Monday, August 26, 2013

"Relishing the Relics" (Los Angeles Times)

Editors, Wisdom Quarterly; Devin Kelly (, 8-25-13);
Visitors gaze at relics at Lu Mountain Temple, Aug. 18, 2013 (Christina House/

Master YongHua gives visitors a close up look (Christina House/
First public showing of what's touted as the largest collection of Buddhist relics in the U.S. attracts hundreds of visitors.
Crystal tray of relics (
For hours, the meditation hall at Lu Mountain Temple in the south San Gabriel Valley hummed with muted chatter and camera shutter-clicks.
Around the room, glass display cases held translucent urns and miniature versions of dome-shaped Buddhist shrines, or stupas, delicately arranged on burgundy-colored cloth. 
The urns and stupas held thousands of bright pearl-like crystals believed to be relics of the Buddha, his relatives, and his [enlightened] disciples [the arhats].
Amazing and colorful (
A wide-eyed Julie Nguyen of Orange County stepped sideways in front of one of the display cases. She steadied her iPad over the glass, leaned close, and snapped a photo. "I've seen [the Tibetan] Buddha relics, but these -- I feel energy," said Nguyen, 36.
She and hundreds of others made pilgrimages to this small Rosemead temple last week for the first public showing of what is being touted as the largest collection of Buddhist relics in the United States.

Massive crystal container of relics (left) on altar with the Great Strength Bodhisattva, Amitabha Buddha, and Kwan Yin, Aug. 25, 2013 (Wisdom Quarterly)
Beverly Hills Buddhist admires fragrant tooth
Relic [veneration], better known among Roman Catholics, is much less commonly associated with Buddhism. According to some branches of Buddhist belief [particularly Pure Land Buddhism, as practiced on Lu Mountain], the relics, known in Sanskrit as shariras, offer a source of delight, blessings, enlightenment, and concrete, physical evidence of [the] Buddha [and his extraordinary attainments].
The religious artifacts are displayed in temples in Vietnam, [Burma], and Sri Lanka, among other places. Since 2001, the Maitreya Project Heart Shrine Relic Tour [which is completely unrelated to this collection] has visited cities across the United States, sharing a collection of nearly 1,000 relics with the public.
At Lu Mountain Temple, however, the collection is far larger; it is said to number more than 10,000, including two rare tooth relics. More
Multiplying Relics
Dr. Rei Rei, Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly, Aug. 25, 2013
Golden tray of crystal containers with colorful relics under glass (Wisdom Quarterly)

In addition to interviewing the monastics at Lu Mountain Buddhist Monastery, one a Westerner, we again enjoyed their presence with the volunteer docents who had worked to make the first public showing a success. They had been unable to enjoy the discussions, the moving photographs, the comments by visitors the previous Sunday. When we arrived yesterday, as LA Times journalist Devin Kelly was going to press with her article (above) from week-old interviews, we had a long talk with the venerable monastic, who teaches meditation and Pure Land Buddhist principles on Saturday mornings (open to all). He explained his experienced and the goals and aspirations of the temple and its abbot, Master YongHua. The relics keep multiplying, which will be documented for all to see. Will this make believers? we ask. Not even this will make believers out of those beset by skeptical-doubt and pernicious-uncertainty. It will take more for these to overcome this hindrance. There is no reason to "believe," after all. This is Buddhism, and its historical founder invited all to come and investigate the Dharma. It is not for believing but for seeing directly, for knowing with complete certainty.

MUSLIMS (Lwanzo Msinjili, Aug. 26, 2013): The same Buddhist folks in Burma/Myanmar are killing the Rohingya Muslims of Bangladesh origin who are also Burmese. They burn their villages and kill them for no reason. [NOTE: It is likely for racist, economic, xenophobic, scapegoat reasons]. The Burmese [dictatorship of Gen. Than Shwe] government is said to be involved. Read for details.
CATHOLICS (Unclesmrgol, Aug. 25, 2013): I have no idea how Buddhists view relics of their faith, but I can speak for us Roman Catholics -- and for Catholics in general:  We do not worship relics.  Relics are a symbol of the person from which they derive, not something to be worshipped.  We view the Saints as intercessors -- for, when you have everlasting life, you still have the ability to pray -- and the Saints are just as valid an intercessor (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners...) as the person next to you whom you also have asked to pray.  That's where the Catholic phrase, "The Communion of Saints" comes from. (It's all very simple to get right, especially if your reporter is also a devout Catholic.  If they aren't, they are prone to minor mistakes like this one.) Now, I would expect that for the Buddhist, it is the same -- that spiritual comfort derives from the sight or the knowledge of a nearby relic of your faith. In a world of things, some things represent something greater, and there you are.

No comments: