Monday, October 14, 2013

Enlightened relics remain (photos)

Dhr. Seven, CC Liu, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly; Nyanaponika Thera (The Llife of Sariputta); Lu Mountain Temple; SGV Tribune; Camerabhai ( 
Relics (concretions) are multiplying! Others are being revealed and moved by devas. Lu Mountain Temple ( has a vast collection to rival the Tibetan Relic Tour ( being prepared for Kushinagar (CB).
The Relics of Sariputra and Maha Moggallana
Sariputra's shariras (Camerabhai/
On Sanchi Hill in Bhopal are the remains of ten Buddhist burial shrines (stupas), which are among the oldest buildings still standing in India.
By their architectural features and sculpture they have always been recognized as belonging to the high noon of Buddhist art, the characters in which their numerous inscriptions are written placing them at about the period of Emperor Asoka, that is, some time around the middle of the third century B.C. 
Some are well preserved, while others have been reduced over the course of centuries to mere mounds of earth and stone. It was in one of these, the now famous Third Stupa, that Sir Alexander Cunningham in 1851 discovered the sacred body relics of the Buddha's chief male disciples, Sariputra and Maha Moggallana.

At about the same time, more relics of the two great arhats were found enshrined in a stupa at Satadhara, about six miles from Sanchi.
On sinking a shaft in the center of the burial mound on Sanchi Hill, Cunningham came upon a large stone slab, more than five feet in length, lying north to south. Beneath the slab were found two boxes of gray sandstone, each with a brief inscription in Brahmi characters on the lid. The box to the south was inscribed Sariputtasa  or "(relics) of Sariputta," while the one to the north bore the legend Maha-Mogalanasa, "(relics) of Maha Moggallana."

Gold Sivali statuette (left), relics under glass, meditators, and Mahayana deities, August 2013 (Ron Fu/SGV Tribune/
A bhita in Bangladesh (Archbd)
The southernmost box contained a large flat casket of white steatite more than six inches broad and three inches in height. The surface was hard and polished. The box, which had been turned on a lathe, was a beautiful piece of workmanship. Around this small casket were some fragments of sandalwood believed to have been from the funeral pyre. Inside it, besides the relics, various precious stones were found. This casket contained a single bone relic of Ven. Sariputra, the male monastic disciple "foremost in wisdom," not quite one inch in length.
The stone box to the north enclosed another steatite casket, similar but slightly smaller and with a softer surface. Inside it were two bone relics of Ven. Maha Moggallana, the larger of them being less than half an inch in length.
Each of the two steatite caskets had a single ink letter inscribed on the inner surface of the lid, "Sa" for Sariputra on the southern and "Ma" for Maha Moggallana on the northern. In Cunningham's words, "Sariputta and Maha Moggallana were the principal [male] followers of the Buddha [counterparts to the two chief female disciples Khema and Uppalavanna], and were usually styled his right and left hand disciples. Their ashes thus preserved after death the same positions to the right and left of Buddha which they had themselves occupied in life" (Bhilsa Topes, p. 300). This is explained by the fact that the Buddha customarily sat facing east.

A documentable growing cluster of sacred relics (shariras), glass-like beads, cremation remains of the Buddha and/or enlightened monastics (Ron Fu/
Close up of relic cluster (LMT)
In the reliquary at Satadhara, one of a group which Cunningham noted was called locally "Buddha Bhita" or "Buddha Monuments," he discovered two caskets of pale mottled steatite. These were inscribed, like those at Sanchi, "Sariputtasa" and "Maha Mogallanasa" respectively. 
This stupa showed signs of having been violated by robbers, but the bone relics had been left undisturbed. Cunningham, a very capable archaeologist, has left a detailed account of everything his excavations brought to light in these and other stupas, and it is thanks to him that the authenticity of the relics is established beyond all doubt.
The relics from both sites were moved to England and placed in the Victoria and Albert Museum. But some discrepancies between Cunningham's description of the caskets and the actual boxes in which the relics were deposited gives reason to believe that he, or someone else, transferred the relics from Sanchi to the caskets discovered at Satadhara, and what became of the Sanchi steatite caskets is not known for certain.
The sacred relics were preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum until 1939, when the Maha Bodhi Society approached the British government with a request that they be returned to India. The request was at once granted, but owing to the outbreak of World War II that year, the actual transfer was delayed for reasons of safety until Feb. 24, 1947. More
Lu Mountain Temple, San Gabriel Valley, suburban Los Angeles (

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