Relics of the Buddha

Relics of the Buddha

by John S. Strong
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691117640

ISBN-13: 9780691117645

Pub. Date: 07/26/2004

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Buddhism is popularly seen as a religion stressing the truth of impermanence. How, then, to account for the long-standing veneration, in Asian Buddhist communities, of bone fragments, hair, teeth, and other bodily bits said to come from the historic Buddha?

Early European and American scholars of religion, influenced by a characteristic Protestant bias against

Overview

Buddhism is popularly seen as a religion stressing the truth of impermanence. How, then, to account for the long-standing veneration, in Asian Buddhist communities, of bone fragments, hair, teeth, and other bodily bits said to come from the historic Buddha?

Early European and American scholars of religion, influenced by a characteristic Protestant bias against relic worship, declared such practices to be superstitious and fraudulent, and far from the true essence of Buddhism.

John Strong's book, by contrast, argues that relic veneration has played a serious and integral role in Buddhist traditions in South and Southeast Asia-and that it is in no way foreign to Buddhism.

The book is structured around the life story of the Buddha, starting with traditions about relics of previous buddhas and relics from the past lives of the Buddha Sakyamuni. It then considers the death of the Buddha, the collection of his bodily relics after his cremation, and stories of their spread to different parts of Asia.

The book ends with a consideration of the legend of the future parinirvana (extinction) of the relics prior to the advent of the next Buddha, Maitreya. Throughout, the author does not hesitate to explore the many versions of these legends and to relate them to their ritual, doctrinal, artistic, and social contexts.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691117645
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/26/2004
Series:
Buddhisms: A Princeton University Press Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.46(h) x 1.04(d)

Table of Contents

List of Tablesxi
Prefacexiii
Note and Abbreviationsxix
Introduction: Relics of the Buddha1
Relics and the Biographical Process5
Types of Buddha Relics8
Bones and Books8
Bones and Beads10
Relics, Bones, and Burial Practices in India and Beyond12
Bones and Bodies16
Relics and Images18
Limitations of This Study20
Outline22
Chapter 1Relics of Previous Buddhas25
Sakyamuni and His Predecessors25
Past Buddhas, Relics, and Soteriology30
The Case of Kasyapa and His Stupa32
Two Buddhas at Once36
Relics and the Spread of the Tradition39
Relics Dispersed and Not Dispersed44
Relics and Compassion47
Conclusion48
Chapter 2Relics of the Bodhisattva50
Relics and the Jatakas51
Jataka Stupas in North India52
Sumedha's Hair55
The Bodhisattva's Bones56
Bodhisattva Relics in the Final Birth as Gautama60
The Embryo in the Relic or the Relic as Embryo63
The Relic of the Bodhisattva's Hairknot65
Relics and the Certainty of Buddhahood68
Conclusion69
Chapter 3Relics of the Still-Living Buddha: Hairs and Footprints71
Hair and Nail Relics72
Trapusa and Bhallika73
The Hair Relics at the Shwe Dagon Pagoda76
Sri Lankan Traditions80
The Chronicle of the Six Hair Relics82
Footprints85
The Saccabandha and Nammadafootprints90
The Footprint on Adam's Peak92
Conclusion94
Chapter 4The Parinirvana of the Buddha98
The Duties to the Corpse99
The Funeral of a Cakravartin100
The Corpse's Clothing101
The Iron Coffin106
The Veneration of the Buddha's Body110
Cremation115
Collection, Dispute, and Distribution: The "War of the Relics"116
The Construction of the Stupas121
Conclusion122
Chapter 5Asoka and the Buddha Relics124
The Collection of the Relics125
The Relics at Ramagrama126
The Underground Chamber of Mahakasyapa and Ajatasatru127
Relic Security and the Roman Robots132
The Construction of the 84,000 Stupas136
The Rupakaya and the Dharmakaya138
The "Unveiling of the World" and the Descent from Trayastrimsa Heaven139
The Divine Eye and the Buddha's Smile141
From Centrifugality to Centripetality: The Power of Compassion142
The Festival of the Relics144
Asoka's Autocremation147
Conclusion148
Chapter 6Predestined Relics: The Extension of the Buddha's Life Story in Some Sri Lankan Traditions150
The Transplanting of the Bodhi Tree and the Multiplication of Relics152
The Collarbone Relic and Its Enshrinement in the Thuparama157
Dutthagamani, the Ramagrama Relics, and the Mahathupa160
The Building of the Stupa161
The Making of the Relic Chamber164
The Acquisition and Enshrining of the Relics166
The Death of Dutthagamani and Burial ad Sanctos171
Conclusion175
Chapter 7Further Extensions of the Buddha's Life Story: Some Tooth Relic Traditions179
The Kashmiri Tooth: Relics and Elephants182
The Eyeteeth of the Buddha185
Daoxuan's Tooth187
The Kalingan / Sri Lankan Tooth190
Relics and Rule196
Puja and Perahera: God, King, and Monk199
Personal Piety203
The Tours of the Chinese Tooth205
Conclusion210
Chapter 8Relics and Eschatology211
The Buddha's Bowl: A Recycled Relic211
The Buddha's Robe216
Mahakasyapa and the Buddha's Robe218
The Decline of the Dharma and the Parinirvana of the Relics221
Conclusion226
Conclusions229
Relics and the Biographical Process229
Relics and Buddhology230
Relics and the Spread of Buddhism231
The Episodic Nature of Buddha-relics232
Relics and the Demands of Darsan234
Relics and the Post-liminal State235
Relics and Polity235
Strategies of Legitimation236
Relics as Performative Objects238
The Dialectic of Continuity and Discontinuity239
Bibliography241
Index279

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