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Embodying the Dharma

Buddhist Relic Veneration in Asia

Edited by David

Germano and Kevin Trainor



Buddhist Relic Veneration in Asia

Edited by


State University of New York Press

Published by


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. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

For information, address State University of New York Press 90 State Street, Suite 700, Albany, NY 12207 Production, Laurie Searl Marketing, Susan Petrie

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Embodying the Dharma : Buddhist relic veneration in Asia / edited by David Germano and Kevin Trainor. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-7914-6217-X 1. Gautama BuddhaRelics. I. Germano, David. II. Trainor, Kevin. BQ924.E43 2004 294.3'421dc22 2003068661 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

for Sonam Anna and Lhamokyi D. G.

for Anne and Andrew K. T.



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Introduction: Beyond Superstition Kevin Trainor Buddhist Relics in Comparative Perspective: Beyond the Parallels John S. Strong Living Relics of the Buddha(s) in Tibet David Germano Buddhist Relics and Japanese Regalia Bernard Faure The Field of the Buddhas Presence Jacob N. Kinnard Signs of the Buddha in Northern Thai Chronicles Donald K. Swearer On the Allure of Buddhist Relics Robert H. Sharf Contributors Index













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We would like to thank the American Academy of Religion for supporting the Buddhist Relic Veneration Seminar, 19941997. Thanks are due, as well, to all the seminar participants, including Yael Bentor, Robert Campany, Steven Collins, Bernard Faure, Charles Hallisey, Jacob Kinnard, Susanne Mrozik, Brian Ruppert, Juliane Schober, Gregory Schopen, Robert Sharf, John Strong, Donald Swearer, and Stanley Tambiah. We would also like to thank Nancy Ellegate, Laurie Searl, 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. We are also grateful to the University of Vermont Asian Studies Program for their support, 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. Robert Sharfs essay, On the Allure of Buddhist Relics, was published under the same title in Representations 66 (Spring 1999): 7599, and is 1999 by the Regents of the University of California. It is reprinted by permission of University of California Press. An earlier version of Donald Swearers essay, Signs of the Buddha in the Northern Thai Chronicles, was published in Wannakam Phutasas \ ana\ Nai Lan \ na\ (Buddhist literature in northern Thailand), ed. Phanphen Khru \ ngthai (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1996). It appears here by permission of Silk Worm Press.


The treasuring of relics as memorials or souvenirs of the dead is a natural exhibition of emotion to which no objection can be taken, but, when the relics are believed to possess intrinsic magical properties, the veneration of them passes into rank superstition, open to every kind of abuse and fraud. The transition from the sentimental to the superstitious veneration of relics invariably takes place in all countries, so that the innocent sentiment is forgotten while the superstition develops a vast mythology.3

Both MacCulloch and Smith found it appropriate to evaluate normatively beliefs and practices centered on relics, and both concluded that relics, on the whole, tend to do much more harm than good. It is also significant that both scholars, in disparaging relic veneration, employed superstition, a word that contemporary scholars of religion tend to eschew, at least in their published reflections. The connotations of the category superstition, and the shift in interpretive perspectives that has led to its abandonment as a legitimate analytical term, merit further consideration here, 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. The etymology of superstitio, the Latin word from which the English superstition derives, is a matter of some debate, 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. Michele Salzman provides an overview of the etymological discussion, noting that scholars have identified a range of early meanings of the term, including a state of religious exaltation, the posture of one standing over a defeated opponent, and the condition of one who has survived an event and become a witness, all of which can be derived from the basic sense of standing over.4 By the first century BCE, the word had developed strong negative connotations and was employed to criticize excessive fear or awe of the gods or an unreasonable religious belief.5 The term eventually gained juridical force, and Christianity was persecuted as a superstitio. While scholars disagree about the precise reasons for Christian persecution, L. F. Janssen notes that Christianity was seen as an affront to the Roman social order in several respects. By seeking an individual salvation that superceded familial and social bonds, and by refusing to venerate the gods that ensured the integrity and longevity of Roman society, Christians marked themselves as a community apart, one easily seen as subversive.6 During the fourth-century Christianization of the Roman Empire, superstitio, while consistently used to critique the beliefs and


practices of those beyond the pale of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, was interpreted differently by pagans and Christians. As Salzman observes, pagans used and defined superstitio with its traditional meaningirrational or excessive religious awe, credulity, divination, magicbut their Christian contemporaries used superstitio to mean the morally incorrect beliefs of pagans.7 When the authority of the Christian church was more securely established at the end of the fourth and early fifth centuries, superstitio was used in the Theodosian Code to legislate against pagans, Jews, and Christian heretics.8 As this brief overview suggests, superstition meant different things to different people in antiquity. What remained constant was the use of the word to mark and defend communal boundaries. Those deemed superstitious were liable to exclusion, either because of disordered affections or cognitive error. 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. In early English-language usage, the term was frequently employed by Protestant reformers to characterize Catholic clerics and the rituals over which they officiated. For example, in Thomas Nortons 1561 translation of Calvins Institutes, the great reformer asks: Shall we denie that it is a superstitious worshippying, when men do throwe themselues downe before bread, to worship Christe therein?9 In this instance, Catholics are criticized for misdirecting their commendable devotional sentiments. Instead of attaching them to Christ, their appropriate object, they direct them to the eucharistic bread, falsely believing that Christ is somehow directly and materially present in the consecrated host. Here the problem is cognitive: for Calvin there are neither biblical nor epistemological grounds for worshipping the communion bread. In the context of Reformation polemics such as this, superstition is employed to distinguish between false and true religion, thus defining membership in the community of the faithful. In the eighteenth century, those espousing Enlightenment ideals used the term to criticize religious belief and practice more broadly. In this latter context, strong emotion could be seen as intrinsically harmful to the exercise of human reason, with the disciplines of science and philosophy providing the most effective remedy. Thus Adam Smith, commenting on the importance of public education in a well-ordered state, observes in his Wealth of Nations: Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition; and where all the superior ranks of people were secured from it, the inferior ranks could not be much exposed to it.10 David Hume likewise warns of the dangers of enthusiasm and superstition, both of which he attributes to


human emotions and ignorance, but he also identifies a key difference between the two. Superstition, in contrast to enthusiasm, is much more favorable to the rise of priestly power. He notes: As superstition is a considerable ingredient in almost all religions, even the most fanatical; there being nothing but philosophy able entirely to conquer these unaccountable terrors; hence it proceeds, that in almost every sect of religion there are priests to be found: But the stronger the mixture there is of superstition, the higher the authority of the priesthood.11 In these Enlightenment critiques of superstition, we see the emergence of another community, one critical of religious belief, emotion, and practice in general and in search of rational explanations for superstitious religious behavior. Once again, superstition serves to mark those outside the community. 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. 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. Nineteenth-century scholarship on Buddhism tended to minimize the important role that relic veneration played in the history of Buddhist traditions throughout Asia or, when it was noted, to represent it as evidence of the popularization and decline of the Buddhas original teachings. This narrative of popularization and decline finds vivid expression in the writing of T. W. Rhys Davids, an early scholar of Buddhism whose work was very influential, among both academics and the broader public.12 Writing a century ago in the North American Review, Rhys Davids draws upon the image of the Hindu festival of Jagannatha in Puri to illustrate the decline of the Buddhas teaching under the force of popular superstition. Noting the forgotten heritage of Buddhist teaching in the region, he contrasts the philosophical and ethical purity of early Buddhist teaching with what he regards as the devotional excesses of Hinduism. 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. He writes:
When we call to mind how the frenzied multitudes, drunk with the luscious poison of delusions, from which the reformation they had rejected might have saved them, dragged on that sacred car, heavy and hideous

with carvings of obscenity and crueltydragged it on in the very name of Jagan-natha, the forgotten teacher of self-control, of enlightenment and of universal love, while it creaked and crushed over the bodies of miserable suicides, the victims of once exploded superstitionsit will help us to realize how heavy is the hand of the immeasurable past; how much more powerful than the voice of the prophets is the influence of congenial fancies, and of inherited beliefs.13

Here, the linkage between emotional excess and superstition comes to the fore, as Rhys Davids mourns the decline in rationality that, in his view, attended the adoption of Buddhism by the great emperor Aoka in the third century BCE under whose patronage Buddhism expanded and gained broader popular influence, a time he characterizes as the beginning of the end. 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, he depicts the decline as inevitable. Like many other nineteenth-century scholars of Buddhism, he also compares Buddhism with Hinduism. Where Buddhism is for him, at least in its original form, characterized by rational analysis and emotional restraint, Hinduism is marked by ritual and displays of emotion. Such comparisons contributed to the tendency to downplay the role of devotion and ritual in early, authentic Buddhism. Rhys Davids concludes his survey of Buddhism on a more positive note, however, pointing to signs of a Buddhist revival in Asia, particularly in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), a revival connected to the recovery of the authentic Buddhist textual tradition. This revival was in part a response to attacks on Buddhism disseminated through an active campaign of Christian missionary propaganda. Segments of both the lay and monastic communities in Ceylon took up the challenge and, beginning in the 1860s, 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, one of which drew the attention of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, one of the founders of the Theosophical Society. Olcott played a formative role in efforts to establish a system of Buddhist education, and the curriculum in these schools was deeply influenced by European and American representations of Buddhism dependent upon textually based reconstructions of the Buddhas original teachings. Rhys Davids writes:
Books in manuscript, on the time-honored palm leaves, had been deemed enough when their position was not attacked. Now they are

printing and circulating their books, as the Christians do; they are founding schools for both sexes; they are establishing boards of education, even high schools and colleges; and their sacred books, no longer left only in the hands of student recluses, are printed and circulated at large. . . . On the other hand, the labors of European and American scholars are making accessible, also on this side, the ancient texts, and are even beginning to translate them in to European languages, and to analyze and summarize their contents. Though the Buddhists do not in the least agree with us, whose aim is not controversial at all, but only historical, they are beginning not only to make such use as suits them of our results, but to imitate our methods.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, who, like Rhys Davids, had a powerful influence on popular views of Buddhism in Europe and North America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Carus interest in Buddhism was greatly stimulated by the 1893 Worlds Parliament of Religions in Chicago, a forum in which representatives of Buddhism, including the charismatic Sri Lankan Buddhist reformer Anagarika Dharmapala and the Japanese Rinzai Zen master Soyen Shaku, addressed overflowing audiences who knew little of the complexity and diversity of Buddhist traditions. Carus, who held a doctorate in classical philology from the University of Tbingen, never held a university position; he was, however, a prolific author whose writings, especially his Gospel of Buddhism, exercised a great influence in the United States and abroad.16 While Carus never formally converted to Buddhism, he found its teachings in large part consonant with the evolving science of religion that he advocated. In addition to popularizing Buddhist teachings through his own writings, he published the work of many Buddhists under the auspices of the Open Court Publishing Company and in The Open Court, the journal he edited, which aimed at conciliating Religion with Science.17 He also maintained an extensive correspondence with Buddhists in Asia and materially supported their missionizing in the United States.18 Carus correspondence with the Sri Lankan monk and Sanskritist, the Venerable Alutgama Seelakkhandha, illuminates the distinctive character of his personal enthusiasm for Buddhism, as well as its limits. After Ven. Seelakkhandha offered to send Carus some relics of the Buddha, Carus communicated his ambivalence toward the Buddhist practice of venerating the Buddhas material remains. He notes in his letter that he would welcome a relic because it would show me the reverence in which the


Ceylonese hold their master and his saints but asks that the monk provide specific information about the relic, including where it was discovered; he also promises to provide a more detailed statement of his views on relic veneration. He writes again the next day with a lengthy clarification of his position, expressing his concern that the gift will deprive Ven. Seelakkhanda of a treasured devotional object for the sake of one who would value these relics for historical reasons only. 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,the su\tras and all those ideas which we verify in our own experience as valuable truths. Words, thoughts, and ideas are not material things, they are ideal possessions, they are spiritual. It is true that they are transferred by material means in books and MSS. and by the vibrations of sounds, but it is not the book or the MS. or the sound waves that are sacred, but the ideas which are conveyed by them. Thus, all the treasures which I regard as holy are of a spiritual kind, and not of a material kind. The worship of relics, be they bones, hair, teeth, or any other material of the body of a saint, is a mistake. They do not possess any other value than the remains of ordinary mortals. The soul of Buddha is not in his bones, but in his words, 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. Now certainly it is of interest to me to have evidences of the religious zeal of Buddhists. The keeping of sacred relics is a symptom of their devotion, but that is all I see in the use of relics.19

Ven. Seelakkhandha remained undeterred; he sent not only relics but also a detailed response to Carus views on relic veneration. Carus published a revised version of that response in The Open Court under the title, A Buddhist Priests View of Relics. In this article, Ven. Seelakkhandha provides an overview of Sri Lankan Buddhist views of relic veneration. Regarding the relic that he sent to Carus, 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,offering flowers, incense, etc., morn and eve. I believe this to be a genuine relic of the Buddha. We reverence Buddhas 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, arhat samyaksambuddha) which His life illustrated; and those of His disciples (i.e., Rahats) for similar reasons, and also to keep us reminded of their noble exemplary lives as results of Lord Buddhas invaluable doctrine.20


This exchange effectively illustrates the complex intercultural negotiation of authority and meaning that characterized the attempts of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European and American scholars to understand and represent Buddhism. 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. At the same time, these scholars worked within a cultural milieu imbued with a profound confidence in the power of reason and scientific inquiry to uncover the truth, a milieu deeply shaped by the history of the conflict between religion and reason, and they saw themselves as heirs to a tradition of critical inquiry that put them in a privileged position to uncover the Buddhas original teachings on the basis of philological and historical analysis. Moreover, 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. The role of relics in fostering an emotional attachment to the person of the Buddha and the ritualism to which they gave rise, to say nothing of the miraculous powers attributed to them, seemed out of character with what these scholars regarded as the most profound and admirable ideals of the Buddhas original teaching. Such practices could easily be regarded as, in Rhys Davids case, evidence of the historical corruption of the tradition under the influence of popular weakness and prejudice, or as, in the case of Paul Carus, examples of an incomplete stage of religious worship. In other words, they were superstitious. They were judged inauthentic, either on the grounds that they were not part of the Buddhas original teaching or because they appeared incompatible with the norms of an evolving science of religion. In effect, 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. This perceived incompatibility between the reconstructed origins of the Buddhist tradition and ritualized devotion to the Buddhas bodily remains has defined, until the last fifteen years or so, the basic discourse within which relic veneration has been interpreted and has, in many cases, led scholars to simply ignore the practice altogether in their accounts of Buddhism. At the same time, it must be noted that there is some evidence of ambivalence toward relic veneration within early Buddhist tradition itself. In the Maha\parinibba\na-sutta, a locus classicus for discussions of Buddhist relic veneration, one finds pas-


sages nestled together that seem to provide contradictory perspectives on the value of relic veneration and who should engage in it. Consider, for example, 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. The sal \ a trees are in blossom out of season, showering down sal \ a flowers upon the Buddha, along with mandar \ a blossoms, sandalwood powder and heavenly music. The text \ ay \ a). 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, defined as the monk or nun or male or female lay-disciple who lives following the Dhamma in its fullness, following the proper way of life, walking according to the Dhamma.21 The commentary elucidates this statement with a quotation from the Buddha, who says that he did not make the resolution to become a Buddha at the feet of Dipankara Buddha for the sake of garlands, scents, music, and song. The commentary observes that if the Buddha had not objected to this sort of offering, characterized as worship with material things (am \ isa-pu\ja\), his followers would not have perfected moral virtue, concentration and insight, but instead would have occupied themselves with worshipping. It notes that not even a thousand monasteries equal to the Maha\viha\ra, nor a thousand cetiyas equal to the Maha\cetiya,22 would be adequate support for the well-being of the sa\sana (Buddhist teachings and institutions). It thus concludes: Now right practice is proper worship for the Tatha\gata, and surely it is laid down by him and is able to support the sa\sana.23 A little later in the Maha\parinibba\na-sutta, we find a discussion of what should be done with the Buddhas body after he has passed away, and the Buddha states explicitly that his remains should be cremated in a manner befitting a great universal monarch (cakkavattin). This includes elaborate rites for preparing the body, cremation, and the erection of relic monuments (thu\pas) in public places to enshrine the remaining relics. He concludes: Those who there offer a garland, or scent, or paint, or make a salutation, or feel serene joy in their heart, that will be to their benefit and well-being for a long time.24 Yet even as this passage seems to recommend the value of relic veneration, it appears to enforce a clear separation between the roles of sangha members and the laity in funeral preparations. For the Buddha also addresses the following words to his faithful attendant A|nanda: Do not trouble yourselves, A|nanda, with sarra-pu\ja\ of the Tatha\gata; rouse yourselves, A|nanda, strive for the highest goal, attend to the highest goal, live heedful, zealous, resolute on the highest goal. There



are wise nobles, wise brahmans and wise householders who are devoted to the Tatha\gata; they will perform sarra-pu\ja\ of the Tatha\gata.25 This passage has typically been interpreted as evidence that members of the earliest Theravada sangha were initially prohibited from participating in relic veneration. The evidence for this is in part negative: the Theravada Vinaya (monastic code), in contrast to the Vinayas of some other Buddhist fraternities, says nothing about relic veneration.26 The problem, again, is the presence of contradictory evidence, for the Mahap \ arinibban \ asutta also provides a detailed account of the role of the great elder Mahak \ assapa in the cremation ceremony. When the Mallas attempt to light the funeral pyre, they are obstructed by the devas in attendance until Mahak \ assapa and his entourage of five hundred monks arrive on the scene. Mahak \ assapa venerates the Buddhas body by placing his head on the Buddhas feet, which, according to the commentary, miraculously emerge from their coverings. The funeral pyre then spontaneously ignites. Apparently, in this instance, Mahak \ assapas devotion to the Buddhas body is deemed appropriate, even though he is both a monk and an arahant.27 Once again, the text seems to juxtapose contradictory perspectives on the appropriateness of relic veneration for members of the sangha. Taken together, 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. This is hardly a rejection of the practice altogether, however, and the hypothesis that members of the sangha were prohibited from participating in relic veneration goes well beyond the evidence. In some respects, 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, what is generally called the aniconic period in early Buddhism. Here again part of the evidence is negative: no images survive from the first several centuries of the Buddhist movement. This, coupled with early representations that depict the Buddhas physical presence through symbols such as a royal umbrella or his throne of enlightenment, led to the widely accepted assertion that early Buddhists were prohibited from representing his bodily form out of respect for his nirvanic status. As with the dubious assertion that early Buddhist monks and nuns were initially prohibited from participating in relic veneration, however, the theory of an aniconic period is driven more by presumed doctrinal ideals than by compelling material evidence.28 Indeed, when the centrality of the practice of relic veneration



during this period is taken into account, the existence of a prohibition against representing his physical body seems even less likely. 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, a reorientation that is reshaping the study of religion more generally. As the art historian David Morgan has noted, scholars of religion are increasingly turning their attention to visual culture.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. 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, including social class, gender, and dynamics of colonial interaction. Consider, for example, 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 1.1). 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, the study of visual culture helps to illuminate the role that particular objects play in shaping the dynamics of local power relations. 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. Each culturally privileged location lends itself, as well, to distinctive forms of knowledge and meaning. 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. If the discipline of religious studies could once be seen as clearly defined by the privileging of a unique experience (e.g., the numinous) or a distinctive interpretive category (e.g., the sacred), this is no longer the case, and there is considerable disagreement within the field about what, if anything, sets scholars of religion apart from those who study religion from within the disciplines of history, sociology, or anthropology. In addition, the religions (e.g., Buddhism, Islam, Christianity), once commonly defined by abstract belief


FIGURE 1.1. A relic enshrinement procession for a new relic monument (dag \ aba in Sinhala) in southern Sri Lanka, 1985. At the head of the procession on the right is an elder monk, and on the left, a young layman standing in for his father, a wealthy contributor who was physically unable to participate in the procession. Out of respect the young man holds the reliquary on the top of his head, the symbolically highest and purest part of the body. Both the monastic and lay communities are represented here; the former group typically acquires the relics for enshrinement, while the latter group is responsible for construction of the relic monument. Photograph by Kevin Trainor



systems derived from canonical scriptures, are now increasingly fragmented along the fault lines of regional and local cultures. 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, it lends itself to broad comparative analyses, since many religious traditions include some variation on the practice of venerating the bodily remains of the special dead.30 On the other hand, attention to specific relics, that is, the actual objects that are the focus of veneration, invites careful attention to local histories and to the interplay of social and cultural forces within a relatively circumscribed field. For example, 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. Following this line of inquiry, one could, for example, 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). 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). One can also frame a comparative analysis in a manner that highlights points of similarity between different traditions. For example, it is precisely the materiality of relics that makes them such useful and effective signifiers of authoritative presence, for both practitioners and scholars. As material objects they lend themselves to particular strategies of consolidation, dissemination, and controlled access and thus have frequently been employed by ruling elites, both lay and monastic, to further their respective interests (see figure 1.1). At the same time, relics and the structures that enshrine them provide the archeologist and historian with empirical data, 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 Swearers chapter) and, more recently, into Europe and North America. If relics have furthered the construction of a meaningful and coherent Buddhist landscape, they have also defined particular kinds of relationships to the past and future. It was a common trope of nineteenth-century



scholarship on the East to contrast the Western sense of history with its absence in South Asia. It is interesting to note how Buddhist relic traditions relate to this discourse of historical consciousness. There are, for example, 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. Even the Theravada tradition, so often contrasted with the Mahayana because of its attachment to the historical Buddha Gotama, 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, past and future. Likewise, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka (the Maha\vamsa) records that Gotamas relics were enshrined at precisely the location where the relics of three previous Buddhas were preserved.31 In contrast to these ways in which relics appear to emphasize repetition of static patterns, 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. In Theravada tradition, the disappearance of a particular Buddhas relics, along with the memory of his teachings, provides the necessary conditions for the arising of the next Buddha. In the case of Gotama, 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, his relics are expected to depart from their places of enshrinement throughout the world and congregate at Bodhgaya, the place of his enlightenment. There the relics will assemble in the shape of Gotamas body, rise up in the air, and spontaneously combust, disappearing once and for all from the samsaric realm. Even if this event is itself a particular instance of a broader pattern of how Buddhas arise and disintegrate, the material remains themselves are unique and perishable (see figure 1.2). And, until their climactic reassembly and disappearance, they are tangible points of connection to the person of Gotama Buddha. As such, these relics are regarded as effectively equivalent to the living presence of the Buddha for the purposes of devotion and gaining merit. As Jacob Kinnard observes in his chapter, relics enable a particular kind of relationship to the past teacher. Their tangible presence in cultic sites, sites which are themselves part of a broad cultural network of political and economic forces, brings the present-day Buddhist devotee into the past time of the Buddha. It is precisely through these memory-sites32 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. These acts, in turn, are understood to create a future set of possibilities. The meritorious deeds (karma)


FIGURE 1.2. A collection of bodily relics of the Buddha and the saints, that is, arahants, prior to their enshrinement in a new relic monument in southern Sri Lanka in 1985. The chief monk informed me that these were donated by other monks when they learned that his monastery was constructing a new relic monument. According to one Theravada tradition, five thousand years after Gotama Buddhas final passing away, all the Buddhas 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. Photograph by Kevin Trainor



and their accompanying moods and motivations are expected to shape the devotees future in such a way that he or she in a future rebirth will encounter the living presence of the next Buddha. These relic enshrinements are, in addition, memory-sites of a different sort for archeologists and historians who make use of them as evidence for reconstructing the history of Buddhism. Many of the issues related to relic veneration that are highlighted in this volume are also relevant to sculptures and paintings of the Buddha. Jacob Kinnards essay, in particular, 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. There are clearly a number of salient differences between these two basic ways of representing Buddhas. For example, relics are typically hidden away in relic monuments or reliquaries and images are usually open to view. Moreover, the means through which relics and images are produced and gain authority are quite different. It is the physical continuity of a bodily relic or relic of use with the body of a Buddha that defines its venerability. While in practice bodily relics might seem to proliferate almost without limit, they are in principle numerically finite and thus subject to a kind of inherent material scarcity. Images are subject to no such material constraints; they can be manufactured endlessly as long as they bear the appropriate iconographical features, and consequently they lend themselves to different strategies of production and control. And, as Robert Sharf notes in his chapter, relics and images have quite different aesthetic qualities. Despite these important differences, however, relics and images share a number of striking similarities. First of all, both relics and images are among the primary material means through which Buddhas continue to be embodied after their passing away, and thus they fit our general theme of embodying the Dharma. This fact is reflected in the classic Theravada taxonomy of venerable memorials (cetiyas in Pa\li, caityas in Sanskrit), which differentiates three distinct categories: those containing bodily relics, those defined by relics of use, and those that are commemorative (a category identified with images); this classification first appears in the fifth-century CE Pa\li commentaries.33 Second, some images contain bodily relics and could thus be classified under more than one category of material mediation. Even when images do not actually incorporate bodily relics, they are commonly located within temple complexes alongside relic monuments, and both are typically the focus of devotional rituals. In this respect, images, like bodily relics and relics of



use, lend themselves to defining particular spaces that are associated with the presence of Buddhas, spaces that evoke and orchestrate devotional attitudes and behaviors. 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. 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. The seminar met four successive years during annual AAR conferences beginning in 1994, with fifteen scholars contributing papers. The present volume is comprised of seven of those essays in revised form. This volume is, to date, the only extended analysis of Buddhist relic veneration bringing together contributions from scholars exploring a broad diversity of Buddhist cultural traditions, including India (Kinnard), Thailand (Swearer), Tibet (Germano), Japan (Faure), as well as essays framed primarily in comparative and theoretical terms (this introduction, Sharf, Strong). 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, for instance, on the basis of regional focus, sectarian affiliation, or historical period, I will discuss them under the following rubrics: taxonomies, royal appropriations, performative presences, textualizations, and comparisons.

The central concern of David Germanos chapter, Living Relics of the Buddha(s) in Tibet, 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. Toward this end, Germano examines texts from the eleventhcentury Seminal Heart (snying thig) tantric literature, as well as the writings of Longchenpa (kLong chen pa), who systematized the tradition in the fourteenth century. Germano identifies a general heightening of what he terms funerary Buddhism as one moves from the early Great Perfection literature, where funerary practices are aestheticized by rendering them less corporeal, 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.



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 Faures chapter, Buddhist Relics and Japanese Regalia, examines the role that Buddhist relics played in struggles for political supremacy in Japan during the fourteenth century. Faures 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 relics 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 ones 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 Kinnards chapter, The Field of the Buddhas Presence, contributes to an understanding of the notion of the Buddhas 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 Bourdieus 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 Asamahap \ 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 Buddhas entire life and collection of teachings.

Donald Swearers 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 Buddhas 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 Buddhas 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 Buddhas 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 Buddhas 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 ones store of merit. On a second level the Buddhas 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 Buddhas living presence. On this third level, Swearer notes, the Buddha is read from his material signs and emerges as a living reality.

John Strongs 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 Buddhas absence); (2) visions of Christian relics are granted, while Buddha relics are visualized through the devotees own efforts; (3) Christian relics evoke Christs incarnation, a movement from absence to presence, while Buddhist relics represent the Buddhas 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 ones 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 Sharfs 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 Lvy-Bruhls 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



has to do, as well, with some profound existential questions grounded in our own cultural milieu. While acknowledging that both Buddha images and bodily relics can be usefully regarded as kindred forms of representation with many functional similarities, he cautions against a tendency to treat them as simply equivalent to each other. In contrast to images, which tend to be aesthetically appealing, relics, as human remains, elicit a response that can best be described as visceral. At base, Sharf argues, relics pose fundamental questions about the nature of physical embodiment and the problem of human identity in the face of death. 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, we do well to explore the complex of cultural and personal motivations that give rise to and inform our study of the subject.

Where then do these chapters leave us? It would be surprising if a collection with such a broad cultural, historical, and theoretical focus gave rise to a few simple generalizations. 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, a characterization that has served to foreclose rather than enable scholarly investigation. 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. If these chapters, with their diverse voices and at times discordant themes, do not provide us with a harmonious chorus, they nonetheless forcefully testify to the multiple ways in which the study of relics enables us to move beyond static, spiritualized representations of Buddhism to those with more flesh on their bones. This volume remains very much a work in progress, in part because we have only begun to examine the great diversity of Buddhist 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. The Buddhist Relic Traditions Web site, which is hosted by the Tibetan and Himalyan Digital Library ( and the University of Virginia, is presently collecting visual media, translations of relic-related texts, and bibliographical information on relic practices, including a full set of bibliographic references for



the chapters in this volume. This site is intended to serve as a clearing house for relic-related research, 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:

1. Gregory Schopen, Relic, in Critical Terms for Religious Studies, ed. Mark C. Taylor (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), 25668. 2. J. A. MacCulloch, Relics (Primitive and Western), in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1919), 658. 3. Vincent A. Smith, Relics (Eastern), in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1919), 659. 4. Michele R. Salzman, Superstitio in the Codex Theodosianus and the Persecution of Pagans, Vigiliae Christianae 41 (1987): 173. 5. Ibid., 174. 6. L. F. Janssen, Superstitio and the Persecution of the Christians, Vigiliae Christianae 33 (1979): 158. 7. Salzman, Superstitio in the Codex Theodosianus and the Persecution of Pagans, 176. 8. Ibid., 182. 9. John Calvin, The Institution of Christian Religion, trans. Thomas Norton (London: R. Wolfe and R. Harrison, 1561) quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. superstitious; for a modern translation, see John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1412. 10. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Edinburgh, 1776), bk. 5, ch. 1, pt. 3, art. 3, Adam Smith Institute, 23 February 2002, 11. David Hume, Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. T. H. Green and T. H. Grose, 2 vols. (London: Longman, Green, 1882), 1:147f. 12. As the founder of the Pali Text Society in 1881 and an indefatigable editor and translator of Pa\li Buddhist canonical texts, Rhys Davids made a formative contribution to Buddhist studies in the West. He taught Pa\li and Buddhist literature at University College, London, from 1882 and was instrumental in the establishment of the School of Oriental Studies there. He later became the first to hold the chair in comparative religion at the University of Manchester (19041915).



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, 17501900: A Study of Religious Revival and Change (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976). 15. Davids, Buddhism, 52324. 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 protgs 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, 10203. 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 Guruges text. 20. Paul Carus, A Buddhist Priests View of Relics, Open Court 11 (1897): 12324. 21. T. W. Rhys Davids and J. Estlin Carpenter, eds., Dgha-Nika\ya, 3 vols. (London: Pali Text Society, 18891910), 2:138. Yo kho A|nanda bhikkhu va\ bhikkhun va\ upa\sako va\ upa\sika\ va\ dhamma\nudhamma-paipanno viharati samci-paipanno anudhamma-ca\r, 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), 5152. 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 Duhaga\man , which is said to enshrine one-eighth of all of the Buddhas relics.



23. Buddhaghosa, Sumangala-vila\sin, ed. T. W. Rhys Davids, J. Estlin Carpenter, and W. Stede, 3 vols. (London: Pali Text Society, 18861932), 2:578. Samma\paipatti pana Tatha\gatassa anucchavika\ pu\ja\, sa\ hi tena pahita\ ceva sakkoti sa\sanam ca sandha\retum. 24. Davids and Carpenter, eds., Dgha-Nika\ya 2:142. Tattha ye ma\lam va\ gandham va\ vannakam (variant: cunnakam) va\ a\ropessanti abhiva\dessanti va\, cittam va\ pasa\dessanti, tesam tam bhavissati dgharattam hita\ya sukha\ya. 25. Ibid., 2:141. Avya\vaa\ tumhe A|nanda hotha Tatha\gatassa sarra-puja\ya, ingha tumhe A|nanda sadatthe ghaatha, sadattham anuyujatha, sadatthe appamatta\ a\ta\pino pahitatta\ viharatha. Sant A|nanda khattiya-pandita\ pi bra\hmanapandita\ pi gahapati-pandita\ pi Tatha\gate abhippasanna\, te Tatha\gatassa sarrapu\jam karissantti. Sarra-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 Yn-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), 2:47683. He is also profiled in Thera Nyanaponika and Hellmuth Hecker, Great Disciples of the Buddha (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1997), 10736. 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): 4153. 30. This term is Peter Browns, 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\vamsa records that the relics of three previous Buddhas were enshrined at the site of the Maha\thu\pa in Anura\dhapura; see Maha\vamsa 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 Dpavamsa, which predates the Maha\vamsa, favors the latter site, as does Buddhaghosas introduction to his commentary on the Vinaya; see Dpavamsa 15.2564 and The Inception of Discipline (The Vinaya Nida\na), 76 f., 199 f. The



tradition recorded in the Maha\vamsa may reflect an attempt to enhance the prestige of King Duhaga\mani 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\linga-bodhi Ja\taka, which identifies three types of memorials (cetiya\ni): sa\rrika (bodily), pa\ribhogika (through use), and uddesika (commemorative); see the Ja\taka, together with its Commentary, ed. V. Fausbll (London: Pali Text Society, 18771897), 4:22829. A similar classification can be found in the commentary on the Khuddaka-Pa \ ha; see Khuddakapa \ ha, together with its Commentary, Paramatthajotika\ I, ed. Helmer Smith (London: Pali Text Society, 1915), 22122. 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 Milindapaha; see Milindapaha, ed. V. Trenckner (London: Pali Text Society, 1880), 341. See Walpola Rahulas discussion of the history of image veneration in Sri Lanka in his History of Buddhism in Ceylon: The Anura\dhapura Period, 3rd Century BC10th Century AC, 2nd ed. (Colombo: M. D. Gunasena, 1966), 12128.



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 relics reliquaries. But I did not see the Buddhas 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 Buddhas 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 Changan, 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 Buddhas 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



words of the Heart Sutra as gone, gone, gone beyond. Then, in 1993, my wife and I had a chance to visit another tooth of the Buddha, at the Sennyu\-ji temple in Kyoto. We wrote and asked for permission to enter the usually locked reliquary hall (shariden), and, on the appointed day, we were kindly ushered into the building. But again, we did not see the tooth. Though its magnificent reliquary was open for close-up inspection, the relic itself was kept elsewhere. For security reasons, it had been removed permanently to a storehouse.3 This time, however, the failure to lay eyes on the actual relic did occasion some reflection, for, about a month earlier, I had been in Rome, visiting the ancient basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and there I realized that not all relics are routinely unseen. All alone, in the Chapel of the Holy Cross, I was able to go right up to the relic cases, and inches away, I could gaze to my hearts content upon three slivers of the wood on which Jesus was crucified, upon one of the spikes that had nailed him to the cross, upon two thorns from his crown of thorns, upon the titulusthe inscription platethat Pontius Pilate had set up above his head, declaring, in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, that this was Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. There too was the finger bone of Doubting Thomasthe very finger that that apostle had stuck into the wounds in Jesus flesh after the resurrection; and there, on a side wall, was the whole beam from the cross of the good thief Dysmas who had been crucified by Jesus side. All of this and more was on display, open to view, in reliquaries designed to expose rather than enclose, and labeled in six different languages. Moreover, close-up photographs were available in the basilica shop along with amulet replicas of each of the relics.4 It has been customary, in the comparative study of relics, to emphasize or imply similarities between Christian and Buddhist traditions.5 Sometimes, the pursuit of these similarities has been very fruitful. Many years ago, for example, Leonardo Olschki creatively elucidated certain parallels between the tale of the Buddhas 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, frankincense, and myrrh).6 More recently, Gregory Schopen has made brilliant use of the work of Philippe Aris on Christian patterns of burial to help us understand better the cult of Indian Buddhist relics and their stupas.7 At a more general level, Robert Sharf has pointed out that, lately among scholars, Buddhism . . . has come to bear an uncanny resemblance to medieval Christianity . . . [with] its saints, relics, and miraculous images.8



In this chapter, I wish to try to go beyond parallelisms between Christian and Buddhist relic traditions, in order to isolate some of their distinguishing characteristics. 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, and in part out of a conviction that, in comparative religion, the elucidation of differences is as fruitful an exercise as (and perhaps an easier task than) the explanation of similarities. I approach the task, however, with some trepidation. 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. For instance, I have just implied, through the above account of my personal experiences, that Buddhist relics (at least Buddhist tooth relics) are generally not to be seen by worshippers, while Christian relics are. But what about the good pilgrim Ennin who tells us that in 841, he not only saw one of the four tooth relics of the Buddha then enshrined in Changan but also physically handled it?9 And what about those occasions, in modern Southeast Asia, when relics are viewed uncovered?10 Conversely, on the Christian side, 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, which, if broken, may result in suspension of the worship of the relic?12 In what follows, therefore, I want to try to be wary of generalizations. I shall proceed anecdotally, offering a series of contrasting stories about Buddhist and Christian relics, admitting that many of these texts are only partially representative of an overall tradition whose full complexity is such that, were I to take it into account, I would probably quickly be led into qualifications, mitigations, and contradictions. Nonetheless, it is my hope that, as Wendy Doniger once put it, stories reveal things that are not easily gleaned from the harder disciplines, especially if we can remember that stories are not designed as arguments, nor should they be taken as arguments.13 My conclusions about these stories, therefore, take the form of sometimes fairly narrow hypotheses, still rooted in the concrete, rather than abstract principles, universally applicable to all cases everywhere.

A. 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



in detail in an obituary letter written by St. Jerome. His narrative is interesting not so much for the topographical and geographical information it contains but for its account of Paulas reaction to and worship of various relics she visited. As he puts it, in Jerusalem, she . . . 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. She fell down and worshipped before the Cross as if she could see the Lord hanging on it. On entering the Tomb of the Resurrection, she kissed the stone which the angel [had] removed from the sepulchre door; then like a thirsty man who has waited long and at last comes to water, she [embraced and] faithfully kissed the very shelf on which the Lords body had lain. Her tears and lamentations there are known to all Jerusalemor rather to the Lord himself to whom she was praying.14 Paulas passionher desire to embrace, to kiss, 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,15 but in Christian circles, it was by no means anomalous. As John Wilkinson points out, physical contacttouchwas, in her world, thought to unite a person with what he or she touches, and the classic gesture of contact [was] the kiss: the Hebrew verb nashaq means both touch and kiss, in Greek and Latin the words for kiss and venerate are often identical, and the frequently-used phrase, to venerate the holy places therefore carries within it the connotation of contact.16 The kiss, of course, was not the only way that this desire for closeness with a relic expressed itself. St. John Chrysostom, a contemporary of Paula who would have approved of her actions, counseled his flock to retire to the tombs of martyrs and shed there torrents of tears; break open your heart, embrace the sarcophagus, affix yourselves to the reliquary. . . . Take the holy oil and anoint your whole body with it, your tongue, your lips, your neck, your eyes.17 In this vein, 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. Stephen that she broke it open: rather than recoil in horror at what she had done, she thrust her head inside and laid her cheek on the bones, bathing them with her ecstatic tears.18 B. At about the same time as Paula was in Jerusalem, the Chinese pilgrim Faxian was visiting the so-called Cave of the Buddhas Shadow, in what is today Afghanistan. The story of the relic in this cave at Nagaraha\ra is intimately connected to the apocryphal tale of the Buddhas conversion of



the na\ga Gopa\la there. Worried that he might lose his faith once the Buddha who had just tamed him left the area, Gopa\la asked the Blessed One to leave some token of himself right there in his na\gas cave, as a safeguard against backsliding. There are several versions of what the Buddha did next, but the net result was that he left an image of himself, more a luminous reflection than a shadow, on the rock wall of the cave, where it came to be venerated by generations of subsequent pilgrims.19 Interestingly, this shadow relic seems to have had a sort of miragelike quality. Looking at it from a distance of more than ten paces, declares Faxian, you seem to see [the] Buddhas real form, with his complexion of gold, and his characteristic marks in their nicety clearly and brightly displayed, [but] the nearer you approach [it] the fainter it becomes, as if it were only in your fancy.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, but as he drew nearer, it gradually disappeared, and, when he touched the spot with his hand, there was nothing there but the rock wall.21 It could be argued, of course, that we should not make too much of these examples, that we are dealing here with some natural phenomenon, in this cave at Nagaraha\ra, some reflective surface on the rock wall that caught the light from certain angles and caused a glow in the depths of the grotto. Nonetheless, the miragelike quality of this shadow relic struck a chord in the Buddhist devotional world. It was, in fact, the shadows very ephemerality that artists attempting to make copies of it sought to reproduce. Although Faxian declares that artists commissioned to copy the shadow were unable to do so successfully, soon after his time, in the 450s, a Sri Lankan monk on his way to China claimed to have been able to reproduce it in a painting. It had, we are told, the same qualities as the original: from a distance of ten paces, it shone like fire, but the closer one got to it, the more its brightness faded.22 The contrast between these accounts and the touchable-kissable Christian relics in Jerusalem is, of course, striking. For Paula and the other pilgrims, the mode of devotionalism seems to have been the closer the better. For Faxian and his compatriots, physical contact is not what is put at a premium; indeed, the closer one gets to the relic, the more it fades away. Discussions of Buddhist relics and images have been much preoccupied with questions of presence and absence.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.24 As Na\ga\rjuna put it, in Stephan Beyers memorable translation, the Buddha



in nirvana isnt is, isnt isnt, isnt is & isnt, isnt isnt is & isnt.25 Nonetheless, as Gregory Schopen has made very clear, the relic and the Buddha do not appear to have been thought of as separate things.26 Thus, the very first relics of the Buddhathe hairs given by him to the merchants Tapassu and Bhallikawere meant to make possible the veneration of the Buddha in his absence, even during his own lifetime;27 and after his death and parinirvana, relics continued to serve much the same function.28 As Paul Mus liked to put it, the Buddha in nirvana was treated as a new kind of absence,29 and Mus went on to speak eloquently and at length of the various ways in which that absence could be overcome. Yet for him, overcoming the absence of the Buddha was never achieved ontologically; rather it was a periodically renewed ritual and magical process based on the model of Brahmanical sacrifice.30 This saw relics, images, stupas, and other mesocosms as constantly involved in an experiential dialectic movement between presence and absence. In this context, 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).31 I shall attempt to elucidate this movement further. For now, suffice it to point out that the dynamic is rather different in the case of our Christian examples. Jesus, at the end of his earthly career, did not pass into parinirvana, but ascended to heaven. 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. As Thomas Head has put it, at least for medieval Christianity, the question is not whether or not Christ is present, but where he is present. The most striking thing about physical relics (including those of or associated with Christ) . . . is that they provide a definite, explicit, touchable, physical contact between this world and the kingdom of heaven. The relics of the saint in the shrine are the saint: the saint is at the same time just as really present in Gods court: that is why the relics are so important.32 Thus, the closer one can get to the relics as embodiments of a supermundane body, the tighter one can make that link to the other world. Hypothesis 1: Christian relics : a kiss :: Buddhist relics : a mirage.


A. Saint Radegund [518587], exqueen of France and abbess of a convent in Poitiers, was an avid collector of relics, and over the years, her love of the holy remains of saints mounted. As one of her biographers put it: She called [her] relics diamonds of heaven . . . and spared neither prayer nor



presents in amassing them. She was in the habit of meditating in the company of the saints whose bones she possessed, and it seemed to her that they joined her in singing the psalms and hymns of the divine office.33 The relics of the saints, however, did not satiate her pious longings for the presence of her Lord and Savior. Thus, she used her royal connections to acquire from Constantinople a relic of Christa piece of the true cross, which was duly translated to her convent in Poitiers.34 There, not long before her death in 587, as she was meditating in the midst of her relics, her cell was suddenly bathed in light, and she saw before her a young man of ethereal beauty whom she realized was none other than Jesus himself. Why do you supplicate me so and torture yourself for me who am always with you? he asked her. Please know that you are a precious pearl, and one of the most beautiful diamonds in my crown.35 Then he disappeared, and in departing, he left an imprint of his right foot in the stone where he had stood. This stone, bearing his footprint, came to be known as the Pas de Dieu and became itself an important relic, which may still be seen in the Church of Sainte Radegonde.36 There is, then, a progression here, in Radegunds story, from relics of saints to secondary relics of Christ (the piece of the true cross), to the presence of Christ himself in glory, marked forever by his footprint. B. Not too long after the time of Radegund, the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (trip to India: 629645) also visited the Cave of the Buddhas Shadow. There he had an interesting experience. According to his biographer, when Xuanzang arrived at the cave, he was most distressed that he could see nothing. His guide, however, obviously familiar with local traditions, told him to back away fifty paces from the far wall and look east. He did so, but still he saw nothing. He then prostrated himself a hundred times, but once again there was nothing. Then sobbing and reproaching himself for his bad karma, he began reciting stanzas in praise of the Buddha from the S:rima\la\devsimhana\da and other sutras, prostrating himself repeatedly. After some time, a light the size of an almsbowl appeared on the eastern wall, but it immediately vanished again. Encouraged, he resumed his prostrations and his recitations, and he soon was able to see a light the size of a dish, but this too quickly disappeared. He then resolved that he would not leave that place until he had seen the Buddhas shadow. Finally, after about two hundred more prostrations, the whole cave was filled with light, as the image of the Buddhas body appeared distinctly on the wall, just like the peak of a golden mountain when the fog is dispersed. He could see the Buddhas



body and his reddish robe quite clearly, and, to either side, the shadows of many bodhisattvas and arhats. 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, but as soon as they brought in the torches, the shadow immediately disappeared. They put the fire out, he resumed his praise of the Buddha, and again it was visible for a long time until it gradually faded away.37 Both Xuanzang and Radegund, in their respective settings, get to see the figure who is the object of their devotions, and the presence and context of relics are intimately connected to this. Yet there are a number of important differences between their two experiences. Radegunds comes to her after a lifetime of longing for the closeness of Christ, but it is essentially a vision that is given to her, a visitation that she is not expecting. Xuanzangs longing is perhaps equally intense, and his experience also comes only after a great deal of effortdevotional exercises, prostrations, and recollections of the Buddha (buddha\nusmrti). But it is more an accomplishment than a gift, more a visualization than a vision. The Relic of the Shadow makes it possible for the Buddha to emerge out of emptiness, out of the past, out of the Xuanzangs mind, and to return to it. For Radegund, Christ descends to manifest himself, also temporarily, in the midsts of her relics and leaves one of his own behind permanently. With this in mind we can posit a second hypothesis: Hypothesis 2: Christian relics : vision :: Buddhist relics : visualization.


A. It is sometimes remarked that while the Christian era is measured from the birth of Christ, the Buddhist era is counted from the death and parinirvana of the Buddha. With this in mind, let us return to Palestine and to Paula who, after she left Jerusalem, went on to Bethlehem. There, of course, she visited the site of Christs nativity. As Jerome, again, describes it: She entered the cave of the Saviour, and saw the holy Inn of the Virgin, and the Stable, where the ox knew his master, and the ass his Lords manger. There she was granted a vision: with the eye of faith . . . she saw a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, weeping in the Lords manger, the Magi worshipping, the star shining above, the Virgin Mother, the attentive fosterfather, and the shepherds coming by night to see this Word which had come to pass, . . . the Word [that] was made flesh. . . . Then, her joy mixed with tears, she began to say: Blessed Bethlehem, House of Bread, birthplace of the Bread that came down from heaven. . . . Here I will stay, for my Saviour chose it.38



B. Not long after this, Maha\na\ma (fifth century) was writing the great chronicle of Sri Lanka, the Maha\vamsa. In it, several chapters are dedicated to an account of the Buddha relics enshrined in the great stupa in Anura\dhapura. The magnificence of this monument cannot be gone into here, but it is worth considering the decoration of its inner relic chamber. There, we are told, King Duhaga\mani, using both statues and paintings, ordered the depiction of the entire life of the Buddha, from his past existences (ja\takas) to his birth as Gotama, from his wandering forth to his enlightenment, from his career as a preacher to his working of miracles and death and parinirvana. The centerpiece of all this was a bodhi tree made of jewels, splendid in every way. It had a stem eighteen cubits high and five branches; the root, made of coral, rested on sapphire. The stem made of perfectly pure silver was adorned with leaves made of gems, had withered leaves and fruits of gold and young shoots made of coral. . . . On a throne . . . erected to the east of the bodhi tree, [was] placed a shining golden Buddha image [whose] body and members . . . were duly made of jewels of different colours, beautifully shining.39 What King Duhaga\mani is doing here, of course, is re-presenting, in the relic chamber, the whole life story of the Buddha. The relic chamber is thus transformed into a kind of permanent biographical diorama, or biorama if I may be allowed a neologism, and it is into this environment that the relics are then enshrined. In this context, 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 Buddhas life. In other words, what relics ideally embody is the whole of the Buddhas biographical process that leads from his birth (or former births) through his enlightenment to his parinirvana, that is, from his appearance to his disappearance without remainder. Relics, then, 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, followed then by his biographical departure (absence) from it.40 The same message would seem to be reinforced in the conclusion to the Maha\vamsas account of the enshrinement of the Buddhas relics into this biorama. Once the relic chamber has been made ready, and the relics to be enshrined in it have been obtained, the casket containing them opens of itself and the relics come alive; 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\purusa), and perform various miracles. They recapture, in other words, the living presence of the Enlightened One. But then,



abandoning the form of the Buddha, they fall back down to earth, and Duhaga\mani takes them and places them on a couch in the midst of the relic chamber, asking them to take on the form of the Master as he lay upon his deathbed and to thus abide undisturbed forever. This the relics do of their own accord, and the relic chamber is then sealed and closed off.41 Thus, in this legendary account, the relics themselves also appear to recapitulate the Buddhas biographical process from life to death, from presence to parinirvana. The case of Paulas vision in Bethlehem is rather different in this regard. Although it does not deal with the whole of Christs life, it does feature one biographical episode from that lifehis birth. The relics she sees in the Church of the Nativity enable her to reconstruct in her minds eye a whole creche scene. This too is a biorama of sorts, but what Paula stresses in her joy at this vision is Christs taking on of a body, his becoming present here on earth, in that particular place, his coming down from heaven. Her experience in Bethlehem is thus more related to Christs incarnation than to his biography as a whole. It could be argued, of course, that other Christian bioramas in other settingsfor example, one featuring Christs passion and crucifixion at the Church of the Holy Sepulchrewould be different, except that they too tend to feature the theme of incarnation, even in the moment of death. Thus the experiential movement in Paulas case is consistently from absence to presence in the relics, in contrast to the vectorial forces in Buddhist relics, which follow his biography in moving from presence to absence. We thus can come to a third hypothesis: Hypothesis 3: Christian relics : incarnation :: Buddhist relics : passing into parinirvana.


A. Toward the end of the twelfth century, Hugh of Lincoln, on a visit to Fcamp to venerate the remains of Saint Mary Magdalene, bit off a couple of pieces of bone from her arm, intending to appropriate them for himself. The abbot and monks, seeing him do this, were understandably dismayed. What terrible profanity! they cried. We thought that the bishop had asked to see this holy and venerable relic for reasons of devotion, and he has stuck his teeth into it and gnawed it as if he were a dog. But Saint Hugh replied: If, a little while ago [at communion] I handled the most sacred body of the Lord of all the saints with my fingers, in spite of my unworthiness, and when I partook of it, touched it



with my lips and teeth, 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 Hughs action, of course, fits into a long tradition of persons attempting to steal Christian relics by biting into them while venerating them with a kiss,43 but it is more immediately significant for a number of other reasons. First of all, it reflects the close ideological linkage that was maintained in his day between relics and the elements of the Eucharist. I do not wish, at this point, to enter into the debate over the nature of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, impanation, and so on.44 Suffice it to say that, though not actual remnants of Christs body, the ritual bread and wine were nonetheless his body and blood and were made intimately close to the devotee by consumption. As another way of making Christ presentincarnatethe Eucharist was thus akin to a relic, 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.45 But Hughs action also reflects something else: a situation in which there was an intense desire for the possession of relics, in which relic demand had outstripped routine relic supply. This was one of the causal factors, perhaps, for the well known phenomenon of relic thefts and trafficking,46 as well as for the proliferation of false relics.47 But it is also possible, in this context, to view the growth of devotion to the Eucharist as an alternate way of dealing with the demand for more relics, a way of ritually, that is, routinely, supplying a virtually unlimited quantity of relic-like substances by mass-production.48 B. When Xuanzang was in Ra\jagrha, he heard about a pious layman named Jayasena who spent all of his time making miniature stupas out of clay and incense paste. In the course of thirty years, it is said, he managed to manufacture over seven hundred thousand of these, periodically enshrining them in larger mahastupas built expressly to contain them. Inside each miniature stupa was placed a written verse from a sutra, so that the name that was given to them was dharma-arra (fa sheli), a term I am tempted to translate as textual body.49 In this story, we would seem to have an Indian model for an activity that became common in East Asia and Tibet. By the eighth century in Japan, for example, various politically powerful laypersons would periodically take it upon themselves to produce one million stupas (hyakumanto\). These were miniature wooden pagodas, made on a lathe, about fourteen centimeters high and about ten centimeters across the base. A



small hole was drilled into the top of each of them into which was inserted the printed text of one of several dha\ran .50 Similarly, in a Chinese canonical work, translated by Diva\kara in 680, a method is described for the manufacturing of many small stupas (each about the size of a mango), by simply inserting into a lump of clay the dharma verse par excellence: ye dharma\ hetuprabhava\s tesam hetum Tatha\gata uva\ca/ tesam ca yo nirodha evam va\d Maha\ramanah (the Tatha\gata has explained the cause of those elements of reality that arise from a cause, and he, the Subdued One, has also spoken of their cessation). This line is, in this context, 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, a hair, or a nail.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 Buddhas corporeal relics. In a different light, however, it can also be said that, in these manufactured dharma relics, we may have a Buddhist way of responding to the problems of relic supply and demand, and a ritual routine means of makingby the simple insertion of a dharma verse into a lump of claya virtually unlimited supply of relics. Stanley Tambiah, in his book on Buddhist saints in Thailand, has spoken of a process by which charisma is concretized and sedimented into objects, something, he claims, Max Weber was not really attuned to. This objectification of charisma may be seen, he says, in a host of different fetishistic articles, among which he would include amulets and relics. Of course, once the charisma (or power) of a departed saint or master becomes objectified or sedimented in a relic, 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. Amulets, medallions, and a host of other secondary or tertiary relics, all blessed by contact with saints, may serve this purpose in both Christianity and Buddhism. But the examples we have looked at here are of a slightly different nature; through transubstantiation, 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. And likewise the dharma-arra are the body of the Buddha, his dharmaka\ya, and this through a process that might be called textualization. With this in mind, the following hypothesis may perhaps be suggested: Hypothesis 4: Christian relics : Eucharist : transubstantiation ::: Buddhist relics : Dharma : textualization.




A. We have already seen how Saint Radegund felt it important to amass a large number of relics for her convent in Poitiers. Another great collector of relics, albeit for somewhat different reasons, was Frederick the Wise who lived almost a thousand years after Radegund. Toward the beginning of his career, and well before Martin Luther became connected with him, Frederick had collected 5,005 bits of saints and articles of their clothing, worship of which, he figured, was worth indulgences calculated to reduce time in purgatory by 1,443 years. But Frederick did not stop there. By 1520, he owned 19,013 relics, worth 1,962,202 years and 270 days in purgatory.53 B. Approximately a millenium earlier, in 581, the future emperor of China, Sui Wendi, was visited by a mysterious Indian monk who gave him a bag of relics saying, Since you . . . have good intentions towards Buddhism, I leave these relics for you to worship.54 After the monk had left, the emperor, together with his trusted confidant, the chief monk Tanqian, counted these relics many times by putting them on the palms of their hands, [but] each time they arrived at a different number and could not determine the true quantity. 55A similar phenomenon was experienced in Heian Japan, where, roughly every twenty years, the relics in the treasury of the To\ji temple were inventoried. Strangely, the number of grains of relics in each reliquary was found to fluctuate, sometimes dramatically over the years, without anyone having had access to them. For instance in the year 1014, 4,801 grains of Buddha relics were countedan increase of 390 grains (c. 9 percent) since the last inventory.56 Tanqian tells Wendi that such discrepancies are due to the fact that the Buddhas greatness is beyond measuring, but there is another reason for this incalculability of Buddhist relics. Simply put, Buddhist relics were thought in some sense to be alive, so they were able to multiply themselves, to reproduce, to grow. The larger and more numerous the relics, the greater the merit of the place or person, and the greater the ability to make merit. Thus Emperor Wendi, after he had distributed most of his relics to various pagodas erected throughout the country (in emulation of the Emperor Aoka who did the same in Ancient India), found that his supply was miraculously replenished in time for the next relic distribution campaign.57 The number of relics in reserve would mysteriously increase, or he and his empress often found relics in their food.58 It should be explained that these relics are not bones or body parts but brilliant jewel-like beads of various colors and sizes, which, for convenience



sake I shall call by their Chinese name, sheli (Japanese shari, from the Sanskrit arra). According to Buddhaghosas commentary on the Mahap \ arinibban \ a sutta the sheli (Pal \ i sarra) found in the remains of the Buddhas cremation fire were of three typeslike jasmine buds, like washed pearls, and like [nuggets] of goldand came in three sizesas big as mustard seeds, as broken grains of rice, and as split green peas.59 Today, sheli are still looked for in the cremation ashes of great monks, where their presence, size, and number testify to the sanctity of the deceased.60 They can also appear, however, during a persons lifetime, by emanation, from their hands, or hair, or clothes, or on altars, offering plates, or images, or by the side of stupas. For instance, 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, and all the monastery, including the highest lama who almost never left his room, were outside picking them up.61 Alternatively, 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].62 The presence and growth of such relics is a reflection of the merit and faith of devotees. Indeed, Emperor Wendis distribution of relics in pagodas throughout China was intended not only to testify to his and the Buddhas greatness but also to give the people an ongoing ever-growing opportunity to make merit.63 Conversely, lack of faith may be marked by an absence of relics. Thus, there is a Tibetan belief that if an enlightened monk dies but has no devoted disciples, there will be no relics for him.64 Similarly, in contemporary Sri Lanka, it is thought that relics will disappear if they are not accorded proper veneration.65 Relics, then, are a direct reflection of merit made and shared, and they represent also an opportunity to make and share more merit, here on earth. This is rather different from the case of Frederick the Wise, 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, that is, in purgatory. Hypothesis 5: Christian relics : growth by addition :: Buddhist relics : growth by multiplication.

A. Some years ago, David Sox, an authority on the Shroud of Turin, visited the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. 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


encasing bone, ashes, clothing and whatnot. They were the relics required in the altars of new churches waiting to be shipped out. Overseeing the transfer and authentication of these relics occupies much of the time of the popes Vicar-General at the Vatican, Archbishop Peter van Lierde, who, with the Vicariate of Rome, still provides relics not only for churches but also for personal devotional use as well.66


Of course, things were not always so centralized. Peter Brown, Patrick Geary, Anatole Frolow, and others have described the evolution of rather different and often more chaotic patterns by which relics came to be distributed geographically.67 Nonetheless, the control that Rome maintained and maintains here over the distribution and authentification of relics is noteworthy. Even charlatans laid claim to this Roman Catholic pedigree. Thus the pardoner, in Chaucers Canterbury Tales, declares: Ive got relics and pardons in my bag as good as anybodys in England, all given to me by the Popes own hand.68 In fact, various methods arose in Christianity for determining or asserting the authenticity of dubious relics. The most spectacular of these, perhaps, was the test by fire. The questioned relic was put on a bed of coals; if it did not burn, it was genuine, if it did burn, nothing had been lost.69 Much the same method may be found in Buddhism. Generally speaking, however, the authentification of a relic was (and still is) done with documents, and it became common for the owners of individual relics to possess elaborate records of their relics pedigrees, the equivalent, perhaps, in Buddhism, of the various vams a (chronicles) that focus on specific Buddhist relics.70 Canon Law is quite specific on the importance of such authentifying documents though it waffles somewhat on their necessity. Nonetheless, newly found relics should not be approved for public veneration without them, and they must pass through approved channels of church hierarchy.71 The distribution of Christian relics out from Rome, then, was generally centripetal in nature, a pattern in which ties to the center were maintained and still felt. B. In the Buddhist world, perhaps the greatest collector and distributor of relics was King Aoka. As the legend has it, he went around and gathered the Buddhas relics from the ancient drona stupas in which they had been enshrined just after the parinirvana. Aoka, however, did not keep all of these relics collected in his capital city for later farming out to individual sanctuaries. Instead, he divided and redistributed them in what was



perhaps his most famous legendary acthis construction of eighty-four thousand stupas throughout his empire.72 The nature of his distribution ideology is perhaps most tellingly revealed in an incident recounted in the Aokav \ adan \ a. Aoka, we are told, had ordered the eighty-four thousand portions of relics to be sent throughout his empire to wherever there was a population center of a koi of people. When it came time to send relics to the kingdom of Taksa ila, \ however, the Taksa ilans declared that their population numbered thirty-six kois and that therefore they merited thirty-six shares of relics. Aoka realized that if he were to agree to this demand, it would be impossible for him to distribute the relics far and wide. He therefore resorted to more authoritarian measures (called upay \ a [skillful means] in the text): he announced that thirty-five kois of people in Taksa ila\ would have to be summarily executed, and in that way the region would get only its one due share of relics. The Taksa ilans quickly withdrew their demand for the extra shares, and Aoka remanded his order.73 The principle of distribution here thus seems to be one of division and equal dissemination, and it might well be termed mandalaic. The relics need to be distributed in a balanced pattern throughout the kingdom. Other examples of this sort could be cited: the emperor Wendi, as we have seen, similarly distributed equal shares of relics to pagodas throughout China; likewise, 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,74 while the Sri Lankans spelled out ways in which stupas and bodhi trees were systematically established at every league throughout the island.75 In all of these cases, the relationship with the center is rather different than that in the case of Christian relics and the Vatican, a difference that perhaps can be expressed as follows: Hypothesis 6: Christian relics : centralized distribution on demand :: Buddhist relics : mandalization.

Given the tentative and somewhat idiosyncratic nature of the six hypotheses that have been set forth so far, any definitive conclusion at this point would be rather suspect. Perhaps it would be better, therefore, to end with yet another set of stories, this one concerning the end of relics, 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. A. In Christianity, as is well known, at the end of time, there occurs the phenomenon of bodily resurrection. Without getting into debates on the subject,



I will mention only one such scenario, the description of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37: there was a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. 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), it rapidly came to be linked to the theme of bodily resurrection and became in the popular mind an important eschatological image.76 Its importance in terms of relicsthe bones of the saintslies in its showing what Christian relics finally are in the long run: bodies. But the metaphors used to describe these bodies and the manner in which they become resurrected were mind boggling in their variety. As Caroline Bynum points out, the resurrection body was variously seen as angel, reassembled bones, bride, city, crystal, egg, foetus, fire, flowering plant, garment, glowworm, ivory, jewel, mended pot, mercury, mosaic, overflow of the soul, Pauline seed, phoenix, rebuilt temple, reforged statue, ship, sphere, tent, waterskin, and so on.77 B. In Buddhism, too, there is an eschaton, at least for the Buddhas body: the so-called parinirvana of the relics. According to this belief, prior to the advent of Maitreya, all the relics of the Buddhaincluding those in the nag \ a world and those in the realms of the godswill come together at Bodhgaya. None, not even those that are but the size of a mustard seed, will be lost en route. At Bodhgaya, they will reassemble and take on the form of the Buddhas body, complete with its thirty-two major and eighty minor marks, and in midair, they will perform once again the twin miracle like the one the Buddha performed during his lifetime, at Sr : av \ ast. Thus far, we would seem to have a nice parallel to Ezekiel. But then, the text specifies, the gods will lament: Today, the Dasabala [Buddha] will be parinirvanized; from now on, there will be darkness. And then a great fire, emanating from the relic body (dhat \ usarra) itself, will completely consume all of the relics, and the body of the Buddha will be seen no more. That is the disappearance of the relics.78 The contrast with the Christian scenario of resurrection and bodily reconstitution could hardly be more clear. Final Hypothesis: In the end, Christian relics : eternal bodies :: Buddhist relics : impermanent bodies.

1. See, for example, the sketch in C.F. Gordon Cumming, Two Happy Years in Ceylon (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1892), 292 ff.; and the compara-



tive set of drawings in J. Gerson Da Cunha, Memoir on the History of the Toothrelic of Ceylon, Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 11 (1875): 141. 2. On the Beijing tooth relic, see The Buddhas Tooth Relic Pagoda (Beijing: Buddhist Association of China, 1966); and Holmes Welch, Buddhism under Mao (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972), 18084. On this visit in 1972, see John Strong and Sarah Strong, A Post-Cultural Revolution Look at Buddhism, China Quarterly 54 (1973): 325. 3. See John Strong and Sarah Strong, A Tooth Relic of the Buddha in Japan: An Essay on the Sennyu\-ji Tradition and a Translation of Zeamis No\ Play Shari, Japanese Religions 20 (1995): 133. 4. See D. Balduino Bedini, Le Reliquie della Passione del Signore (Rome: Basilica S. Croce, 1987); and P. Heinrich Drenkelfort, The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem (Rome: Basilica S. Croce, n.d.). 5. I will, in this chapter, be dealing only with Christian and Buddhist relics, not with those of other traditions (Islam, etc.). For a more general survey, see John Strong, Relics, Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 12:27582. 6. Leonardo Olschki, The Crib of Christ and the Bowl of Buddha, Journal of the American Oriental Society 70 (1950): 16164. 7. Gregory Schopen, Burial Ad Sanctos and the Physical Presence of the Buddha in Early Indian Buddhism, Religion 17 (1987): 193225. 8. Robert H. Sharf, On the Allure of Buddhist Relics, Representations 66 (1999): 79. 9. E. O. Reischauer, Ennins Diary (New York: Ronald Press, 1955), 301. 10. Donald K. Swearer, personal communication. See also Jean Barthes, Les reliques sacres Phnom-Penh (511 octobre 1952), France-Asie 8, no. 78 (1952): 95155. 11. See Nicole Hermann-Mascard, Les reliques des saints: Formation coutumire dun droit (Paris: Editions Klinksieck, 1975), 214. It has been argued that this decree was only meant to be against the sale of relics and not their naked exposition, but see Hubert Silvestre, Commerce et vol de reliques au Moyen age, Revue Belge de philologie et dhistoire 30 (1952): 726. 12. See Eugene A. Dooley, Church Law on Sacred Relics (Washington: The Catholic University of America, 1931), 10204. 13. Wendy Doniger [OFlaherty], Other Peoples Myths (New York: Macmillan, 1988), 2. 14. John Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1977), 49.



15. On this see James Bentley, Restless Bones: The Story of Relics (London: Constable, 1985), 35, and Hermann-Mascard, 27 ff. On the defiling nature of any contact with tombs or corpses, see Numbers 19:1116 and Leviticus 21:14. 16. Wilkinson, Jerusalem, 40. 17. Patrice Boussel, Des reliques et de leur bon usage (Paris: Balland, 1971), 1718. 18. Bentley, Restless Bones, 35. 19. For different versions of the tale, see John Strong, The Legend and Cult of Upagupta (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 2832. 20. James Legge, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1886), 39 (text in T. 2085, 51:859a). 21. Wang Yi-tung, A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-Yang by Yang Hsan-chih (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 244 (text in T. 2092, 51:1021c22a). 22. See James Ware, Weishou on Buddhism, Toung pao 30 (1933): 156. See also Alexander Soper, Aspects of Light Symbolism in Gandha\ran Sculpture, Part 1, Artibus Asiae 12 (194950): 282; and Erik Zrcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959), 22425. 23. A full bibliography cannot be given here but, for a variety of positions on this issue, see other chapters in this volume (e.g., those by David Germano and Jacob Kinnard) and see also Malcolm David Eckel, The Power of the Buddhas Absence: On the Foundations of Maha\ya\na Buddhist Ritual, Journal of Ritual Studies 4 (1990): 6195; Gregory Schopen, Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), 125 ff., 154, 258 ff.; Donald K. Swearer, Hypostasizing the Buddha: Buddha Image Consecration in Northern Thailand, History of Religions 34 (1995): 26364; and Kevin Trainor, Relics, Ritual, and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lanka Therava\da Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 96 ff. 24. Paul Mus, La mythologie primitive et la pense de lInde, Bulletin de la Socit Franaise de Philosophie 37 (1937): 91. See also the passages from the Pa\li canon collected under the title Questions Which Tend Not to Edification in Henry Clarke Warren, Buddhism in Translations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1896), 11728. 25. Stephan Beyer, The Buddhist Experience (Encino: Dickenson, 1974), 214 (text in J. W. de Jong, Na\ga\rjuna, Mu\lamadhyamakaka\rika\h [Madras: Adyar Library, 1977], 39). 26. Gregory Schopen, On the Buddha and His Bones: The Conception of a Relic in the Inscriptions of Na\ga\rjunikonda, Journal of the American Oriental Society 108 (1988): 530. 27. Manorathapu\ran : Buddhaghosas Commentary on the Anguttara Nika\ya, ed. M. Walleser and H. Kopf (London: Pa\li Text Society, 1924), 1:38284 (Eng.



trans., John Strong, The Experience of Buddhism [Belmont: Wadsworth, 1995], 4647). 28. See The Maha\vamsa, ed. Wilhelm Geiger (London: Pali Text Society, 1908), 133 (Eng. trans., Wilhelm Geiger, The Maha\vamsa or the Great Chronicle of Ceylon. [London: Pali Text Society, 1912], 116). 29. Paul Mus, Barabudur: Les origines du stu\pa et la transmigration, essai darchologie religieuse compare (Hanoi: Imprimerie dExtrme-Orient, 1935), 1:74, 190. 30. Mus, Barabudur, 1:8990. 31. On this dynamic, see Strong, Upagupta, 109116. 32. Thomas Head, personal communication, 1995. 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, November 19, 1994. 33. Emile Briand, Histoire de Sainte Radegonde, reine de France, et des sanctuaires et plerinages en son honneur (Paris and Poitiers: H. Oudin, 1898), 157. Some of the wording here is based on the biography of Radegund by her contemporary, Sister Baudovonia. 34. On her reception of the true cross in Poitiers, which was the occasion of the composition by Fortunatus of the hymn Vexilla Regis Prodeunt, see Ren Aigrain, Sainte Radegonde (Poitiers: Editions des Cordeliers, 1917), 10428; and Edmond-Ren Labaude, Histoire de labbaye de Sainte-Croix de Poitiers (Poitiers: Socit des Antiquaires de lOuest, 1986), 3841. See also Peter Brown, Relics and Social Status in the Age of Gregory of Tours (University of Reading: The Stenton Lecture, 1977), 1415; and Raymond Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 3041. On the recent history of the relic and its present location outside of Poitiers, see Roger Gazeau, LAbbaye Sainte-Croix de Poitiers la Cossonire (Ligug: Imprimerie Aubin, 1968). 35. Aigrain, Radegonde, 191. 36. Boussel, Des reliques, 2829. 37. Li Ronxi, A Biography of the Tripiaka Master of the Great Cien Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty (Berkeley, Numata Center, 1995), 5657 (text in T. 2053, 50:229c-30a). 38. Wilkinson, Jerusalem, 4950. 39. Maha\vamsa, 24142 (Eng. trans., Geiger, Maha\vamsa, 20304). 40. On this theme, see John Strong, Relics of the Buddha (forthcoming), introduction. 41. Maha\vamsa, 255 (Eng. trans., Geiger, Maha\vamsa, 217).



42. Decima L. Douie and David H. Farmer, Magna Vita Sancti HugonisThe Life of St. Hugh of Lincoln (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 2:170. 43. For example, according to Saint Silvia (fourth century), 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. See sources listed in Anatole Frolow, La relique de la vraie croix: Recherches sur le dveloppement dun culte (Paris: Institut dEtudes Byzantines, 1961), 162. 44. For a recent linguistically informed discussion of the Eucharist, see Louis Marin, Food for Thought, trans. Mette Hjort (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1989), ch. 1. 45. G. J. C. Snoek, Medieval Piety from Relics to the Eucharist (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995). See also Patrick Geary, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 3435. 46. See Geary, Furta Sacra; and Silvestre, Le vol. 47. See Boussel, Des reliques, 5766. 48. This, of course, 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, on which, see Snoek, Medieval Piety, 38182. The Eucharist, however, was especially important given the dearth of corporeal relics of Christ. 49. See Mitomo Ryo\jun, An Aspect of Dharma-arra, Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies / Indogaku bukkyo\ gaku kenkyu\ 32 (1984): 1117; and Li, Great Tang Record, 266 (text in T. 2087, 51:920a). Much the same tradition is mentioned by Yijing (see Junjiro Takakusu, A Record of Buddhistic Religion as Practiced in India and the Malay Archipelago [London: Clarendon Press, 1896], 150). 50. See Brian Hickman, A Note on the Hyakumanto\ Dha\ran, Monumenta Nipponica 30 (1975): 8793; and J. Edward Kidder, Busshari and Fukuzo\: Buddhist Relics and Hidden Repositories of Ho\ryu\-ji, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 19 (1992): 222. 51. Daniel Boucher, The Prattyasamutpa\daga\tha\ and Its Role in the Medieval Cult of the Relics, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 14 (1991): 810 (text in T. 699, 16:800c801b). See also Mitomo, Dharma-arra, 1118. The verse was instrumental in the conversion of S:a\riputra and Maha\maudgalya\yana. For a still useful discussion of it, see Eugne Burnouf, Le Lotus de la Bonne Loi (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1852), 522 ff. 52. Stanley J. Tambiah, The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 335 ff. 53. Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand (Nerw York: Mentor Books, 1950), 53. 54. Jinhua Chen, Monks and Monarchs, Kinship and Kingship: Tanqian in Sui Buddhism and Politics (Kyoto: Scuola di Studi sullAsia Orientale), 181 (text in T. 2103, 52:213b).


55. Chen, Monks and Monarchs, 181.

56. Brian Ruppert, Jewel in the Ashes: Buddha Relics and Power in Early Medieval Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 136. 57. On Wendis relic campaigns, see Chen, Monks and Monarchs, ch. 2; and Arthur Wright, The Formation of Sui Ideology, in Chinese Thought and Institutions, ed. John K. Fairbank (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 71104. 58. Chen, Monks and Monarchs, 51, n.12. These were tested to insure their authenticity: struck with a hammer, they remained unsmashed. 59. The Sumangala-Vila\sin, Buddhaghosas Commentary on the Dgha Nika\ya, ed. William Stede (London: Pali Text Society, 1931), 2:60304. 60. For a discussion of sheli in East Asia, see Bernard Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 13743; for Southeast Asia, see Tambiah, Saints of the Forest, 109; for Tibet, see Dan Martin, Pearls from Bones: Relics, Chortens, Tertons and the Signs of Saintly Death in Tibet, Numen 41 (1994): 273324. 61. Tsultrim Allione, Women of Wisdom (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), 20304. 62. Allione, Women, 203. See also Martin, Pearls from Bones, 283. 63. Chen, Monks and Monarchs, 18990. 64. Allione, Women, 203. 65. Kevin Trainor, When Is a Theft Not a Theft? Relic Theft and the Cult of the Buddhas Relics in Sri Lanka, Numen 39 (1992): 15. 66. David Sox, Relics and Shrines (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1985), 7. 67. Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); Geary, Furta Sacra; Frolow, Vraie croix. 68. Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, trans. David Wright (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 409. 69. For examples, see Snoek, Medieval Piety, 32932; for discussion, see Thomas Head, Bodies of Truth: The Genesis and Abandonment of the Ritual Proof of Relics by Fire, paper delivered to Davis Seminar, Princeton University, 1993; for the ritual, see Dooley, Church Law, 27. 70. For examples of this genre, all dealing with relics of the true cross, see Anonymous, Expos historique de lhonneur et du culte quon rend au bois de la Vraie Croix dans lglise paroissiale de Notre Dame de la Chapelle Bruxelles (Brussels: Antoine dOurs, 1790); G. Svrac, Notice sur la Vraie Croix de St. Guilhem-du-Dsert (Lodve: n.p., 1861); and J. B. Barrau, Notice historique sur la Vraie Croix de Baug (Angers: Briand et Herv, 1874). For a discussion of the legitimizing role of vamsas, see Trainor, Relics, 164 ff.


71. Dooley, Church Law, 7274.


72. See John S. Strong, The Legend of King Aoka (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1983), 110 ff. 73. The Aoka\vada\na, ed. Sujitkumar Mukhopadhyaya (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1963), 54 (Eng. trans., Strong, Legend, 220). 74. H. L. Shorto, The 32 Myos in the Medieval Mon Kingdom, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 26 (1963): 57291. 75. Kiriwaththuduwe Pragnasara, Bodhi Literature in Sri Lanka, Maha Bodhi Tree in Anuradhapura, ed. H. S. S. Nissanka (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1994), 18081. 76. See Helmer Ringgren, Resurrection, Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 12:346. Even more graphic, perhaps, 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, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 2001336 [New York: Columbia University Press 1995], 54). 77. Bynum, Resurrection of the Body, 35152. 78. Manorathapu\ran , 1:90. Much the same scenario may be found in the Ana\gatavamsa, ed. J. Minayeff in Journal of the Pali Text Society 2 (1886): 36 (Eng. trans., Warren, Buddhism, 48485). In some versions of the story, the relics in Sri Lanka stop first at the Maha\thu\pa in Anuradhapura, then proceed to the Ra\ja\yatana cetiya in Na\gadpa, before going all together to Bodhgaya to join relics from other parts of the world. See Sumangala-Vila\sin, 3:899. See also Strong, Relics, ch. 8.

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David Germano
BUDDHISM IS THE ONE INDIGENOUS RELIGION IN ASIA WITH A LONG AND continuous record of successful migration, an impressive two and half millennia history from its northern Indian origins to the furthest reaches of Asia in every direction. This process has been marked as much by transformation and diversity as by continuity and unity, whether we look to its literatures, doctrines, practices, or institutions. Yet within this diversity, there is a persistent and even defining concern with the figure of the Buddha(s), whether serene or horrific, celibate or sexual, historical or cosmic, iconographic or doctrinal, ritual or contemplative, objects of emulation or objects of negation. These figures proliferated in the shimmering pure lands, dense mandalas, and alternative cosmologies of later forms of Buddhism, 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, massive cosmological Buddhas who create and host entire galaxies, and intimate interior Buddhas pervading the bodys interior. And yet within this diversity and divinity, there has remained a consistent humanist association stemming from the human origins of Buddhas, and the rejection of a creator deity who sits outside of interdependence, 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, creative force. With this humanism, there comes an equally persistent problem of presence and absence, of how a discrete, specific Buddha is present in this




ordinary world of samsara when his/her self-transfiguration by definition involves extrication from that world. It is thus not surprising that wherever we find Buddhism, we also find a concern for what could only be termed relicsbits and pieces of the Buddha, or Buddha-like historical figures, 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. Relics have been one of the most omnipresent and sought after phenomena of Buddhist material culture, often presented in recent scholarship as a way to mediate the Buddhas historical absence following death. Relics and statues of the Buddha are in many ways considered as the living Buddha, that is, as radically active agents, rather than a mere remainder from, or image of, a distant past. This quality of personhood or agency has been demonstrated through examination of concrete social practices surrounding relics and statues, including the attribution of such classic characteristics of ownership of property, the ability to be murdered, and so forth. In Mahayana traditions, this persistent agency of the Buddhas in material form has been further formalized in the theology of the three Bodies of a Buddha: a Buddhas innermost recesses become coterminous, in some sense, with reality (dharmata\), 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, which are unified in their divine agency and derivation, 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. In practice, however, these distinctions are far from clear. Relics can be pieces of the material bodya tooth, a bone, dried up flesh, odd crystalline derivates of the cremated body, or material items associated with a Buddhaclothing, ritual items, or other possessions. They can also be verbal, as encapsulated in the Buddhist scriptures, believed to have persisted orally in the hearts and minds of disciples before being committed to written, canonical form. Indeed it has been argued that stupas, images, and a wide spectrum of other items believed to derive from, emulate, represent, or incarnate a Buddhas presence should be considered relics.1 Relics also extend from the historical Buddha to other Buddhas, divine figures, and historical personages in a given traditions lineages. In the present volume, such relics are analyzed across a variety of situational contexts and functionsintellectual, ritual, social, literary, and politicaland across an equally diverse array of cultural contextsIndia, Japan, Thailand, and China. In this chapter I will turn to yet another cultural context, namely, Tibet, and to yet another sit-



uational context, namely, a philosophical interpretation of relics in relationship to Buddha-nature. Thus I will be concerned with the philosophy of the production of relics rather than practical issues of their subsequent use, thereby showing that there is not always a clear bifurcation between high intellectual traditions and a detailed interest in the material phenomenon of relics. 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. It emerged in Tibet by at least the ninth century, though claiming almost entirely to be Indian revelations concealed in Tibet during the eight and ninth centuries. It appears, however, that in fact its many variant traditions and corresponding bodies of literature emerged at different periods over many centuries as original Tibetan developments. 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. 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), which was systematized in the fourteenth century by Longchenpa (klong chen pa, 13081363). Funerary Buddhism signifies the late Indian Buddhist tantric obsession with death on multiple fronts: (1) the focus on charnel grounds and their corpses, (2) funerary rituals, (3) the signs of dying and death (particularly relics), (4) intermediate process theory (bar do, Sanskrit antara\bhava), and (5) contemplative yogas based on death.2 In this process of transformation, we find a concern with relics blossoming in conjunction with an elaborate tantric synthesis revolving around death, vision, and the body in relationship to Buddhas. I will show how relics are closely tied with Buddha-nature theory inscribed within an elaborate and architectonic philosophical synthesis. We thus will see that the traditional connection of Buddha-nature with birth, womb, and genesis is here balanced by associations with cemeteries, death, and relics, with tombs as much as with wombs.


We will begin with The All-Creating King, the chief tantra of the early strata of the Great Perfection. These early texts are characterized by a lack of reference to funerary Buddhism, and a general tendency toward aestheticization, which abstracts from discrete particulars, whether ritual and



contemplative processes or any other type of concrete detail. Thus, 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, the enlightening mind, spoke about holding on to his own Bodily bones (sku gdung): O Great Heroic Being, grasp this! If you continually hold on to these Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres (ring bsrel), you will be equal to me, the All-Creating, the original ancestor of the Victorious Ones. Then the Adamantine Heroic Being made this inquiry: O original ancestor of all the Buddhas of the three times, teacher of teachers, the All-Creating King! As to continually holding on to the Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres, Bodily refers to the Bodies (sku, ka\ya) of which Victorious Ones? Bones refers to the bones of which Buddhas? How should precious (relic) spheres be understood? The All-Creating Kings response: Listen, O Great Heroic Being! Bodily is the Spiritual Bodies of my sons, the threefold Victors. Bones signifies my mind in the Victors of the three times. If you hold on to this, Heroic Being, continually and without temporal [break], it is the receptacle of offering to all the Buddhas of the three times. This should be understood as the referent of Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres. The Adamantine Heroic Being made a further inquiry: O teacher of teachers, the All-Creating King! Even if the Bodily bones and precious (relic) spheres are thus, how do you offer to the Buddhas of the three times therein? What are the virtues to be had in offering? The All-Creating Kings response: Listen, 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. Having attained indivisibility with the virtues of that [act], you will become as potent as the King who creates all phenomena.3

Precious relic spheres (ring bsrel) are generally etymologized as held/proliferating (bsrel) for a long time (ring), based upon the notion



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 spheresusually referring to material residue of various types from the remains of a Buddha or saintas 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 texts general tendency to devalue the phenomenal characteristics of discrete items constituting ones 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 pai snying po, Sanskrit tatha\gatagarbha), ground (gzhi), and the All-Creating King. At the core of this notion is realitys (chos nyid, Sanskrit dharmata\) absence, latency (nang gsal), and indeterminacy, the total converse of our ordinary cyclic existence (samsa\ra) with its manifest structures (phyir gsal) of discrete things and karmic laws of cause and effect forming a prison. While normally realitys 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 ja\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 ones 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 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 traditions 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 Moons 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



(kar ma gling pa, 13271387) 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 enlightenmentliving signs manifest in a visionarys body, speech, and mind by force of contemplation, while relics mark enlightenment within death. Its three chapters correspond to signs emerging in a visionarys 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 texts 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 generatesliterally, the bodys 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 traditions 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 Buddhas 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 Longchenpas 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 Da\kin asking what type of signs emerge when a yogi is unable to successfully bring contemplation to its fulfillment and dies. Buddha Vajra Holders (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 visionarywhether at death, four days later in the postdeath intermediate process, or otherwise. Longchenpas 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 practitioners 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 Perfections contemplations,15 (2) the signs naturally occurring in ones 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 persons 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-



formations occurring in the different elements of the visions in direct transcendence contemplation (thod rgal). It is of note that much of the imagery involves the spontaneous unfolding of visual images of Buddhas and lights from within the body, strikingly similar to the postmortem events discussed elsewhere in the text. The practice of direct transcendence itself involves the use of postures, gazes, 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 ones current body, speech, and mind indicating successful engagement in these practices during previous lifetimes. These range from a natural capacity for concentration to birthmarks which are remarkably similar to classic auspicious symbols. While the manifestation of such contemplation within the practitioners speech and mind is more straightforward (eloquence, clairvoyance, etc.), the signs manifesting within a practitioners body are of particular interest. The Blazing Relics Tantra describes these living bodily relics as follows: (i) A conch spiraling to the right, Or wrinkles going upwards like three tips [of a vajra, trident and so on], Or, likewise the letter Om Will emerge in image or naturally protrude On the expanse of the forehead Of whoever tunes into the Blissful Ones. Whoever has such signs emerge Previously spiritually trained on the Buddhas Body; That yogi who trains on this Will in two lifetimes attain The time of utter assurance In being inseparable from the Buddhas Body. Thus you should value highly in this very life Diligence in meditative cultivation, Without allowing obstructions to gain sway. (ii) The fortunate individual Who previously spiritually trained On the Speech of all the Buddhas, Has images or protruding shapes On the right and left side of the throat:



An eight petaled lotus, Conch spiraling to the right, Or likewise the tip of a silk prayer flag curling upwards, Iron hook or sword, Or marked by the letter Ah. The individual who has these marks Has previously spiritually trained On the Speech of all the Buddhas, And thus in two lifetimes will come to attain the definitive fruit As s/he becomes one with Enlightened Speech. 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. (iii) Whoever has previously become experientially familiar With the Mind of the Buddhas, Will find their body marked by the following signs: At the location of the heart Is an upright trident and vajra, Or likewise a four spoked wheel, Flesh glowing in the form of a trident, The shape of precious jewels, Or the mark of the letter Hu\m. The person for whom these emerge Is a fortunate one who has experientially familiarized himself With the Mind of the Buddhas; When diligent in meditative cultivation, Without obstructions in three lives There can be no doubt that s/he will be expansively awakened Within the mandala of the Buddhas Mind.18 Longchenpa explains19 the rationale for these signs manifestation with respect to the primordial ground of being and nonbeing.20 The Enlightened Body, Speech, and Mind are present naturally within all living beings as the all-pervading primordial potencies or self-emergent dynamic qualities of the ground, and thus by previous spiritual refinement and training they become manifest in the present. They also indicate imminent realizationbodily signs indicate that by further training on the



Enlightened Body one will attain the adamantine Body in two lifetimes, verbal signs indicate that adamantine Speech can be accomplished within two births, and mental signs indicate enlightenment within three lifetimes. However, he also stresses that the signs are not ultimate indicators and that everything depends on ones current actions21hence the signs should motivate further practice. 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, the god Brahmas level, and as a demi-god respectively (corresponding to the signs of Body, Speech, and Mind).22 Longchenpa concludes the chapter with an analysis of what we would consider relics proper: the various external environmental signs (such as weather, earthquakes, or strange appearances) and internal signs (such as relics or marks on bones) evident in a given persons death and cremation. These signs are interpreted as indicating an advanced visionarys postmortem spiritual realization (i.e., his/her possible enlightenment within death or in one of the phases of postdeath experience). 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. 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, small spheres emerging from the cremated remains, lights, sounds, or earthquakes. 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.e., death/nirvana], The images of Spiritual Bodies, bones, and Likewise lights, sounds, And earthquakes are present.24 While the components of this fivefold classification in general are common aspects of Buddhist signs of saintly death, the interpretative detail, as we shall see below, is seamlessly interwoven with the Seminal Hearts distinctive ideology of a radically active Buddha-nature. Earlier in the chapter, Longchenpa25 cites The Tantra of the Adamantine Heros Heart-Mirrors 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; (2) the measures and signs of freedom in the postdeath intermediate process; and (3) the measures and signs of gaining respite in a pure land following death:


Hey friends, teach the precepts thus to those individuals who abide within this teaching. As indicatory omens of a person passing beyond misery in transcendence, these occur. If you stay alone your experience is joyous; your body is as light as cotton fluff; you dont long for companionship with people; you feel as if you could fly through the sky; when these appearances cease there is a joyous mood; you are unattached to body and life; your mind doesnt get wrapped up within any appearances whatsoever; cognition is radiantly clear without any depressed quality, and is naturally at ease; you are comfortable in company; no emotional distortions whatsoever are able to rise up, and though emotional distortions may arise, you dont cling to them with reifications; no attachment develops to attractive forms and there is no aversion to unattractive forms; considerations of food and drink dont come about by virtue of the potency of your contemplation; and when in the company of people you will act in accordance with others mental states. These are the indicatory omens of completely transcending misery. Transcending misery (mya ngan las das pa, Sanskrit nirva\na) is twofold: the perfect ultra-pure expansive awakening, and the perfect manifest expansive awakening. The perfect ultra-pure expansive awakening is the expansive awakening of Buddhahood devoid of any remainder of the psycho-physical components, while for the person of the perfect manifest expansive awakening, lights, sounds, bones, earthquakes and so forth emerge. Light is of two types: appearance in the manner of a luminous home [circular in appearance], and appearance in the manner of a ladder, with light in vertical pillars or bands. The light appearing as if a house indicates that in five days stability is attained, and the person is perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened; the light appearing as if a staircase indicates that in seven days s/he is perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened. Sound is also of two types: if it emerges in a humming fashion, then in seven days s/he is perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened; if it emerges like a roaring sound then in fourteen days s/he is perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened. As for bones, they are fivefold: the color blue indicates being perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened in the pure realm of the Illuminating One (Vairocana); the color white indicates being perfectly and manifestly expansively awakened in the pure realm of the Adamantine Hero (Vajrasattva); the color yellow indicates the pure realm of the Precious Matrix (Ratnasambhava); the color red indicates the pure realm of Limitless Illumination (Amita\bha); and the color green indicates the


pure realm of the Efficacious One (Amoghasiddhi). If a variety of colors occurs, that individual will proceed to the site of the spontaneous fulfillment of these five Buddha-Bodies. The Spiritual Body-images as well are twofold: the peaceful Bodies, and the wrathful ones. If the peaceful Bodies manifest, the deceased obtains stability the moment these appearances cease, and is unable to emit Emanational Bodies. If the Wrathful Bodies manifest, s/he obtains stability right there and in twenty one days can emit Emanational Bodies. If those signs dont manifest, final enlightenment will be delayed by one more birth, and then it is impossible that they wont manifest just like that. In this way lights, sounds, bones, Spiritual Body-images, or at least the precious (relic) spheres on upwards manifest.26


In conversations with contemporary figures from the Great Perfection tradition, 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, a sacred item such as a stupa, or in rare cases a living person; footprints and handprints in stone, handwriting on conch shells, or odd marks resembling sacred syllables or designs on a lamas body in the forms of wrinkles or discolorations. These are all a matter of considerable interest in Tibetan religious culture from lay to monastic, from the highest rinpoche to the lowliest monk. For example, 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, India, 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. Monks within the relevant lineages often relay stories of the famous nineteenth-twentieth-century master Khenpo Ngakchung (mkhan po ngag chung, 18791941) 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). The patterns evident in skin from various shades of coloration are particularly a focus of attention in religious circles, with dark discolorations considered inauspicious, while lighter marks are auspicious. Penor Rinpoche is also said to have many such white marks on his body, particularly white spheres around his waist. Even precious (relic) spheres are in some cases said to come from living persons; one such instance I have heard of



again relates to Penor Rinpoche. He gave one of his teeth to his attendant Kunzang lama (kun bzang bla ma), who kept it in a box. Later this produced small, white, very translucent spheres, which then themselves have continued to multiply. I have encountered considerably more enthusiasm than skepticism on these issues, especially when the subject of discussion pertains to the persons own root teacher or recent lineage masters. 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.27 The fact that such legitimization is also indirectly, yet clearly, an authentication of the disciple, that is, the speaker, is hard to miss, even if sincere respect is also manifest. Conversely, disparaging remarks tend not to be about the phenomena in general, but rather directed toward others, that is, other lineages about which the speaker may have little invested. One conversation I remember in particular concerned a famous Tibetan teacher who died in the United States, after which his Western disciples gathered together relics. Some visiting lamas were invited to view the relics subsequently but to their disappointment found that mere bones were the object of valorization. The disparaging character of the remark was clear (see figure 3.1). Just as direct transcendence contemplation involves images of Buddhas literally projecting from the visionarys eyes as an exteriorization of internal Buddhas into experience, 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. The Blazing Relics Tantra classifies them as twofold in accordance with the peaceful and wrathful Buddhas (in life, the former is located in the heart and the latter in the skull within the subtle bodys internal map): In the passage beyond misery of one of the select, By cremating what remains of the body (His/her contaminated material remainder), Two types of Bodily Images show up on the bones, Corresponding to the peaceful and wrathful Bodies. For whoever tunes into the deity yogas Visualizing the forms of these two types of Spiritual Bodies, Images of both forms will manifest at death; Should both become evident in death, This indicates s/he will thus come to be possessed of the assurance


FIGURE 3.1. Shukseb nunnery, Tibet, with a prominent white stupa to the right containing the relics of its charismatic leader, Shukseb Jetsunma. The stupa is the basis for her continuing active role in the community in terms of visions, dreams, and daily circumambulation rituals, illustrating how relics can continue to be dynamic agents in a monastery or nunnery. Photograph by David Germano



Of the great originally pure essence, Without even having to pass onto the postdeath intermediate process. If the peaceful Bodies signs show up, It indicates that in five days s/he will see the truth, And dissolve into the expansive awakening of Buddhahood. Should the wrathful Bodies sign show up, It indicates s/he will come to be freed in five instants Within the postdeath intermediate process of reality, O Da\kin!28 The corresponding section in The Supreme Vehicle discusses these images in terms of their essence, classifications, causal impetus, location, and fruit.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. Longchenpa then clearly specifies that these relics are to be understood as activated aspects of the visionarys primordial Buddha-nature, 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 appearancea single Body, a half body, Mother-Father consort pairs, a cluster of deities, a full mandala, or their concordant images of stu\pas, wheels, vajras, precious items, lotuses, crossed vajras, swords and so forth. Manifesting from the sustained practice of the developing and perfecting phases of tantric meditation are letters, hand emblems, half Bodies and single Bodies, while from the complete perfection of these two meditative phases there manifests the pairs in sexual union, clusters of deities and the mandalas . . . Their causal impetus is twofold. Their essential cause is the primordial presence of the luminously radiant Spiritual Bodies and bones within all sentient beings, whereas in the current context a practitioners vivid visualization in the developing and perfecting meditative phases acts as the causal impetus of these images direct manifestation, as they emerge out of his/her bodys vibrant energies being thus concentrated. When merely latently present these Spiritual Bodies are unripened in their own being, while when directly manifest the ripened Spiritual Bodies and bones appear clearly . . . In terms of location, they predominantly show up on the skull or backbone. Although they may show up elsewhere as well, for Great Perfection practitioners these Bodily images emerge via experientially tun-


ing into radiant light, and thus are taught as emerging from these two locations (where our internal radiant light is especially concentrated) . . . In terms of corresponding meditative fruit, the manner of these images manifestation indicates the sequencing in this practitioners attainment of freedom. If both peaceful and wrathful images emerge, when in dying the practitioners consciousness dissolves into the sky, s/he becomes free right when this sky arises (original puritys natural radiation), 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, since their freedom takes place in the latter portion of the process during which they become separated from their current lifes physical basis (i.e., death). If the image of a peaceful Body emerges, as soon as this vision (i.e., of the sky) ceases, the self-presencing visions of radiant light will dawn and the practitioner will become free in five contemplation-days. Contemplation-days refers to contemplations stability, which can be short or long depending upon the practitioner. If the image of a wrathful Body emerges, after death the guiding rope of the Adamantine Hero emerges from the practitioners eyes, and as the self-presencing of sounds, lights, and rays manifests s/he will be freed in five instants.30


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, though this ability emerges subsequently as the grounds spontaneous dynamics reawaken within the empty energy of enlightenment. This is opposed to those practitioners who become freed within the postdeath intermediate process of reality, who can emit emanations in the forms of the six types of living beings following twenty-one days of contemplation, which is a direct continuation of the energy of his/her style of awakening:
The Adamantine Heros Heart-Mirror says: If the image of a peaceful Body should manifest, after death as soon as this vision (i.e., of the sky) ceases, the practitioner gains stability, though s/he cannot emit Emanational Bodies (sprul sku, Sanskrit nirma\naka\ya). If the image of a wrathful Body should manifest, (the practitioner) gains stability right there, and is able to emit Bodies of Emanations in twentyone days. The practitioner for whom a peaceful Body-image manifests focuses on the path of radiant light, thus becoming directly free within


the site of original purity. In this way, the self-presencing emanations dont emerge from the intermediate processsince this site of originary purity is devoid of the emanations appearances, it is not a dimension where the self-presencing emanations manifest from your own side. However, since that dimension is the pure grounding potential of the Enjoyment (longs, Sanskrit sambhoga) and Emanational Spiritual Bodies which manifest to and for others (other-presencing), enlightened activity for others welfare does eventually emerge in dependence upon it. Even so it must be recognized that original purity in itself is devoid of any manifest dimension of emanations.31 When the practitioner for whom a wrathful Body-image manifests frees him/herself through recognizing the triad of sounds, lights and rays (of the postdeath reality intermediate process) as self-presencing, s/he remains for a while in the manifestation of the spontaneously dynamic ground-presencing, and thus completes twenty-one days of contemplation. Subsequently the six types of living beings experiences manifest through the impure gateway of self-presencing cyclic existence, while through the pure gateway Emanational Bodies diffuse forth in forms corresponding to those requiring spiritual training, and thus efficaciously act for others welfare. Like a magical illusion acting for illusory ends, these self-presencing emanations efficaciously act within this self-presencing world. Having emitted emanations, it is necessary that prior to that you have already taken hold of freedom, 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. These emanations are explained as resembling shooting stars, and while they in fact endure longer than that, are uncertain in duration. 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), many fret over whether or not a Buddha is able to act for others spiritual benefit following his/her expansive awakeningthis is a major mistake. In the Great Vehicle (theg chen, Sanskrit mahay \ an \ a), it is not believed that there are any Buddhas that once expansively awakened dont or cant act for others benefit, and in fact that is impossible. 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 processs manifestation of the gateways to spontaneous presence, lack emanations, since the impure training fields of emanations dont manifest at this time. If, once the gateways to spontaneous presence subsequently remanifest, the enlightened ones didnt act for others welfare by means of emitting emanations within these impure appearances, cyclic existences appearance would


not subside. Thus to perfectly complete the Buddhas activities which were not perfected in self-presencing fashion (i.e., right out of the very force of awakening, as opposed to subsequently emerging due to extrinsic considerations such as disciples needs), emanations are then dispatched by these newly enlightened ones. Having emptied out cyclic existence through these emanations efficacious action, again these manifest emanations proceed to the site of original purity as they dissolve inside the eight gateways to spontaneous presence. Since this site of original purity is beyond manifestation or non-manifestation, the individual three Spiritual Bodies are not directly differentiated within it aside from its being their pure source potential. Thus you should understand the way in which once the ground-presencing dawns externally out of its dimension, the benefiting of others comes about.32


Literally the honorific form of bone, gdung also signifies heritage or lineage (the bone connection), or the remains of a dead person (since bones survive the decay or burning of flesh and tissue). However, in addition to signifying bodily remains, in the present context it refers to tiny luminous spheres filled with color found amidst the cremated remains of a saint. The sense of heritage or descendants is present in the sense that these derive from ones affinity with the individual Buddha families and embody their energy. In addition they are the progeny or effect of ones spiritual endeavors in this life, which culminates in a death that gives birth to bones, earthquakes, and so forth, as well as the subsequent limitless display of enlightened activity. The term translated below as precious (relic) spheres (ring bsrel, Sanskrit arra), often translated into English as relics, appears to have two senses etymologically: multiplying long afterwards and to hold, keep or revere for a long time. The former sense is connected to belief that these spheres physically divide and multiply long after their initial emergence, while the latter sense would appear to indicate that these are items of enduring value. In colloquial Tibetan, 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). 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. The Blazing Relics Tantra classifies the bones, these tiny spheres that emerge from the cremated remains of a saint, as fivefold in dependence



upon the five Buddha families (rigs). Correlating this to Longchenpas discussion of Buddha-nature in The Treasury of Words and Meanings third chapter with its emphasis on the five families, this again emphasizes how these signs are simply the manifestation of indwelling forces signified as Buddhas. The five are named with evidently Tibetan transmutations of the standard Sanskrit term for relics, arra: Shariram is the bones of the Blissful Ones family And likewise Bariram Is the bones of the adamantine family. Churiram is the precious familys bones, And seriram is the lotus familys. Similarly Nyariram is the activity familys bones.33 Longchenpa characterizes the tantras following detailed explanation as indicating these bones individual colors, size, causal substance, and locations. The specificity of bodily location echoes the very specific locations indicated for the mind, gnosis, Reality Body (dharmaka\ya), and universal ground (a\laya) in the fourth chapter of The Treasury of Words and Meanings. In addition to such detailed mapping out of the body being a strong evocation of the physical inherence of the Buddha within all life, it illustrates how the entire spectrum of philosophical inquiries pursued elsewhere in abstract language is additionally thought out through the detailed medium of the bodys interiorities and capacities. From the same tantra: (i) Shariram is a lucent white, A lustrous sphere with shining color The size of a single pea. It ripens from the vibrant quintessence of bone And thus condenses into a sphere, Emerging from the head of one who has actualized the paths meditative techniques. (ii) Bariram is a dark blue The size of a white mustard grain, Or single small pea. It is the concentration of warmths vibrant quintessence And emerges from the space between the ribs, O Da\kin!



(iii) Churiram is yellow in color, The size of a mustard seed, and the vibrant quintessence of blood; It emerges on top of the liver. (iv) Seriram is a lucent red, Also a mere mustard seed in size; It is synthesized from the concentration of bodily elements, And emerges from the kidneys of the fortunate one, O Da\kin! (v) Nyariram is an emerald green, The size of a mustard seed with radiant color; From the vibrant quintessence of cognition, It emerges atop the lungs. All of these are unified in a general spherical shape, And have a depth-hue of the five colors.34 Longchenpa characterizes these bones as indestructible and contrasts them to another type of minute sphere that emerges in the cremated remains, which he labels precious (relic) spheres. These are liable to destruction by the elements, and my own experience among contemporary Tibetan communities is that while the former are extremely rare, these latter are a quite common phenomenon. Longchenpa interprets the latter as a sign indicating the practitioner has found respite within a pure land of emanations following death. He cites The Blazing Relics Tantra thus: Similar to these bones Are the subtle and fine precious (relic) spheres, Which are a mere sesame seed or dust mote in size, And are liable to destruction by the elements; Their presence indicates the deceased practitioner has gone to the pure land of emanations. Bones in contrast cannot be destroyed by anyone at all, And with this hardness impervious to all fear, All these practitioners attain the fearless expansive awakening of Buddhahood.35 In prefacing the first citation in The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 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, but also are themselves granted a philosophical significance:


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. 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. The attuned practitioner ripens them into direct manifestation by training on the path of the radiant light nucleus, and by one of this quintet (shariram and so on) thus emerging in your death, you will be freed within your particular spiritual family.36

In followup remarks37 Longchenpa clarifies that the particular Buddha family manifesting in a practitioners 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 Buddhas pure land. In this way, whether one type of bone or all five types together manifest in a persons remains following death, 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. 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, while the color correspondences for the wrathful bones are given from The Self-Arisen Tantra as follows:38 shariram is a lucent white, churiram is a black-blue, bariram is a burnt yellow, nyariram is a dark purple, and panytsaram (corresponding to seriram) is a dark red-green. He also cites39 The Adamantine Heros HeartMirror to the effect that the color blue corresponds to being perfectly awakened within Illuminating Ones (Vairocana) pure realm, the color white to that of the Adamantine Hero (Vajrasattva), the color yellow to that of Precious Matrix (Ratnasambhava), the color red to that of Limitless Illumination (Amita\bha), and the color green to that of the Efficacious One (Amoghasiddhi); multicolored bones signify proceeding to the site of the five Spiritual Bodies spontaneous presence. As to their respective sizes, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle40 says that the shariram are the size of a mon pea (i.e., from the regions south of central Tibet), which is equivalent to the size of a white pea. The others are as big as a white mustard seed, or a small pea, and are lustrous, condensed, and spherical. As for the causal impetuses described here, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle identifies these as relating to the peaceful bones, while the wrathful bones are specified from The SelfArisen as deriving from the following quintessences:41 shariram from the



gray matter of the skull, churiram from bloods vibrant quintessence, bariram from the joints vibrant quintessence, nyariram from marrows vibrant quintessence, and panytsaram from the bodys four elements vibrant quintessence. Finally, 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, while with the wrathful bones s/he obtains respectively the Reality Body, the Enjoyment Body, the Emanational Body, the Body of Efficacious and Meaningful Manifest Enlightenment, and the Body of Unchanging Adamantine Reality. Thus in the latter list Longchenpa has correlated the five as given in The Self-Arisen to the standard enumeration of five Spiritual BodiesThe Self-Arisen specifies that with shariram you obtain the unborn, with churiram the efficacious and meaningful (also translatable as the Efficacious One), with bariram the Enjoyment Body, with nyariram the Emanational Body, and with panytsaram the adamantine reality itself. The difference between the bones and precious (relic) spheres is dealt with at length in The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle.43 The precious (relic) spheres are spherical and possess different combinations of the five colors. As to their causal impetus, they emerge from the condensation of the white and red quintessences and the vibrant quintessence of flesh, bones, warmth, and breath, whereas the bones emerge from the utter quintessence of these vibrant quintessences. As for the location where they develop and emerge, it is between the bodys joints or between its flesh and skin. As for the location of their ripening, since they exist in all the bones, flesh, and skin, they subsequently emerge from all over. In particular there are four types: those emerging from the flesh, skin, and bones; those emerging from the blood, lymph, and quintessence; those emerging from warmth; and those emerging from breath. The corresponding colors are white, red-yellow, red, and green-blue. As for the fruit of the precious (relic) spheres, fortunate ones who have meditated on the heart-essence teachings will find respite in the pure land of natural emanations, while for others the effect is uncertain. Some will be born in high rebirths, some will be born in miserable rebirths, and so forth. This is because they can also manifest in ordinary living beings, birds, dogs and other animals, evil people, and virtuous teachers overly given to intellectual pursuits. 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, while the former are not, the latter possess the five lights, while the former lack



them, and the latter are the tree of enlightenment, while the former are merely its leaf. Finally, if it is hoped that precious (relic) spheres will be retrieved from a cremated body, then it is important not to overdo the burningunlike bones, the precious (relic) spheres will be destroyed by too much exposure to the heat.

Light is at the heart of the Seminal Heart system. A distinctive description of odd shapes of light gradually forming into pure lands of Buddhas is at the heart of its innovations in cosmogony, contemplative practices, 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, vertical pillars, 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, This person will attain the definitive fruit. Within the first part of the postdeath intermediate process Should pillars of light emerge, Without the intermediate process manifesting, this person Is expansively awakened into Buddhahood in an instant. If the light manifests in horizontal beams, At the end of the postdeath intermediate process S/he will attain manifest enlightenment.44 The Supreme Vehicle discusses light in terms of its essence, causal impetus, divisions, and fruit:
Lights essence is the natural radiance of the five colors. 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 practitioners experiential tuning into his/her internal vibrant elements and awareness. As for its internal classifications, it can be seen as the triad of vertical pillars, horizontal beams, and encircling hoops of light, or alternatively this light is found in the manner of a staircase leading into the sky, and in its arriving at the skys center it manifests as a luminous circular house.


As for the corresponding fruit it indicates, if the light emerges in encircling hoops, you will be free in the first intermediate process. If it emerges like vertical pillars leading you into the sky, you will be free without proceeding through the intermediate process of reality by directly passing to original purity. If it is beams of light, the practitioner will be free during the final intermediate process. If staircases of light are found around the deceaseds body, house, or crematoriums walls, 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). If the light emerges like a luminous house, s/he will be free in five days at the manifestation of clusters of deities (also a phase in the postdeath visions). . . . Here also when the grounds spontaneous presence manifests, the enlightened one radiates forth emanations. In this external diffusion of emanations from within its range for the benefit of sentient beings in the worlds ten directions, their welfare is actualized by two forms of emanation in the training environments (i.e., our impure worlds being fields where living beings need, and may receive spiritual teachings)emanations as self-presencing reflection-forms corresponding to the six types of livings beings, and emanations as other-presencing (see above) self-characterized concrete-forms corresponding to the six types of living beings.45


My translation emphasizes the architectural imagery of light in these visions, terminology drawn straight from the traditions 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.46 Longchenpas interpretation is explicit, 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 3.2).

The odd sounds marking a saintly death are interpreted in terms of the Seminal Hearts distinctive and unusually strong concern for sound, evident in its core tantra, The Tantra of Unimpeded Sound, which introduces motifs relating to sound not found elsewhere in esoteric Buddhism.47 Longchenpa divides these funerary sounds in accordance with their particular direction and aural quality,48 citing The Blazing Relics Tantra as follows:


FIGURE 3.2. Yogis contemplating luminous visions of their inner Buddha-nature, 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, Lhasa). Photograph by David Germano



If the sound is particularly resonant In a spot near to the eastern direction From the resting place where s/he has passed away, This practitioner is of the adamantine family. Likewise if in the southern direction, The sound indicates a manifestation of the family of preciousness, While if in the west, it is thus the lotus family. In the north, it is the family of action, And similarly to the zenith (above) it is the family of the realized (tatha\gata). The nature of such sound is That it can be distinguished as peaceful or wrathful There is roaring and humming, a staccato of sharp jangling sounds, And a smooth flow of long mellifluous sounds respectively. If the death is marked by such sounds, It indicates the deceased has obtained the fruit Of the Spiritual Body of Complete Enjoyment.49 The Supreme Vehicle discusses sound in terms of its essence, divisions, causal impetus, and fruit. In so doing it emphasizes the peaceful and wrathful dualism so pervasive of the traditions iconography, in addition to the fivefold Buddha family emphasized in the preceding. These also directly echo the description of sound in direct transcendence and postmortem visions of internal Buddhas emerging out of the body:
Sounds essence is resonance in the auditory faculty. Though sound can be classified into melodious, discordant, and neutral types, in this context there is said to be two: the drum roll of the peaceful deities, a long and smooth flowing sound, and the thunder clap of the wrathful deities, fierce and short, which can also be expressed as humming and roaring sounds respectively. As to its impetus, in general sounds causation is said to stem from the condition of two things striking against each other in spaces openness, while here it emerges via the causal impetus of obtaining meditative stability. As for the fruit it indicates, the practitioner attains the Spiritual Body of Enjoyment, and the diffusion of Emanational Bodies from within it. Furthermore, by the long, smooth flowing humming the practitioner


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. The five spiritual families apply to both of these (peaceful and wrathful), and the examination of the characteristics indicating which of the five spiritual families the practitioner becomes free in is as follows. If the sound resonates to the east of the deceased practitioners residence or the place where his/her corpse has been carried and cremated, s/he accomplishes expansive awakening in the adamantine family; the south indicates the preciousness family; the west indicates the lotus family; in the north the action family, and sound emerging from above indicates the realized ones family.50

The final sign of saintly death is the ancient motif of earthquakes (sa g.yo). Since the term for earth is the same used in describing stages (sa, Sanskrit bhu\mi) of realization, it enables a word play: the earth quaking (g.yo) marks the visionarys impelling (g.yo) him/herself to a new spiritual level. Longchenpa thus interprets earthquakes in terms of very specific stages of realization attained by the deceased. In The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 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. Likewise if in three days after death The earthquake comes to pass, S/he attains the level of a Self-Awakened One. If it emerges in six days, S/he enters the level of an Awakening Hero/ine (Sanskrit bodhisattva). O Da\kin! Should the earthquake come to pass In nine days, S/he will be able to enjoy at his/her own pleasure The status of the spiritually aware (rig dzin, Sanskrit vidya\dhara). For the one with the fortune of earthquakes appearing, The fruit of expansive awakening will not manifest,



But rather s/he will continue for a long time to train in and remain within The spiritual levels and paths.51 The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle discusses these earthquakes in terms of their essence, causal impetus, internal classifications, and corresponding fruit:
Its essence revolves around the lower foundation of the physical environment, which supports and sustains living beings. Its causal impetus is that the deceased individuals potency incites winds, which thus cause the earth to quake. As to its internal classifications, there is the quartet of an earthquake, an intense earthquake, an even greater earthquake, and a widespread major earthquake. As to its corresponding fruits, 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 havent seen the gateway of this (probably referring to direct transcendence visions), or the life-transference (i.e., death) of those involved in practices for the intellect wrapped up in objective references,53 or even those ordinary individuals who wear liberation upon wearing amulets with aspiration and diligence towards the spiritual paths.54 Furthermore, if the earthquake occurs in the center of that area as soon as the deceased is without breath, that practitioner attains the vision of a Listeners white exalted level, and then continues to train in its seven subsequent stageswith the stages of spiritual affinity, the eighth, vision, diminishment, realizing completion, listener, and self-awakened. These are the eight levels of the inferior path.55 If the earthquake takes place from the eastern direction three days after death, the practitioner has attained the level of a Self-Awakened One, with its four successive stages of neophyte, once-returner, nonreturner, and vanquisher. If the earthquake is in the south within six days, the practitioner has gained the level of a Spiritual Hero. Herein are the ten causal spiritual stages of Intense Joy, the Stainless, the Illuminating, the Radiant, the Difficult to Refine, Coming to the Fore, Dispersion Far Away, the Unwavering, Superior Wisdom, and Clouds of Spirituality, as well as the eleventh fruitional stage of Universal Light. If the earth should quake nine days after death from the zenith together with a little sound, the practitioner has attained the stage of the Spiritually Aware, which has the four stages of maturation, mastery of life span, the great seal, and spontaneous presence.


Furthermore, since these individuals will not quickly attain their respective definitive spiritual fruits, 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, these practitioners remain a long time in the intervening period.56


These accounts of relics must thus be understood within the traditions own broader discursive architecture. Following The Seventeen Tantras, Longchenpas Treasury of Words and Meanings uses a structure of eleven adamantine topics to present the Seminal Hearts system. (1) A cosmogonic ground is presented as a primordial pure potentiality, which is an absence brimming with possibility. It ceaselessly gives rise from its interior self-contained potentiality to exteriorized actuality in the groundpresencing, which is described in terms of traditional Buddhist representations of pure lands. Two paths open up in this process, the first of which is the liberation of a primordial Buddha Samantabhadra upon self-recognizing this process, involving dissolution of all structures. (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 process is characterized by the fabrication of rigid laws and structures. (3) The grounds primordial purity and virtual potentiality continue to pervade all living beings with its fivefold dynamics as an enlightened nucleus or Buddha-nature. (4) Longchenpa next turns to the location of primordial gnosis within ones body/mind and its relationships to ones ordinary distorted psychic activity. This consists of differentiating between two linked pairsthe Buddhas Reality Body (chos sku, Sanskrit dharmaka\ya) and primordial gnosis (ye shes, Sanskrit ja\na), in contrast to ordinary beings universal ground (kun gzhi, Sanskrit a\laya) and mind (sems, Sanskrit citta). The focus is on an ongoing fluid intelligence that constitutes, yet remains distinct from, ordinary existence. We thus have a psychological version of the source-derivative opposed pair first presented cosmologically in the first two topics. (5) The fifth topic is subtle body theory, that is, tantric physiology presenting the pathways via which gnosis operates within ones own body. 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 practitioners eyes into the external



space surrounding him/her, where s/he can contemplatively tune into its inner significance. The forms gnosis takes externally are pure lands. (7) This concerns the objective sphere or expanse (dbyings, 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. These practices culminate in the spontaneous vision of pure lands known as direct transcendence contemplation. (9) This describes the various external and internal psycho-physical and visionary signs that should be used as indicators informing ones progress in deepening contemplative realization that stays on track toward the goal of ultimate enlightenment, as well as a discussion of relics stemming from the death of a saint. (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. (11) Finally, Longchenpa discusses the nature of the activities and gnosis issuing directly from the ground (i.e., a Buddha) as the ultimate climax of the entire process. 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, its placement here dispels any such doubts. 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, a practice unique and central to the Seminal Heart. Following the lengthy eighth chapter devoted to Seminal Heart contemplation, Longchenpa turns to a discussion of the types of experiences and psychophysical effects or capacities generated by those procedures. The turn toward issues of death at the chapters end then naturally leads into the tenth chapter on postmortem intermediate process theory and praxis, 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. While the overarching term for the ninth chapter is thus literally signs or marks (rtags), it simultaneously constitutes an expansion of the notion of relics as the traces and signposts of spiritual realization. The manifestation of the Buddhas indicators manifesting in the practitioners body during this life and at death is intertwined with the systems overall emphasis on Buddha-nature as the core of everyones physical being (topic three). The pseudocosmogonic discussion of the ground and



its presencing (topic one) is an exteriorized dramatization of the Buddhanatures unfolding, a process with the two interpretative pathways of Samantabhadra and sentient beings (topic three). This is then relocated within the self-structuring interiority of a distinctively human space in the subtle body discourse (topic four to five), an interiority that thus functions as the ultimate source of value and authority since the ground is identified as the always potent Buddha. Given the strong emphasis on the Buddha-nature as lifes ongoing source and ordinary psycho-physical structures as its distortion, we could characterize the ordinary individual as conventionally the relics or remains of the Buddha. In other words, our lived bodies are both womb and tomb to the Buddha; they are the site of both the pure lands and cyclic existences correlating to the environments set up by the Buddhas two types of absencethe divine absence deriving from the Buddhas 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. Thus the third topics treatment of Buddha-nature concludes with an extended reverie on the human body as a temple, that is, the living Buddhas natural setting; one of the main images of topic one is the youthful-body-within-a vase, evoking the still dynamic Buddha now entombed within an obscuring funerary urn. Topics six through eight then present the means by which ones relationships to this interiority and its structuration can be reapproached. Two important themes running throughout this are absence and pure lands. The Buddha is understood as a continuing virtual presence with the moment of enlightenment (byang chub, Sanskrit bodhi) being a full dissolution of all structure or manifest actuality into the original purity (ka dag) of the internal expanse (nang dbyings, Sanskrit dha\tu). Yet at the same time this absence that is at the core also gives birth always to a culture, represented as the mandalic retinues that constitute pure lands. In these contexts, the ninth topic of signs or relics, is powerful evidence of this indwelling presence of the Buddhaas-absence and the pure lands to which he inexorably gives rise. 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. The tenth topic then explores in general the issue of reformulation that takes place in crucial periods of breakdown and collapse, 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.



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. For example, The Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness: I am the cemetery of all the Buddhas! The cemetery grounds of the unchanging exists in me. I am the locus of all sentient beings, Where their karmic propensities appear in deceptive bodily forms.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. The yogi who understands this Within the sky of pure consciousness, Should take it into his/her experience with deepening attunemnt.58 Finally: I am the great cemetery, The cemetery of all Buddhas and sentient beings! All the Buddhas of the three times emerge From my inspiring blessings.59 The Great Esoteric Unwritten Tantra: The esoteric emotional distortions are my magical displays, Buddhas and sentient beings are my funerary grounds I, the all creating, am a great intrinsically radiant manifestation.60 The Tantra of the Lions 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. . . . If you liberate all sentient beings simultaneously In order to experience the dimension of insight, All appearances become empty.



If you kill yourself In order for compassion to be unceasing, You will meet with the object of self-awareness.61 The Garland of Precious Pearls Tantra: Because it is adorned with the expanse of reality, The gnostic body of all the Buddhas Is the cemetary of all Buddhas and sentient beings.62 All of these passages make a consistent association of the death of the Buddha, and implicitly his relics, to the bodies of sentient beings. The passages are all embedded within classic Great Perfection rhetoric expousing a negative theology of transcendence of formal structures and programs, even classic Buddhist ones. The rhetoric is also marked by the tendency in radical forms of tantra to claim that transgression can free the mind, while extreme states of human being can also be the locus for extreme realizations of truth, as well as the use of coded language. Finally the rhetoric is marked by lengthy celebrations of I, with the divine speaker essentially coterminous with realityI am the ancestor of all the Buddhas!and thus at the center of all existence, transcendent of all conventionalities, replete and omnipresent. The significance of this motif is even clearer when we turn to another passage in The Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness, which devotes its eighty-fifth chapter to the subject of how the Buddha leaves behind supports (rten) for his Enlightened Body, Speech, and Mind after death.63 All of the Buddha Youthful and Mighty Heros retinue together petition him, asking what will be those supports after he passes into nirvana. They ask for a detailed prophecy of events after his death, and thus the chapter is presented as an account of this Buddhas legacy, his enduring presence after his manifest absence. The support for his Body is the triad of Bodies (images on bones), bones and precious (relic) spheres, and he describes the fivefold nature of bones in detail.64 The support for his Mind is the inner luminosity he leaves behind in the tsitta (i.e., subtle heart) of all living beings, while the support for his Speech is the more traditional body of canonical teachings he leaves behind, which culminate in the present tantra. 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. While partially a traditional account of the enduring presence of the Buddhas body, speech, and mind as his postnirvana legacy, it also makes very



clear the intimate identification of the relics of the Buddha with the Buddha-nature contained within our bodys interior. 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, whether construed as focal modes of attention and the organisms unconscious processes, community life and its organization, or the hermeneutical play of reason and the principle of reason.65 Thus conceptions of presence and absence are more complex than notions of true or imagined presence mitigating actual absence. In the Seminal Heart tradition, 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, without feeling compelled to replace it with real or imagined presence. In this way this indwelling absence gives rise to mandalically patterned visual images that are its reflection (gdangs), which the visionary can perceive in direct sensory immediacy (mngon sum); when listened to instead of looked for, this absence emerges as the Buddhas Reality Body without face or hands (zhal phyag med), which speaks in strange voices yielding the literary equivalent of glimpsed pure lands. When one lets go (cog zhag), the Buddha emerges as a radically active agent within the womb/tomb of ones body, not a vague potential or the result of painstakingly constructive activity. With the qualification that the stupa or relic chamber has now become the human body, it echoes Schopens characterization of the relic as a living presence animated and characterized by the same qualities that animated and characterized the living Buddhas.66 This is in fact the central dialectic of the Seminal Heart, between the invisible ground and visible worlds of appearances, a dialectic imaged by the Buddhas absence as invisible being in contrast to a visible present, the Buddhas 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 visions end. The ongoing tension between these oscillating relations between the visible and invisible is mediated by the human body, which in part explains the intense focus on physically locating every key doctrinal facet: the universal ground within the aorta, the mind between the lungs and heart; the relics in the kidneys, liver, and elsewhere; the wrathful deities within the skull; or the ground-presencing within crystal channels within the bodys center. Since the body also has social meaning and significance, these conflicts over understanding of the body also inscribe cultural struggles, especially when the ultimate authority in Tibetan culture, the figure of the Buddhas themselves, is what is at stake. Though this notion of indwelling



Buddha is all about absence and latency, paradoxically proof requires discrete material things. Thus along with the stress on the apophatic discourse of the ground, we find an emphasis on concrete signs of legitimization and authority. In direct transcendence the pure land can be seen directly (mngon gsum) with ones own two eyes naturally (rang bzhin gyis). Relics too offer such physical evidence, from the letter A outlined in the tip of a nose to the sparkling spheres found in the funerary ashes of a saint. The discussion of relics is thus closely intertwined with the Buddhanature theory that forms the backbone of Seminal Heart thought. 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 byfull ofexactly the same spiritual forces and faculties that characterize, in fact constitute and animate, the living Buddha . . . [;moreover,] the relic is not a part or piece of the departed Buddha that is there in the chamber, but the Buddha himself who is wholly present there. The literature stresses the literal living presence of the Buddha as the premier active agent within all life, the spontaneous ground that gives rise to all of samsara and nirvana. Not only does this agent well up as a voice within refusing all efforts to quiet it, but physically it was believed to continually imprint marks on saints very flesh and bones and to give rise in death to small spheres, which would then continue to multiply in living ferment long afterward. Thus this Buddha force can still shake one, light up ones life, mark ones bones, surge up from withinearthquakes, lights, bodies, bones, and relics.

I have tried to present systematically one of the most important Tibetan literary traditions with regard to classifications of relics. I have shown how relics are treated within a broader topic of signs of contemplative practice, 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. Focusing exclusively on relics as lingering physical influences or residues of a deceased saint, or even as making present an absent Buddha/saint, can thus be misleading. The Seminal Heart tradition suggests an alternative strategy complementing the desire to make the Buddha(s) present again, namely, to preserve and value the otherness of the Buddhas absence precisely as the ongoing source of renewed vision.



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, as well as the larger issue of material evidence for mysticism, around which a whole cult formed in the Nyingma tradition with the treasure (gter ma) movement. 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 addition, the tradition is driven by very complex notions of the bodythe Buddhas multiple bodies, subtle body discourse, embryogeny, and so onand more nuanced consideration of relics in this light is necessary. Finally, I have limited my treatment to the philosophical and contemplative materials, but the Seminal Heart also includes an extensive body of narrative literature in which relics figure prominently.68 This final body of literature is particularly interesting in its discussion of disembodied forces called the three sources of the teachings (bstan pai btsas gsum)essentially a flying statue, book, and vajrawhich suggest that relics, statues, 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. Thus it may well be that in some systems relics precede Buddhas, however paradoxical that may seem at first glance. However tentative my conclusions may thus be, the paper has both sketched out an alternative significance to relics and the Buddhas absence in an important Buddhist tradition, and the importance of fleshing out seemingly discrete topics within their broader literary contexts, even if such contexts remain at present only the bare bones.

1. See Yael Bentor, On the Indian Origins of the Tibetan Practice of Depositing Relics and Dha\ran s in Stu\pas and Images, Journal of the American Oriental Society 115, no. 2 (1995): 24861; and idem, The Content of Stu\pas and Images and the Indo-Tibetan Concept of Relics, forthcoming. 2. See the discussion in David Germano, The Funerary History of the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen), in The Journal of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (volume one, forthcoming, see 3. The All-Creating King (kun byed rgyal po), ch. 17, in Tk 1:65.766.6 (see note 8 for the sigla). This is translated in E. K. Neumaier-Dargyay, The Sovereign All-Creating Mindthe Motherly Buddha (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 9899. The translation here is my own.



4. See a description of similar rhetorical strategies in Chan in Bernard Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). 5. Guenther interprets this dyad in terms of process and structure, though he ultimately interprets gnosis in terms of process-structures. See Herbert Guenther, From Reductionism to Creativity: rDzogs-chen and the New Sciences of the Mind (Boston and Shaftesbury: Shambhala, 1989). 6. Bernard Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy, 8795, and many other passages. 7. Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings (tshig don mdzod) (Gangtok, Sikkim: Sherab Gyaltsen and Khytense Labrang, 1983); and idem, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle (theg mchod mdzod) (Gangtok, Sikkim: Sherab Gyaltsen and Khytense Labrang, 1983). All further citations will refer to these texts by the English titles for ease of reference by the nonspecialist. 8. The Seventeen Tantras (rgyud bcu bdun). These are located in most editions of The Collected Tantras of the Ancients (rnying ma rgyud bum), a canon existing in different editions available at (in I use abbreviations in the citations to signify editions, followed by the volume and page numbers (i.e., Tk 4:4345): 1. Tk (gting skyes ed., Thimphu, Bhutan: Jamyang Khytense Rinpoche, 1973). 2. Tb (mtshams brag ed., Thimphu, Bhutan: National Library of Royal Government of Bhutan, 1982). 3. Ab (a dzom brug pa ed., New Delhi: Sanje Dorje, 1973). 9. The Tantra of the Sun and Moons Intimate Union (nyi ma dang zla ba kha sbyor ba rgyud), in Tb 12:491560 and Ab 3:152233. 10. Karmalingpa (Kar ma gling pa), Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State (Bar do thos grol) belongs to a larger cycle, The Profound Doctrine of Wisdoms Natural Freedom (in Encountering) the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities (zab chos zhi khro dgongs pa rang grol) (Delhi: Sherab Lama, 197576). This has become well known in English as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, such as Karmalingpa, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, trans. Francesca Freemantle and Chogyam Trungpa (Boston and London: Shambhala Publications, 1987). 11. The Blazing Relics (sku gdung bar ba), in Ab 3:15151. Its three chapters take place within a dramatic setting involving a dialogue between the Teacher Vajra Holder (rdo re chang, Sanskrit Vajradhara) and a Da\kin. 12. As Martin indicates, this text deals with the particular issue of signs of saintly death rather than the general classifications of relics per se. See Daniel Martin, Crystals and Images from Bodies, Hearts and Tones from Fire: Points of Relic Controversy from Tibetan History, in Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 5th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, ed. Ihara Sho\ren and Yamaguchi Zuiho\ (Narita: Naritasan Shinshoji, 1992), 184. 13. See Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 160.1.



14. Chapter 9 of Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 411437.4 corresponds to chapter 22 in Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:356.1399.1. The latter text is essentially an expansion of the former text. 15. Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 411.4424.3 and 427.6433.6. 16. Ibid., 424.3427.6. 17. Ibid., 433.6437.4. 18. The Blazing Relics Tantra, Tb 790.5 and Ab 120.2. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:358.5. 19. Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:357.4359.7. 20. Ibid., 2:358.2 ff. 21. Ibid., 2:361.47. 22. Ibid., 2:359.5 ff. 23. Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 433. 24. The Tantra of the Adamantine Heros Heart-Mirror (rdo rje sems dpa snying gi me long gi rgyud), in Tb 12: 193245 and Ab 1:31588. This specific citation is in Tb 808.3 and Ab 142.4. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:383.2. This passage provides a general outline for the ensuing discussion. 25. Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 413. 26. The Blazing Relics Tantra, Tb 238.5 and Ab 377.4. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:371.4. 27. I would agree with Martins 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, Crystals and Images, 183), though in many contexts this is definitely not the case. In the latter contexts, relics themselves become active agents working wonders. 28. The Blazing Relics Tantra, Tb 808.7 and Ab 143.2. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:383.6 and 384.6. 29. Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:383.3386.3. 30. See Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 478.6, for a description of these five. This guiding rope is discussed subsequently as path to the Adamantine Heros interior (464.1)in our present context the reference is to the five-colored light-cord rather than the four-colored one. 31. Rather than the emanations being self-presencing out of the force of enlightenments own dynamics, they are other presencing, impelled forth out of empty potential by the needs and perspectives of others. 32. Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:385.1386.3.



33. The Blazing Relics Tantra, Tb 809.5 and Ab 144.1. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:386.6. 34. Ibid., Tb 810.3 and Ab 144.5. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:388.4. 35. Ibid., Tb 811.2 and Ab 145.5. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:390.1. 36. The corresponding section on bones is in Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:386390.2. 37. Ibid., 2:386.7387.2. 38. Ibid., 387.46. 39. Ibid., 387.2. 40. Ibid., 387.67. 41. Ibid., 388.13. 42. Ibid., 389.12. 43. Ibid., 389.2390.2. 44. The Blazing Relics Tantra, Tb 811.6 and Ab 146.3. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:390.7. 45. Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:390.2391.4. 46. Pillars literally means standing upright (i.e., vertical rays of light), walls the circumference, though the term can refer to walls around a city, and beams the corbels, or the ribs of a tent (i.e., horizontal rays of light). These are discussed in detail within David Germano, Mysticism and Rhetoric in the Great Perfection (forthcoming). 47. The Tantra of Unimpeded Sound (sgra thal gyur rgyud), Tb 12:1173 and Ab1:1205. For an example of the tantras distinctive practices regarding sound, see David Germano, The Elements, Insanity, and Lettered Subjectivity, in Religions of Tibet in Practice, ed. Donald Lopez (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 31334. 48. Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 436. 49. The Blazing Relics Tantra, Tb 812.2 and Ab 146.6. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:391.7. 50. Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:391.4392.4. 51. The Blazing Relics Tantra, Tb 812.6 and Ab 147.4. It is cited by Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle 2:393.4. 52. This evidently signifies those who have taken the bodhisattva vows, generated the altruistic desire for enlightenment, and so forth in their involvement with the exoteric Mahayana teachings.



53. See Longchenpa, The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 313 ff, for a description of these practices, which are subordinated to Seminal Heart practices proper characterized as for those to whose intellects awareness is self-manifest. 54. These are amulets containing graphic representations of mandalas or scriptures believed to have the potency to grant liberation merely by wearing, though here faith is described as activating them. 55. These represent the standard list of eight levels or grounds of spiritual progression used to systematize the path of Hinayana, corresponding to the famous ten stages of a bodhisattva in Mahayana. 56. Longchenpa, The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 2:392.4393.7. 57. The Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness (rig pa rang shar chen poi rgyud), in Tb 11 323696 and Ab 1:389855. This specific citation is in ch. 34, Ab 546. 58. Ibid., ch. 51, Ab 640. 59. Ibid., ch. 78, Ab 785. 60. The Great Esoteric Unwritten Tantra (yi ge med pai gsang ba rgyud chen po), in Tb 11:298322 and Ab 2:21544. This specific citation is in ch. 1, Ab 222. 61. The Tantra of the Lions Perfect Dynamism (seng ge rtsal rdzogs chen poi rgyud), in Tb 12:560712 and Ab 2: 245415). This specific citation is in ch. 8, Ab 346. 62. The Garland of Precious Pearls Tantra (mu tig rin po che phreng bai rgyud), in Tb 12 30493 and Ab 2:417537. This specific citation is in ch. 4, Ab 436. 63. The Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness, ch. 85, in Tb 689.2693.4 and Ab 844.3849.2. 64. Ibid., 848. 65. See, for example, the chapter entitled Toward a Postmetaphysical Rationality in John Caputo, Radical Hermeneutics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 20935. 66. See Gregory Schopen, On the Buddha and His Bones: The Conception of a Relic in the Inscriptions of Na\ga\rjunikonda, Journal of the American Oriental Society 108, no. 4 (1988): 533. 67. Ibid., 532 and 535. 68. See my forthcoming Prophetic Histories of Buddhas, Da\kins, and Saints in Tibet from Princeton University Press.



Bernard Faure
I HAVE ELSEWHERE EXAMINED THE ROLE PLAYED BY BUDDHIST RELICS (arra, dha\tu) in the sectarian context of Chan/Zen and in the devotional context of popular Buddhism. However, it now seems clear that I presumed a little too quickly that I knew what relics are.1 Relics are by no means simple objects, neither for the believer nor for the scholar. If at first glance arra seem to be what remains of a body reduced to its simplest form, the notion is in fact extremely complex and polyvalent; 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, of protagonists, and of levels of discourse. One of these levels of discourse is the royal ideology, already used by Buddhist rulers such as the Indian king Aoka and the Chinese emperors Liang Wudi and Sui Wendi.2 On the symbolic level, relics are part of a broad semantic field and enter a variety of metonymic and metaphoric associations. In particular, the definition of the arra as pearl-like substance commanded its association with jewels and above all with the wish-fulfilling jewel (cinta\mani).3 On the pragmatic level, relics served as an index for differential power and contributed to the empowerment of specific social groups. For instance, the hair relic of the Buddha is said to have insured victory in war to Prince Gopal.4 In medieval Japan, relics became the main object of worship (honzon) of many esoteric rituals aimed at destroying the enemy. I want to focus here on the role of relics and of the cinta\mani in the political rivalries that divided Japan between the end of the Heian and the beginning of the Muromachi periods. During this time, there were several centers of more or less legitimate power: the ruling emperor (tenno\), the regent (sessho\) during the Heian period, the cloistered emperor (in)



particularly during the so-called Insei or Cloistered Government period (10871192) and during the Kenmu Restoration (13331336)and finally, from the Kamakura period (11851333) onward, the sho\gun and his bakufu.5 Imperial attempts to wield power away from the bakufu deserve special emphasis, because it is during the Insei and Kenmu periods that a new ruling ideology, merging Buddhist teachings and local cults, came to be established. The relics of the Buddha played a major role in this discourse, which was supported by the theory of the identity of royal law and Buddhist Law (o\bo\ soku buppo\). However, 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, the so-called three regalia (sword, jewel, mirror). After emerging as primus inter pares in the sixth century CE, 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.6 This political accomplishment was furthered by the compilation of two chronicles, the Kojiki (712) and the Nihonshoki (or Nihongi, 720), whose first parts deal with the mythical age of the gods. This official mythology provided a divine legitimization for royal/imperial power. As Buddhism became the dominant ideology, however, a new type of legitimacy became necessary. Thus, between the Heian and the Muromachi periods (eighth through fifteenth centuries), imperial legitimacy was redefined to encompass both local and Buddhist foundational ideologies.7 The essential symbol in this system was a series of regalia, among which the arra of the Buddha and other relics came to play a prominent role. What complicates things, however, is that we do not have merely one center of power (and therefore one such ideology) throughout the period(s) considered. In the Heian period, while the emperors remained the ultimate source of symbolic authority, the real power was coopted by the regents, usually members of the Fujiwara clan. During the Insei era, retired emperors (in), using the same technique, were able to assert an influence that they never had while on the throne. But already at that time, they had to compete with another source of power, the warriors of the Taira and Minamoto clans, whose internecine fight precipitated the end of the Heian period. In the following Kamakura period, the actual ruler of Japan was the sho\gun, governing from Kamakura, but once again, with the Kenmu Restoration (133336) and the subsequent Nanbokucho\ period, an emperor, GoDaigo, tried to reclaim power. In all these political fights, Buddhist symbols of legitimacy came to play a central role. The medieval period is indeed marked by a radical Buddhist reinterpretation of earlier imperial



mythology, an exegetic movement that extended, beyond Buddhist doctrine as such, to artistic and literary realms, 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.


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, sword, mirror), with the help of the Buddhist clergy. This was not an easy task, as these regalia met with various kinds of disasters (fire, theft, loss). Next to the regalia, however, and due to a metonymic drift between the divine jewel (as one of the three regalia), the Buddhist mani jewel (or cinta\mani, Japanese nyoi ho\ju), and the arra, the latter also came to play a central role in imperial ritual. S:arra were distributed to fifty sanctuaries at the beginning of each new reign, beginning with the Usa Hachiman Shrine.8 While they were seen at times as potentially subverting the dominant insignia, the three regalia, they were also used to reinforce imperial power. 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 (774835). The cinta\mani and the arra on which the imperial house drew much of its legitimacy had been allegedly transmitted by Ku\kai. The cinta\mani was said to come from the na\ga palace, whereas the relics were those transmitted to China by the Indian master Vajrabodhi (671741). However, Ku\kai is said to have received them from a monk appropriately named Qinglong (Blue Dragon), a name that suggests a relation with (or transmission from) the na\ga king.9 Another of Ku\kais titles to glory, closely related to this jewel, was the efficiency of his rain rituals, owing in particular to his ability to summon the dragon Zennyo to Shinzenen in 827.10 Relics were also at the center of the rain rituals performed by Ku\kais successors at Shinzenen. When these rituals did not succeed right away, 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, which was then placed into a larger similar figure.11 Thus, the success of the ritual was finally achieved by the symbolic return of the relics/cinta\mani to the na\ga king. It is not clear how many cinta\mani were used in Shingon. The tradition usually mentions two of them, but it could also mean two portions of the same original cinta\mani. The Goyuigo\, an apocryphal testament of



Ku\kai, indicates that the arra of To\ji must not be dispersed because they constitute the cinta\mani, but we are also told that Ku\kai himself deposited the seven pearls of this cinta\mani in seven different places: To\koku (eastern Japan), Saikoku (western Japan), Inariyama, Ko\yasan, Ise, the Precious Repository or Treasure (ho\zo\) of Toba (i.e., Sho\ko\myo\-in), and Ninnaji in Omuro (on the western outskirts of Kyoto).12 Most of the time, only two places are mentioned, To\ji and Muro\zan (alias Benichizan). Relics were also used as the main object of worship (honzon) in the rain rituals of Shinzenen, and they were secretly deposited in the dragon hole of the central island of the pond.13 They were perceived by Shingon priests as saintly relics, which legitimized their religious prestige and their ritual efficacy. A recension of the Muro\zan goshari so\den engi, written toward the beginning of the fourteenth century by an abbot of Sho\myo\ji in Kanazawa, states that Ku\kai disseminated relics on Muro\zan.14 Because of this, Muro\zan became a very sacred place indeed, known precisely for its rain rituals.15 According to the Kojidan, Muro\s dragon hole (tatsu no ana) was the dwelling place of the na\ga king Zentatsu. This na\ga king originally dwelt in Saruzawa Pond (i.e., at Ko\fukuji, in Nara), but after a maiden (otome) drowned herself in it, he moved to Ko\zan (Incense Mountain, south of Kasuga). When a commoner (genin) in turn killed himself there, Zentatsu moved back to Muro\zan. This legend shows the close relationships between Ko\fukuji, Kasuga Shrine, and Muro\zan. Although different in name, the na\ga king of Muro\zan is in essence identical with the deity of Kasuga Shrine, also a dragon god.16 The legend suggests the role of the Fujiwara in promoting the site (and its dragon) to official status. According to another tradition, 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 Shinzenen. 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. Shu\en), the same person who was defeated by Ku\kai in a ritual contest at Shinzenen.17 At any rate, the story of the na\ga king of Shinzenen is intimately connected with the cult of the dragon hole of Muro\zan.18 We are also told that, since the jewel of Muro\zan is the body of the Buddha Dainichi (Sanskrit Maha\vairocana), this place is none other than the original country of Dainichi (Dainichi no honkoku, with the usual word play with Dai Nihon koku, Great Country of Japan).19 The trace of the jewel (that is, of Dainichi) is the sun goddess Amaterasu, and the jewel, which is also the source of the three regalia, is guarded by all the gods and na\gas who protect the country.



According to the Benichizan ki: In Jambudvpa, the homeland [honkoku] of Dainichi, in Yamato Province, Uda District, there is an excellent place called Mount Benichi. It is also called Peak of Energy (Sho\ji[n] no mine). This mountain is a sacred site unequalled in the whole Empire. It is the first secret place of Japan.20 Or again: Benichi is the center of the country of Japan (Nihonkoku). This country has the form of a one-pronged vajra. This moutain corresponds to the center of this vajra.21 The Benichizan ki gives a detailed description of the sacred geography of this mountain, and in particular of its dragon hole. The na\ga king is assimilated to Kurikara (Sk. Kulika), a manifestation of the Wisdom king Fudo\ as a dragon coiled around an erected sword. The dragon hole was apparently an initiatic circuit symbolizing the stages of the bodhisattva career, with several sets of relics (thirty-six grains in all) said to belong to Ka\yapa, Maitreya, and S:a\kyamuni and to represent the Three Bodies of the cosmic Buddha Maha\vairocana. The only person said to have been able to enter this hole after Ku\kai was Ningai (9511046), another Shingon priest known for his rain rituals and believed to be a reincarnation of Ku\kai. Others did try, but they were prevented by a storm (that is, by the na\ga king).22 One pearl of Ku\kais cinta\mani (or, according to one variant, one grain of arra) had been deposited on Muro\zan (it was said to have been thrown in the dragon hole or in the pond, in other words, returned to the na\ga palace, from where it had come). Another was transmitted within the To\ji lineage and kept in the Treasure House of that temple.23 It was finally given by the priest Hanjun (10381112) to the Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa. Before that time, 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. 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), the two parts of the same tessera (fu): one jewel remains hidden on the sacred mountain, the other is visible (at least by some) at To\ji, and is part of a cycle of exchange between Shingon priests and the rulers.24 This complementarity also reflects a tension between two modalities of the relics: as a fixed presence defining a sacred site, ultimate (and often invisible) goal of pilgrimage, or as a circulating token of salvation, disseminating the sacred presence among growing networks of believers. Benichizan was also perceived as the abode of Maitreya, just like Ko\yasan, the other sacred site of Shingon, whose spiritual center, the Oku no in, was another crypt identified with the Inner Court of Tusita Heaven.25



Yet another ritual center was the imperial palace itself. During the Heian period, the imperial house was ritually protected by high priests (gojiso\) belonging to the two esoteric schools of To\mitsu (Shingon) and Taimitsu (Tendai). The main duty of these spiritual bodyguards was to watch over the jade body, that is, the body of the emperor, and thus over the prosperity of the imperial house and of the state. Even after the Heian period, when Shinto\ rites came to be more strictly separated from Buddhist rites, the imperial cult remained dependent on such monks. These protecting monks performed every night their rites in front of an icon of the bodhisattva Kannon (honji of the sun goddess Amaterasu), in a small room adjacent to the emperors bedroom in the inner palace (Seiryo\den), the Futama.26 These rites show clearly the relation between mikkyo\ and sacred kingship, and from the eleventh to the twelfth centuries, many oral traditions developed in Shingon about them. The Shichiko hiketsu, for instance, describes a seven-day ritual during which an abbot of To\ji entered the Seiryo\den and performed rites in front of the emperor. These rites consisted essentially in a visualization of the cinta\mani of Muro\zan, and its honzon was the relics stored by Ku\kai in the Treasure House of To\ji. There were originally eighty grains, but their number came to vary considerably, according to the belief that When the empire prospers, they fragment and their number increases. When the country declines, their number decreases.27 During this week-long ritual the officiating priest had to count the relics, a task that became quite difficult as their number increased, reaching over four thousand grains toward the mid-Heian.28 The tenno\s control over the relics took two complementary forms: either the form of a ritual performed by his protecting monks, and centered on the relics or the cinta\mani, 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. In the latter case, much of the symbolism was inherited from the monstration of the regalia of the Fujiwara in the Treasure House of Uji, to which we will return. The relics of To\ji, whose number tended to increase with time, were periodically brought to the palace by imperial order, to be officially counted there, and tags indicating their number were pasted on each bottle. We have a document related to this, the To\ji busshari kankei ki.29 The first mention of a numbering goes back to 950, and it marks the beginning of the custom of requesting the relics, during which the ruling emperor or the Cloistered Emperor were given a few grains. The distribution was entrusted to the abbot (cho\ja) of To\ji and to selected officials. This ceremony took place either in the palace or in the Seiryo\den, until a theft of relics in 1216



caused it to be held at To\ji. For three centuries, such ceremonies took place repeatedly, and their frequency, as well as the number of relic grains, increased considerably in the fourteenth century due to civil war. At the beginning of the Kamakura period, after the tragic loss of one of the regalia (the sword) during the battle of Dan-no-ura (1185), 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. One of the most significant attempts was made by the Tendai prelate Jien, himself a Fujiwara. In his Jichin wajo\ muso\ ki, Jien comments on a dream that he had in 1203. This dream has drawn a lot of scholarly attention recently, so I shall give its outline here.30 It is centered on a vision of the three regalia (the sword, the jewel, and the mirror). Jien had the intuition that the sword represents the kings body, and the jewel (or the swords sheath) that of the jade-woman, that is, of the kings consort. In Buddhist terms, it is the union of the esoteric figures Butsugen Butsumo and Ichiji Kinrin. The outcome of this union is the divine mirror, symbol of the sun goddess Amaterasu and ultimate source of royal power. Jien offered the Muso\ ki to Emperor Go-Toba, to emphasize the interdependence between kingship (o\bo\) and Buddhism (buppo\). Scholars have discussed the sexual connotations of the term jade woman, a term with a long history in China. In Japan, the jade woman becomes metaphorically associated with the divine jewel, and more precisely the cinta\mani, the samaya or convention form of Nyoirin Kannon. Moreover, Ichiji Kinrin, perceived in Tendai as an emanation of Sanno\ Gongen, the tutelary god of Hieizan, came to be associated with the arra.31 In the Sanbo\ ekotoba (984) by Minamoto Tamenori, we find an interesting example of the relations among the jewel, the jade woman, and imperial power. It is a legend taken from Xuanzangs Record of a Journey to the West (Da Tang Xiyou ji): in order to improve the life of his people, a prince goes to the palace of the dragon king to get the magic jewel. He first meets a jade woman who is keeping the palace gates, then the dragonking himself. In the Xiyou ji this jade woman is a dragon-woman, that is, the daughter of the dragon king who keeps the cinta\mani.32 The jewel is said to be a transformed relic of the ancient Buddha. 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, Hohodemi no mikoto marries Toyotamahime and receives from her two jewels that control the tides. This story suggests that the jade woman and Toyotamahime are functionally similar.33



The sexual connotations of the arra, expressed in Jiens dream, find another expression in the architectural symbolism of So\ji-in on Hieizan, where relic worship took place every year. The ritual was performed at a nondual stu\pa erected between two halls, the Shijo\ko\-do\ (Hall of Blazing Lights) and the Butsugen-do\ (Hall of Butsugen), which symbolize Ichiji Kinrin and Butsugen Butsumo. The cinta\mani at the center of this ritual was the one allegedly offered to the priest Saicho\ (767822) by Narutaki Myo\jin, the deity of Narutaki (Pure Waterfall), an episode reminiscent of the offering of the na\ga girl to the Buddha.34 The anchin (Pacification) and shijo\ko\ (Burning Lights) rituals were major Tendai rituals influenced by yin-yang cosmology (onmyo\do\). In other words, the stupa between the two buildings symbolizes the result of the union of the two polar opposites (the two buildings, the two rituals, the Womb and Vajra mandalas, the king and his consortas jade woman).


According to the preface of the Uji shu\i monogatari, the rite of opening of the gates of the Uji Treasure House, which took place on the second day of the second month of each year, was reserved to the Fujiwara leaders. This Treasure House (ho\zo\), built in 1069, contained the regalia of the Fujiwara, as well as sutras and statues. Gradually, the Treasure House itself came to be seen as charged with the same aura of sacredness as its treasures. The ritual act of opening it, known as Entering Uji (Uji-iri), became for the Fujiwara a ceremonial expression of power. At the basis of this rite, we find the idea that the ho\zo\ and its content magically protected the Regents House (Sekkanke). However, the treasures mentioned in legends about Uji, for instance, the head of the demon Shu\ten Do\ji, no longer have anything to do with those mentioned in diaries and other such documentswhich include music instruments, texts, icons, and not surprisingly, a number of arra. Uji was a burial site for the Fujiwara clan, and the Byo\do\in came to serve as a focal point for funerary cults. The ho\zo\, where the Uji entering ceremony took place, was thus intimately related to the power of the Sekkanke. In the Keiran shu\yo\ shu\, this power is symbolized by the legend of Yorimichis apotheosis as a dragon. Yorimichi lived at the end of the Fujiwara rule, and it seems that the dragon Yorimichi was perceived as the ancestral spirit of the regent line, whose function was to protect the Treasure House and its contents.35 This Uji entering ritual, performed at a time when the power of the Sekkanke was already wan-



ing, 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, reptilian double. The source of the prestige of the ho\zo\ was now sought in the dragon who protected it, rather than in its precious content. This is probably also related to the fact that Uji had long been a cultic center for water deities. Indeed, the association between dragons and the Uji River did not begin with Yorimichis legend. The Treasure House of Byo\do\in inherited from the na\ga palace motif its power to imbue hidden treasures with sacrality. However, these treasures also had intrinsic sacredness. Among the symbolically significant objects of the na\ga palace were the arra and/or the cinta\mani, icons and precious musical instruments. Not surprisingly, similar objects were preserved in the Treasure House of Uji. The Byo\do\in gokyo\zo\ mokuroku lists the relics of the Buddha brought by Ku\kai and Ennin, as well as by the Chinese monk Ganjin. In the Gyokuyo\, the inventory made in 1187 (Bunji 3/ 8/21) records sixty-nine grains of Buddha relics. Although the cinta\mani is not explicitly mentioned, we know that the samaya form of Aizen Myo\o\, the honzon of the Treasure House of Byo\do\in, is precisely a cinta\mani. There was indeed such a jewel in Uji. According to the Hyakurensho\, when the new emperor, Shirakawa, in response to a dream, went on pilgrimage to Uji in 1072 (Enkyu\ 4/10/26), Yorimichi offered him this cinta\mani. In the Byo\do\in gokyo\zo\ mokuroku, we are told that the regent (kanpaku), after worshipping the relics and Aizen Myo\o\, opened the Treasure House from time to time to consult its inventory and to admire its treasures. In the Gyokuyo\, Kanezane himself is described as performing the ceremony in 1187 and rejoicing over the miraculous increase in number of the arra grains. This ceremony showed the prestige of the Sekkanke and confirmed its legitimacy. In the background, we find the same conception as that in the Aizen ritual, namely, the symbolic identity of the relics, the cinta\mani, and Aizen Myo\o\.


Although the logic of legitimacy at work through the relics was already present in the cases of the emperor and of the Fujiwara regents, it is only with the cloistered emperors of the Insei period that the arra become the object of a hagiographical discourse centered on the question of royal power. After the long dominance of the Fujiwara regents, new myths were needed to legitimize the shift to the Insei rule. The emphasis on arra



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\. Shirakawa-in, in particular, was associated with many secret rites of Shingon centered on the arra and the cinta\mani, which promoted the alliance of the Buddha Law and the kingly law.36 Behind such rites, we find Shingon priests, in particular members of the Ono branch. The relics used in these ceremonies were identified with the three jewels brought to Japan by Ku\kai. The jewel transmitted at To\ji was said to be the convention (samaya) form of Aizen Myo\o\, the honzon of the Circular Hall of Ho\ssho\ji, a monastery closely connected with the Insei rule.37 This jewel thus constituted a bridge between the royal law of the cloistered emperor and the Buddha Dharma. In the background of several records of relic transmission, where Shirakawa-ins name often recurs, we find the Shingon theory of the identity between arra and cinta\mani.38 The symbolic prestige of the cloistered emperor depended largely on the wealth (real and imagined) and the perceived sacredness of his Treasure House, the Sho\ko\myo\-in. This Treasure House, built in 1136 after the model of the Byo\do\-in, was more than an architectural symbol: it significantly contributed to the transfer of power from the Sekkanke to the cloistered emperor. By the periodical inventory of his Treasure House and the transfer of precious objects from Byo\do\-in to Sho\ko\myo\-in, the cloistered emperor Shirakawa reasserted the relations between the sacrality of the Treasure House and the sacred kingship of its owner. The relics contained in the Treasure House protected not only their owner but also the country of which he was the de facto ruler. They were therefore indispensable to the ruler or to a would-be ruler. Although they provided the ideal legitimacy for medieval kingship, this legitimacy was to a large extent controlled by an external authority, the Buddhist clergy. It is only as a representative of the Buddha that the ruler was entitled to possess the latters relics, which became the source and guarantee of his Buddhist and divine mandate. The medieval conception of the relics provides a convenient index to relations of power. Among the people who transmitted relics, we find figures known as protectors of the imperial house, such as Shirakawa-in and Taira no Kiyomori. The destinies of these two men were connected, not only through marital alliances but also through the transmission of relics. This transmission in particular can be read as an expression of the new form of power that begins with Shirakawa-in in 1096.39 By linking ancient myths about royal power and the cult of relics that develops



around that time, a new ideology exalting the cloistered emperor was constituted. Indeed, the arra contributed to the legitimacy of the cloistered emperor in the same way as the three regalia did for the tenno\. 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). For instance, according to the Goshari so\den shidai, the arra obtained by the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang from a Southern Indian monk were transmitted to Japan by the Tendai priest Gishin (780833), before eventually reaching Emperor Shirakawa in 1092.40 When the latter performed a ceremony with three hundred arra grains, a miracle is said to have taken place, and one hundred grains were deposited at Uji, as well as at Rengeo\-in in Rokuhara. Shirakawa-in also claimed to possess the heavenly tooth relic transmitted by the Chinese priest Daoxuan (596667). The Kyo\shi Ho\onji butsuga shari engi, for instance, says that the tooth of the Buddha preserved at Jo\ju\ji (in Kyoto) came from Daoxuan, who had received it from the god Nazha (Sanskrit Nada), the son of the Deva-King Viru\pa\ksa.41 After being eventually transmitted to Shirakawa-in, it passed into the hands of the Gion Consort, of the cloistered emperor Toba, and of several former imperial consorts who had become nuns at Hokkeji in Nara, before coming into the possession of the Ritsu priest Eizon (12011290).42 Other documents show an attempt at synthesizing the two traditions concerning the provenance of the relics in the possession of Shirakawainthat of the Chinese relics and that of the relics obtained directly from the na\ga palace. The Busshari so\jo\ shidai states that the cloistered emperor had two thousand arra grains coming from Mt. Ayuwang and from Yanta shan (Goose Stu\pa Mountain) in China, but there seems to be no other record of this. Another document, the Ga shari bunpu hachiryu\ of Raiganji, agrees in part with the Busshari so\jo\ shidai and describes the transfer of Kiyomoris relics to the Kannonbo\.43 We learn that the relics of Raiganji were the property of a dragon king, whose palace was at the bottom of the Nunobiki waterfall in Settsu\. In all cases, the relics come from the outsideand in the case of the palace of the dragon king, we find an echo of the myth of Hoori no mikoto and the daughters of the sea king in classical Japanese mythology.44 Court ladies seem to have played a significant role in the transmission of the relics.45 Although Shirakawa-in supposedly gave relics to the Gion Consort, Toba-in had to get them from Taira no Kiyomori. This implies that they had been transmitted by the Gion Consort to Kiyomori, as claimed precisely by the Busshari so\jo\ shidai. According to this text, the



transmission from the cloistered emperor to the Gion Consort took place at the time of Shirakawa-ins death. Whatever the truth of this, it is clear that this unusual consort was seen to be closely related to the arra and/or the cinta\mani. The cinta\mani in question was that of Ku\kai, transmitted in the Ono branch of Shingon. Why did this line thus extend to the Gion Consort, 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. According to Tanaka, 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), which triggered a symbolic association with the sea kings daughters, Toyotamahime and Tamayorihime, and with ancient legends about jewel transmission. The two mythological sisters played an important role in the birth of the imperial lineage, and their image was deeply rooted in medieval imagination. Like them, the Gion Consort and her sister merely served as intermediaries in the transmission of male power.46 The younger sister of the Gion Consort was married to Taira no Tadamori (10961153), and she gave birth to Kiyomori (11181181), who according to a tradition was Shirakawa-ins own son. The Gion Consort brought up Kiyomori as her own child, just as, in the Kojiki, the child of Hoori no mikoto and Toyotamahime was raised by the latters younger sister, Tamayorihime.47 In this way, Kiyomori saw his authority established as leader of the Taira clan. The identification of Shirakawa-in with the dragon king, ruler of the sea world, underscored that, through the intermediary of the Gion Consort, not only his royal blood, but his regalia as well, the arra, that is, the Buddhist version of the jewel of the na\ga palace, were transmitted to Kiyomori. Thus, 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, centered on the jewels. It produces an account of the origins of the Insei rule, a new form of royal power that began with Shirakawa-in. After Shirakawa-in, the relics were no longer transmitted through a single line. Through their dissemination, all kinds of ties between various people were created, beginning with the transmission from the Gion Consort to Taira no Kiyomori. According to an inventory of Sho\ko\myo\-in, at the time of Minamoto no Yoshitsunes rebellion against imperial rule (118485), Go-Shirakawa-in gave his cinta\mani to the Daigoji priest Sho\ken and asked him to perform rituals on his behalf. After the fall of the cloistered emperor, Sho\ken kept the jewel. Thus, in 1192, Fujiwara no Muneyori was sent to the residence of the abbot with a request that the



jewel be returned to the palace. 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.48 This jewel is said to have been inserted into an icon of Aizen Myo\o\, the honzon of the Circular Hall of Hossho\ji. However, our source mentions another jewel, of obscure origin. It was also offered by Hanjun to Shirakawa-in, and Toba-in then gave it to one of his ministers. After the latters death it was returned to Sho\ko\myo\-in.49 As noted above, after 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. It passes into the hands of the Ritsu monks and nuns (at Saidaiji and Hokkeji in Nara). By the same token, the function of these relics and of their transmission line also changes. It is no longer centered on the secret rite of the dha\tu (Japanese dato, another name for relics), as it was performed in the Ono branch of Shingon. It is a transmission centered on Hokkeji, a nunnery affiliated with Saidaiji, in which many former court ladies had taken their monastic vows.50 The nuns of Hokkeji served as female mediums (miko), delivering oracles through rituals centered on the cinta\mani.51 Thus, whereas the sectarian lineage of transmission of the relics, in the Ono branch, had become that of the imperial lineage, conversely, 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, through the court lady Takakura). A document of Raiganji also claims that the tooth possessed by this temple and that had been transmitted by Kiyomori, came originally from the na\ga palace.52 It should be clear by now that the relics and the cinta\mani constituted for the cloistered emperors an emblem of legitimacy similar to the three regalia for the tenno\. If they became so important, it is also because they solved a problem that the transmission of Buddhist regalia such as the ka\sa\ya (monastic robe) or the three imperial regalia left unresolved: that of the dissemination of power. Through fragmentation the relic could be multiplied and create a network of dependents, in particular women. The relics offered by the cloistered emperors and distributed to ministers and imperial consorts, and to influential mikkyo\ monks and wandering fund raisers (kanjin hijiri), reflected (or produced) the cloistered emperors prestige, and they came to symbolize medieval kingship. On the one hand, relics could not simply be thesaurised if power was to circulate between the various levels of the imperial system. On the other hand, their dissemination, by creating a kind of commodity fetishism, led to their



devaluation. By being exposed to the light of day, they lost their aura of mystery and saw their power eclipsed. By becoming available as spiritual currency, they saw their symbolical value eroded.


Taira no Kiyomori and Minamoto no Yoritomo, the clan chiefs whose rivalry would cause the decline of imperial power at the end of the Heian period, both secretly worshipped relics from Mt. Ayuwang. In this, they were influenced by eminent Zen monks such as Myo\an Eisai (11411215) and Dainichi No\nin (d.u.). Despite his violent criticism against Dainichi No\nin, the founder of the rival Darumashu\ (Bodhidharma School), Eisai shared with him a deep interest in relics and in the tradition of Mt. Ayuwang. In his Ko\zen gokokuron, he mentions the miracles caused by the relic of the Ayuwang monastery.53 The Darumashu\ lineage was centered on the transmission of the relics of the six Chan patriarchs and of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Japanese Fugen).54 A document concerning these relics, dated 1460, reports that No\nin, after ascending in a dream to Tusita Heaven, also received from Maitreya a relic of the Buddha.55 The structural equivalence between Tusita Heaven and the na\ga palace is striking.56 Although he never became sho\gun, Kiyomori skillfully used the relics and the cinta\mani to enhance his prestige. At the background of the theory concerning the transmission of the relics from Shirakawa to Kiyomori through the Gion Consort, a theory which can be seen as supporting Kiyomoris usurpation, we find the tradition that makes him an illegitimate child of Shirakawa. Eventually, however, Kiyomori was to fail in his attempt to found a new dynasty, and all the members of the Taira clan were to be reborn in the na\ga palace, where the sacred sword had returned after their defeat. They continued, in a way, to watch over the imperial regalia in their Treasure House, now under water. This vision of the imperial consort Kenreimonin, described by the Heike monogatari, is an ambivalent one, merging the sufferings of rebirth in an animal destiny with the glories of the na\ga palace.57 After Kiyomoris death and the Genpei war that ensued, Yoritomo assumed full power as sho\gun. From that time onward, the real center of power shifted to the bakufu government in Kamakura. During the Kamakura period, 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), the third sho\gun Minamoto no Sanetomo (11931219) also received the tooth of the Buddha from the Chinese monastery Nengrensi (No\ninji). He deposited it in turn in a monastery,



Daijiji, built for the occasion, and for which he ordered the celebration of an annual ceremony.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. In the dream, he had gone to China, to a Chinese monastery that turned out to be Nengrensi, and heard there a sermon from a priest who, he was told, was the Vinaya master Daoxuan (596667). When he expressed his surprise that Daoxuan had already been dead a long time, 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. After he woke up, the sho\guns puzzlement grew all the greater when he learned that two prominent Kamakura monks, Ryo\shin and Senko\, had had the same dream. He then decided to send an envoy to China to ask the Nengrensi monks for the tooth. The monks of this monastery, apparently convinced by his dream (and by the substantial gifts offered by the Japanese delegation) finally agreed to part (temporarily, they seem to have believed) from their relic. First deposited at Daijiji, the tooth was transferred in 1285 to Engakuji in Kamakura, to contribute to the prosperity of the state. A relic assembly was held every year on the fifteenth of the tenth month. The text adds that, although Emperor Go-Daigo wanted to worship the relic, he did not, because it was perceived as the protector of Kamakura (that is, of the sho\gun). Then, an emperor of the brief northern dynasty, Go-Ko\gon (r. 13531371) ordered the Zen master Muso\ Soseki to request the relic, which was finally sent to the capital. In 1396, it was moved to Sho\kokuji (the Kyoto monastery that is the homonym, in Japanese reading, of Xiangguosi, former shelter of the relic). The relic eventually disappeared during the O|nin war (14671477).60 This short text, despite some obscurities, shows clearly the rivalry between Go-Daigo and the sho\gun for the relic and the mediating role played by Muso\. After the death of Go-Daigo, Muso\ suggested that the sho\gun Takauji build stupas in all the provinces, risho\to\ (life-benefitting stupas), in which the relics of the Buddha would be deposited. This gesture was in clear imitation of King Aoka and a symbolic attempt to claim control over the whole country. According to a variant, in 1214, Sanetomo had a dream that identified Eisai as an avatar of Daoxuan. As a result of this dream, Sanetomo had Eisai officiate a ceremony welcoming relics of the Buddha from Daoxuans monastery, Nengrensi, in Southern Song China. The emphasis on this tooth relic may have been to undermine the credibility of another tooth relic mentioned above, supposedly brought by the Tendai master Gishin and transmitted for a long time within the Fujiwara family. The Sennyu\ji, founded by the Vinaya master Shunjo\ (11661227), also



claimed to possess the tooth of the Buddha transmitted by Daoxuan. A relic assembly took place each year in this monastery, on the eighth of the ninth lunar month.61 However, even in Buddhist circles close to the sho\gun, the symbolic associations of relics with the na\ga palace were alive. Thus, according to the Rokuo\ zenin nyoi ho\ju\ ki, Muso\ Soseki received a cinta\mani from a mysterious old man, who was the avatar of a celestial (golden) dragon and who had obtained awakening because of sermons. The text compares this event to the na\ga girls gift of her jewel to the Buddha and to Bodhidharmas father, king of the Ko\shi kingdom in India, giving a jewel to the patriarch Praja\tara. Just before dying, Muso\ transmitted his jewel to his disciple Shunoku Myo\ha.62 The cinta\mani, here, remains a sectarian treasure.


Emperor Go-Daigo (whose official reign is dated 13181339, 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. The most obvious expression of this is his frequent requests for the relics. 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), that is, as many times as his father, Emperor Hanazono, during his entire reign (13081318). He also tried to prevent these relics from circulating among other hands. On two occasions, in 1324 and 1333, he ordered an interdiction to request the relics. With Go-Daigos return to the throne in 1333, Monkan, the priest who had protected him through these difficult years, was promoted to the highest clerical offices. As abbot (choj \ a) of Toj \ i, he brought on several occasions the relics of Toj \ i to court and used them as honzon in his rites. He was also ordered to distribute some of these relics to other temples, to create or reinforce networks of adhesion. In the Himitsu gentei kuketsu (dated 1338), we find instructions attributed to him, concerning the three honzon of a state ritual (one of the Buddha, and two wisdom kings, Fudo\ and Aizen, symbolizing the two mandalas). These icons were placed in a five-degree stupa, at the center of which were two jewels or arra, which are said to have turned into a cintam \ ani . The central icon is identified with the emperor himself, in essence identical with the cintam \ ani and with the sun goddess Amaterasu. Monkan seems also to have conferred the unction of enthronement (sokui kanjo) \ on the emperor, a form of abhise ka in which the ruler identified with Vairocana, the honji (essence) of his mythical ancestor Amaterasu.63



The presentations of the relics were not intended merely, as in the case of Chinese and Japanese regalia, to make a show of imperial legitimacy.64 The relics also played a central role in rituals of power, destined at bringing down an enemy. This agonistic function, mentioned earlier, developed considerably in medieval Japan, in a time of intense political strife. The goal of the presentations of relics at court was apparently auspiciousness. Thus, 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. However, the Taiheiki reveals that the real goal of this ritual was to subdue the bakufu. Unfortunately, when the ritual continued for four years (until 1329), it became clear that the consorts pregnancy was an ominous one, and the shog \ un was informed. Go-Daigo, placed in a delicate situation, decided to perform himself a goma ritual to the elephantheaded god Shot \ en (alias Kangiten, Sanskrit Vinay \ aka). The ambivalent nature of the relic, whose fecundity symbolism justifies relic use at the time of childbirth, but which could also serve as apotropaic symbols, made them the perfect instruments for rebirth and rebellion strategies. Again, according to the Toj \ i busshari kankeiki, the thirty-two grains of arra brought to the palace in 1330 (Gentoku 2/3/11) by the abbot of Toj \ i, Shoj \ in, were destined to serve as honzon for a secret rite aimed at defeating the enemy. Although the image of Go-Daigo performing black magic has left a deep impression, he was in fact merely enacting on a larger scale the same rituals already performed by the cloistered emperors of the Insei period (Shirakawa, Horikawa, Toba) and the Fujiwara regents. These rituals used the relics or the cinta\mani as part of the worship of specific deities, the besson, deities that were at first marginal in the Buddhist pantheon but that came to assume a central role in Tantric Buddhism, particularly in Japan from the eleventh century onward. Among the most popular of these esoteric deities, we find Sho\ten (Vina\yaka), Fudo\ Myo\o\, Aizen Myo\o\, Benzaiten, and Dakiniten.

Even if their function can be traced back to Indian and Chinese precedents, in Japan the relics of the Buddha were reinscribed in specific symbolical or pragmatic and political networks. In particular, the development of the theme of the identity between the arra and the cinta\mani deviated the relic cult from the worship of the Buddha (as honzon) to that of the Special Worthies (besson), secondary deities



that take the center stage in rituals from the Insei period onward. In this way, the cult of the relics was put at the center of the Buddhist ideology of royal power that developed toward that time. They became, as it were, floating signifiers, and this precisely because of their uncanny capacity to sink and resurface, after sojourning for a time in the na\ga palace. Meanwhile, other relicsthe arra of the saintscontinued their traditional trajectory as cultic objects in monasteries and among the faithful. They do not seem to have been associated to the cinta\mani or to the regalia, and if we see the same rhetoric of invisibility at work in their case, the crypt or the reliquary is not the na\ga palace or its earthly replicas, the Treasure Houses (ho\zo\), but the stupa. A case in point is the Peak of the Five Elders (Goro\ho\) at Yo\ko\ji in Noto peninsula, a mound where the Zen priest Keizan Jo\kin (12681325) buried various relics (arra in the strict sense, bones, texts written in blood, etc.) of the five patriarchs of the So\to\ tradition (including his own preposthumous relics). In the same temple, a Life-Benefitting Stupa (risho\to\) was erected after the death of Emperor Go-Daigo to receive some of the relics of the Buddha, which the sho\gun disseminated throughout the country. This shows that the distinction between the two types of relics (those of the Buddha, those of the saints or patriarchs), while generally valid, must in some cases be nuanced. 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, the Fujiwara regent, the cloistered emperor, or the sho\gun) and major Buddhist monasteries (To\ji, Hieizan, or Tenryu\ji). However, the relics also circulated between the periphery of these circles and their symbolic centers (the Treasure Houses of To\ji, Sho\ko\myo\-in, Rengeo\-in, etc.) and sometimes broke out of these circles of power to disseminate among clerics and the faithful. This is for instance the case of the relics transmitted by Shirakawa-in to the Gion Consort and Kiyomori, which came to circulate among the nuns of Hokkeji in Nara and pursued their centrifugal trajectory among the faithful of the provinces.

1. See Bernard Faure, The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 13247; The Daruma-shu\, Do\gen, and So\to\ Zen, Monumenta Nipponica 42, no. 1 (1987): 2555; Les cloches de la terre: Un aspect du culte des reliques dans le bouddhisme chinois, in Bouddhisme et lettrs dans la Chine mdivale, ed. Catherine



Despeux (Paris, 2002); and Dato, Ho\bo\girin, fasc. 8, Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 2003: 11271158. The following chapter is a shortened version of a paper written in 1996, some of whose material was published under the title Relics, Regalia, and the Dynamics of Secrecy in Japanese Buddhism, in Rending the Veil: Concealment and Secrecy in the History of Religions, ed. Elliot R. Wolfson (New York: Seven Bridges Press, 1999), 27187. It was written before the publication of Brian Rupperts Jewel in the Ashes: Buddha Relics and Power in Early Medieval Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), which covers some of the same ground. I have unfortunately been unable to take Rupperts findings into account. Despite the inadequacy of the term relics (even in the Western context), pointed out by several scholars, I chose to continue using it here as shorthand for the Sanskrit terms dha\tu and arra. 2. See Faure, Bouddhisme et lettrs. 3. On the cinta\mani and Japanese kingship, see in particular Abe Yasuro\, Ho\ju to o\ken: chu\sei to mikkyo\ girei, in Iwanami ko\za to\yo\ shiso\ 16, Nihon shiso\ 2 (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1989), 11569. 4. See Buppatsu, in Ho\bo\girin: Dictionnaire encyclopdique du bouddhisme daprs les sources chinoises et japonaises, ed. Sylvain Lvi, et al., fasc. 2 (Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1930), 170b; see also Taisho\ shinshu\ daizo\kyo\ (hereafter abbreviated as T.), ed. Takakusu Junjiro\ et al., vol. 23 (Tokyo: Taisho\ issaikyo\ kanko\kai, 192434), no. 1435:415, and T. 50, 2040:66. 5. On the Insei period, see G. Cameron Hurst III, Insei: Abdicated Sovereigns in the Politics of Late Heian Japan, 10861185 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976). On the Kenmu restoration, see H. Paul Varley, Imperial Restoration in Medieval Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971). 6. Strictly speaking, the tenno\ is not an emperor (at least at this time). However, to avoid complicating the matter further, I will retain the established translation, which reflects the medieval (and modern) Japanese perception of the tenno\ as universal ruler by divine inheritance. 7. I use the expression local ideology here, for lack of a better one, to designate the first elements of a system of beliefs and rituals that will only much later come to be called Shinto\. On this question, see Kuroda Toshio, Shinto\ in the History of Japanese Religion, trans. James C. Dobbins and Suzanne Gay, Journal of Japanese Studies 7, no. 1 (1981): 121. 8. Such distributions took place for instance in 1038 (Cho\ryaku 2), 1192 (Kenkyu\ 3), 1229 (Kanki 1), and 1253 (Kencho\ 5). See Koji ruien, Shu\kyo\-bu, vol. 2 (Tokyo: Yoshikawa ko\bunkan, 1977), 242, 24748. As we will see later, after the Nanbokucho\ period, the sho\gun used a similar method. 9. See To\bo\ ki, by Go\ho\ (130662), in Zoku zoku gunsho ruiju\ 12. 10. On Ku\kais rain rituals at Shinzenen, see Brian D. Ruppert, Buddhist Rainmaking in Early Japan: The Dragon King and the Ritual Careers of Esoteric Monks, History of Religions 42, no. 2 (2002): 14374.



11. See Kakuzensho\, quoting the Goyuigo\, in Dai Nihon bukkyo\ zensho, vol. 51, 22a (hereafter DNBZ). 12. See Keiran shu\yo\ shu\, T. 76, 2410:545c. According to one tradition, the jewel of Ninnaji (the so-called no\saku jewel) had been sent to the sho\gun. When an emissary left Kamakura with it, lightning fell, and a dragon god tried to steal it. However, as it was wrapped in a ka\sa\ya, his attempt failed, and the jewel was returned safely to the capital. On Sho\ko\myo\-in, see Mimi Hall Yengpruksawan, The Phoenix Hall at Uji and the Symmetries of Replication, The Art Bulletin 77, 4 (1995): 64671. 13. See Kakuzensho\, DNBZ 51:13435. 14. See Zoku gunsho ruiju\ 27: 299. At the beginning of the Kamakura period, a monk named Ku\tai, a Chinese disciple of Cho\gen (11211206) of To\daiji, stole several grains of relics from Muro\ji, and he was arrested at Ko\fukuji. However, because of this theft he came to be called the Saint who spread the arra of Muro\[zan] (Muro\ shari ru\fu sho\nin). In 1272, a group of Shingon adepts also obtained a few grains of those a\rra, which they later disseminated in the Kanto\ region. See on this question Azuma Kagami 11, s.v. Kenkyu\ 2 (1191), 7/23; and No\tomi Jo\ten, Kamakura jidai no shari shinko\, Indogaku bukkyo\gaku kenkyu\ 33, no. 2 (1985): 3236; Tsuji Hidenori, Muro\ji oyobi Hasedera no kenkyu\ (Kyoto: Seika Gakuen 1970), 90. 15. On this site, see Ruppert, Jewel in the Ashes. 16. See for instance Robert E. Morrell, Passage to India Denied: Zeamis Kasuga Ryu\jin, Monumenta Nipponica 37, no. 2 (1982): 179200. 17. According to the Taiheiki, Shubin, in a fit of anger, had captured the dragon gods and locked them up in a jar, thereby causing a terrible drought. There was only one na\ga king in the Heatless Lake on the Himalayas, whose power was greater than his, and who remained free. It is this na\ga, Zennyo, whom Ku\kai invited to reside in Shinzenen Pond. See The Taiheiki: A Chronicle of Medieval Japan, trans. Helen Craig McCullough (Tokyo: Tuttle 1979), 37479. 18. On this question, see Tsuji Zennosuke, Nihon bukkyo\shi (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1970), 99. 19. See the Benichizan ki, in DNBZ, Jishi jo\sho 3; and Zoku gunsho ruiju\ 27: 299. See also, from a Shinto\ standpoint, the Benichi himitsu ki (compiled toward the Nanbokucho\ period). 20. See Yanagita Kunio, Shakujin mondo\ (var. Ishigami mondo\ ), in Yanagita Tamemasa et al., eds., Yanagita Kunio zenshu\, vol. 15 (Tokyo: Chikuma shobo\, 19891991), 41, on the etymology of these places named Sho\ji(n), derived from sho\ji = sae (obstacle), rather than from the Buddhist term sho\jin (Sanskrit vrya, one of the six pa\ramita\ ). 21. Quoted in Tsuji, Muro\ji oyobi Hasedera no kenkyu\, 12526. 22. See Zoku gunsho ruiju\ 27b:29699.



23. See Kakuzensho\, DNBZ 51:133b. The transmission went as follows: Ku \ k aiShingaGenninSho \ b o \ KankenIchijo \ Genko \ Ningai Jo\zonHanjun. See Kakuzensho\, 136a. 24. The repeated injunction not to disseminate the relics of Toj \ i suggests reluctance on the part of some monks to entrust their temples treasure to power-hungry prelates and rulers. The fact that the relics were stolen on several occasions shows that the monks fears were justified. We are told that, on one occasion, the dragon of Shinzenen flew to Toj \ i, amidst thunder and lightning, and the culprit subsequently confessed. Despite these threats, as we will see, the number of relics tended to increase with time, while their role as symbols of transmission diminished. 25. The symbolism of rebirth in Tusita Heaven is suggested by its forty-nine courts, a number reminiscent of the forty-nine days of the liminal period between death and rebirth. This symbolism also partly explains the association between Tusita Heaven and Amaterasus Heavenly Rock Cave. 26. See Abe, Ho\ju to o\ken, 12425. 27. See To\bo\ki, 12. 28. See the numbers given over fifteen generations in Kakuzen sho\, DNBZ 51:116b. These relics were contained in two bins (a and b), whose content varied from 3,406 to 4,486 grains and from 390 to 740, respectively. At one point, in 1054, the tags on the two bottles were interverted. On this question, see Ruppert, Jewel in the Ashes. 29. On this topic, see Kageyama Haruki, Shari shinko\: Sono kenkyu\ to shiryo\ (Tokyo: To\kyo\ bijutsu senta\, 1986); and Ruppert, Jewel in the Ashes, 13638. 30. See for instance Ryu\ichi Ab, The Weaving of Mantra: Ku\kai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 36366; Iyanaga Nobumi, Da\kini et lEmpereur: Mystique bouddhique de la royaut dans le Japon mdival, Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici 8384 (1999): 7579. 31. See T. 76:557a. 32. See Sanbo\ ekotoba, vol. 1:4, trans. Edward Kamens, The Three Jewels: A Study and Translation of Minamoto Tamenoris Sanbo\e (Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, the University of Michigan, 1988), 11820; and Tanaka Takako, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei (Tokyo: Tsunakoya shobo\, 1993), 102. 33. Commentaries on the Nihonshoki emphasize the importance of this story to understand the origin of the divine jewel (shindama), one of the three regalia. The tama contained in Toyotamahime, as Yanagita Kunio and Orikuchi Shinobu have shown, means divine spirit (shinrei), and Toyotamahime may be a generic term for the female mediums (miko) who were possessed by such spirits. 34. See Keiran shu\yo\ shu\, T. 76:578c79a. 35. We find the same story in the Utsubo monogatari, in the chapter Zo\kai (Opening of the Repository, first part). When Nakatada, the grandson of Toshi-



kage, discovers the repository left by his grandfather and wants to open it, he is warned by an old man who passed by that it is guarded by a dragon. No one can open it, and all those who come near it die. The story resembles that of Yorimichi, but in the Utsubo monogatari it is the spirit of Nakatadas grandfather who keeps the repository to transmit it to his legitimate heir. See Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 127. 36. Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 134. 37. See for instance Kujo\ Kanezane (11491207), Gyokuyo\ (Tokyo: Kokusho kanko\kai, 1907), s.v. Kenkyu\ 3/4/8. 38. See Abe, Ho\ju to o\ken, 155. 39. See Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 151. 40. See Daijo\in jisha zo\ji ki, s.v. Kansei 3/10/4 = 1462, quoted in Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 153. Another source, the Nyorai ha-shari denrai (dated 1367), mentions that this relic was transmitted in Japanese Tendai before eventually reaching the Fujiwara clan. See Gunsho ruiju\ 716:19. 41. This text is included in the Saidaiji Eizon denki shu\sei, quoted in Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 156. The Sennyu\ji in Kyoto also claimed to be in possession of that relic. See Koji ruien, s.v. Shari-e, Shu\kyo\-bu 2:119, and Butsuga shari ki, ibid., 117. See also John S. Strong and Sarah M. Strong, A Tooth Relic of the Buddha in Japan: An Essay on the Sennyu\-ji Tradition and a Translation of Zeamis No\ Play Shari, Japanese Religions 20, no. 1 (1995): 133. 42. See Hokkeji shari engi; reproduced in Busshari to ho\ju: Shaka o shitau kokoro, Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan, ed. (Nara-shi: Nara Kokuritsu, 2001), ill. 70, and 2134. Next to the tooth of the Buddha, another relic appeared, that of the left eye of the Buddha, said to be in the possession of the Shingon temple Oppo\ji (in Niigata Prefecture). The name of that temple, which means literally Temple of Treasure B, is said to derive from the legend that, whereas the relic of the Buddhas right eye had been enshrined in the Jiabaozi (Temple of Treasure A) in China, 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, on imperial order, by the priest Gyo\ki in 736. 43. See Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 16768. 44. Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 152. 45. The Heike monogatari claims that the Gion Consort was the mother of Kiyomori. While she was pregnant by Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa, he married her to his vassal Tadamori to reward him. Consequently, Kiyomori was not the son of Tadamori but of Shirakawa-in. According to documents of Komiya Shrine, however, it is the younger sister of the Gion Consort who, pregnant by Shirakawain, was married to Tadamori in order to settle things. She died two years after giving birth, and Kiyomori was raised by his aunt, the Gion Consort. Just before dying in 1192, Shirakawa-in gave the Gion Consort two thousand grains of relics,



which she is said to have transmitted to Kiyomori. See Helen Craig McCullough, trans., The Tale of the Heike (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), 217. 46. Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 15859. 47. See Donald L. Philippi, trans., Kojiki (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1968), 15058. 48. See Asabasho\ 187, by Sho\cho\ (120582), DNBZ: 41:120b. 49. See Abe, Ho\ju to o\ken, 129. 50. The relics of Hokkeji included those transmitted by Ku\kai, those brought by Ganjin, those of the Baramon so\jo\, and those brought from the dragon palace. See the Saidaiji chokushi Ko\sho\ Bosatsu gyo\jo\ nenpu, quoted in Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 162. 51. See Abe Yasuro\, Chu\sei nanto no shu\kyo\ to geino\, Kokugo to kokubungaku (May 1987). 52. See Tanaka, Geho\ to aiho\ no chu\sei, 16869. See also Hokkeji nyoi ho\ju engi no koto, in Keiran shu\yo\ shu\, T. 76, 2410:545b; and Hosokawa Ryo\ichi, O|ken to amadera: chu\sei no sei to shari shinko\, in Retto\ no bunkashi, ed. Amino Yoshihiko, vol. 5 (Tokyo: Nihon edita\ suku\ru shuppanbu, 1988). 53. See T. 83, 2543:15c. 54. See Faure, The Daruma-shu\, Do\gen, and So\to\ Zen, 2556. 55. See Takahashi Shu\hei, Sanbo\ji no Darumashu\ monto to rokuso Fugen shari, Shu\gaku kenkyu\ 26 (1984): 11621. 56. In other medieval texts, the Tusita Heaven is also assimilated to the RockCave of Heaven into which the sun goddess Amaterasu withdrew temporarily, when she felt threatened by her impetuous brother Susanoo. See for instance Shasekishu\, trans. Robert Morrell, Sand and Pebbles (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985), 7374. On the episode of the Rock-Cave of Heaven, see Kojiki, trans. Donald L. Philippi, Kojiki, 8186. 57. See McCullough, The Tale of the Heike, 42638. 58. According to the Azuma kagami (in Kokushi taikei 3233), in Kenryaku 2 (1212), the sho\gun deposited at Jufukuji in Kamakura the arra transmitted by Eisai. In 1214, the first ceremony (shari-e) took place at Daijiji. In 1217, another took place at Yo\fukuji. In 1220 and 1226, ceremonies were repeated at Daijiji, and in 1231 at Yo\fukuji. 59. Depending on the sources, this tooth had been transmitted to the Chinese Vinaya master Daoxuan by Nazha (Sanskrit Nada), the son of the Deva-King Viru\pa\ksa (see Kakuzensho\, DNBZ 51: 123a), or by the god Weituo (Sanskrit Skanda); see Nol Peri, Le dieu Wei-to, Bulletin de lcole Franaise dExtrme-Orient 17 (1916): 53. One tradition claims that it was transmitted to Japan under the reign of Emperor Saga (r. 80923); see Peri, Le dieu Wei-to. 60. See Gunsho ruiju\ 19:28687; and Kamakura kanryo\ kyu\dai ki, quoted in Koji ruien, Shu\kyo\-bu 2:119.



61. Koji ruien, Shu\kyo\-bu 2:121. On the Sennyu\ji relic, see Strong and Strong, A Tooth Relic of the Buddha in Japan. 62. See Gunsho ruiju\ 443, vol. 19, 28889. 63. See Abe, Ho\ju to o\ken, 153. 64. On Chinese regalia, see Anna Seidel, Imperial Treasures and Taoist Sacraments: Taoist Roots in the Apocrypha, in Tantric and Taoist Studies in Honor of R. A. Stein, ed. Michel Strickmann, vol. 2 (Brussels: Institut Belge des Hautes tudes Chinoises), 291371.



Jacob N. Kinnard
Only the portrait, or image, has the presence necessary for veneration, whereas the narrative exists only in the past. Hans Belting, Likeness and Presence

IT HAS BECOME VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO DISCUSS STUPAS, RELICS, AND images of the Buddha without recourse to the language of presence. Although presence may be a convenient, and even an accurate, rubric for what these objects effect, such language is also inherently vague and carries with it significant and sometimes troubling philosophical and theological overtones. Added to this is the familiar problem, not in any way unique to Buddhist studies, that the texts upon which we base our studies are frequently either entirely silent or extremely cryptic regarding such matters. This is not to say that talk of presence should therefore be abandonedno doubt to be replaced by some equally vague, equally loaded terminology. On the contrary, relics and images obviously involve and produce some sort of presence; what sort, however, is by no means self-evident. 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.1 The stu\pa is the Buddha, the Buddha is the stu\pa.2 The stu\pa symbolised His presence.3 Relics and the cults that surround the traces, or physical




remainders, seem to evoke a continuing presence of the Master.4 [T]he Buddhas eternal presence is contained in the Stu\pa, and although enshrining relics, the worshipper sees it as the eternal Buddha.5 [T]hese are thought to contain something of the spiritual force and purity of the person they once formed part of.6 [T]he relic in early Buddhist India was thought of as an actual living presence and was characterized byfull ofexactly the same spiritual forces and faculties that characterize, in fact constitute and animate, the living Buddha.7 The stupa is at one and the same time the body of the whole world and the Body of the Buddha, which is the body of perfected Man, of the Buddha as the universal type or norm of the human. . . . [T]he stupa and the Buddha image are interchangeable.8 [I]n being the Buddha, the image is the Buddhas story.9 Such a list could go on for several more pages, 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, there is little consensus as to what exactly this presence is. In the above quotations, for instance, there is posited a kind of ontological presenceto which one might add a kind of ontological absence;10 a kind of symbolic presence; and a kind of commemorative presence. Although such a state of ambiguity may be appropriate to the context, given the many historical and intellectual layers such statements encompass, it is compounded and further confused by a tendency to treat all relicsand here I mean the term in the broadest senseas the same, if not in terms of their classification, at least in terms of their function.11 Such an amalgamation is problematic. A stupa, for instance, ideally contains physical, or bodily, remains of the Buddhaalthough the relics contained within a stupa can also be relics of use, such as a bowl, and even images or pieces of images, that is, uddesika relics, therefore further muddying an already murky discourseand thus a stupa does have a kind of ontological link to the onceliving teacher. A stupa also evokes a symbolic presence, since, by convention, it signifies the relics it contains (and by extension the Buddha as the source of these relics); thus even a stupa without relics can symbolize the Buddha, or nirvana, or even another, more significant stupa with relics. A stupa also effects a commemorative sort of presence, in that it is a place to remember, to call to mind, the Buddhas life, his teaching, his nirvana, and so on. What about a Buddha image,12 though? What sort of presence does it, or do they, evoke? It has been rather common to see images as functional extensions, and therefore equivalents, of stupas: Other trends,



such as the cult of the image, can equally be seen as developments of the stu\pa cult. . . . [I]t functions like a stu\pa in making the saint present.13 Can we, or should we, 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. In short, images tell a story. This is most obvious with the early examples of Buddhist art from such places as Bha\rhut and Sa\c, as well as the countless illustrations of the Ja\takas found in temples throughout the Buddhist world.14 Steven Collins has articulated a significantly more complex notion of this kind of narrative presence; he says that when an image is encountered and recognized . . . or when an enshrined relic is venerated, the whole story is implicitly present.15 What Collins means by this is that the larger narrative is already familiar, and thus the specific object acts as a kind of mental seed, a kind of Buddhist version of Prousts madeleines. An image of the seated Buddha displaying the bhumiparsamu\dra\, for instance, not only visually narrates the specific episode of Ma\ras calling into question the Buddhas powers but also implicitly tells the story of all of Buddhism, from the young Siddharthas first journey outside of the palace to the parinirvana. An example of the sort of narrative presence that images evoke is the comparatively late stelaemost of these images date to the Pa\la period (7501200 CE)16depicting the eight great events in the Buddhas life, the Asamaha\pra\tiha\rya, and the places at which those events took place, the Asamaha\stha\nacaitya.17 John Huntington, for instance, says of these stelae: The sequence is a kind of epitome of the life of S:a\kyamuni. . . . [T]he Asamaha\pra\tiha\rya epitomizes the whole life of the Buddha, his attainments, his teachings and the benefits of faith in his life to his followers. In short, the set of eight scenes epitomizes the whole of Buddhism.18 Although Huntington provides a detailed discussion of the literal, narrative function of these imagesthat is, textual accounts of the events the images depicthis analysis does not perhaps go quite far enough. What might have enabled the tenth-century pilgrim to recognize and value such images? What is it that was valued? Furthermore, why is there a continued emphasis on the life of the historical Buddha (i.e., S:a\kyamuni) in artistic images during the Pa\la period, particularly when in contemporary textual practices S:a\kyamuni is increasingly nudged aside by the plethora of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deities that come to inhabit the greater Buddhist pantheon? In short, what was the field of presence in Pa\la India?




One of the major difficulties of the social history of philosophy, art or literature is that it has to reconstruct these spaces of original possibles which, because they were part of the self-evident givens of the situation, remained unremarked and are therefore unlikely to be mentioned in contemporary accounts, chronicles or memoirs. Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production

In his articulation of the notion of the field, Pierre Bourdieu characteristically emphasizes the relational nature of artistic production and reception. In so doing, he rejects Foucaults concept of the pistem because, Bourdieu argues, Foucault refuses to look outside the field of discourse for the principle which would cast light on each of the discourses within it . . . he thus refuses to relate works in any way to their social conditions of production, i.e., to positions occupied within the field of cultural production.19 Bourdieu also argues explicitly against Kants pure gaze aesthetic, 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.20 In order to understand the work of art in its original context, it is necessary to reconstruct the field in which that work was situated, a field that was made up of a whole range of strategies of production and reception. We know that the field of Buddhist practice during this period was far from unified. Given the broad expanses of time and space (including large parts of the modern Indian states of Bihar, Orissa, Bengal, plus parts of modern Bangladesh), plus the substantial international traffic through the regionit seems clear that what we have here is at the very least a diverse field.21 What constitutes this field, 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. It may seem odd to direct our gaze back to the Pa\li materials here, 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, such as the As amaha\pra\tiha\rya images. Indeed, all of the accounts of the significant events depicted on these stelae are contained within the Pa\li Canon. Certainly these stories are retold and reworked throughout Indian Buddhist history, but there is a strong sense in which such images implicitly tell the original story, in much the same way, say, that the cross, in the Western Christian context, tells the original story of Jesus.22 Thus what I shall attempt here is a kind of archaeological explicationnot in



Foucaults sense, but in the sense of Bourdieus methodological conviction that the field of art at any given time is constructed on, or through, a complex system of beliefs and practices made up of many layers of prior, inherited beliefs and practices. It is this layered system, this field, that allows for the recognition, in the deepest sense, of the object; it is the field that creates the belief which knows and acknowledges the kinds of presence evoked by physical images of the Buddha. Here I am concerned, in particular, 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. Another important element in the field of presence is the concept of buddha\nusmrti (Pa\li anussati), or recollecting the Buddha. Although this technique is explicitly meditational, and therefore involves a cognitive act of making present the Buddha, it too is an essential part of the Pa\la-period habituswhat Bourdieu calls the principles of the generation and structuring of practices and representations23of Buddha images.


Honor these: an elder of the sangha, a Bodhi tree, an image, a reliquary. Buddhaghosa, Samantapa\sa\dika\ Beings are contented, even just by seeing the Buddha; having heard the uttering of the discourse [of the Buddha], they obtain deathlessness. Buddhavamsa, in Jayawickrama, Buddhavamsa and Cariya\piaka


A great deal of ink has been spilled on the topic of Buddha images. 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,25 scholars have been wrangling over two very basic questions: (1) When did Buddhists begin representing the Buddha in sculptures, drawings, and paintings? and (2) Why did they do this? The first question, one would think, would be relatively straightforwardgiven the precision of modern dating techniquesand for the most part it is, except that some art historians have recently begun to introduce new data that would push the date back in time.26 Although this temporal debate is of considerable empirical interest, I will leave this to be argued by archaeologists and art historians.



Turning then to the second questionWhy did Buddhists begin making images of the Buddha?as we have seen, they did so in order to make the Buddha present, with all of the vagaries and polyvalent resonances of this phrase. What, though, is it about being in the presence of the Buddha? On the most basic level, the Buddhas disciples wish to be in the Masters presence in order to hear the dharma directly from him, in order to receive his direct guidance. We see variations of this throughout the Pa\li Canon; a would-be disciple learns that the Buddha is preaching the dhamma somewhere and resolves to go hear for him- or herself. This is also emphasized by the familiar opening of so many of the suttas: Evam me sutam, Thus have I heard. The text that follows this stock beginning is, at least on a very superficial level, legitimized by the fact that it was heard directly from the mouth of the Buddhait is buddhavacana, the Buddhas own speech.27 One of the most well-known and oft-cited expressions of this general theme is A|nandas tearful lament in the Maha\parinibba\na-Sutta when he knows that the masters death is imminent: Alas! I am still but a learner, one who has [more] work to do. And the Teacher is about to pass away from mehe who is so compassionate to me!28 A|nanda here is expressing several layers of distress, not the least of which is the emotion of losing a dear companion. What is perhaps most emphasized in the passage, though, is A|nandas fear that without the present Buddha there to teach and to guide him, he will remain a mere learner.29 Hearing the Buddhas words directly from the Buddhas mouth is not the only rationale for being in the physical presence of the Buddha. We see this explicitly addressed in the commentary on the Dgha-Nikay \ a, the Sumang alavilas \ in: the text states that the evam me sutam with which An | anda begins each narrative is intended to make present (paccakkham, 34 more literally make visible) the Buddhas dhamma-kay \ a. The emphasis on visibility here is noteworthy. Indeed, in the episode preceding An | andas lament, the godswho have heard that the Buddha is about to pass from the worldcome to see him (tathag \ atam dassay \ ana) one last time. This visual emphasis is seen, of course, throughout later Buddhism;31 seeing the Buddha is itself a tremendously significant eventseeing not just as an analytical act but also as David Eckel has claimed with respect to Bha\vavivekas vision longing, seeing as an emotional vision of a beloved object that fills the eyes with tears of joy, sadness, frustrations, or satisfaction.32 We find this emphasized in the stock phrase that occurs in later texts such as the Lalitavistara and Pacavimatipraja\pa\ramita\, as well as the Divya\vada\na and Maha\vyutpatti: Upon seeing the Buddha, the blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the mad recover their rea-



son, nakedness is covered, hunger and thirst are appeased, the sick cured, the infirm regain their wholeness.33 tienne 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, devoted to a life of study and meditation, are able to resign themselves to regarding their founder only as a sage who had entered Nirva\na, lay followers, who are exposed to the difficulties of their times, require something other than a dead god of whom only the remains (arra) could be revered. They want a living god, a god superior to the gods (deva\tideva) who will continue his beneficial activity among them, who can predict the future, perform wonders, and whose worship (pu\ja) will be something more than more [sic] recollection (anusmrti).34

Leaving aside the problems of seeing the devotional aspect of early Buddhism as a lay affair,35 Lamotte is probably correct in emphasizing the relative lateness of this tradition, although there are certainly earlier strata that emphasize the importance of seeing the physical Buddha. In Ja\taka 2, the Vannu-patha-ja\taka, for instance, a young member of a Sa\vatthi family, after being admitted to the first stage of the sangha, and after having been given a topic of meditation by the Buddha, goes off to the forest to meditate. After living there for three months, however, he makes no progress. Dwelling there, he was not able to obtain even a hint of insight. He thinks to himself: I will go back to the Teacher, and having gone to the presence of the Teacher, I will live looking at his most excellent body and listening to his honey-sweet teaching. The Buddha, however, 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. Having delivered this dhamma-discourse, he made known the Four Truths; at the end of this the remiss Brother was established in the highest fruit, Arahatship.36 Although the intent of this jat \ aka is quite clearly the need for perseverence, it is noteworthy for its dual emphasis on seeing and hearing and for the especially efficacious effects of this sight and sound. The young Sav \ atthin does not want merely to receive the Buddhas words; he also wants to look at the Buddha, to be in his physical presence. There is, indeed, a rather striking emphasis on the physical body of the Buddha here; not only do we get the stock phrase, Satthu-santikam gantva\ (Having gone to the presence of the Teacher), but also the phrase, Buddha-sarram olokento (looking at the body of the Buddha). Although I wish to avoid the temptation to make too much of this use of sarram, it is significant that the



emphasis in this episode is placed equally on hearing the dharma and on seeing the physically present Buddha. An even more striking example of this desire to see the living Buddha is found in the story of Vakkali, as it occurs in the Samyutta Nika\ya.37 In this version, Vakkali is a rather frail monk who has fallen ill and is visited by the Buddha, who is concerned about Vakkalis health. When the Buddha asks him how he is faring, however, Vakkali replies that he has long desired to see the Blessed One (Bhagavantam dassana\ya), but due to his illness he has been unable to satisify this desire. The Buddha sharply rebukes him: Enough, Vakkali! What is the sight of this putrid body to you? He who sees the dhamma, Vakkali, he sees me; he who sees me, he sees the dhamma.38 As in the ja\taka story above, the point of this passage is quite clear: attachment to the physical body of the Buddha is pointlessif not actually a hindrancesince the vision of the Buddha and the vision of the dhamma are equal. In the Dhammapada commentary, however, the message of the Vakkali story is somewhat more ambiguous. In this version, 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. As a monk, he is so attached to the physical form (sarrasampatti) of the Buddha that he follows him everywhere, to the point that he neglects his dhamma study and meditational exercises. The Buddha upbrades him with the Samyutta verse (equating seeing the Buddha with seeing the dhamma), but the visually obsessed Vakkali is unable to leave the Buddhas side. The Buddha finally attempts to cure Vakkali by forbidding the young monk to accompany him on the rains retreat; Vakkali responds by vowing to hurl himself off a cliff. In order to save him, the Blessed One creates an image39 of himself for Vakkali. Vakkali is overjoyed at the sight of this image. Once the Buddha sees that Vakkali is out of danger, he delivers a short sermon, and Vakkali is cured of his visual obsession and obtains arhatship. Again, although the immediate message of this episode is the danger of becoming too attached to the physical form of the Buddha, there is also a kind of celebration of the joy one receives from a vision of the Buddha. It is, after all, 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 Buddhas wisdom. Much more could certainly be said about the dynamics of vision in the Buddhist context;40 what is most relevant at this point, however, 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. As Reginald Ray has put it recently, with specific reference



to Avaghosas Buddhacarita, but with implications for all of Buddhism: The sight of the Buddha, buddhadarana, is a vehicle of transformation, wherein one is able to participate in the holy charisma of the Buddha. . . . [D]aran is a vehicle to knowing who the Buddha really is. . . . It enables one to know the Buddha, commune with him, and actively participate in his charismaexperiences that rouse those who see him to faith, to spontaneous acts of devotion, to insight.41

Despite the scholarly debates over the earliest Buddha images and the origins of these images, there are suprisingly few textual references to images and image making. In all of the Pa\li canonical literature, there is not, to my knowledge, a single reference to images of the Buddha. This is striking, but understandable. The Canon is, after all, largely concerned with events contemporaneous with the living Buddha. Certainly shortly before and immediately after his death there is discussion of his corporeal remains, but there is simply no mention of images.42 There are, however, references to images in the commentaries, and although a detailed analysis of the Pa\li commentarial literature is beyond the scope of this chapter, there are a few specific references to why images were made, references that demonstrate that images were in part made to fill the void left by the absent Buddha. They were intended, in contrast to Lamottes out of sight remark, to bring him back into sight. In the Samantapas \ ad \ ika, \ the commentary on the Vinaya,43 there are several references to both viggaha and paimam. 44 Most of these references are not of particular value in the present context in that they fail to explain why Buddhists made images. There are two, however, worthy of note. The first is embedded in a list of objects deserving of veneration: cetiyam paimam bodhim sang hattheram vandatha\ ti (Samantapas \ ad \ ika\ 627). What is striking about this is the inclusion of the paimam, particularly without the modifier sadhat \ ukawith relicsin the list.45 Both cetiya and bodhi resonate with the presence of the Buddhathe one in which are deposited his physical remains, the other under which he achieved enlightenmentand the eldest member of the sangha is almost by definition worthy of respect and veneration; an image, however, is usually worthy of veneration only if it contains relics, only if it is sadhat \ uka.46 This is not to say, however, that images are simply a different sort of reliquary, significant only because a relic is contained within. This is certainly important, but the degree to which the image truly is a paimam, truly is an accurate measure of the Buddha, is also significant. At Samantapas \ ad \ ika\ 114243 (8:32), we encounter this passage:


Formerly, they gave gifts to both sides of the sangha [i.e., male and female], headed by the Buddha; the Blessed One sat in the middle, the Bhikkhus sat on the right, the Bhikkunis sat on the left, [and] the Blessed One was the Sanghathera of both; then the Blessed One himself received the gifts and also enjoyed them himself; then he had them given to the Bhikkhus. Now, however, learned people, having [first] set up either a reliquary [cetiya] or an image enclosing relics, give gifts to both sanghas, headed by the Buddha. Having set a bowl on a stand in front of the image or reliquary, and having given water as an offering, they say, We will give to the Buddhas [buddha\nam].47

There are many points of interest here, the most relevant of which is the temporal dimension, the emphasis on before (pubbe) and now (etarahi). While the Buddha was alive, he was the leader of the sangha, the one who sat at the head of the assembly, the one who first received gifts from the laity. When the Buddha is gone to nirvana, however, a kind of ersatz Buddha replaces him, mediates his presence: offerings are made to the Buddha (to the Buddhas, that is) via the medium of the statue (or cetiya). Although Collins is certainly correct in his reservations about the use of the language of presence with regard to Buddhism,48 the language in this passage comes very close, indeed, to just the sort of presence we see in early Christianity, even if we encounter no emic terms in the Buddhist materials. Peter Brown describes the milieu in which the cult of the saints, and particularly the cults surrounding their bodily relics, arose as being one in which Mediterranean men and women, beginning in the fourth century, turned with increasing explicitness for friendship, inspiration and protection in this life and beyond the grave, 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.49 As in the early Christian context, relics were perhaps the primary means by which Buddhists brought the absent invisible beingthe Buddhainto the visible present. As the passage from Buddhaghosa demonstrates, though, visual images such as sculptures could also serve this function. And also as in the Christian context, this presence was always in dialectical tension with absence: The carefully maintained tension [in early Christianity] between distance and proximity ensured one thing: praesentia . . . the praesentia on which such heady enthusiasm focused was the presence of the invisible person.50 One of the clearest, and perhaps one of the earliest,51 expressions of a reason for making images of the Buddha occurs in the many versions of the Prasenajit story.52 The story, as recorded by Faxian, goes as follows:


When the Buddha went up to heaven for ninety days to preach the Faith to his mother, king Prasenajit, longing to see him, caused to be carved in sandal-wood from the Bulls head mountain an image of Buddha and placed it where Buddha usually sat. Later on, when Buddha returned to the shrine, the image straightaway quitted the seat and came forth to receive him. Buddha cried out, Return to your seat: after my disappearance you shall be the model for the four classes in search of spiritual truth. At this, the image went back to the seat. It was the very first of all such images, and is that which later ages have copied.53


The degree to which the image mediates the absence of the Buddha here is obvious. Whether this is in fact a very early story that was still popular in Faxians time, or whether it is in fact a much later explanation for the existence of Buddha images, the image is intended to fill in for the Buddha in his absence. Xuanzang records an almost identical story, although King Uda\yana replaces Prasenajit. In that version of the story, the Buddha himself explicitly expresses the function of the image. Upon his return from the Tra\yatrimati heaven, where he has been preaching the dharma to his mother for three months, 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, and to lead the way of religion in future ages.54


Therefore in the presence of an image Or reliquary or something else Say these twenty stanzas Three times a day Na\ga\rjuna, in Hopkins and Lati Rimpoche, trans., 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 theism55 that swept across Buddhist culture with the rise of Mahayana. Rather, it was the result of a gradually developed and multilayered habitus, a habitus constituted by a range of strategies intended to respond to the absence of the Buddha. An important strategy to negotiate this absence of the Buddha as a teacher and guide is the practice of buddha\nusmrti, recollection of the Buddha. Although this is typically portrayed as a meditational practice, buddha\nusmrti is also a mediating practice, in that it can make present the absent Buddha. Recollection of the



Buddha also often explicitly involves the use of physical images in addition to the creation of a mental image of the Buddhawhat might be called iconographic thought about the Buddha. In the Pa\li materials, anussati tends to be rather low on the scale of things, a preliminary step in the more complex systems of meditation. Winston King, for instance, calls the different forms of anussati preliminary low-level techniques in which ones mood is set favorably toward the meditative process but that produce no recognized level of higher awareness. . . . [T]his type of meditation never reaches that deep inner isolation of consciousness, completely cut off from outer stimuli, that takes place in the jha\nas.56 In this light, buddha\nussati is a kind of meditational warm-up, a rather simple exercise intended to clear the slate for the higher levels of jha\nic attainment. Edward Conze notes that the descriptions of the recollections are rather sober and restrained, without great emotional fervour. This is the way of the Theravadins.57 Anussati, according to Paul Harrison, is a kind of exercise in the power of positive thinking, but of the most abstract kind.58 Buddha\nussati is the first item in a larger list of either six or ten things to which one should devote ones thoughts;59 it is a name for mindfulness with the Buddhas virtues as object.60 Buddhaghosa, in his long exposition of the different forms of anussati, 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, the Blessed One, as follows: That Blessed One is such since he is accomplished, fully enlightened, endowed with (clear) vision and (virtuous) conduct, sublime, the knower of worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.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. As he continues to exercise applied thought and sustained thought upon the Enlightened Ones special qualities, says Buddhaghosa, happiness arises in him (Visuddhimagga 229). This leads to tranquility and bliss: When he is blissful, his mind, with the Enlightened Ones special qualities for its object, becomes concentrated, and so the jhana factors eventually arise in a single moment (Visuddhimagga 22930). There is thus a sort of mimetic rationale for the development of buddha\nussati in the Pa\li texts;



one is to concentrate on the qualities of the Buddha in order to emulate him and, in the process, to develop those virtues he exemplifies. Mimesis is not, however, the only rationale for recollecting the Buddha.62 At the end of the section in the Visuddhimagga enumerating the various qualities of the Buddha, Buddhaghosa states: When a bhikkhu is devoted to this recollection of the Buddha, he is respectful and deferential toward the Master. He attains fullness of faith, mindfulness, understanding and merit. He has much happiness and gladness. He conquers fear and dread. He is able to endure pain. He comes to feel as if he were living in the Masters presence.63 Thus by recollecting and concentrating on the Buddhas many virtues, the meditator creates a mental picture so vivid and lifelike that the absent Buddha is made present.64 It is not, perhaps, immediately clear what these recollectionsthese mental imageshave to do with visual images made of stone and wood. Buddhaghosa does not introduce any specifically visual language here, although his long elaboration of the special qualities of the Buddha does, in a way, create a visual image of the Buddha, such that: When he encounters an opportunity for transgression, he has awareness of conscience and shame as vivid as though he were face to face with the Master (Visuddhimagga 230). In the Vimuttimagga,65 however, this visual aspect is made explicit: If a man wishes to meditate on the Buddha, he should worship Buddha images and such other objects.66 The text does not mention meditation on the Buddhas physical form anywhere, but as Harrison has noted, this reference in the Vimuttimagga is a tantalizing clue.67 Harrison sees a gradual movement in terms of the conception of the Buddha. At first, the Buddha was a teacher and exemplary religious figure, and the emphasis was, as we have seen, on hearing the dharma directly from him and, later, conforming to the model he had established while alive. This paradigmatic quality, however, is according to Harrison gradually replaced; the Buddha becomes not so much a figure to be emulated as one to be worshipped. As much as the corpus of his teachings (the Dharma) was preserved, transmitted, and inexorably enlarged, his followers must still have felt keenly how unfortunate it was to be deprived of his actual presence. . . . It is not too difficult to conceive how buddhan \ usmrt i was pressed into service in such circumstances, until practices were evolved that entailed not merely a reminiscence of the Buddha, but an imaginitive evocation of his presence by means of structured meditative procedures.68 Harrison has written extensively on an early Mahayana text that represents a developed form of buddhan \ usmrt i, a text that includes both a more standard discussion of meditation on the physical body of the Buddha,69 and



a detailed treatment of the importance of images in devotional practice. The text is appropriately entitled the Pratyutpanna-buddha-samm ukhav \ asthita\ ra on the direct encounter with samad \ hi-sut \ ra (henceforth PraS ),70 the Sut the Buddhas of the present. 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, which they subsequently remember and propagate to others.71 The Buddhas discussed in this text are not the historical Buddha Sa : k \ yamuni, but such figures as Amitab \ ha; Harrison notes, however, that these Buddhas are simply idealized clones of Sa : k \ yamuni transposed to different world systems.72 Although the PraS is largely concerned with meditational techniques (hence the sama\dhi in the title), there are several very relevant discussions of the use of images in the cultivation of this sama\dhi. For instance, the sama\dhi itself is attained through an extremely detailed visualization of the Buddha, in much the same way as we have seen in the Pa\li texts, but with even greater attention to the iconographic qualities of the Buddhas physical body. As Harrison puts it, To aid this detailed iconographical visualization, practitioners are encouraged to imagine the Buddhas body as resembling an image.73 In the PraS, images act as a kind of visual cue: If you desire this most excellent of sama\dhis Paint pictures well, and construct images of the Incomparable One, Which have the marks complete, resemble the colour of gold, Are large, and flawless.74 By gazing at the artistically created physical image, the practitioner is thus able to conjure up a detailed mental image of the Buddha; in turn, it is via this mental visualization that one is fully able to recollect the Buddha, a process that, if perfected, effectively brings the Buddha into the present. Significantly, 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.75 This idea that the Buddhas physical body resembles an image is seen elsewhere in early Mahayana texts. In what may be the earliest Mahayana sutra in India, the Dao-xing jing of Lokaksema (compiled in 179 CE), we encounter this passage:
The Buddhas body is like the images which men make after the Nirva\na of the Buddha. When they see these images, there is not one of them who


does not bow down and make offering. These images are upright and handsome; they perfectly resemble the Buddha and when men see them they all rejoice and take flowers and incense to revere them.76


The context of this passage is a conversation between the Bodhisattvas Sada\prarudita, who is in search of the Praja\pa\ramita\ teachings, and Dharmodgata, who guides and instructs Sada\prarudita.77 The close interplay between the present (inanimate) image and the absent (animate) Buddha is striking here. As we have already seen in the Pa\li texts, with the creation of the sandalwood image in the Prasenajit story, and the substitution of the image for the departed Buddha in the midst of the assembled sangha as described in the Samantapa\sadika\, the rationale for making and venerating Buddha images passes fluidly between a commemorative sort of representation of the absent Teacher, and a more ambiguous sort of recollection, one that explicitly makes present, really present, the Buddha. The interplay between these conceptions of the significance of visual images is particularly evident in Dharmodgatas discussion of images in the Daoxing jing. On the one hand, the image is there as a reminder: If there is a man who has seen the Buddha in person, then after [the Buddhas] Nirva\na he will remember the Buddha and for this reason make an image. On the other hand, the image is more than a reminder, since it is capable of activity: If men constantly see the Buddha [in the form of a visual image] performing meritorious deeds, then they too will constitute a perfect Buddha body, and be endowed with wisdom (see figure 5.1).78


In closing, I wish to return briefly to the passage from the Samantapas \ ad \ ika\ and the reference to the gifts given to the sangha, headed by the Buddha. The passage tells us that in the past (pubbe) the Buddha himself was at the head of the sangha, but now it is not the Buddha himself, but an image or a reliquary (paimay \ a va\ cetiyassa va) \ . Gregory Schopen has analyzed the use of the word pamukkha/pramukha in medieval inscriptional data, and he concludes that the designationpramukha was never applied symbolically, but always referred to actual individuals holding certain responsible positions.79 Pramukha, Schopen argues, indicates that the Buddha himself was thought to actually reside in the specifically named monastery.80 The evidence I have presented here concerning images is consistent with Schopens assertion, and, I would argue, it is this conception of presence that is passed on through the Pal \ a period and beyond.


FIGURE 5.1. As amaha\pra\tiha\rya image (tenth century, Bihar, currently in the collection of the National Museum in New Delhi). The central figure depicts the Buddha at the time of his enlightenment and his victory over Ma\ra. The other seven scenes are, from the top and moving clockwise: the Buddhas death (parinirvana), first sermon, descent from the Tra\yastrima heaven where he had gone to teach his mother, gift of honey to the monkey at Vaia\l (the Buddhas compassion and the importance of giving), birth, taming of the wild elephant Nlgiri (the power of the teachings), and the miracle at S:ra\vast (representing the triumph of the Buddhas teaching over all others). Photograph by Jacob N. Kinnard



What the evidence I have examined also illustrates, though, is that this way of characterizing presencereal, even ontological presenceis perhaps too narrow and too neat. With images the field of presence is constituted by several layers of overlapping discourse, several different conceptions of presence that are not always consistent with one another. We should be more cautious, then, in how we characterize the way Buddhists themselves have conceived of and perceived the presence of the Buddha in relics and stupas and images. The language of the texts and inscriptions may seem to indicate, unambiguously, that the Buddha was thought to actually reside in the object in question; does it necessarily follow, however, that those who composed these texts and inscriptionsas well, say, as those who actually gave gifts to the sangha with the Buddha at the head in the form of a statuedid 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, The Bare Facts of Ritual.81 In this article, Smith specifically examines a group of bear hunting rituals in which the participants are said to go through an elaborate, formalized ritual every time they kill a bear; among other things, they ask the bear for permission to kill it, and they kill it without shedding any blood. Smith reproduces, in summary form, the text of these rituals, a text that, if taken literally, indicates that the participants in the rituals are, simply put, daft: [I]f we accept all that we have been told by good authority, we will have accepted a cuckoo-land where our ordinary, commonplace, commonsense understandings of reality no longer apply.82 Smith argues, however, that to take such texts literally is to miss the point. This is a kind of idealized language; the language of the ritual, and the ritual itself, is intended as a way of making up for an incongruity, of creating an idealized version of the world. As Smith puts it, there is a gap between their ideological statements of how they ought to hunt and their actual behavior while hunting.83 What the bear hunting ritual represents indeed, for Smith, what all rituals representis a conscious strategy intended to bridge the gap; 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, uncontrolled, course of things. . . . [T]he ritual is unlike the hunt. It is, once more, a perfect hunt with all the variables controlled.84 If we apply Smiths view of ritual to the Pa\la periodto, say, images such as the Asamaha\pra\tiha\rya stelaewe can see how such images represent, or are, a strategy of choice, a way of creating an ideal world in



contrast to the actual one. The real world, of course, is marked by the absence of the historical Buddha. What, then, is the idealized world? Precisely that contained in the Asamaha\pra\tiha\rya images. Here the Buddha is not so much made present, but the believing viewer is made past. The image transports one into the pastinto the pubbe of the Samantapa\sa\dika\the ideal time when the Buddha was alive, preaching the dharma, defeating Ma\ra, and so on; 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, I would agree with John Huntingtons emphasis on the narrative, almost instructive function of images such as the As amaha\pra\tiha\rya, and I would also say that he is correct in positing the total representation of Buddhism in the image, such that, in Collins words, the whole story is implicitly present.85 What I have attempted to demonstrate here, however, is that there is more to the picture than meets the eye. There is a field of practice underlying not only the production of such imagesthat is, what sorts of conventions are handed down (parampara)but also the reception of such images. Let us recall Bourdieus point: A work of art, be it intended for decorative purposes, for commodity exchange, for religious worship, must be recognized as such, and the ability to recognize it depends on the field of practice, the larger habitus in which the work is situated. What I have attempted to uncover here are merely some of the highlights of that field. Thus a piece of stone or clay, such as the small terra cotta versions of As amaha\pra\tiha\rya that were common in medieval northeast India, is at once a pilgrims memento, a reminder of a significant journey (or a token in lieau of such a journey) and also a representation of the Buddhas entire life and entire teachings; such an image creates an opportunity to remember the Buddha in the anusmrti sense and thus to conjur him up mentally; such an image also creates the Buddhas very presence (see figure 5.1). Certainly I am not suggesting that a Buddhist layperson living in, say, Bihar in the middle of the tenth century would have necessarilyor even possiblybeen consciously aware of all of the layers underlying the image to which he or she was performing a buddhapu\ja or buddha\nusmrti exercise. On the contrary, these are the self-evident givens that, according to Bourdieu, constitute any field of practice. Perhaps, then, the language of presence, with all of its baggage, is ultimately fitting for discussing the field of Buddha images; for presence is just vague enough, just broad enough, and just elusive enough to encompass such a field.



1. Reginald A. Ray, Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 344. 2. Paul Mus, quoted in Benisti, Etude sur le stu\pa linde ancienne, Bulletin de lEcole Francaise 50 (1960): 51. 3. Sushila Pant, The Origin and Development of the Stupa Architecture in India, Journal of Indian History 51, no. 3 (1973): 472. 4. Nancy Falk, To Gaze on the Sacred Traces, History of Religions 16, no. 4 (1977): 283. 5. Akira Hirakawa, The Rise of Maha\ya\na Buddhism and Its Relationship to the Worship of Stu\pas, Memoires of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunkyo 22 (1963): 88. 6. Peter Harvey, The Symbolism of the Early Stu\pa, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7, no. 2 (1984): 69. 7. Gregory Schopen, Burial Ad Sanctos and the Physical Presence of the Buddha in Early Indian Buddhism, Religion 17 (1987): 203; and On the Buddha and His Bones, Journal of Indian Philosophy 108, no. 4 (1990): 181217. 8. Adrian Snodgrass, The Symbolism of the Stupa (Ithaca: Studies in Southeast Asia, 1985), 360, 363. 9. Donald Swearer, History of Religions 34, no. 3 (1995): 15. 10. See Malcolm David Eckel, To See the Buddha (San Francisco: Harper/Collins, 1992). 11. See Kevin Trainor, Relics, Ritual, and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Therava\da Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). 12. See below for a discussion of the indigenous terms for images; see also Schopen, The Buddha as an Owner of Property and Permanent Resident in Medieval Indian Monasteries, Journal of Indian Philosophy 18 (1990): 181217, particularly the lengthy note (20) on page 208. 13. Reginald Ray, Buddhist Saints, 416. 14. See Vidya Dehejia, On Modes of Visual Narration in Early Buddhist Art, Art Journal 49 (1990): 37492. 15. Steven Collins, Nirva\na, Time, and Narrative, History of Religions 31 (1992): 241. 16. For some tentative suggestions on dates, see John Huntington, Pilgrimage as Image: The Cult of the As amaha\pra\tiha\rya, part 1, Orientations 18, no. 4 (1987): 5563; and part 2, Orientations 18, no. 8 (1987): 5668. 17. There is a short textextant in Chinese and Tibetan onlythat describes these eight places; see Hajime Nakamura, The As amaha\stha\nacaityastotra and



the Chinese and Tibetan Versions of a Text Similar to It, in Indianisme et bouddhisme: Mlanges offerts Mgr. tienne Lamotte (Louvain-La-Neuve: Universitea\ Catholique de Louvain, Institute Orientaliste, 1980). 18. John Huntington, Pilgrimage as Image, pt. 1:55 and pt. 2:6768. 19. The Field of Cultural Production, or: The Economic World Reversed, trans. Richard Nice; originally published in Poetics (Amsterdam) 12, nos. 45 (1983): 31156; reprinted in Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, ed. and intro. Randal Johnson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 33. 20. Ibid., 35; emphasis added. See also, in the same volume, Outline of a Sociological Theory of Art Perception, 21537. 21. See Lal Mani Joshis Preliminary Observations to his Religious Changes in Late Indian Buddhist History, Buddhist Studies Review 8, nos. 12 (1991): 4564, and vol. 9, no. 2 (1992): 15368. 22. As Julien Ries has put it: In the cross, the entire ancient symbol system is assumed, but it is now placed within the context of a new vision of history framed by the theology of creation and redemption. In the eyes of the Christian, the cross is considered inseparable from the mystery of the divine Logos. Hence it takes on a cosmic dimension, a biblical dimension, and a soteriological dimension (Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade [New York: MacMillan, 1987], 4:165). 23. Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 72. See also Bourdieus discussion of habitus in The Logic of Practice (Stanford: Standford University Press, 1990), especially chapter 3. 24. See Alfred Foucher, LOrigine grecque de limage du Bouddha, Annales du Musee Guimet, Bibliotheque de vulgarisation, tome 38 (Chalon-sur-Saone, 1913), 23172. In this highly influential article, Foucher first articulates the view that the origins of the earliest Buddha images were Greek; see also Foucher, The Beginnings of Buddhist Art, in Foucher, The Beginnings of Buddhist Art and Other Essays in Indian and Central Asian Archaeology (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1917), 129; originally published in Journal Asiatique, Jan.Feb. 1911. Perhaps the most vocal opponent of this theory was Ananda Coomaraswamy. See his Origin of the Buddha Image, The Art Bulletin 11, no. 4 (1927): 143; and also his Indian Origin of the Buddha Image, Journal of the American Oriental Society 46 (1926): 16570. 25. See Susan Huntington, Early Buddhist Art and the Theory of Aniconism, Art Journal 49 (1990): 40107, for a useful survey of the relevant points here. Also see A. K. Narain, First Images of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas: Ideology and Chronology, in Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia, ed. A. K. Narain (New Delhi: Kanak Publications, 1985), 121, as well as John Huntingtons article, in the same volume, The Origin of the Buddha Image: Early Image Traditions and



the Concept of Buddhadaranapunya\, pp. 2458. See also Paul Mus, The Iconography of an Aniconic Art, RES 14 (1987): 528. 26. See for instance J. E. van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, New Evidence with Regard to the Origin of the Buddha Image, in South Asian Archaeology 1979, ed. Herbert Hartel (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1981). 27. There are many places in both the Canon and the Commentaries in which this point is emphasized. For a useful discussion of buddhavacana in the Pa\li Theravada context, see George Bond, The Word of the Buddha (Colombo: M. D. Gunasena, 1982), 133; see also Paul Griffiths, On Being Buddha: The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), particularly pp. 4641; and also Jos Ignazio Cabezn, Buddhism and Language: A Study of Indo-Tibetan Scholasticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), especially chapters 2 and 3. The phrase evam me sutam has generated a fair amount of controversy in Buddhist studies; see John Brough, Thus have I heard . . ., Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 13, no. 1 (1949): 41626; and, more recently, Jonathan A. Silk, A Note on the Opening Formula of Buddhist Su\tras, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 12, no. 1 (1987): 15863. 28. Dgha Nika\ya (DN), T. W. Rhys Davids and J. Estlin Carpenter, eds. (London: Pali Text Society, 194960). 29. The Buddhas advice to him in this matter is twofold: first, he must be diligent and earnest in his own efforts (DN 2:144); and second, he and the other disciples must realize that after the Buddhas parinibba\na the dhamma will continue: Oh Ananda, that Dhamma and Vinaya has been made known and taught to you by me; after me (after Im gone) that is your Teacher (DN 2:154). 30. See Collins, Nirva\na, 236. 31. 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. He sees the Mahayana appearing suddenly and with great power. At the heart of this sudden appearance is a transformative experience: This experience was nothing less than direct contact with the Buddha. By direct contact I mean three things: (a) a vision of the Buddha (buddha-darana) (b) hearing the Buddhas voice (buddha-abda) (c) immersement in the Buddhas knowledge (buddha-jana). See his Visions and Symbols in the Maha\ya\na, in Perspectives on Indian Religion: Papers in Honour of Karel Werner, Bibliotheca Indo-Buddhica, no. 30, ed. Peter Connolly (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1986), 191. 32. Eckel, 1. 33. tienne Lamotte, History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the S:aka Era, Sara Webb-Boin, trans. (Louvain-la-Neuve: Universit catholique de Louvain, Institut orientaliste, 1988). 34. Ibid., 645.



35. Gregory Schopen has argued that this is a fundamental misconception about Indian Buddhism. See his On Monks, Nuns and Vulgar Practices: The Introduction of the Image Cult into Indian Buddhism Artibus Asiae 49, nos. 12 (1988): 15368. According to the evidence Schopen presents, it was the monastics who initiated and disproportionately supported the cult of images at Sa\rna\th [among other places] in the early periods. . . . A picture of the actual Indian Buddhist monk and nun is gradually emerging, and these monks and nuns differ markedly from the ideal monk and nun which have been presented on the basis of textual material alone. The actual monk, unlike the textual monk, appears to have been deeply involved in religious giving and cult practice of every kind from the very beginning (155, 167). 36. I have translated the Pa\li ossahaviriyo bhikkhu as remiss bhikkhu, although the commpound ossahaviriyo means literally one whose energy (viriyo) is let loose (ossaha). It would make equal semantic sense to translate this phrase as diligent bhikkhu, since the ossaha can also have the sense of put forth. The redactors of this Ja\taka are obviously playing on this compound, although it is difficult to say, exactly, how they intend it to be taken. Either the young monk achieves arhat status as a result of his former diligence, or achieves itrather paradoxically, in my opinionas a result of seeing and hearing the Buddha. 37. There are several versions of this story, in the Anguttara Nika\ya (AN), as well as the commentary on the Dhammapada. 38. Samyutta Nika\ya (SN) 3:120. The episode concludes with Vakkali committing suicide, although the Buddha then declares that, in fact, Vakkali had already been parinibutto at the time of his death. For more on such suicides, see Martin G. Wiltshire, The Suicide Problem in the Pa\li Canon, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 6, no. 2 (1983): 12440. 39. The Pa\li is obha\sam, the most immediate sense of which is appearance. 40. See, for instance, Ananda Coomaraswamys interesting article, Samvega, Aesthetic Shock, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 7 (194243): 17479; Alex Wayman, The Buddhist Theory of Vision, in Buddhist Insight: Essays by Alex Wayman, ed. George Elder (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1984), 15361; Stephan Beyer, Notes on the Vision Quest in Early Maha\ya\na, in Praja\pa\ramita\ and Related Systems: Studies in Honour of Edward Conze, ed. Lewis Lancaster (Berkeley: Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series, 1977), 32940. 41. Reginald Ray, Buddhist Saints in India, 52. 42. The earliest textual references to images seem to be from the Mathura\ inscriptions. See H. Luders and K. L. Janert, Mathura Inscriptions (Gottingen, 1961), nos. 4, 9, 29, 74, 135, 167, and 180, among others. 43. It is perhaps significant that these references occur in the Vinaya commentary, since much of the fuel behind the aniconic thesis about early Buddhist art has been a purported ban on images in the Vinaya. In fact, only one such passage



occurs, in the Mulasarva\stava\din-Vinaya, where the Buddha is said to have explicitly prohibited the use of images. See the appendix to Arthur Waleys article, Did the Buddha Die of Eating Pork? Mlanges chinois et bouddhiques 1 (1932): 35254. See also G. Roth, The Physical Presence of the Buddha, in Investigating Indian Art (Berlin: Museum fr Indische Kunst, 1987), 30405. One of the most commonly cited passages to support the purported ban on images is the Kalingabodhi Ja\taka (J 4:228). Stanley Tambiah has seen in this passage an early Buddhist view against the representation of the Buddha in human form; see his Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of the Amulets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 201. In this ja\taka, Ana\thapindika learns that while the Buddha is away from Jetavana on pilgrimage, the people of Sa\vatthi, in the absence of the Buddha, leave garlands and wreaths at the gateway of the Buddhas chambers. Ana\thapindika goes to A|nanda and tells him that the monastery is unsupported (nipaccayei.e., without the four requisites, since there is no place for the laypeople to deliver them, or no Buddha to receive them) while the Buddha is on pilgrimage. He asks A|nanda to speak to the Buddha in order to find out whether there is a place for such offerings. The Buddha informs A|nanda that of the three kinds of memorials (cetiya\ni), a bodily memorial (sarraka) is not proper because the Buddha is not dead; an uddesika memorial is not proper because it depends on imagination (uddesikam avatthukam manamattakena hoti); a bodhi tree (here, presumably, a pa\ribhogika shrine), however, is fit for worship. The Buddha thus allows A|nanda to have a bodhi tree planted. Tambiah has suggested that the Buddha rejects personalized (i.e., uddesika) symbols because such are groundless and merely fanciful, that is, they are only artificially, arbitrarily, and by convention referable to the absent being (20102). Tambiah is placing a great deal of emphasis on the word avatthuka here. Literally, this means without ground. This, however, is not some general indictment of image worship (or an iconoclastic precedent, as Tambiah suggests on p. 202). No images are, in fact, mentioned in this passage. Rather, 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 Buddhas absence. 44. These are perhaps the most common terms for physical (i.e., artistic) images. The precise distinction between the two is not at all clear, however. Viggaha (Sk. vigrah \ a) derives from the Vedic root /grah, grasp, grab, seize, with the prefix vi here serving as an intensifier. Hence the viggaha seizes that which it depictsor it enables the viewer to seize on to it. Paima\ (Sk. pratima) \ comes from the verbal root /ma, \ measure, with the suffix pai functioning here as a comparison, as in that which is measured against the original, or copied. Other terms from images are rup \ am (form, often as buddharup \ amsee Visuddhimagga (VM) 228, or the particularly interesting episode in the Samantapas \ ad \ ika\ (SP) in which Aoka convinces a nag \ araj \ a to create an image of the Buddha for him to see, at which point the text reads: Buddha-rup \ am passanto satt-divasan \ i akkhi-puj \ am nam \ a akas \ i, SP 4344), bimba and paibimba (see VM 190, Vima\navatthu 50), and occasionally sarra (J 5:98). Other terms can also refer to images, although in a more general sense, such as vesa (i.e., dress, disguise, appearance), and obhas \ a.



45. Walpola Rahula is thus incorrect when he states that the Buddha image, though in existence at the time, was not given a place in the scheme of worship by the Pa\li Commentaries. . . . [T]he image is completely ignored. See his History of Buddhism in Ceylon (Colombo: M. D. Gunasena, 1956), 126. 46. Ibid. Rahula notes, An image was considered important only if relics were enshrined in it. Without them it was a thing of little or no religious value. 47. Collins writes about a remarkably similar passage that occurs in Nirva\na, 237. 48. See note 30 in this chapter. 49. Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 50. 50. Ibid., 88. 51. See John Huntington, The Origin of the Buddha Image: Early Image Traditions and Concept of Buddhadaranapunya\, in Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia, ed. A. K. Narain (New Delhi: Kanak, 1985), 3233. 52. A. Waley notes that there is a version in the Ekottarag \ ama, as well as various Mahayana and Hnayan \ a texts translated into Tibetan and Chinese; see Did the Buddha Die of Eating Pork? 35354. See also Richard Gombrichs interesting discussion of the Kosala-Bimba-Vann a na, \ a medieval Sri Lankan text in Pal \ i (the text as well as Gombrichs translation are printed in the article), in Buddhism in Ceylon and Studies on Religious Syncretism in Buddhist Countries, ed. Heinz Bechert, Symposien zur Buddhismusforschung, 1, Akademie der Wissenschaften, Gttingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Dritte Folge, no. 108 (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1978), 281303. See also Padmandabh S. Jaini, On the Buddha Image, in Studies in Pali and Buddhism: A Homage Volume to the Memory of Bhikkhu Jagdish Kashyap, ed. A. K. Narain (Delhi: B. R. Publishing,1979), 18388; here Jaini discusses a Thai story in a Burmese manuscript of the Prasenajit story, contained within the Burmese Jat \ aka collection as the Vaang uliraj \ aJat \ aka (no. 37). For a particularly thorough account of the literature on this topic, including Chinese materials, see also G. Roths excellent article, The Physical Presence of the Buddha and Its Representation in Buddhist Literature, in Investigating Indian Art (Berlin: Museum fr Indische Kunst, 1987), 291312. A story similar to the Prasenajit story occurs at the beginning of the Pratimal \ aksa na m, a ilpasas \ tra (the date of which is far from clear) that describes in great detail the proper proportions of a Buddha image. 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), to which the Buddha responds: Oh Sa : r \ iputra! When I am gone or when I attain parinirvan \ a , [my] body is to be made [as a] well-proportioned body [or image]. See Jitendra Nath Banerjeas extensive notes in Pratimal \ aksa na m Journal of the Department of Letters 23 (Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, 1933). 53. The Travels of Fa hsien, trans. H. A. Giles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923), 3031.



54. Samuel Beal, trans., Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World (London: Routledge, 1884), 1:236. In a footnote, Beal gives the somewhat less hyperbolic: To teach and convert with diligence the unbelieving, to open the way for guiding future generations, this is your work. 55. I borrow this phrase, out of context, from Stephan Beyer; see his Notes on the Vision Quest in Early Maha\ya\na, in Praja\pa\ramita\ and Related Systems: Studies in Honour of Edward Conze, ed. Lewis Lancaster (Berkeley: Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series, 1977), 32940. 56. Winston King, Therava\da Meditation: The Buddhist Transformation of Yoga (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980), 33, 38. 57. Edward Conze, Buddhist Meditation (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1956), 28. 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, later in the same volume, calls practices which offered salvation at a cheap price (p. 61). See Philip Almond, The British Discovery of Buddhism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), for a particularly good discussion of this rationalizing construction of Buddhism. 58. Paul Harrison, Commemoration and Identification in Buddha\nusmti, in In the Mirror of Memory, ed. Janel Gyatso (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 21617. 59. See AN 5:32832 for the six-fold list and AN 1:30 for the ten-fold. 60. This is Pe Maung Tins translation of the Visuddhimagga, Pali Text Society Translation Series, nos. 11, 17, and 21 (London: Luzac, 1971), 226. 61. This is a\namolis translation, p. 206. Buddhaghosas commentary is on the standard formula for buddha\nussati: Iti pi bhagava\ araham samma\sambuddho vijja\carana-sampanno sugato lokavidu\ anuttaro purisadammasa\rathi sattha\ devamanussa\nam buddho bhagava\ ti (D 1:49; AN 3:285). 62. Harrison has noted that there is an apotropaic function to anussati; at S 1:218, for instance, the Buddha is said to have prescribed the first three anussati as a method to ward off fear while meditating in solitary places. See Harrison, Commemoration, 218. 63. VM 230, emphasis mine. 64. 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. Significantly, the episode is almost the mirror opposite of the Vakkali story. In the SN, a monk, Pingiya, is asked why he does not spend all of his time with the Buddha. Pingiya responds that he is old and frail, that his body is decaying. However, he says that there is no moment for me, however small, that is spent away from the Gotama, from this universe of wisdom, this world of understanding. . . . [W]ith constant and careful vigilance it is possible for me to see him with my mind as clearly as with my eyes, in night as well as day. And since I spend my nights revering him, there is not, to my mind, a single moment spent away from him [vv.



1140, 1142]. See Paul Williams, Maha\ya\na Buddhism (New York: Routledge, 1989), 21718. 65. The relationship between these two texts is, to say the least, ambiguous, and is not really relevant here. See P. V. Bapat, Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga: A Comparative Study (Calcutta: J. C. Sarkhel, 1937). 66. In Eharas translation, p. 141. 67. Harrison has pointed out that in the Chinese translations of the Sanskrit A|gamas, in particular the Ekottara\gama III, 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, that they call to mind the body and the countenance of the Buddha and then his moral and mental qualities, arranged under the traditional rubrics of morality, mediation, wisdom, liberation, and the cognition and vision of liberation (see Harrison, Commemoration, 220). 68. Paul Harrison, Buddha\nusmrti in the Pratyutpanna-Buddha-Sammukha\vasthita-Sama\dhi-Su\tra, Journal of Indian Philosophy 6 (1978): 37. 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\nusmrti is discussed: Without entertaining any other thought he earnestly calls to mind (anusmr-) the Buddha. He contemplates the image of the Tatha\gata without taking his eyes off it (see ibid., 38). Image here is denoted by the Chinese hsing, and Harrison notes that it is unclear whether it refers to a mental image or a physical one, or both. 69. I say more standard here because this attention to the magnificant qualities of the Buddhas body are common in the Pa\li materials as well as the early Mahayana texts. 70. See Paul Harrisons edited version, along with a translation, The Sama\dhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present (Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1990). 71. Ibid., xx. 72. Harrison, Commemoration, 220. 73. Ibid., 222. 74. Harrison, Direct Encounter, 47. 75. Ibid., 40. 76. Lewis R. Lancaser, An Early Mahayana Sermon about the Body of the Buddha and the Making of Images, Artibus Asiae 36, no. 4 (1974): 289. 77. This part of the story is not contained in the Sanskrit recension of the As asa\hasrika\praja\pa\ramita\su\tra, the text upon which Lokaksemas Dao-xingjing is based. 78. Lancaster, An Early Mahayana Sermon, 289.


79. Schopen, The Buddha as an Owner of Property, 191. 80. Ibid., 192.


81. Jonathan Smith, The Bare Facts of Ritual, History of Religions 20, no. 2 (1980): 11227. See also Smith, I Am a Parrot (Red), History of Religions 11, no. 4 (1971): 391413. 82. Jonathan Smith, The Bare Facts of Ritual, 122. 83. Ibid., 123. 84. Ibid., 125, 127. 85. See note 15 in this chapter.



Donald K. Swearer
ON JULY 8, 1993, THE HIGHLY REVERED THAI MONK BUDDHADAS \ A BHIKKHU died. Prior to his death he penned the following verses: Buddhada\sa shall live; theres no dying. Even when the body dies, it will not listen. Wherever it is or goes is of no consequence; It is only something passing through time. Even when I die and the body ceases, My voice still echoes in comrades ears, Clear and bright, as loud as ever. Just as if I never died, the Dhamma-body lives on. Buddhada\sas poetic necromancy is reminiscent of Gotama Buddhas admonition that after his death, the dhamma will be his successor. Pa\li sources reveal a dispute regarding not that but how the absent, parinibbaned Buddha will be presenced. The debate focused on whether Gotama Buddha would be presenced by his teaching, namely the dhamma, or in objects such as bodily relics or other material signs.1 The sides in the debate cannot be precisely delineated, although it is much too simplistic to identify the dhamma contenders with a monastic elite, and the material sign advocates with lay devotional piety.




The Pa\li suttas suggest that the disagreement was not framed solely in terms of the post-nibba\ned Buddha, the context popularized in current scholarship by the terminology of absence versus presence, but that it arose during the Buddhas own lifetime. From this perspective, the Buddhas answer to the question about his identity or nature connects with the Buddhas parinibba\na legacy. The Buddhas 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. From the very beginning of his career, 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 waysa divine being; a yogi with supernatural powers; an ascetic sage whose very touch could heal, protect, and bring other benefits. Illustrations of disagreement about the Buddhas nature and mission abound in canonical and commentarial literature as, for example, in the following account of the Prince Bodhi Sutta in the Majjhima Nika\ya, an episode also recorded in the Cullavagga. On one occasion when the Blessed One was staying at Sums umar \ agira, Prince Bodhi invited the Buddha and his disciples to receive the noon meal at Kokanada, his newly constructed palace. Descending from the verandah to greet the Blessed One, Prince Bodhi asked the Buddha to step on the white cloth he had draped over the staircase saying, Venerable sir, let the Blessed One step on the cloth, let the Sublime One step on the cloth, that it may lead to my welfare and happiness for a long time.2 The commentary specifies that by this act Prince Bodhi, who was childless, hoped to have a son. After making the request a second and third time A|nanda asked the prince to remove the cloth, saying, The Blessed One will not step on a strip of cloth; the Tatha\gata has regard for future generations. 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 sangha if their displays of honour do not bring the success they desire.3 The commentarys disclaimer regarding the power of a material signin this case a relic of associationappears to be a qualified one, however. The white cloth touched by the Buddhaor his bhikkhusmight, indeed, lead to the hoped for result, but if it does not, the laity might lose faith in the Buddha and his sangha. It should be pointed out that the onus appears to fall on the laitys act of veneration rather than power of the material sign. 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



popular literary genre that flourished in northern Thailand between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. The chapter is divided into two sections, 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.


In the first chapter of his influential book, The Rise of Ayudhya: A History of Siam in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (1976), Charnvit Kasetsiri analyzes the conceptualization of ancient Thai history. Noting that the Thai word prawatsat (Sanskrit pravatia\stra), history, was coined during the reign of King Ra\ma VI (19101925), he points out that prior to the twentieth century the words most frequently used to denote history were tamna\n, phongsa\wada\n, and jotmaiht.4 Charnvit does not specifically mention the Thai term wongsa (Pa\li and Sanskrit vamsa), perhaps because it comprises the first segment of phongsa\wada\n (Sanskrit vamsa + a\vata\ra). Phongsa\wada\n, as for example in the Phongsa\wada\n Yo\nok (The Chronicle of Yo\nok [Northern Thailand]), a late nineteenth-century chronicle compiled by Praya\ Pracha\kitkorajak, conveys the sense of dynastic annals, an account of a royal line or kingdom. This sense of the meaning of phongsa (vamsa) reflects one of the root meanings of the term, which refers to the connecting links in a stalk of bamboo. Metaphorically, royal genealogies link together to constitute a dynasty just as sections of bamboo join to make a stalk or a trunk. Etymologically the Thai term tamna\n conveys a meaning quite similar to vamsa.5 Kasetsiri proposes that premodern Thai records or historical documents fall into two main categories, the history of Buddhism and the history of dynasties.6 Tamna\n history or the history of Buddhism, he contends, flourished from before the fifteenth century into the seventeenth century from which point its influence began to decline. 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.7 Tamna\n history highlights the Buddha and particular events in the development of the tradition (sa\sana). For example, the best known northern Thai Pa\li chronicle, the sixteenth-century Jinaka\lama\lpakaranam (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. The story then continues



through the major Buddhist councils, King Asoka, and an account of Buddhism in Sri Lanka before moving to the establishment of Buddhism in northern Thailand. 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. Its purpose is to describe the development of Buddhism. Kings and kingdoms come into the picture in so far as their actions contribute to promoting Buddhism. History in this sense is concerned not only with the past. The past is continuous with the existence of the present and the present is also part of the future. Thus the past, the present, and the future are parts of one whole, the history of Buddhism.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 (16571688) of Ayutthaya\ (Ayudhya). The basic change is the growing autonomy of the king and the court from the religious order. Historians were now men who served the court rather than the monk scholars who composed the religious chronicles. Phongsa\wada\n history, consequently, tends to begin with the foundation of a kingdom and then list the activities of successive kings, unlike the tamna\n histories which begin with the Buddha and have the history of Buddhism as their central concern.9 Kasetsiris characterization of the dual historiography of premodern Thailand has both strengths and weaknesses. 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. 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. The distinction between two types of historiography, religious and royal, needs to be refined, however. Kasetsiri himself acknowledges that chronicles may, in fact, be hybrids, combining both ways of reading history. He fails to make the point, however, that the broad, 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. In particular, the tamna\n type of document Kasetsiri outlines fits what might be characterized as classic tamna\n such as the Pa\li Jinaka\lama\lpakaranam composed about 1517 by Bhikkhu Ratanapanna, but it hardly fits another noted Pa\li chronicle, the Ca\madevvamsa, written by Bhikkhu Bodhiramsi in the early fifteenth century.11 That the chronicle of Queen Ca\ma, the first ruler of Haripujaya



(modern Lamphu\n), is a vamsa might suggest that it should be classified as dynastic rather than religious history. Although the Ca\madevvamsa contains dynastic chronology, the writer is even more interested in legends surrounding Queen Ca\mas accession to the throne of Haripujaya, King Adittara\jas discovery of the Buddha relic enshrined today at Wat Haripujaya, and the Buddhas visit to the region.12 Even the Mu\lasa\sana\ chronicles of the Wat Pa\ Daeng and the Wat Suan Dok monastic lineages, historical accounts of sectarian religious history, are as noteworthy for their differences in style and content as they are representative of a type of religious chronicle.13 Furthermore, 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 Buddhas 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. David K. 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, and monumental histories concerning Buddhist images, relics, and institutions.15 Hans Penth proposes five descriptive classifications: chronicles that deal with the history of Buddhism, chronicles about Buddha images, chronicles of religious sites, inscriptions, and a miscellaneous category.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, namely, a hollow stalk or container. That is to say, a tamna\n takes its definition from its particular content rather than the other way around.17 This suggestion goes against the propensity of Western analytical scholarship toward classification, but it may more accurately represent the variety of documents that bear the title tamna\n.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, or at least they did before monks began limiting their study almost exclusively to the national monastic curriculum prescribed by the Thai national sangha. These Buddha tamna\n come under the general classificaton of vohara texts; that is, they are written in the Tai Yan vernacular, although in a vestigial manner they retain the form of a Pa\li commentary. That is, Pa\li words and phrases are interspersed throughout the textoften corrupt and ungrammaticalgiving the impression that the vernacular functions as an explanation of the Pa\li. In general terms, Buddha tamna\n texts share a similar content. They treat in varying detail the Buddhas wanderings in northern Thailand, his encounter with different ethnic and occupational



groupsLawa, Burmese, farmers, artisans, and so ontheir conversion to the path of the tatha\gata, the establishment of particular historical and religious sites or the prediction of their future appearance, and a passing on of a legacy of Buddha relics, images, and footprints to ensure the success of the Buddhas religion. Consequently, these narratives not only evoke the Buddha as a figure of the past; they invoke his presentness through his signs. Very little critical, comparative work has been done on the northern Thai Buddha tamnan \ .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 are, furthermore, 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, fifth century) and Xuanzang (Hsang-tsang, seventh century). In addition to lengthy Buddha tamnan \ of several palm leaf bundles that provide a broad, comprehensive history of the Buddhas travels in northern Thailand, virtually every significant monastery temple (Thai wat) and every hill or mountain (Thai, doi) topped by a cetiya reliquary (Thai ched) has its tamnan \ .20 In many cases, the histories in booklet form that are sold today at various wats in northern Thailand are adapted from the tamnan \ histories of these sites. Of course, the Buddha did not confine his travels to northern Thailand. Legendary chronicles have him traveling throughout Buddhist Asia, but one can speculateand 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. If that is the case, then the question naturally arises: What was there in the northern Thai religious, historical, 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. When they do, we shall know much more about the nature of the early religious history and practice of the Tai than at present. 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). 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. Chiang Dao resembles a molar tooth jutting abruptly above its immediate surround-



ings. Deep overhangs on the mountains western side have served as retreats for hermits and holy men and women for generations. Natural rock and mineral formations in the Chiang Dao cave have been given supernatural attributions, and powerful spirits (devata\) are believed to assemble in the largest cavern. In the caves antechamber visitors encounter Burmese style cheds and alabaster Buddha images partially illuminated by a window of light permeating the darkness through crevices in the vaulted ceiling. 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.22 Through the attainment of extraordinary mystic trance states he gained the ability to communicate with the spirits inhabiting the site. Various supernatural beingsdevata\, na\ga, yakkhabestowed upon the holy man miraculous rewards including a gold Buddha image; a golden pagoda and bodhi tree; and a magical elephant, horse, and sword. 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, hatred, and delusion. Today, Chiang Dao cave guides unhesitatingly point out formations representing and corroborating this ancient tale, without, however, ascertaining the moral qualifications of tourist or pilgrim. Chiang Dao chronicles have various namesTamna\n Doi Luang Chiang Dao (The Chronicle of Chiang Dao Mountain), Tamna\n Tham Chiang Dao (The Chronicle of the Chiang Dao Cave)although they are similar in content to Tamna\n Ang Salung. Chiang Dao was an early Tai historical site,23 but my interest is in the mythic and legendary aspects of the chronicle, not in historical information that might be derived from it.24 In particular, 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, that is, his relics.25 The Tamnan \ Ang Salung can be analyzed as a composite of three different stories: the Buddhas travels in northern Thailand; the decline of Buddhism in Jambudpa, including northern Thailand, beginning two thousand five hundred years after the founding of the sas \ ana; and the story of the Chiang Dao cave. The three stories are linked by Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao: Chiang Dao is one of the sites visited by the Buddha; 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, finally, the Chiang Dao cave mountain is a sacred site in and of itself.



The text incorporates many Buddhasized folkloric elements. The folkloric dimension of the text is acknowledged by the compiler himself, who refers to the text as a tamnan \ nidan \ a or a folklore tamnan \ . 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, material representations of the Blessed One, and the relationship between the two as constructed within the chronicle narrative.26 In conclusion, the emergent picture of the Buddha and his material signs will be interpreted from three perspectivesmagical, cosmological, and ontological.


In contrast to larger, comprehensive Buddha chronicles, the Tamna\n Ang Salung does not begin with previous existences of the Buddha, his appearance as Prince Siddhattha, or recount the development of Buddhism in India and Sri Lanka. Rather, the text begins with the Buddha already present in the Chiang Mai region. The Blessed One starts his travels at Doi Kung, a sacred mountain site south of Chiang Mai proper, wandering primarily in the Chiang Mai valley with occasional forays into the broader reaches of the mythical space of Jambudpa. On his journeys, the Buddha meets a Lawa farmer turning a water wheel to irrigate a field. Seeing the Buddha approach, the farmer unwinds a turban from around his head and uses it to wash the Buddhas feet. When he wraps the turban around his head again, it miraculously turns into gold. Residing temporarily at a mountain to the south of the Lawa village, the Buddha and the arahants accompanying him are offered food by the villagers. After the Buddha and the monks eat their meal,
King Asoka says to the Lawa, O, Lawa, there is no longer any need for you to irrigate your fields with a water wheel. Take the precepts of the Buddha and you will have sufficient food to eat. The Lawa then take the five precepts from the Buddha. When the Lawa return home they find that everything both inside and outside of their homes has turned into gold. Amazed, they exclaim, In the past we worked our fingers to the bone and still didnt have enough to eat. Now that we have taken the Buddhas precepts we find that everything has turned to gold. The Buddhas precepts are precious, indeed! We will observe them all of our lives. After the Buddha gave the Lawa the precepts, he spoke to the arahants: Before I came here, the Lawa irrigated their fields with a water wheel


because this is a very dry area. Consequently, this place shall be known as Hot. The arahants and King Asoka then said to the Buddha, Bhante Bhagava\ . . . O, Blessed One, you should establish your religion (sa\sana) here. The Lawa will worship you by raising tall banners (Thai tung)27 in your honor, and Brahman ascetics will burn their robes. A large dwelling place (a\ra\ma) will be constructed for you and your disciples, known as Jotika\ra\ma.28 The arahants and King Asoka then took a hair relic (kesadha\tu) from the Buddha, encased it in a container of bamboo, and enshrined it in a gilded container seven hands high. After putting the relic in a hole in the earth, they worshipped it. Indra placed a spear in the ground at the site to protect the relic; the hole was covered up, and over it a ched three hundred wa\ (600 meters) high was constructed.29 The Buddha then spoke to the arahants and to King Asoka, After I have passed away (parinibba\na), a bone relic from my right hand will be enshrined in this ched. The Buddha then proceeded to the home of a wealthy potter. There he preached a sermon on the meritorious blessing (a\nisamsa) of building a monastic dwelling place (a\ra\ma) and of constructing Buddha images. The potter who had listened to the sermon decided then and there to make [many] Buddha images. He ordered his neighbors and the Lawa to bring all the things needed to make 3,300,000 images. [After they were made] the images were put in an appropriate place and everyone worshipped the Buddha. The Lawa, led by a wealthy merchant, then consecrated the images and worshipped them. The Buddha blessed the people saying, Sa\dhu . . . It is good that you have made these images of me because I cannot always be here with you.30 After I have passed away this place will become a great city (maha\na\gara) [Chiang Mai] where my religion will flourish. It will be a major center for monks and scholars. The officials of the kingdom as well as the common people will have great fortune (pua) and my religion will flourish. Those who live here but who do not reach Nibba\na in my lifetime will do so in the lifetime of Phra Ariya Metteyya. After King Asoka and the arahants buried the Buddha images, the Buddha made the following prediction: After I have passed away, these images will appear before both human and divine beings (devata\, manussa\) so that they may be worshipped in this city now and in the future.


The author of the text continues the Buddhas itinerary with little regard to geography. Most of the sites are in the Chiang Mai region, but towns in Burma and northern India31 are also included, and predictions are made regarding the future rulers of La\n Cha\ng (in Laos), Chiang Mai, and



Hamsa\vat (in Burma). The tatha\gata leaves hair relics and footprints and grants permission for the construction of Buddha images. In the Tamna\n Ang Salung the bodhi tree, an important commemorative relic in other parts of Buddhist Asia, is insignificant.32 Although there appears to be no hierarchial value assigned to one type of Buddha sign, occasionally the text suggests a preference for one material representation over another, as in the following encounter with a na\ga.
Seeing the Buddha approaching from a distance, the na\ga king who lived there [the Ping River] was overjoyed. Having nothing to offer the Lord Buddha except a honeycomb from a tree by the river bank, the na\ga assumed the form of a human being, climbed the tree, brought down the honeycomb, and offered it to the Buddha . . . [Seated respectfully beside the tatha\gata] the na\ga made the following request, O, Blessed One, please leave a footprint here. The Buddha replied, Since theres no suitable flat stone for my footprint, I grant you permission to make a Buddha image. 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.33 To build, repair, or venerate this Buddha image will be the same as venerating the tatha\gata when he was alive. Delighted, the na\ga king made a reclining image of the tatha\gata for both human and divine beings to venerate in the future.

In the Tamna\n Ang Salung the Buddhas hair is the predominant preparinibba\na relic. As we would expect, body relics figure into postmortem or postparinibba\na predictions. Occasionally, however, physical parts of the Buddha other than hair become relics in rather surprising ways, as evidenced in the following examples. While walking in an area north of Chiang Mai, the Buddha felt the urge to relieve himself. A na\ga king dug a hole and Indra built a shelter (mandapa) over it. The Buddha predicted that in the future this site would be known as Phrapa\da Yang Vijjha. [The monastery is known as Phrapa\t Yang Wit/the Holy Footprint Bathroom Resting Place located in Sampadong district]. In another unusual incident the Buddha sits under a tree near a paddy field being tilled by a Lawa farmer. Mistaking the Buddha for a demon, the peasant starts to run away. Reassured by the Blessed One that he is not a yakkha but the Lord Buddha, the farmer sits down beside the tatha\gata:
As they were sitting under the tree, mucus dripped from the tatha\gatas nose but miraculously floated up to the leaves of the Asoka


tree giving them a golden hue. A|nanda collected the mucus-covered leaves and fashioned them into a relic which he gave to the Lawa farmer. Indra, who together with the arahants and Vissukamma had joined the Buddha and A|nanda, made a reliquary tower (prasa\da) [to house the relic]. Afterwards, the Buddha spoke to them, This relic will be here as long as you live. 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. This relic has the power to determine who is good (pua) and who is evil (pa\pa).34


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. I quote only a brief passage from this apocalypticand resonantly propheticvision.
It will be a time of the ascendency of evildoers, of war, and of suffering. Girls ten years old will engage in sexual intercourse; parents will encourage their very young daughters to marry; husbands and wives will commit adultery and families will disintegrate. At the beginning of the third millennium after the founding of the religion of the tatha\gata, the sa\sana will suffer decline; people will not respect those with knowledge; they will sell images and amulets of the Buddha and of the king; both monks and lay people, old and young, the learned and ordinary folk will be unable to discern the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. They will be illiterate and without skills; discipline and tradition will disappear. Lay people will not respect monks who observe the vinaya, and both laity and monks will follow their own selfish interests, doing as they please.

The apocalyptic sections of the Tamna\n Ang Salung only briefly mention material representations of the Buddha, in this case, images and amulets. In a possible critique of contemporaneous practice, the author sees the selling of images and amulets as a sign of the decline of the sa\sana. A more momentous mark of the degeneration of the Buddhist age in the third millennium after the death of the Buddha, however, is the degeneration of the dhamma and the sangha. 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. In the age of the decline of Buddhism, monks will not study the dhamma; undisciplined laity interested only in eating and sleeping will ordain as monks; they will be governed by greed (lobha)



and craving (tanha\); they will not seek the way to heaven or nibba\na and will do only those things that lead to continuous rebirth (samsa\ra). 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, in turn, form part of a nexus for various sacred representations.
After the Buddha passed away at Kusina\ra\, five hundred disciples took his relics to Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao. The Lord Indra, Brahma, the devata\, devaputta and King A|nanda Ra\japingmuang, the ruler of Chiang Dao, built a large golden ched to a height one ga\vut [4,000 meters] for the Buddhas relics (dha\tu). A hermit by the name of Brahma Isi dwelt on the mountain one yojana high [16,000 meters]. Together with Indra, Brahma, 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. This precious image was erected in the cave [of Chiang Dao]. Even those who see it from a distance and venerate the image make merit. Such an act guarantees them a long and successful life. . . . The ruler of the yakkhas, Chao Luang Kham Daeng [Lord Burnished Gold]35 with ten thousand attendants guard the cave. In the cave are the possessions of divine beings and of kings, a priceless golden bodhi tree, a golden Buddha image, and a golden ched. Chao Luang Kham Daeng and his attendants stand guard over these precious objects that are encircled by a fence. . . . Ten thousand yakkhas also guard Doi Ang Salung. Whoever enters the cavemonk, layperson, or Brahman asceticshould first bathe, then take the five or the eight precepts and offer flowers, puffed rice, three hundred gold and three hundred silver candles, four flowering plants, eight flags in each of three colorsblack, red, yellow, and whiteand one thousand small clay lamps. By making these offerings, one will be greatly rewarded by the guardian yakkhas and will be able to leave the cave. Moreover, if one enters the cave in order to make offerings to the Buddha and the relic, to keep the precepts, and to practice meditation you will be blessed with good fortune. . . . Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao is a place where the Buddha image, the Buddha relic, and relics of all the previous Buddhas, arahants, and hermits (isi) are kept. The wise will care for the image and the relics. Everyone who knows this tamna\n nida\na, who pays respects to the Buddha image and the relics of the Buddhas and the arahants at Doi Ang Salung, whether they come from far or near, will be blessed (a\nisamsa) beyond calculation.36



Tamnan \ Ang Salung opens a window into the tamnanic or popular worldview of northern Thai Buddhism, which existed from before the fifteenth century up to the modern period. Indeed, many aspects of this worldview are very much alive today. I propose that the tamnanic worldview constructs the Buddha and material representations of the Buddha on three different yet related levels: magical, cosmological, and ontological. The first is the instrumental significance of a particular event or object; the second is the underlying meaning of the interrelationship among particular events and objects; and the third is the overarching reference to which events and objects refer. The first is the most transparent. For example, in the episode of the Lawa village, taking the precepts leads to an abundance of riches, and the turban of the peasant who washes the feet of the tatha\gata turns into gold. The same magical, instrumentalist view characterizes the installation and maintenance of bodily relics and Buddha images. These pious acts not only guarantee the survival of the sa\sana, but they accrue specific blessings to the patrons. In short, contact with the Buddha, whether his bodily person in the storys narrative present or contact with his relics in the Buddhas absence, is at the basis of the popular Buddhist understanding of blessing (a\nisamsa) and merit (pua).37 The second and third levels of meaning point beyond a magical, instrumentalist view of particular events associated with the Buddha and his relics to the topological and cosmological map in which they are imbedded. The Buddhas wanderings in northern Thailand constitute the region as a buddha-desa or Buddha-land. The presence of the Buddha literally gives the region an identity. Part of that identity is constituted by the giving of a name, a custom associated with folklore.38 In the Tamna\n Ang Salung, particular places are namedthat is, they now have a locationas a consequence of the Buddhas visit. But the Buddha is more than a mere name giver; in the act of naming he creates order. The tatha\gatas itinerary establishes a map that is simultaneously both topological and cosmological; furthermore, his very presence defines the region ontologically as a buddha-desa. The Blessed Ones journey throughout northern Thailand is a cosmogonic event that creates an ordered, meaningful world. His physical signs are much more than mere reminders of a visit, legendary or otherwise. They are his continuing presence, the presence of the conqueror (jina) to whom the untamed forcesbe they barbaric Lawa, yakkhas, or na\gasrender service and pledge allegiance.



In the Tamna\n Ang Salung, the cosmic center is Doi Ang Salung Chiang Dao. It integrates timepast, present, and futureand space, the seemingly world-extended Jambudpa. Both cave and mountain, Ang Salung Chiang Dao brings together all of the signs of the Buddha (bodily relics, image, footprint, and even a bodhi tree), the powerful forces operative throughout the story (Asoka and other dhammikara\jas, Indra, Brahma and various other superhuman forces), and the guardian hosts of the area (Chao Luang Kham Daeng and his retinue). Finally, I suggest that in the tamnanic worldview the Buddha is read from his relics or material signs rather than the other way around.39 What is of utmost importance is the presence of the Buddha, not as a historical memory but as a living reality. That the tamnanic story of the Buddhas visit to the Chiang Mai valley may offend our modern historical consciousness in its utter disregard of time, space, and history is totally irrelevant. The tamna\n was not written to be read as history but as a story of the Buddhas living presence represented in his signs. In this sense, even the most mundane material objects such as excrement and mucus become hierophanies of the Buddhas presence.

An earlier version of this chapter appeared in Wannakam Phutasa\sana\ Nai La\nna\ (Buddhist Literature in Northern Thailand), ed. Phanphen Khru\ngthai (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1996). Passages from the Tamna\n Ang Salung included in this chapter were translated by the author in collaboration with Phaitoon Dokbuakaew; see note 26 below for the complete citation. 1. In this chapter, I use the term sign in the strong sense of Charles Peirces notion of index. That is, the sign in some sense participates in the object it represents. It does not merely point toward or symbolize an object; it re-presents the object or is a surrogate for the object. 2. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, tr. Bhikkhu a\namoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995), 705. 3. Ibid. 4. Charnvit Kasetsiri, The Rise of Ayudhya: A History of Siam in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Oxford and Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1976), 1. 5. Dr. Udom Roongruangsri and the late A|cha\n Bumphen Rawin of the Department of Thai Studies, Chiang Mai University, suggest that the term tamna\n is derived from Pa\li through Khmer, that is, tam + na\la. Na\la refers to an empty stalk and conveys a similar metaphorical association to lineage, as does vamsa.


6. Kasetsiri, The Rise of Ayudhya, 1. 7. Ibid., 2. 8. Ibid., 3 9. Ibid., 9.


10. Historical documents can be interpreted as offering constructions of ethnic, communal, and national identity. From this perspective, Thai chronicles have served to root Thai identity in Buddhism and in kingship. These two foci of Thai identity, with differing emphases, have endured until quite recently. It is relevant to note that the reign of Ra\ma VI not only coined a new term for history, prawatsat, he propagated the nation (Thai, cha\t) as the basis of Thai identity and loyalty alongside of Buddhism and the king. 11. Bodhiramsi, The Legend of Queen Ca\ma, trans. Donald K. Swearer and Sommai Premchit with commentary (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998); Ratannapanna Thera, The Sheaf of Garlands of the Epochs of the Conqueror (Jinaka\lama\lpakaranam), trans. N. A. Jayawickrama, Pali Text Society Translation series, no. 36 (London: Luzac, 1968). Important northern Thai chronicles have been translated into French: George Coeds, Documents sur lhistoire politique et religieuse du Laos Occidental, BEFEO, vol. 25 (Paris: lcole Franaise dExtrme-Orient, 1925); Camille Notton, Annales du Siam, 3 vols. (Paris: Imprimeries Charles-Lavauzelle, 19261932). In addition, the Social Research Institute of Chiang Mai University has published several northern Thai muang tamna\n in Thai script. 12. Bodhiramsi states unequivocally that his story is based on written records (maha\carika). He also claims to have translated the story into Pa\li. One assumes that the translation was from Tai Yan and that he was translating a legendary story. 13. For a translation of the Mu\lsa\sana\ of the Wat Pa\ Daeng lineage, see Donald K. Swearer and Sommai Premchit, Mu\lasa\sana\ Wat Pa\ Daeng: The Chronicle of the Founding of Buddhism of the Wat Pa\ Daeng Tradition, Journal of the Siam Society 65 (January 1977): 73110. 14. See David K. Wyatt and Aroonrut Wichienkeeo, ed. and trans., The Chiang Mai Chronicle (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1995). 15. David K. Wyatt, Chronicle Traditions in Thai Historiography, in Southeast Asian History and Historiography: Essays Presented to D. G. E. Hall, ed. C. D. Cowan and E. W. Wolters (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1976), 10722. 16. Hans Penth, Literature on the History of Local Buddhism, Wannakam Phuttasa\sana\ (The Literature of Northern Thailand), 74. 17. Tamna\n in this sense has a meaning similar to the contemporary use of the term monograph; namely, it is a writing or a document about a particular subject such as the founding of a town, the Buddhas visit to northern Thailand, the building of a Buddha image.



18. It is worth noting that in Thailand the collection of paritta texts are referred to as tamna\n. 19. A masters thesis on the Phra Chao Liap Lo\k appeared in 1982. Katanyoo Chucheun, 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). 20. I classify the Phra Chao Liap Lo\k (PCLP) as a Buddha tamna\n. In addition to constituting a genre, Buddha Tamna\n is a specfic text. It is similar to the PCLP in form, 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. 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. Katanyoo Chucheun, Pra Chao Liap Lo\k, 69. The Phra Chao Liap Lo\k states explicitly that the text was brought from Sri Lanka, although to the best of my knowledge no one has discovered the prototype text. Some scholars of northern Thai Buddhist religious history and literature, furthermore, are of the opinion that the structure of the Buddhas 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. 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. 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. 21. It might be more accurate to ask, 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, Laos, Myanmar, Yunnan, and Assam. 22. See Tamna\n Ru Prawat Tam Luang Chiang Dao (The Chronicle or History of the Chiang Dao Cave) (Chiang Mai: Phra Singh Press, 2513/1970). 23. In the early days of Tai occupation of the Chiang Mai valley, Chiang Dao seems to have been a way station between the larger centers of Chiang Mai and Fa\ng. 24. Michael Vickery warns against using tamna\n in historical reconstruction. See Michael Vickery, The Lion Prince and Related Remarks on Northern History, Journal of the Siam Society, vol. 64, pt. 1 (Jan., 1976): 32677. 25. The tamna\n on which this chapter is based is a microfilm copy in the Social Research Institute, Chiang Mai University, of a manuscript located in the San Pa Khoi monastery in the Muang district of Chiang Mai. It is dated C.S. 1306 (1941 CE) and was transcribed at a monastery in the Muang district of Lamphu\n. It is impossible to date the root text. Mention of Burmese monks might suggest that the text was subsequent to Burmese suzerainty over northern Thailand, that is, after the end of the sixteenth century. More important for dating purposes, how-



ever, may be the reference to King Kawila who ruled Chiang Mai in the later half of the eighteenth century. 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. 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. 26. Phaitoon Dokbuakaew, a research associate at the Social Research Center, Chiang Mai University, collaborated with me in translating the Tamna\n Ang Salung; see the complete translation of this text in Donald K. Swearer, Sommai Premchit, and Phaitoon Dokbuakaew, The Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand and Their Legends (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2004). 27. It is customary to erect long banners or flags (tung) at northern Thai Buddhist merit-making festivals. 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; that is, the power of the merit generated by the ritual produces a beneficent effect for the dead as well as for the living. 28. A possible reference to Wat Chedi Luang (Pa\li, Jotika\ra\ma), a major Chiang Mai monastery connected with the ruling family of the kingdom. 29. This passage conforms to recent cosmogonic interpretations of the meaning of the stupa (cetiya) built around an axial pillar (i.e., Indrakla). See John Irwin, The Stu\pa and the Cosmic Axis: The Archaeological Evidence, South Asian Archaeology, 1977, vol. 2, ed. Maurizio Taddei (Naples: Instituto Universitario Orientale, 1979), 799839. 30. The Buddhas absence is the standard Buddhist apologia for the making of Buddha images, namely, that they function as reminders of the Buddhas presence. For example see Richard Gombrich, The Kosala-Bimba-Vannana\, in Buddhism in Ceylon and Studies on Religious Syncretism in Buddhist Countries, ed. Heinz Bechert (Gttingen: Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenchaften, 1978), 281301. A similar rationale applies to Buddha relics. See The Jtaka, trans. E. B. Cowell (Cambridge: Cambridge Universty Press, 1901), 4:14243. 31. Place names of Buddhist sites in India are ascribed to locations in greater India, thereby problematizing a specific identification. 32. In Thailiand today it is still true that in relationship to other representations of the Buddhaimages, relics, footprintsthe bodhi tree is of secondary importance. 33. Today the image is located at Wat Phra Non in the district of Saraph, Chiang Mai Province, south of Chiang Mai. 34. Wat Chom Thong in Chiang Mai Province is a highly revered pilgrimage site. The reliquary located there is, indeed, in a prasa\t style.



35. Chao Luang Kham Daeng is revered as the guardian spirit of Chiang Dao. He is the functional equivalent of Phu Sae/Yae Sae, the Lawa guardian spirits of the Doi Suthep/Doi Kham area adjacent to the city of Chiang Mai. 36. The conclusion of the text reminds us that relatively brief Buddha tamna\n such as Tamna\n Ang Salung were desana\ or preached texts. 37. Popular Buddhist devotion in Thailand today often reflects a magical, instrumentalist understanding of the Buddha and lacks the more profound levels of interpretation also present in the Buddha tamna\n. 38. Conventionally naming within the context of folklore is given an etiological significance, that is, why a place is named such and such. While there is an etiological signification to naming in the tamna\n, I find deeper cosmological and ontological significations having to do with creating order and meaning. 39. It is noteworthy that Buddha tamna\n are often characterized not as the story of the Buddha but as the story of the Buddhas relics, images, and footprints.



Robert H. 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. Do primitives, to resort to the early but now unfashionable term, apprehend and reflect upon the world in a fundamentally different way than do we moderns? Does it make sense to talk of primitive mentality, or less contentiously, 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, Lucien Lvy-Bruhl posited a prelogical kind of thinking that does not abide by the law of noncontradiction.1 According to Lvy-Bruhl, primitive mentality does not clearly distinguish between subject and object, such that primitives perceive themselves in mystic participation with the world. To the primitive, the world is not comprised of lifeless natural objects; rather, since everything that exists possesses mystic properties, and these properties, from their very nature, are much more important than the attributes of which our senses inform us, the difference between animate and inanimate things is not of the same interest to primitive mentality as it is to our own.2 Lvy-Bruhls thesis was subjected to considerable criticism soon after it appeared, and to this day his work tends to be summarily dismissed for its supposed ethnocentrism. Lvy-Bruhl himself went to great lengths to clarify and qualify his thesis in his later writings. He insisted, for example, 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. Indeed, the charge of ethnocentrism is largely misleading; Lvy-Bruhl was, if anything, an early champion of cultural relativism in the social sciences.3



No matter what ones opinion of Lvy-Bruhls thesis, the issues he raised could not be ignored. It would no longer be possible to simply assume, as did Edward Tylor, James Frazer, and other early comparativists, that primitives are essentially no different from ourselvesthat the gap between primitive and modern societies is merely the product of the relative gap in factual knowledge and scientific know-how. Lvy-Bruhl raised the possibility that different peoples conceptualize in different ways: Primitives see with eyes like ours, but they do not perceive with the same minds.4 Ironically, later generations of anthropologists, many of whom held Lvy-Bruhls theories in contempt, found themselves retracing his footsteps. For Lvy-Bruhls notion of the collective representations or collective mentality of a people presaged the emphasis on culture in modern anthropology, and the insistence that a given culture be understood in its own terms.5 Indeed, many of the questions raised by Lvy-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, for they decide whether, in the final analysis, we privilege etic analysis over emic description, or vice versa. (Indeed, the more fundamental issue is whether the distinction between emic and etic is conceptually viable in the first place.) There is still no resolution in sight, as attested by the recent and somewhat vitriolic exchange between Gananath Obeyesekere and Marshall Sahlins.6 Despite the obvious significance of these issues for the study of comparative religion, such debates have had little impact on the study of Buddhism. Earlier generations of Buddhologists seemed confident in the belief that whatever the final verdict might be with regard to primitives, Buddhists were not to be numbered among them. 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. Standard treatments of the topic assured the reader that Buddhism was and remains an atheistic creed that categorically rejects superstition, magic, ritualism, and idolatry. If Buddhists occasionally act otherwise it merely attests to the degree to which they have lost touch with the roots of their own tradition.7 In the last few decades this notion of pure or essential Buddhism has come under considerable scrutiny. There is a newfound enthusiasm for supplementing the study of canonical texts with a variety of extracanoni-



cal sources, including archaeological, epigraphic, and art-historical materials. Inspired in part by the work of social historians of medieval ChristianityPhilippe Aris, Peter Brown, Caroline Bynum, Patrick Geary, and Jacques Le Goff, to name but a fewmany Buddhologists are beginning to focus on reconstructing the institutional, social, and economic context of the elite clerical tradition. At the same time, not a few scholars are combining their study of Buddhist canonical languages with extended periods of fieldwork in Asia, experiencing Buddhist culture firsthand. Fieldwork has proven to be a potent corrective to earlier idealized notions of pure Buddhism construed on the basis of scriptural representations alone. Scholars of Theravada are now able to consult the rich ethnographies compiled by Melford Spiro, Stanley Tambiah, Gananath Obeyesekere, and others, while scholars of Tibet, China, and Japan pay increasing attention to indigenous regional traditions, including Bon, Confucianism, Taoism, shamanism, and various forms of popular religion. The earlier reconstruction of an essential Buddhist teaching on the basis of canonical sourcessources that were often compiled and edited in the Westis beginning to appear as little more than a Western fiction, and some scholars now prefer to speak not of Buddhism but rather of multiple regional Buddhisms. In the reappraisal of Buddhism on the ground, 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. Rather than envisaging the spread of Buddhism through Asia as the propagation of a sacred creed or faith, the movement of Buddhism might be better understood in terms of the diffusion of sacred objects, most notably icons and relics, along with the esoteric technical knowledge required to manipulate them. Gregory Schopen, a pivotal player in the revaluation of early Indian Mahayana, has argued that the scriptures themselves were actually regarded as a kind of relic, valued not so much for what they say as for their inherent charismatic or apotropaic powers.8 For many scholars who found themselves disenchanted with the romanticized and/or rationalized versions of Buddhism that once dominated the field, the discovery of relic and image worship was the smoking gun that provided irrefutable evidence that Buddhists are not bourgeois rationalists after all.9 The worship of relics exemplified the newfound otherness of Buddhism, for it would seem to involve the sanctification of that which is utterly profane and loathsomethe corporal remains of the dead.10 But despite their enthusiasm for the subject, to date Buddhologists have done little more than document the phenomena. While they readily attest to



the extent and popularity of relic veneration, 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, for that matter, would anyone attribute apotropaic or salvific power to scraps of dead organic matter, much less a contact relic surrogate (that is, 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. 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, including sculpted and painted images, stupas, so-called aniconic symbols, and even scriptures and incantations. All of these, we are told, denote the presence of the Buddha in his very absence. The relics, images, 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. This rubric of presence in absence has proved particularly, and I think understandably, alluring. For one thing, it renders the worship of relics and images consonant with Buddhist doctrine. The relic is a potent vestige of the death of an enlightened being, a memento of his or her abiding liberation. The same holds true for the image of the Buddha and his stupa they all signify the unfathomable freedom of nirvana. By instantiating a numinous absence, relics, images, and their kin function as a physical locus for the saints enduring charisma, apotropaic power, and grace.11 This argument has been made by a number of Buddhologists, including David Eckel, John Strong, and myself on several occasions.12 The notion that relics denote the Buddhas enduring presence in his very absence has proved an effective bulwark against the marginalization of this popular form of Buddhist piety. It is no longer acceptable to casually dismiss the worship of relics and images as aberrant or un-Buddhist, as a sop to the plebeian needs of the unlettered masses. Scholars now appreciate that, with few exceptions, the clerical elite found nothing objectionable in the worship of relics but enthusiastically engaged in and promoted such activities themselves. There is thus little reason to believe that the display of relics contravenes either the letter or the spirit of Buddhist teachings; why is a relic any less appropriate a signifier for nirvana than the word nirvana itself? The problem, however, is that with few exceptions Buddhist sources do not speak of relics in terms of absent presences or present absences.13 On the contrary, the materials at our disposal suggest that relics were treated as presences pure and simple. That is to say, a relic did not repre-



sent, symbolize, or denote a transcendent presence, numinous absence, or anything in between, any more than the person of the Buddha represented or symbolized the Buddha. (We do not typically think of President Clinton as representing the presidenthe simply is the president.) The source of the muddle is due in part to the tendency to conflate images, stupas, relics, and other signifiers of Buddhahood, all of which were undeniably objects of veneration. I shall return to this issue further on. There are, of course, other strategies available with which to deal with the Why question, strategies that do not rest on an appeal to quasitheological notions such as absent presences. Those predisposed to more down-to-earth explanations can avail themselves of a number of functionalist accounts. For example, it is clear that relics, unlike sacred sites, are eminently portable, and thus they aid and abet the decentralization and propagation of the cult. While there was only one historical Buddha, his relics, not to mention the relics of his enlightened disciples, can be multiplied virtually ad infinitum. There is, in fact, considerable evidence that the mobility of relics contributed to the success of Buddhism as a missionary religion; relics facilitated and legitimized the Buddhist appropriation of indigenous religious centers throughout Asia, transforming the landscape into a sacred Buddhist domain.14 At the same time, the popularity of relics was easily exploited by the ecclesiastic, institutional, and secular authorities who oversaw their dissemination.15 There are obvious parallels with the well-documented manipulation and exploitation of relics by the clergy in medieval Christendom.16 Such functionalist accounts have their utility, but as answers to the Why question they remain incomplete since they tend to presume, rather than explain, the widespread and almost visceral fascination shown toward relics in both Buddhist and non-Buddhist cultures. They do not, in and of themselves, explain why masses of people throughout history were willing, if not eager, to impute supernatural power to the remains of the special dead. At this point scholars tend to fall back, implicitly rather than explicitly, upon some version of animism, sympathetic magic, or even primitive mentality. While few would publicly invoke the names of Tylor, Frazer, or Lvy-Bruhl in their analyses of Buddhist relic veneration, we are still left with the fact that Buddhists appear to ascribe intentionality to what we view as inanimate objects. And this was, of course, precisely the issue with which Tylor, Frazer, and Lvy-Bruhl were struggling. 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. As



mentioned earlier, the intellectual interests of contemporary scholars are determined in part by historical circumstances and developments within the discipline, just as was true of those who preceded them. 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. 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. These scholars realized considerable success in rendering Buddhism a species of rational humanism worthy of our attention and respect. Indeed, some scholars would now judge them too successful, and they want to set the record straight. In their attempt to redress the domesticated image of Buddhism bequeathed by their elders, they have turned their attention to phenomena that resist rational appropriation. The more bizarre the phenomenon the better. Of course, the bizarre is not altogether unfamiliar. Buddhism may no longer resemble European humanism, mysticism (the perennial philosophy), or enlightened rationalism, but it has come to bear an uncanny resemblance to medieval Christianity: both were preoccupied, at some level, with saints, relics, and miraculous images. 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, whether Buddhist or Christian, intelligible. 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, or does it spring from something deeper? The fascination with relics is clearly overdetermined. For one thing, the discovery of the significant role played by relics in Buddhism raises the intellectual stakes. It is one thing to argue the provenance of the Madhyamakaka\rika\, to decipher the logic of Dharmakrti, 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, magic, and the supernatural power of bits of human flesh and bone. 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 least at first glance, decidedly irrational. At the same time, scholars may take comfort in the realization that certain phenomena steadfastly resist all efforts at explanation. As professional intellectuals we tend to be acutely aware of the limitations of our craft. We may suspect that our



discursive hold over reality is ephemeral at best and that our scholarly endeavors are ultimately of little or no significance. Some of us may find the thought that we do not have sole purchase on realitythat critical analysis is merely one of several ways of engaging the worldoddly reassuring. (This is, of course, in keeping with the current zeitgeist in the humanities, in which undermining our confidence in the foundations of our own knowledge is construed as the only authentic game in town.) But this may be making too much of the otherness of relics. Our attraction is not, I suspect, of a purely intellectual nature; relics evoke a more visceral response. Our interest in a sacred finger bone, a skull, a desiccated tongue, or a lacquered mummy does not seem to be of the same order as our interest in a stone stupa or icon. While the stupa or icon may possess considerable aesthetic appeal, the allure of a relic lies elsewhere. I sense that there is something almost voyeuristic or prurient in our fascination with relics. 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 mummypartially unwrapped, decayed toes, contorted face, and wisps of hair clearly visibleon permanent display in the Royal Ontario Museum.) But here we must be cautious. The corporeal remains of the dead may elicit a powerful response in the living, but in and of itself this may not reveal much about Asian Buddhist beliefs or attitudes; it may be little more than yet another projection of contemporary needs and concerns onto the complex ink blot that is Buddhism. Except that this time, instead of projecting our own rationality as did a previous generation of scholars, we now project our irrationality. However, in ignoring our personal response altogether we may be forfeiting a singular opportunity to illuminate the enigma of relic veneration. It might thus be useful to reflect upon our own response to the corporeal remains of the dead. While this may well land us in a hermeneutic muddlehow 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.


My first task, however, will be to delineate the meaning of the term relic. As mentioned earlier, images, stupas, and even scriptures have typically been conflated, insofar as they all denote or signify the Buddha. This conflation has served a purpose, in that it underscores the pietistic and devotional



aspects of Buddhist praxis. Scholars now appreciate the wide range of objects that were deemed bearers of supernatural power, that served as the focus of veneration, and that were thought to literally embody the essence of Buddhahood. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the features that distinguish relics proper from objects such as Buddha images and stupas that are unambiguously representational. In many respects the differences could not be more obvious: whereas corporeal relics are procured or discovered, images and stupas are manufactured, modeled by human hands after established prototypes.17 A buddha image or stupa is, with few exceptions, clearly recognizable as such, even when removed from its original religious setting or ritual context. A relic, however, requires a frame in space and time that explicitly signals its status as sacred object. Removed from their gilded and jewel-studded reliquaries most relics resemble so much dirt. While the term image can refer to a wide range of material objects, here I am concerned primarily with representations of humans and deities in sculpted or painted form. We can then further distinguish images in general from icons in particular. 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.18 In other words, an icon does not merely bear the likeness of the divine but shares in its very nature. This rubric is, of course, Western in origin; it developed out of certain Judeo-Christian issues entailed in rendering a likeness of God. Clearly, it was impossible to authorize an image of the divine on the basis of the veracity of the portrayal itself. 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.19 Despite its Western pedigree, this technical understanding of icon can be used to illuminate the structural relationships among images, icons, and relics, across religious traditions. Note that any representation of the divine, the holy, the absolute, must grapple with the ontological problem of reference. That is to say, whether the divine or absolute is construed in transcendent or immanent terms, in either case it must remain essentially noncontingent and nonrelational and thus cannot properly be the ostensive referent or signified of a word, symbol, or image. Denotation is always mediation, since the noncontingent object of reference is kept one step removed from the sign through which it is made known. Thus any attempt to manifest the divine through contingent forms is both theologically and existentially problematic.



Broadly speaking, one can contend with this problem in one of two ways. First, one can simply prohibit the direct signification of the divine; the numerous Jewish and Muslim prohibitions against uttering the name of God or rendering his image come immediately to mind. Second, one can eliminate, by fiat if necessary, the distance between signifier and signified, such that pure substancethat which is devoid of all representational or contingent qualitiesis held to be immanent within the sign itself. This is the road taken by certain Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Buddhist traditions. Buddhists employ a variety of means to eliminate the distance between manifest form and divine essence. As is well known, Buddhist images are consecrated through elaborate eye-opening ceremonies believed to transform a mere likeness into a divine presence.20 The initial consecration is reiterated through regular invocation rituals that compel the deitys presence within the image. (Buddhist pu\ja\ or rites of offering typically include an invocation sequence, however brief, prior to the offerings proper.) The rites of offering can include feedings, ritual baths, and entertainments, all of which imaginatively reinforce the identity of image and god. But perhaps the most striking example of the effort to collapse form and substance is the installation of charismatic objects in general, and relics in particular, within the body of the image itself. Buddhist relics are construed as the distilled essence of human corporeality; they are what remains after the human form has been destroyed and the material substrate purified by the funeral pyre. Note that one of the two common terms for relics, dha\tu, is also used to refer to the fundamental or constituent element(s) of the universe itself. Insofar as relics are devoid of discernible representational qualities, they were well situated to serve as instances of purified essence or vital substance, and as such they came to play a significant role in the transformation of a mere image into a living icon. Incorporated relics literally vitalize a sacred likeness. There are a variety of ways in which Buddhists could incorporate a relic into an image. 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. 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.21 But the most striking example of the incorporation of a relic into an image is mummification, in which the entire corpse of an eminent master was desiccated, wrapped in layers of lacquer-impregnated cloth, fitted with robes and other adornments, and installed on an altar in the same manner as any other icon.22 In some cases



the resulting image so closely resembled a dry-lacquer sculpture that it was difficult to tell the difference.23 In the case of a Buddhist mummy the identity of relic and imagesubstance and formhas been fully realized. Mummies aside, Buddhists do make a terminological distinction between images and relics. In China, for example, a relic or sheli (Sanskrit arra, Japanese shari) would not be confused with a xiang (image, symbol, and so on) and vice versa. The same is true of the other terms used for Buddhist images and portraits, including zhen and dingxiang; each is used to denote a visual representation or likeness and thus is not applicable to a relic proper.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, since the rendering of an individuals likeness was always a potentially magical act. One thinks of the celebrated portraitist Gu Kaizhi (ca. 345406) who sought to animate portraits of secular subjects by dotting the eyes,25 or the widespread use of portraits in ancestral rites as resting places for the soul of the deceased (ling, shen).26 Nevertheless, East Asian Buddhists do have a term that corresponds rather well to icon in the restricted sense stipulated earlier, namely, in Japanese pronunciation, honzon (Chinese benzun) or fundamental deity, the principal object of worship in a Buddhist ritual setting.27 The honzon is not some unseen transcendent deity, much less an abstract conception of Buddhahood, but rather the sculpted or painted image enshrined on an altar in a place of worship. Which is to say that the vast majority of Buddhist practitioners in East Asia, like their counterparts in India, do not make a distinction between the consecrated visible image of the deity and the deity itself. Thus multiple icons of one and the same Buddha or bodhisattva are regarded in some sense as separate individuals with unique identities. Take, for example, the particular manifestation of Avalokitevara Bodhisattva known as Amoghapa \ a Avalokitevara, or, as he is known in Japan, Fukuk \ enjaku-kannon. There are a number of images of Fukuk \ enjaku situated throughout Japan, each bearing roughly the same iconographic attributes. But each is embedded within a specific historical/mythical narrative, often tied to a particular temple or locale, that gives it its personality. The image of Fukuk \ enjaku-kannon enshrined in the Nanendo\ at Kof \ ukuji in Nara, for example, is considered the fundamental ground (honji) of Kasuga Myoj \ in, the main deity of the Kasuga Shrine complex. In other words, the native Japanese god Kasuga is regarded as an avatar or incarnation (suijaku) of the Fukuk \ enjaku enshrined in the Nanendo. \ 28 Other Fukuk \ enjakus do not enjoy this relationship with Kasuga, but they too may



be tied to their own local traditions and religious narratives. This individuation extends to the powers associated with specific icons; each may have its own area of competence. One image of Yakushi may be renowned for its power to cure emphysema, for example, while another might be known for success in treating arthritis or heart disease.29 There are also cases in which an icon effectively reproduces, giving rise to multiple replicas that partake in the spirit of the original. One classic example is the cult of the Seiryo\ji Shaka, a Chinese sandalwood image of S:a\kyamuni brought to Japan by the pilgrim Cho\nen (9381016) in 986 and now enshrined at Seiryo\ji in Kyoto. According to local tradition this magnificent sculpture is the original Udayana image of S:a\kyamuni, so called because it is believed to have been produced at the behest of King Udayana during the Buddhas lifetime.30 As the center of a major cult in Japan it has served as the prototype for over a hundred replicas, replicas that are viewed not so much as images of the historical Buddha, but rather as offspring or doppelgngers (even though they are rarely exact copies) of the deity enshrined at Seiryo\ji. The same is true of the Zenko\ji Amida triad, as documented in Donald McCallums recent study of the subject.31 The Zenko\ji triad, which is kept hidden from public view, is explicitly regarded as a living Buddha (sho\jin no hotoke), and as such has been the center of an influential cult since the Heian period. The cult proliferated throughout Japan via the medium of over two hundred reproductions, each of which was believed to partake in the vitality of the original. Like the Seiryo\ji Shaka, the focus of the Zenko\ji Amida cult is not so much an august Amida abiding in his distant Pure Land, but rather the specific deity ensconced at Zenko\ji. Honzon is thus a functional approximation of the English icon it is not merely a representation of a god but the god itself. This exalted status is reaffirmed through the use of various artistic and architectural conventions, some of which manifest cross-culturally. For example, icons are typically constructed and displayed so as to engage the viewer directly. To quote Wu Hung, [The icons] significance relies on the presence of a viewer or worshiper outside it. In fact, the openness of the composition is based on the assumption that there is a worshiper who is engaged in direct relationship with the icon. It is based on this assumption that the iconic composition has become universal in various religious art traditions around the world.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,



food, incense, and flowers. A raised seat for the ritual officiant is set in front of the offering table, and additional implements are often arrayed to either side. This setting is part of the icons frameit is present even when never usedand 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.33 Insofar as an icon is a living presence, I would propose a further terminological distinction between icon and sacralized sign. I would reserve the latter term for objects that are sometimes called icons, but only in a metaphorical sense. 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. Some Americans go so far as to regard the intentional desecration of the flag as a sacrilege. But to speak of the flag as an icon is to speak metaphorically; the flag is surely only a symbol of the nation, albeit a powerful one. Insofar as flag burning is a profanation, the transgression lies in the ritual and symbolic significance of the act, rather than in the loss of the material object itself.34 This is not the case with an icon, however, the destruction of which is a far more serious concern. Each icon is in a certain sense unique and irreplaceable, much like an individual person. While these terminological distinctions may strike the reader as unnecessarily abstract or scholastic, 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. This point has been made repeatedly before, most forcefully, perhaps, by David Freedberg in his tome The Power of Images.35 Freedberg documents the tendency to impute intentionality to images, sacred and otherwise, and in the process exposes the impotence of many of the theories proffered to explain the phenomena. He notes that virtually all such theories, from Frazers laws of similarity and contagion to more contemporary notions of sympathy, identification, symbolic linkage, association of ideas, evocative resonance of symbols, or what have you, assume the disjunction between the symbol and the symbolizedbetween representation and reality. But this is precisely what is not given at the level of our emotional and cognitive response to images. 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.36 Any account of envotement 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.



Freedbergs point is well taken, but while he wants to distance himself from the traditional aesthetic concerns that preoccupy art historians, he cannot escape the issue of representation, or more precisely, figuration. Freedberg documents a seemingly innate human tendency to search all variety of images for the human form, and in the process to reconstitute the material object as living.37 While this may tell us something about the mystique of Buddhist images, it does not get us very far with Buddhist relics, which are, for all intents and purposes, formless. It is not primarily what relics look like that we find arresting, at least not initially, nor is it what they represent or signify. Rather, it is what they are. It is their unabashed yet impenetrable corporeality that evokes such a powerful response.


The veneration of corporeal relics and manufactured icons would seem to violate the law of noncontradiction (as Lvy-Bruhl would put it), as it entails a host of conceptual conundrums. If the deity is indistinguishable from the image, what is the relationship between different images of the same deity? When the corporeal remains of a saint are transformed into relics and disseminated, what happens to the integrity of the saints spirit? How, in other words, 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, stone, or clay is alive? Such problems are not the concern of modern rationalists alone. Scholastic theories of multiple buddhaka\ya or bodies of the Buddha appear to be addressing similar issues of identity and particularity. According to buddhaka\ya doctrine, a single Buddha or bodhisattva can have multiple nirma\naka\ya, transformation or manifest bodies, each of which is the local instantiation of a more rarefied prototype. In China these localized avatars were called response bodies (yingshen) or transformation bodies (bianshen, huashen), in part because they were believed to appear and function purely in response to the needs of those who invoked them. The response body was thus somewhat autonomous from the relatively immutable true body (zhenshen) or Buddha body (foshen), a fact that would have allowed multiple incarnations of the same proto-deity to assume their own unique identities. Such doctrines evolved, in China at least, in connection with reflections on invocation rites, which suggests that medieval commentators were grappling with some of the same issues that perplex us today.38



Nevertheless, it is doubtful that such scholastic formulations ever had much purchase on the ground. Nor did they need to. There is little indication in either the textual or ethnographic record that the vast majority of practitioners were cognizant of a problem at all. Individual icons and relics were powerful forces to be approached not conceptually or philosophically, but rather through the medium of worship and ritual. But before we rush to the conclusion that these forms of Buddhist piety bespeak a prereflective, uncritical, or primitive relationship to sacred objects, it would be prudent to consider our own understanding of the relationship between manifest form or embodiment on the one hand, and animating life force on the other. And it takes but a moments reflection to realize that there is, in fact, no single coherent, rational, or scientific perspective on the issue. Most of us would allow, I suspect, that we are our bodies and that at the same time we are something more. This is, at least, the way many in the West learn to conceptualize death: something is there one moment and gone the next, leaving behind a lifeless cadaver. Occidentals tend to think of this something in immaterial terms, as the mind, consciousness, ego, soul, and so on. Whatever it may be, it is not something that reveals itself to the probing of a surgeon. 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, going back to Greek views of the psyche. The notion of an independent psyche or soul continued to play an important role in medieval Christian thought, although, as Caroline Bynum has shown, the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and the need to maintain social and gender distinctions in the afterlife, led some theologians to reject theories of a fully disembodied soul.39 And despite developments in behavioral psychology, molecular biology, genetics, and neuroscience, many North Americans today continue to resist scientific or philosophical theories that reduce the individual to mere physical, biological, or electrochemical processes. At the same time, we have made little progress in our understanding of how a nonphysical process could interact with physical ones. The mindbody problem is as intractable as ever, as seen in the recent interdisciplinary debates over the nature of consciousness. There are, of course, many who insist that the mind-body problem is the result of a conceptual muddle, and that we are on the verge of a comprehensive physicalist account of consciousness.40 But for every committed materialist there is a diehard dualist who insists that, try as we might, consciousness will never yield itself to a strictly biochemical account.41



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, immaterial, or something in between.42 One thing, however, is certain: the concept of an immaterial soul, psyche, or mind has occasioned a panoply of ontological and ethical problems. The abortion issue is a case in point. Both the prolifers and the prochoicers tacitly accept the notion that life must begin at some point at or following conception; 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. (Both sperm and egg must be living for anything resembling a person to emerge.) Thus, as many ethicists have duly noted, the issue is not so much the point at which life begins, but rather the point at which we emerge as persons. While the notion of a person may provide a toehold for medical ethicists, social scientists, or legal theorists, it yields little in the way of clarity on the fundamental ontological issue. We are still not sure to what exactly we refer when we use the first-person pronoun I. While we may concede our confusion as to the precise moment at which the self or soul or even person comes into existence, we might think ourselves on firmer ground when we contemplate its end. In the West the moment of death, however defined by the medical or legal communities, is generally understood as the point when the person is no longer present in the body. Whether or not one holds that the self continues to exist, the physical remains are viewed as an inanimate or lifeless lump of organic matter to be disposed of posthaste, albeit in a suitably decorous manner. Most Americans thus attribute little significance to the metamorphosis of the body after death. This view of death is, of course, culturally determined, and it is by no means the norm in other societies. 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. In other words, in many cultures death is not a moment, but a process that stretches out over a considerable period of time, continuing until the physical transformation of the body has resulted in a state of changelessness. This terminal point in the life cycle is marked by the secondary treatment of the corpse, in which the dried bones or fully desiccated corpse are moved to their final resting place.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 soulour sense that the once living person is no longer present in his or her physical remains. Yet our cultural attitudes in this area are surely not so simple. Witness the crash of the TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island on July 17,



1996. The loss of the plane in over a hundred feet of murky ocean posed considerable problems for the recovery team. Despite the technical difficulties, compounded by bad weather, the authorities in charge repeatedly assured the public that every effort would be made to recover the remains, that no expense would be spared, and that the search would take precedence over the investigation into the cause of the crash. Why this emphasis on the recovery of the bodies, 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.44 Bynum demonstrates that, despite the continued belief in some form of body-soul dualism, by the early fifth century Christian thinkers had come to view the self in decidedly materialistic terms. The self was by definition an embodied self, such that individual salvation and life in the hereafter necessitated the physical resurrection and reassembly, if necessary, of the corpse. The doctrine of the resurrection of the whole body, which quickly became church orthodoxy, 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, fingernail and hair clippings resurrected as well? Are aborted fetuses resurrected? What about cannibalism: if one person eats another, in which resurrected body would the shared matter reside? Bynum argues that while these topics may strike us as outr or jejune, we too resort to the fantastic and bizarre as we contemplate the nature of personal identity and selfhood. American analytic philosophers hone their positions on the nature of mind, consciousness, and personal identity through thought experiments on artificial intelligence, brain transplants, and even teletransportation (Beam me up Scotty). Like the medieval Christian scholastics, we too ponder the meaning of self through reflecting on the nature and constraints of our physical embodiment; we too resort to delimiting and oftentimes bizarre scenarios as we probe the enigma of our own corporeality. Have we made progress in our search for the nature of consciousness, of the self, of the referent of the pronoun I? Is progress indeed possible? Or does the fact that embodiment precedes essence, to take liberties with the existentialist credo, doom any and all attempts to conceptualize the corporeal self? We seem to have returned to the problem of reference: signification entails mediation, a fact that continually frustrates our attempts to adequately denote or ostend the immediacy, not of having, but of being a body. The body that constitutes the epistemological object of



medical science, of biology, of genetics, or of neuroscience, is never quite that immanent body that is me. Thus our discursive ruminations seem destined to remain forever a step removed from the existential and psychological weight of our physicality. And yet I suspect that the clue to the singular allure of relics lies precisely here, in the confusions and anxieties that attend our somatic identity.


We began with Lvy-Bruhls notion of primitive mentality, a distinguishing feature of which was the inability to distinguish between the animate and the inanimate, between conscious beings and mere things. We have seen that, once freed from the rationalizing gloss of earlier apologetic accounts, the Buddhist treatment of icons and relics indicates that such objects were treated as animate entities capable of intentional acts. If we failed to fully appreciate this before, it was due to our tendency to think of icons and relics as mere signs or representationswhether of a divine presence, a divine absence, a transcendent truth, or what have you. Yet the ethnographic record suggests that icons and relics were not regarded as representations of the divine or ultimate, any more than a persons body is regarded as a representation of that person. But we should be wary of concluding that Buddhists are any more primitive in their thinking than are we. We too are far from clear as to the distinguishing marks of consciousness, of intentionality, of the self. We too are not quite sure what, if anything, animates us, what it is that constitutes our personhood, our subjectivity. We too are perplexed as to whether consciousness and matter are ultimately one thing or two, and if two, what their interrelationship might be. To acknowledge the limits of our understanding is to provide grounds for a reconsideration of the Buddhist case. While there is considerable evidence suggesting that Buddhists regard relics and icons as presences, it is equally evident that Buddhists are able to distinguish between bones or images on the one hand, and walking, talking human beings on the other. The fact that inert objects are regarded not merely as animate entities, but as charismatic objects of ritual veneration, is tacit acknowledgment of difference in kind. That is, if bits of bone, images of wood or stone, are alive, they are alive in a rather special way. I have suggested that the allure of relics lies in what they aretheir corporeal essencerather than in their representational or iconic qualities. At the same time it is clear that, unlike sentient beings, relics are what they



are by virtue of how they are physically and/or ritually framed. In other words, if it is true that the recognition of a relic as an instance of unmitigated corporeality is actually abetted by the relics absence of representational features, then the lions share of the denotative work must be borne by the frame. And such framing suggests a more complex attitude toward charismatic objects than that evoked by notions such as animism, sympathetic magic, or mystical participation. Gregory Bateson introduced the notion of framing in his analysis of primate communication, which, he argued, entails the ability to distinguish map from territory. This follows from the simple recognition that a message, of whatever kind, does not consist of those objects which it denotes (the word cat cannot scratch us).45 While an explicit or implicit frame of some sort is necessary to discriminate signified from signifier, or figure from ground, the status of the frame itself remains couched in logical ambiguity, if not paradox. This is because the frame must (1) straddle both realmsmap and territoryyet belong to neither; and (2) draw attention to itself, and yet remain hidden at the same time. (While spoken words must be heard to be understood, understanding becomes difficult if we attend too closely to their phonetic or acoustic qualities.) As Bateson notes, many forms of religious art, ritual, and discourse exploit this very ambiguity: In the dim region where art, magic, and religion meet and overlap, human beings have evolved the metaphor that is meant, the flag which men will die to save, and the sacrament that is felt to be more than an outward and visible sign, given unto us. Here we can recognize an attempt to deny the difference between map and territory, and to get back to the absolute innocence of communication by means of pure mood-signs.46 There may be no more ambiguous an object in this regard than the human body. Anthropologists, sociologists, linguists, and literary theorists all attest to the manner in which the body is implacably inscribed with a host of significations and values. Somatic metaphors and images structure our conceptions of everything from the natural world, to the political, social, psychological, and religious domains, and those conceptions are in turn reflected back upon the body. To put it simply, the body, as modern cultural theorists are so fond of pointing out, is a cultural construct. And yet the immanence or raw physicality of the body, my body, me, is more than a shifting field of significations. My immanent and primordial somatic being antecedes and frustrates all attempts at discursive appropriation. This, I would suggest, is one of the reasons that corpses, mummies, and relics seem so compelling: they confront us in the starkest



possible way with our irreducible thingness and at the same time with the puzzle of life itself. 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, is never a thing except virtually, so much so that if death reduces it to the condition of a thing, the spirit is more present than ever: the body that has betrayed it reveals it more clearly than when it served it. In a sense the corpse is the most complete affirmation of the spirit. What deaths definitive impotence and absence reveals is the very essence of the spirit, just as the scream of the one that is killed is the supreme affirmation of life.47

The relic is framed as a singular specimen of pure corporeality unencumbered by discernible formthe logical terminus in the reduction of the person to his or her material essence. Relics are the delimiting instance of our somatic existence stripped of all signification, that final and insensible scream that is the supreme affirmation of life.

In the so-called virgin birth debate of the 1960s, anthropologists returned to a long-standing controversy about whether certain primitive peoples, notably the Australian aborigines and the Trobrianders, were or were not ignorant of the facts of physiological paternity when first encountered by early ethnographers, as James Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, Ashley Montagu, and others had claimed.48 E. R. Leach, waving the banner of positivism, argued that it was highly improbable on common-sense grounds that anyone should be ignorant of the male role in conception; native claims to the contrary must be understood as a species of religious dogma.49 Leach went on to accuse anthropologists who believed otherwise of crude ethnocentrism. Melford Spiro disagreed. Leachs assumption that what is obvious to us must be obvious to the Trobrianders constitutes, according to Spiro, the more pernicious form of ethnocentrism, since it equates difference with irrationality. To Spiro, anthropologists have an obligation to take the Trobrianders at their word, and besides, the issue is not one of ignorance versus rationality but of ignorance versus knowledge. There is nothing irrational in the Trobrianders apparent ignorance of certain biological facts.50 The methodological issues that animated the virgin birth debate are recapitulated in the more recent exchange between Obeyesekere and



Sahlins.51 This time the debate concerns the Hawaiians and whether they did in fact mistake Captain Cook for a god, as historians and anthropologists have claimed, or whether this is merely a seductive but historically untenable Western myth. While the players have changed, the underlying theoretical question remains the same: given the fact that we must begin somewhere, and that where we begin may well determine where we end up, should we begin by presuming cross-cultural similarity or difference? Should we assume that the Hawaiians, the Trobriand Islanders, or medieval Chinese Buddhists for that matter, so resemble ourselves that we may aver to our own experience in deciphering theirs? Or is the intellectually and ethically prudent course to presume differenceto historicize and contextualize rigorously, and thereby avoid emasculating the others otherness, even at the risk of incomprehension? Spiro and Sahlins (like Lvy-Bruhl before them) believe that the principle of charity demands that we take the natives at their word. Leach and Obeyesekere, on the other hand, fear that such an approach infantilizes the native. For them, the principle of charity requires us to grant the native the same rationality we grant to ourselves. This anthropological struggle with the hermeneutic circle shows no immediate sign of abating. 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. Insofar as I suggest that medieval Buddhists may have experienced similar confusions and anxieties as ourselves concerning matters of life, death, and corporeal embodiment, I might be seen to be siding with Leach and Obeyesekere. But it should be clear that I have no intention of turning Buddhists into bourgeois rationalists. If my own analysis is agenda driven, the agenda is not to render the other like us but rather to render us more like the otherto expose the discursive fissures, the ignorance, the existential confusions and anxieties, indeed the irrationality, that mark our own collective representations.52 I am certainly not the first to try to split the difference between presuming commonality and presuming radical difference. As mentioned above, Lvy-Bruhl insisted that primitive mentality is not the mark of others alone, but is rather a universal mode of relating to the world that exists alongside the rational superstructure characteristic of modern Western culture. 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.53 And in his meditation on religion, Georges Bataille invokes an ear-



lier state in which we did not imagine ourselves as objects in the world, in which we did not distinguish between subject and object. Batailles vision of a primordial state of intimacy and immanence, in which we are in the world like water in water,54 is all too reminiscent of Lvy-Bruhls notions of primitive mentality and mystical participation in the world. (In this regard we might also mention Freud and his theories of primary process thinking and the id.) But of course, finding myself in good company may simply exacerbate the hermeneutic muddle. The recurring theme that connects LvyBruhl to Bataillethe tendency to emphasize a primordial or primitive mode of existence in which the distinction between self and world is blurred or nonexistent, a mentality less beholden to rationality or internal conceptual coherencemay ultimately tell us more about our own romantic yearnings than it tells us about anyone else. There may be no room for compromise when it comes to the question of cultural incommensurability, no way to render others intelligible without at once domesticating or emasculating them, no way to split the difference. But the immediate lesson vis--vis ourselves still holds. 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, utterly irreconcilable with our modes of rational comprehension, there are aspects of our own world, our own personal and cultural experience, that are equally ungraspable (Sanskrit anupalabdhi, Chinese bu ke de). The puzzle of selfhood and our corporeal embodiment, which is precisely the enigma that confronts us as we ponder the veneration of relics, may be such an area.

This chapter was originally prepared for the Seminar on Buddhist Relic Veneration, American Academy of Religion, New Orleans, November 23, 1996, and was first published in Representations 66 (Spring 1999): 7599. It is reprinted here with only minor stylistic changes. Special thanks to Susan Blum, Steven Collins, Donald Lopez, Elizabeth Horton Sharf, and Randolph Starn for their comments and suggestions on earlier drafts. 1. Lucien Lvy-Bruhl, How Natives Think, trans. Lilian A. Clare (1926; reprint ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985). 2. Ibid., 40. 3. See, for example, the following passage from How Natives Think: [W]e are allowed to think that [Edward] Tylors dictum that spirits are personified causes does not suffice to account for the place held by spirits in the collective



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 causevexata qustio to the philosophersis a sort of abstract precipitate of the mystic power attributed to spirits (ibid., 26). 4. Ibid., 44. 5. On the intellectual legacy of Lvy-Bruhl see Scott C. Littleton, Introduction: Lucien Lvy-Bruhl and the Concept of Cognitive Relativity, in Lvy-Bruhl, How Natives Think, vlviii. 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 Lvy-Bruhls 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), 4345; 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 Buddhas 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



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 hivpradea caityabhut \ o bhavet in the Vajracchedika: \ Notes on the Cult of the Book in the Mahay \ an \ a, Indo-Iranian Journal 17, no. 34 (1975): 14781. 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): 193225; 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): 52737; 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 Yn-hua, ed. Gregory Schopen and Koichi Shinohara (Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1991), 187201; 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): 14573; 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): 56392. 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 (19941997), 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 Trapusa 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 Buddhas suggestion that they venerate specimens of his hair and nail clippings; the Buddha has to talk them into it! See Andr Bareau, Recherches sur la biographie du Bouddha dans les Su\trapiaka et les Vinayapiaka anciens: De la qute de lveil la conversion de S:a\riputra et de Maudgalya\yana [Paris: cole Franaise dExtrme-Orient, 1963], 109; and John S. Strongs chapter, Buddhist Relics in Comparative Perspective: Beyond the Parallels, in this volume.) 11. I am using grace as an approximate equivalent for Sanskrit adhis ha\na (Chinese jiachi, Japanese kaji). 12. David Eckel, The Power of the Buddhas Absence: On the Foundations of Maha\ya\na Buddhist Ritual, Journal of Ritual Studies 4, no. 2 (1990): 6195;



John S. Strong, Images, in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade, 16 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 5:97104; idem, Buddhist Relics in Comparative Perspective; Robert H. Sharf, The Idolization of Enlightenment: On the Mummification of Chan Masters in Medieval China, History of Religions 32, no. 1 (1992): 2647; T. Griffith Foulk and Robert H. Sharf, On the Ritual Use of Chan Portraiture in Medieval China, Cahiers dExtrme-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 Chan 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 Chan 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 Chn-fang Y, Pu-to Shan: Pilgrimage and the Creation of the Chinese Potalaka, in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, ed. Susan Naquin and Chn-fang Y (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), 190245. 15. See, for example, Bernard Faure, Relics and Flesh Bodies: The Creation of Chan Pilgrimage Sites, in Naquin and Y, eds., Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, 15089, 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), 68; 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, 67. 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): 2336; and Donald K. Swearer, Hypostasizing the Buddha: Buddha Image Consecration in Northern Thailand, History of Religions 34, no. 3 (1995): 26380.



21. See Kosugi, Nikushinzo\ oyobi yuikaizo\ no kenkyu\, To\yo\ gakuho\ 24, no. 3 (1937): 40536; and Faure, Rhetoric of Immediacy, 159. 22. On Chinese mummies see Kosugi Kazuo, Nikushinzo \ ; Paul Demiville, Momies dExtrme-Orient, Journal des Savants, Troisieme centenaire (Paris, 1965), 14470; Doris Croissant, Der Unsterbliche Leib: Ahneneffigies und Reliquienportrt in der Portrtplastik Chinas und Japans, in Das Bildnis in der Kunst des Orients, ed. Martin Kraatz, Jrg Meyer Zur Capellen, and Dietrich Seckel (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1990), 23650; Faure, Rhetoric of Immediacy, 15056; Faure, Relics and Flesh Bodies; and Sharf, Idolization of Enlightenment. 23. In John Blofelds autobiographical account of his visit to Huinengs 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), 9091. 24. On the significance of the terms xiang, zhen, and dingxiang in China, see Foulk and Sharf, On the Ritual Use of Chan Portraiture, 15863. 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]: 1213). See also Chen Shih-hsiang, Biography of Ku Kai-chih (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), 1415; Richard B. Mather, trans., Shih-shuo Hsin-y: A New Account of Tales of the World, by Liu I-ching with commentary by Liu Chn (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 Chan Portraiture, 160, n. 14. 26. Foulk and Sharf, On the Ritual Use of Chan 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: 18.44ab). 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), 2068bc (where the reconstructed Sanskrit is given as Sayadhidevatah); Mochizuki Shinko\, Mochizuki Bukkyo\ daijiten, 10 vols. (Tokyo: Sekai seiten kanjo\ kyo\kai, 193336), 5:4697b4698a; Ding Fubao, Foxue dacidian (1919; reprint, Beijing: Wenwu, 1984), 427a; Komazawa Daigakunai Zengaku Daijiten Hensanjo, ed., Zengaku daijiten (1978; reprint, Tokyo: Daishu\kan, 1985), 1166ab; and Roger Goepper, Some Thoughts on the Icon in Esoteric Buddhism of East Asia, in Studia Sino-Mongolica, Festschrift fr Herbert Franke (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1979), 24554.



28. More specifically, this image was associated with Takemikatsuchi-nomikoto of the Kasuga First Sanctuary, but the various Kasuga deities are commonly approached as a single entity under the rubric of Kasuga Myo\jin. To make matters more complex, 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\fukujis Central Golden Hall (Chu\kondo\) and Western Golden Hall (Saikondo\). See Susan Tyler, The Cult of Kasuga Seen through Its Art (Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 1992), 13744; Royall Tyler, The Miracles of the Kasuga Deity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 8687; and Allan G. Grapard, The Protocol of the Gods: A Study of the Kasuga Cult in Japanese History (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), 8283. 29. Needless to say, this sort of individuation would have been fostered in part by the economic interests of the local temple. 30. When the image was opened for the first time in 1954 it was found to contain manufactured relicsa miniature set of internal organs fashioned out of silkin addition to various valuable coins, crystals, scriptures, and historical documents relating to the history of the image; see Gregory Henderson and Leon Hurvitz, The Buddha of Seiryo\ji: New Finds and New Theory, Artibus Asiae 19, no. 1 (1956): 555. On the legends of the Udayana image see esp. Martha L. Carter, The Mystery of the Udayana Buddha (Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 1990); and Alexander Soper, Literary Evidence for Early Buddhist Art in China (Ascona, Switzerland: Artibus Asiae, 1959). 31. Donald F. McCallum, Zenko\ji and Its Icon: A Study in Medieval Japanese Religious Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994). 32. Wu Hung, What Is Bianxiang?On the Relationship between Dunhuang Art and Dunhuang Literature, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 52, no. 1 (1992): 130. According to Wu Hung, this compositional feature allows us to distinguish images of deities in narrative paintings from icons proper, even when the latter are set within a landscape. In a narrative scene the attention of the deity will be focused within the landscape itself, whereas the gaze of the icon extends out beyond the painted scenery to encompass the viewer. 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. 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; Okazaki Jo\ji, Pure Land Buddhist Painting, trans. Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1977), 14042. 33. 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, and reinstalling them in museums. The dislocation, we



are told, emasculates the power of the image, reducing it to a mere object of art to be appreciated for its aesthetic or exotic qualities alone. While I would not want to condone the pilfering of sacred images, I would note that the critique is somewhat misguided. If the museum acts to curtail or restrain the power of sacred icons, so too does the temple. The mistake lies in viewing the icon as a sublime representation of the divine, rather than as a powerful supernatural presence that must be assuaged lest it unleash its power in unforeseen ways. 34. Should a warehouse holding hundreds of flags accidentally burn to the ground, few besides those with a financial interest in the enterprise would be troubled. 35. David Freedberg, The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989). 36. Ibid., 436. 37. Freedbergs book is frustrating in part precisely because of the manner in which he elides the distinction between lifelike images (i.e., 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, then responses to it are predicated on a sense of its living reality. But when the clues are less exact and less abundant, we still seek to reconstitute the reality of the signified in the sign. Sign fuses with signified to become the only present reality. The smallest number of clues suffices to precipitate the search for more. Response to all images, and not only ones perceived as being more or less realistic, is predicated on the progressive reconstitution of material object as living (ibid., 245). In other words, Freedberg explains the power of images in terms of (1) our (natural?) tendency to impute intentionality to things that look, however obliquely, sentient or lifelike. But he immediately moves on to state that (2) we also imaginatively project sentience onto things that do not possess such qualities. He does not offer any evidence, however, for his claim that the second phenomenon is derivative of the first. Thus, it seems to me that the evidence he adduces to support proposition (2) can only compromise the explanatory value of proposition (1). For a similar critique see the review by E. H. Gombrich, The Edge of Delusion, New York Review of Books (February 14, 1990): 69. 38. On the Chinese adaptation of buddhaka\ya doctrine see Robert H. Sharf, Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise (Honolulu, 2002), 10011. 39. See Caroline Walker Bynum, Bodily Miracles and the Resurrection of the Body in the High Middle Ages, in Belief in History: Innovative Approaches to European and American Religion, ed. Thomas Kselman (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), 68106; idem, Material Continuity, Personal Survival and the Resurrection of the Body: A Scholastic Discussion in Its Medieval and Modern Contexts, in Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and



the Human Body in Medieval Religion (Cambridge: Zone Books, 1991), 23997; idem, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 2001336 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995). 40. Recent attempts to explain conscious awareness without appealing to immaterial forces often rely on computational models in general, and neural-network modeling in particular. For an overview of the neuropsychological research in the area see Stephen M. Kosslyn and O. Koenig, Wet Mind: The New Cognitive Neuroscience (New York: Free Press, 1992). Many analytic philosophers influenced both by the neuropsychological evidence and by Wittgensteinian deconstructions of mind-body dualism have enthusiastically jumped on the physicalist bandwagon; see, for example, Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained (Boston: Little, Brown, 1991). But not all physicalists subscribe to the computational approach; Roger Penrose, for example, argues that the mechanism for consciousness is located at the level of subatomic physics, in gravitational phenomena acting through microtubules in neurons (Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness [New York: Oxford University Press, 1994]). 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. See Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (New York: Scribner, 1994); Christof Koch and Francis Crick, Some Further Ideas Regarding the Neuronal Basis of Awareness, in Large-Scale Neuronal Theories of the Brain, ed. Christof Koch and Joel L. Davis (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994), 93109. For an overview of the diversity of work in this area, see the papers in the series of special issues of Journal of Consciousness Studies entitled Explaining ConsciousnessThe Hard Problem, 2, no. 3 (1995), and 3, nos. 1, 3, and 4 (1996). 41. See, for example, the work of Thomas Nagel, What Is It Like to Be a Bat? Philosophical Review 83 (October 1974): 43550; and idem, The View from Nowhere (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), who insists on the irreducibility of the subjective point of view; or that of David J. Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), who believes that consciousness is a fundamental feature of the universe irreducible to anything more basic. 42. One candidate for something in-between might be accounts of consciousness based on nonlinear dynamics and emergent properties. See, for example, Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991); and Alwyn Scott, Stairway to the Mind: The Controversial New Science of Consciousness (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1995). 43. On secondary treatment see esp. Robert Hertz, Death, and The Right Hand, trans. Rodney Needham and Claudia Needham (Aberdeen: Cohen and West, 1960); Richard Huntington and Peter Metcalf, Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); and



Loring M. Danforth, The Death Rituals of Rural Greece (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982). 44. See note 39 in this chapter. 45. Gregory Bateson, A Theory of Play and Fantasy, in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (New York: Ballantine Books, 1972), 180; on the notion of framing see also Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986). 46. Bateson, A Theory of Play and Fantasy, 183. See also the analysis of the parergon in Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 54 ff. 47. Georges Bataille, Theory of Religion, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Zone Books, 1992), 40. 48. E. R. Leach, Virgin Birth (The Henry Myers Lecture), Proceedings of the Royal Anthropology Institute for 1966 (1966): 39. For the background to the debate see the references mentioned in Virgin Birth (46 n. 1). For the revived debate of the 1960s, in addition to Virgin Birth by Leach see Melford E. Spiro, Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation, in Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, ed. Michael P. Banton (London: Tavistock, 1966); idem, Virgin Birth, Parthenogenesis, and Physiological Paternity, an Essay in Cultural Interpretation, Man 3, no. 2 (1968): 24261; and the correspondence in the 1968 and 1969 volumes of Man. 49. Leach, Virgin Birth, 41 and 45. 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; the truth which it expresses does not relate to the ordinary matter-of-fact world of everyday things but to metaphysics. Of course, everything hinges on who wields the authority to declare a belief factually untrue. 50. Spiro, Virgin Birth, Parthenogenesis, and Physiological Paternity. 51. See note 6 in this chapter. 52. This is a well-established rhetorical strategy in American anthropology, which Clifford Geertz calls self-nativising; see the analysis in Geertz, Us/NotUs: Benedicts Travels, in Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), 107. 53. Paul Veyne, Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination, trans. Paula Wissing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). 54. Bataille, Theory of Religion, 19 and 28.


BERNARD FAURE is George Edwin Burnell Professor of religious studies at Stanford University. His research centers on religion in China and Japan, especially Chan and Zen traditions. His publications include The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender, The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality, and Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism. DAVID GERMANO is associate professor of Buddhist and Tibetan studies at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on the history of Tibetan religion, especially among the Nyingma and Bon traditions. His is the co-editor of The Many Canons of Tibetan Buddhism and the founder and director of the Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library ( JACOB N. KINNARD is assistant professor at the Iliff School of Theology. His research centers on ritual and art in Indian Buddhism. 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. ROBERT H. SHARF is D. H. Chen Professor of Buddhist studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley. His areas of research include religion in medieval China and modern Japan and critical theory in the study of religion. 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.




JOHN S. STRONG is professor of religion at Bates College. His research is focused on Buddhist legendary and cultic traditions in South Asia. His publications include The Legend of King Asoka, The Legend and Cult of Upagupta, and The Buddha: A Short Biography. DONALD K. SWEARER is Charles and Harriet Cox McDowell Professor of religion at Swarthmore College. His research centers on religion in Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand. His publications include The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia, The Legend of Queen Cama (with Sommai Premchit), and Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand. KEVIN TRAINOR is associate professor of religion at the University of Vermont. His areas of research include Indian Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka. His publications include Relics, Ritual, and Representation in Buddhism and Buddhism: The Illustrated Guide (general editor).


Adittara\ja, King, 149 Aizen myoo\, 101, 102 All-Creating King, The, 5455 Amaterasu, 96 Amida, 188n32 Amoghapa\a Avalokitevara. See Fuku\kenjaku-kannon amulets, 155 A|nanda, 122, 146, 155 Ana\thapindika, 139n43 aniconic period in early Buddhism, 1011, 121 Anura\dhapura, 35 anussati, 128 arahant (arhat), 7, 10, 15, 34, 148n36, 15253, 155, 156 arahantship (arhatship), 123, 124 art, 12021 Aoka, King, 4142, 148, 152, 153, 158 Asamaha\pra\tiha\rya, 119, 13234 Avalokitevara Bodhisattva. See Fuku\kenjaku-kannon; Nyoirin Kannon Bataille, Georges, 181, 18283 Bateson, Gregory, 180 Benichi, Mount, 97 biography, 14, 3436 bioramas, 35, 36 Blazing Relics Tantra, The, 5761, 64, 66, 71, 74, 75, 7779, 81

bodhi tree, 35, 125 bodhicitta, 55 Bodhiramsi, Bhikkhu, 148 bodily relics, 11. See also under Buddha alternatives to, 3638 bones, 5455, 6974 vs. precious (relic) spheres, 5455, 71, 7374. See also relic spheres Bourdieu, Pierre, 120, 121, 134 Brown, Peter, 41, 126 Buddha body of, 911, 14, 15 on his own identity and nature, 5152, 146 iconographic thought about, 127 past lives, 35 presence of. See presence reasons for recollecting, 129 between sa\la trees at Kusina\ra\, 9 sculptures and paintings of, 16 seeing the, 12125. See also buddhadarana; images, Buddha; imagining the Buddha state of, after death, 911, 3132 three Bodies of, 52 Buddha Gotama, 14, 35, 145 Buddha-nature, 53, 61, 70, 71 relics and, 8086 Buddha Tamna\n, 160n20 buddhadarana, 125, 137n31. See also Buddha, seeing the



routinization and mass-production, 3638 seeing and experiencing, 3234 Christianity, 178 Buddhism compared with, 56, 28 chronicle, 148. See also phongsa; tamna\n; vamsa chronicle genre, the, 14752 Chrysostom, St. John, 30 cinta\mani (wish-fulfilling jewel), 93, 95102, 104, 105, 108 Collins, Steven, 119, 126 communion, 3637 consciousness, explanations of, 190n40 contemplative practices, 5859, 67, 86. See also direct transcendence contemplation contradictory negations, 3132 Conze, Edward, 128 Coomaraswamy, Ananda, 121 Crick, Francis, 190n40 Dainichi, 9697 Dainichi No\nin, 106 Dalada Maligawa, 27 Daoxuan, 103, 107 Darumashu\, 106 Davids, T. W. Rhys, 46, 8, 2324nn1213 death of the Buddha, 911, 3132, 34 signs of saintly, 6163 descendants, 69 devotionalism, 31, 34, 123 dhamma, 145, 146, 155. See also Dharma Dharma, 3738. See also dhamma embodying the, 16 hearing it directly from the Buddha, 122 dharmaka\ya, 38, 55, 80 Dharmodgata, 131 dioramas, 3436 direct transcendence contemplation, 64, 66, 81

Buddhada\sa bhikkhu, 145 buddhaka\ya, 175 buddha\nusmrti, 121, 12729 Buddhas figure of, 51 past and future, 14 Buddhas Tooth Relic Pagoda, 27. See also tooth of the Buddha Buddhism, 119, 16465, 16768 compared with other religions, 46 history, 14752 Buddhist Relic Traditions Web site, 2223 Buddhist relics. See also specific topics beyond superstition, 123 semiotic logic of, 16975 types of, 52 Buddhist revival in Asia, 5 Busshar so\jo\ shidai, 104, 105 Bynum, Caroline, 43, 176, 178 Byo\do\-in, 102 Ca\ma, Queen, 14849 Carus, Paul, 68 Cave of the Buddhas Shadow, 3031, 3334 cetiya, 9, 16, 24n22, 26n33, 49n78, 12526, 131, 139n43, 150, 161n29. See also thu\pa Ceylon, 57 Chao Luang Kham Daeng, 156, 158 Chapel of the Holy Cross, 28 charisma, 38 Charnvit Kasetsiri, 14748 Chiang Dao, 15051 Chiang Mai, 15254 Christian and Buddhist relics, 2829 stories about, 4243 approaching and touching, 2932 collecting and counting, 3940 dioramas and biography, 3436 patterns of distribution, 4042

distribution, patterns of, 4042 Doniger, Wendy, 29 dragon holes, 96, 97 dragon offering, 95 Duhaga\man, King, 35, 36 earthquakes, 7880 Eckel, David, 122 Emanational Spiritual Bodies, 6869, 77 embodying the Dharma, 16 emperors. See also specific individuals relics and cloistered, 1016 Enlightened Body, Speech, and Mind, 6061. See also bodhicitta enlightened nucleus. See Buddhanature enlightening mind. See dharmaka\ya enlightenment, 57 Ennin, 101 enshrinement procession, 11, 12 Entering Uji, 100 eschatologies, 4243 eternal vs. impermanent bodies, 4243 Eucharist, 3638 Faxian, 3031, 12627 field, concept of the, 12021. See also under presence floating signifiers, 110 Foucault, Michel, 120 Foucher, Alfred, 121, 136n24 Frederick the Wise, 39, 40 Freedberg, David, 17475, 189n37 Frolow, Anatole, 41 Fujiwara, 100101 Fujiwara no Muneyori, 104 Fuku\kenjaku-kannon, 172 funeral pyre, 9, 10 funerary Buddhism, 53 future. See past and future gdung, 54, 69. See also bones Geary, Patrick, 41 Gion Consort, 1034, 106, 11415n45


Gishin, 103, 107 gnosis, primordial, 55, 8081 Go-Daigo, Emperor, 94, 10710 Go-ko\gon, 107 Go-Shirakawa-in, 104 Go-Toba, Emperor, 99 gojiso\ (protecting monk), 98 Gopa\la, 31 Great Perfection, 53, 58, 63, 84 disembodied relics in the early, 5356 transformation into Seminal Heart, 53 growth, by addition vs. multiplication, 3940 Gu Kaizhi, 172, 187n25 Gyokuyo\, 101 Hanjun, 97, 105 Harrison, Paul, 12830, 142nn6768 Head, Thomas, 32 Heian period, 98 heritage, 69 hermeneutic conundrum, relics and the, 17983 Hinduism compared with Buddhism, 45 historical consciousness, 1314. See also chronicle genre honzon, 108, 109, 173 Hoori no Mikoto, 104 Hugh of Lincoln, Saint, 3637 Hume, David, 34 Huntington, John, 119, 134 Ichiji Kinrin, 99 icons, 17075 images, 174, 189n37 Buddha, 11819, 155, 16667. See also paima\; viggaha; vision and visualization compared with relics, 1617, 170 seeing, 12527. See also Buddha, seeing the


Longchenpa, 60, 81 on relics, 61 Seminal Heart and, 53, 81 on signs of saintly death, 61 on tantra, 70 writings, 56 The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, 7175, 79 The Treasury of Words and Meanings, 56, 58, 61, 6667, 70, 78, 80 MacCulloch, J. A., 12 Maha\na\ma, 35 Maha\parinibba\na-sutta, 810 Maha\vairocana. See Dainichi Maha\vamsa, 35 mandalization, 42 mani jewel. See cinta\mani Mary Magdalene, 36 memory-sites, 14, 16 Minamoto no Sanetomo, 1067 Minamoto no Yoritomo, 106 Minamoto Tamenori, 99 mirage, 31, 32 Monkan, 108 Muro\zan, 96, 97 Muro\zan goshari so\den engi, 96 Mus, Paul, 32 Muso\ Soseki, 107, 108 Myo\an Eisai, 106, 107 na\ga, 9597, 104, 154 na\ga palace, 106, 108, 110 Nagaraha\ra, 3031 Na\ga\rjuna, 31, 127 Nakatada, 11314n35 Narai, King, 148 Narutaki Myo\jin, 100 Nazha, 103 negations, contradictory, 3132 Ngakchung, Khenpo, 63 Ningai, 97 nirvana, Buddha in, 3132, 166 Nyoirin Kannon, 99

images (continued) semiotic logic of icons, relics, and, 16975 imagining the Buddha image talk, 12127 image thought, 12732 imminent realization, 6061 incarnation, 34, 37 jade-woman, 99, 100 Jagannatha, 45 Japanese regalia, Buddhist relics and, 9395, 10910 cloistered emperors, 1016 Emperor Go-Daigo and the cinta\mani, 108 relics and the regents, 100101 relics and the sho\gun, 1068 relics and the tenno\, 95100 rituals of power, 109 ja\takas, 123, 150 Jerome, St., 30 Jerusalem, 30 Jesus Christ, 28, 32, 34, 36, 37 jewels. See cinta\mani jha\nas, 128 Jien, 99 Jikme Phuntshok, Khenpo, 63 Kamakura period, 94, 99 Kanezane, 101 karma, 14, 16, 55, 61 Karmalingpa, 5657 Kasuga Myo\jin, 172, 188n28 King, Winston, 128 kissing relics, 30, 37 Koch, Christof, 190n40 Ku\kai, 9598, 101, 104, 105 Ku\tai, 112n14 Lamotte, tienne, 123, 125 Leach, E. R., 181, 191nn4849 Lvy-Bruhl, Lucien, 16364, 167, 179, 182, 183 lights, 7476

Obeyesekere, Gananath, 181, 182 offering, 9, 54, 126, 139n43, 156, 171, 173, 174. See also dragon offering; pu\ja\; arra-pu\ja\ Olcott, Henry Steel, 5, 184n7 Olschki, Leonardo, 28 Pa\li Canon, 120, 122 parinibba\na legacy, 146 parinirvana, passing into, 32, 3436, 43 past and future, relationships to, 1314 pastness, persistence of, 131, 13334 paima\, 125, 140n44 Paula (Roman Christian noblewoman), 2930, 36 Penor Rinpoche, 6364 phongsa, 147 phongsa\wada\n, 147, 148 Phra Chao Liap Lok (PCLP), 149, 160n20 Pingiya, 141n64 power rituals of, 109 royal, 1023 pramukha, 131 Prasenajit story, 12627 Pratyutpanna-buddhasammukhavasthita-sama\dhi-su\tra (PraS), 130 presence, 126, 133, 134 absence and, 3132, 36, 82, 8486, 118, 12627, 131 field of, 11922, 133 persistence of, 11719 presence talk, 117 primitive peoples and primitive mentality, 16364, 179, 18182, 184n7 primitive rationality, 163 Prince Bodhi Sutta, 146 progeny, 69 pu\ja\, 123, 171. See also arra-pu\ja\ Radegund, Saint, 3234, 39 rain rituals, 95


rationality and reason, 5, 8 Rawlinson, Andrew, 137n31 Ray, Reginald, 12425 regents, relics and the, 100101 relic cults, 9, 10, 173 relic spheres, 5455, 6364, 71, 7374. See also ring brsel relic veneration, 16568. See also Buddhist relics, beyond superstition prohibitions against, 1011 relics. See also Buddhist relics; specific topics importance, 32 meaning and scope of the term, 61, 69, 169, 170 nature of, 93, 16667, 16970 religious practitioners, attention to bodies of, 11 religious traditions Buddhism compared with other, 46 similarity between different, 13 Rengeo\-in, 103 resurrection, bodily, 4243, 175 Ries, Julien, 136n22 ring brsel, 54, 63. See also relic spheres ritual and ritualism, 8, 9, 14, 32, 133 Ryo\shin, 107 Sada\prarudita, Bodhisattva, 131 sadha\tuka, 125 Sahlins, David, 181, 182 saints, 32 S:a\kyamuni, 119, 130, 173 Salzman, Michele, 2, 3 sama\dhi, 130 Samantabhadra, 106 Samantapa\sa\dika\, 125, 131 sangha, and relic veneration, 10 Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, basilica of, 28 arra, 69, 70, 93, 95, 96, 100103, 108. See also relics


Supreme Vehicle, The, 66, 7475, 77 Suzuki, D. T., 24n18 Taira no Kiyomori, 1026, 11415n45 Taira no Tadamori, 104, 114n45 Taksaila\, 42 Tamayorihime, 104 Tambiah, Stanley, 37 tamna\n, 159n17, 16061n25 categories of, 149 history of, 14752 Tamna\n Ang Salung, 15052 signs of the Buddha in, 15256 interpretation of, 15758 Tanaka Takako, 104 tantra, 5657, 70, 75, 187n27. See also Blazing Relics Tantra; Great Perfection Tantra of Self-Arising Awareness, The, 8485 tenno\, relics and the, 95100, 111n6 textualizations, 3738 thu\pa, 9, 26n31. See also stupa time and timelessness, 1314 Toba-in, 103, 105 To\ji, 97, 98, 113n24 Tomb of the Resurrection, 30 tooth of the Buddha, 2728, 42, 103, 105, 1078, 114n42, 115n59 touching relics, 2932 Toyotamahime, 104 transcendence, 59, 75, 84 transubstantiation, 3638 Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle, The (Longchenpa), 7175, 79 Treasury of Words and Meanings, The (Longchenpa), 56, 58, 61, 6667, 70, 78, 80 Udayana Buddha image, 127, 173, 188n30 Uji Treasure House, 100103 Vajrabodhi, 95 Vakkali, 124, 138n38

arra-pu\ja, 10, 25n25 sa\sana, 9, 147, 151, 153, 155, 157 Schopen, Gregory, 28, 32, 131, 138n35, 165 science and religion, 6, 8 Seelakkhandha, Alutgama, 6, 7 Seiryo\ji Shaka, cult of, 173 self, 17779 Self-Arisen, The, 73 Seminal Heart, 53, 74, 75, 80, 81, 85, 86 Senko\, 107 Sennyu\-ji temple, 28 sexuality, 99100 shadow, Buddhas. See Cave of the Buddhas Shadow sheli, 38, 40, 48n60, 172 Shingon, 97, 98, 102 Shinto\, 111n7 Shinzenen, 96 Shirakawa, 1013, 106, 114n45 Shirakawa-in, 1025, 110, 114n45 sho\gun, relics and the, 1068 Sho\ken, 104 Sho\ko\myo\-in, 102, 104, 105 Shubin, 96, 112n17 Shukseb Jetsunma, 65 Siddhattha (Siddhartha), Prince, 119, 152 signs, 158n1 sacralized, 174 Smith, Adam, 3 Smith, Jonathan, 133 Smith, Vincent, 12 sounds, 75, 7778 Sox, David, 4041 Spiro, Audrey, 187n25 Spiro, Melford, 181 Sri Lanka, 14, 15. See also Ceylon; Maha\vamsa stupa, 11, 3738, 41, 42, 65, 11719, 166, 170. See also thu\pa superstitio, 23 superstition, 24 emotional excess and, 45

vamsa, 41, 14748 Veyne, Paul, 182 viggaha, 125 Vimuttimagga, 129 vision and visualization, 3233. See also imagining the Buddha visionary appearances of the Buddhas, 6667 visual culture, 11 Wendi, Emperor, 39, 40, 42 Wilkinson, John, 30 wish-fulfilling jewel. See cinta\mani


worship of relics. See relic veneration Wu Hung, 173, 188n32 Wyatt, David K., 149 Xuanzang, 3334, 37, 99, 103 yakkhas, 156 Yakushi, 173 Yorimichi, 100, 101 Zenko\ji Amida cult, 173 Zentatsu, 96