darumashu\. 1–23 semiotic logic of. 126 communion. 145. 6–8 Cave of the Buddha’s Shadow. 31–32 Conze. 38. 147–52 Chrysostom. tamna\n.
98 Gopa\la. 128–30. 101 Hanjun. 106. 12 “Entering Uji. 60–61. 120 Foucher. 80–81 Go-Daigo. impermanent bodies. See past and future gdung. King. Patrick. 105 Harrison. 9. 104 Go-Toba. 36 earthquakes. 68–69. 104 Hugh of Lincoln.INDEX distribution. David. 120–21. 114–15n45 197 Gishin. 41 Fujiwara. See also chronicle genre honzon. Paul. 13–14. See dharmaka\ya enlightenment. 101–6 Enlightened Body. 53 future. See also under presence “floating signifiers. 16–17. 172. viggaha. 69. 104 Fuku\kenjaku-kannon. 97.” See Buddhanature enlightening mind. 109. 155. 107 Go-Shirakawa-in. 121.” 69 hermeneutic conundrum. 108. 126–27 “field. Anatole. 39–40 Gu Kaizhi. 107–10 Go-ko\gon. 39. relics and the. 36–37 Hume. 57 Ennin. 99 gojiso\ (“protecting monk”). 189n37 Frolow. 40–42 Doniger. 142nn67–68 Head. 54. 100–101 Fujiwara no Muneyori. 174–75. See also bones Geary. 35. Thomas. multiplication. 173 Hoori no Mikoto. 101 enshrinement procession. 3–4 Huntington. 63.” 100 eschatologies. 58. 172 funeral pyre. 189n37 Buddha. 179–83 Hinduism compared with Buddhism. 119.” 16 emperors. by addition vs. and Mind. See also Buddha. 41 Gion Consort. 96. 166–67. 84 disembodied relics in the early. 134 Ichiji Kinrin. 170–75 images. 187n25 Gyokuyo\. 98 “heritage. David. 103. David. 4–5 historical consciousness. Emperor. Speech. 103–4. 174. 97 “dragon offering. seeing the . 94. 77 “embodying the Dharma. 53. 55. 53 growth. 122 Emanational Spiritual Bodies. 29 dragon holes. 42–43 eternal vs.” 95 Duèèhaga\man≥ê. 32 Heian period. patterns of. 99 icons.” 110 Foucault. 10 “funerary” Buddhism. 42–43 Eucharist. Wendy. 170 seeing. 125–27. Michel. Saint. See also bodhicitta “enlightened nucleus. John. 118–19. See also specific individuals relics and cloistered. 36–38 Faxian. Emperor. vision and visualization compared with relics. 78–80 Eckel. 107 gnosis. 31 Great Perfection. 53–56 transformation into Seminal Heart.” concept of the. See also paèima\. 11. 136n24 Frederick the Wise. 30–31. Alfred. primordial. 40 Freedberg.
R. 63 Kamakura period. 99 images (continued) semiotic logic of icons. 99 mirage.” 99. 121–27 image thought. 61. 35 “mandalization. See cinta\man≥i Mary Magdalene.. 108 Myo\an Eisai. 30 Jesus Christ. 61 Karmalingpa. 108 relics and the regents. 56. 101. 56 The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. relics. 127 Nakatada. 37 “jade-woman. 97 Muro\zan goshari so\den engi. 55. 106. 80 MacCulloch. 28. 78. See Dainichi Maha\vam≥sa. 150 Jerome. 60. 30 Jerusalem. 167. 58.. 104. 191nn48–49 Lévy-Bruhl. 166 Nyoirin Kannon. 37 Koch. E. 56–57 Kasuga Myo\jin. Paul. 61 Seminal Heart and. 188n28 King. 94. 108. Khenpo. 169–75 imagining the Buddha image talk. 16 Minamoto no Sanetomo. and. 70 writings. 183 lights. 4–5 Japanese regalia.. 70. 179. 96 Mus. 105 Ku\tai. 71–75. 96. 16. 8–10 Maha\vairocana. 123. 79 The Treasury of Words and Meanings. 32 Muso\ Soseki. 81 on signs of saintly death. contradictory. 36. 31–32. 106–8 relics and the tenno\. 97 nirvana. Christof. 95–97. 101–6 Emperor Go-Daigo and the cinta\man≥i. 66–67. 182. 32. 104. A. 181. 36 memory-sites. 1–2 Maha\na\ma. 14. 190n40 Ku\kai. Buddhist relics and. 106. Khenpo. 148 Narutaki Myo\jin. 100 Nazha. 31. 30. 81 on relics. 37 jewels. See cinta\man≥i jha\nas. 63 Ningai. Lucien. 106 Minamoto Tamenori. 32 Monkan. 107. 109–10 cloistered emperors. 103 negations. 53. 123. 74–76 . 30–31 Na\ga\rjuna. 31. 107 na\ga. 110 Nagaraha\ra. St. 99 Kanezane. 154 na\ga palace. 100–101 relics and the sho\gun. 60–61 incarnation. Étienne. 34.198 INDEX Longchenpa. 113–14n35 Narai. 61 on tantra. Winston. 172. 95–100 rituals of power. 127–32 imminent realization. 95–98. 99 Jikme Phuntshok. 106–7 Minamoto no Yoritomo. 101 karma. 35 Maha\parinibba\na-sutta. 109 ja\takas. 14. J. 100 Jagannatha. King. 163–64. Buddha in. 34. 108 Muro\zan. 31–32 Ngakchung.” 42 man≥i jewel. 128 kissing relics. 125 Leach. 93–95. 112n14 Lamotte. 128 Jien.
34–36. See also Buddhist relics. 63–64. 5. 14. 147 phongsa\wada\n. 169–70 religious practitioners. 96. 173 Salzman. 108. 28 Pa\li Canon. 139n43. 122 parinibba\na legacy. 149. 133. 126. 141n64 power rituals of. 13 Rengeo\-in. 163–64. Michele. 126–27. 28 óarêra. 181–82. 32 meaning and scope of the term. 160n20 Pinægiya. 11 religious traditions Buddhism compared with other. 63–64 phongsa. 147. and relic veneration. See also ring brsel relic veneration. 32 S:a\kyamuni. 131 Prasenajit story. 120. Gananath. 118. passing into. 13–14 pastness. beyond superstition prohibitions against. 119. 109 “royal. Saint. David. 125 Sahlins. 95. 32. See also Buddhist relics.” 69 pu\ja\. 4–6 similarity between different. Reginald. 182 saints. See also “dragon offering”. Julien. 131 sangha. 82. 5. 171. 117–19 “presence talk. 9. 54. 146 “progeny. 107 Sada\prarudita. 170 nature of. 126–27 Pratyutpanna-buddhasam≥mukhavasthita-sama\dhi-su\tra (PraS). 42–43. 54. 93. 126. 173. 95 199 rationality and reason. 184n7 Olschki. pu\ja\. relationships to. 100–101 relic cults.” 117 primitive peoples and primitive mentality. 54–55. 156. specific topics importance. 69. 8 Rawlinson. 10. Henry Steel. 130 presence. 181. 32. 130. 103 resurrection. 125. 174. 163 Prince Bodhi Sutta. 165–68. 166–67. 63. 123. 100–103. 29–30. 61. 182 offering.” 102–3 pramukha. 69. 32–34. 173 relic spheres. 106 Samantapa\sa\dika\. 93. 10–11 relics. See also óarêra-pu\ja\ Radegund. 181. óarêra-pu\ja\ Olcott. 2. 8. 43 past and future. 137n31 Ray. 84–86. 71. Leonardo. 3 sama\dhi. 10 Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. 171. 131 sadha\tuka. 130 Samantabhadra. 148 Phra Chao Liap Lok (PCLP). Andrew. bodily. 169. 124–25 regents. 125. 133 Ryo\shin. 175 Ries. 119–22. 9. 133 persistence of. 136n22 ring brsel. 131. 73–74. 133–34 paèima\. 140n44 Paula (Roman Christian noblewoman). basilica of. 131 field of. persistence of. relics and the. See also relics . 184n7 primitive rationality. 39 rain rituals. 70. 179. 31–32. 36. Bodhisattva. 146 parinirvana. 9.INDEX Obeyesekere. attention to bodies of. See also relic spheres ritual and ritualism. 134 absence and. 36 Penor Rinpoche.
3 Smith. 173 “self. 29–32 Toyotamahime. 26n31. 1–2 sounds. The (Longchenpa). 81. 80 Udayana Buddha image. 9. 147–52 Tamna\n Ang Salung. 77 Suzuki. 41. 99–100 shadow. 115n59 touching relics. 4–5 . 106. 105 To\ji. 110. 95–100. 37–38 thu\pa. Stanley. 6. 36–38 Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle. 79 Treasury of Words and Meanings. 97. 75. 96. See also thu\pa superstitio. Buddha’s. 155. 114n45 Taks≥aóila\. 70. 104 Sho\ko\myo\-in. 70. 173. 102. 48n60. See Cave of the Buddha’s Shadow sheli. 117–19.” 2–4 emotional excess and. 181 Sri Lanka. 75. The. 61. The (Longchenpa). 96 Shirakawa. Adam. 40. 6. 11. 104 tantra. 104 transcendence. 102 Shinto\. 188n30 Uji Treasure House. 138n38 óarêra-pu\ja. 107 Sennyu\-ji temple. 166. 105. 112n17 Shukseb Jetsunma. 174 Smith. 114n42. relics and the. 71–75. 160–61n25 categories of. 86 Senko\. 13–14 Toba-in. 127. 106–8 Sho\ken. 147. 2–3 “superstition. 102–5. See also Blazing Relics Tantra. 7 Seiryo\ji Shaka. Maha\vam≥sa stupa. 172 Shingon. 59. 85. 9. 157 Schopen. See also stupa time and timelessness. 42 Tamayorihime. 10. 111n7 Shinzen’en. David. 131. 170. 113n24 Tomb of the Resurrection. 53. 104. 80. 111n6 textualizations. Prince. 152–56 interpretation of. 103. 107–8.. 74–75. 150–52 signs of the Buddha in. The. 165 science and religion. 119. 66. 75.200 INDEX Supreme Vehicle. See also Ceylon. 103. 187n25 Spiro. 77–78 Sox. 40–41 Spiro. 158n1 sacralized. 104. relics and the. 66–67. 37 tamna\n. 73 Seminal Heart. 100–103 Vajrabodhi. Great Perfection Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness. 58. 124. Audrey. 98. 152 signs. 104 Tambiah. 84 transubstantiation. T. 157–58 Tanaka Takako. 15. 101–3. Jonathan. 42. 14. 114n45 sho\gun. Gregory. 138n35. 37–38. Alutgama. 24n18 Taira no Kiyomori. 38. 78. 25n25 sa\sana. 114n45 Shirakawa-in. Melford. 42. 32. 56–57. 28 sexuality. 74. The.” 177–79 Self-Arisen. 159n17. 28. 8 Seelakkhandha. 102–6. 27–28. 151. 65 Siddhattha (Siddhartha). 95 Vakkali. 30 tooth of the Buddha. 75. 84–85 tenno\. 133 Smith. 114–15n45 Taira no Tadamori. D. 149 history of. 187n27. 153. 98. Vincent. 97. 56. cult of. 65. 105 Shubin.
See also imagining the Buddha visionary appearances of the Buddhas. 30 “wish-fulfilling jewel. 129 vision and visualization. 147–48 Veyne. 103 yakkhas. 149 Xuanzang. 39. 42 Wilkinson.. 33–34. 173 Yorimichi. 96 .INDEX vam≥sa. 99. David K. 173 Zentatsu. John. 173. Paul. 41. See relic veneration Wu Hung. 40. 11 Wendi. 125 Vimuttimagga.” See cinta\man≥i 201 worship of relics. 156 Yakushi. 101 Zenko\ji Amida cult. 37. 188n32 Wyatt. 32–33. 66–67 visual culture. 182 viggaha. Emperor. 100.