JEWEL RELICS AND BONES OF SHAKYAMUNI: A DEADLY MEAL, FINAL ADVICE AND PASSING AWAY (‘Origins of Secret Mantra’ (Day 12: Part 2) by 17th Karmapa)

“All composite things are impermanent. They do not last. Work hard for your liberation.” (Anda dāni, bhikkhave, āmantayāmi vo, vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā.)”

–Shakyamuni Buddha’s Last Words

“31. Just as when ghee or oil is burned, it leaves no particles or ashes behind, even so when the body of the Blessed One had been burned, no ashes or particles were to be seen of what had been skin, tissue, flesh, sinews, and fluid; only bones remained. And of the five hundred linen wrappings, only two were not consumed, the innermost and the outermost.

–Excerpt from Mahāparinibbāna-suttanta

“The Piprāhwā finds appear to include genuine relics from the Buddha’s cremation, thus lending support to the historical reliability of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and by implication the Early Buddhist Texts as a whole.”

–The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts by Bhikkhu Sujato & Bhikku Brahmali, (Oxford University Press 2014)

 

Introduction

For the full Harvest Moon today, here is Day 12 (Part 2) of the 17th Karmapa’s teachings on the ‘Origins of Secret Mantra’.

This part of the teaching deals first with some of the challenges that Shakyamuni Buddha faced in his life, in particular the negative actions committed by Devadatta, his cousin, towards him and how his attempts to take over the sangha, and even murder the Buddha were unsuccessful.
Karmapa then explained the circumstances in which the Buddha passed away, having become very sick having eaten some food given to him by a blacksmith called Chunda, and the differing versions of what happened. Records state that Buddha himself chose to eat the food, while telling those with him not to do so.
 
This was followed by a description of Buddha’s last convert, an old Brahmin Subhadra who insisted on speaking to Buddha and asking him a question. Despite the fact Buddha was very sick and close to passing away, the Buddha accepted his request and told people this would be his last audience. The man was so impressed by the Buddha’s response that he became his student. Even though he was very sick, Buddha also advised his students on various matters like who would lead the community and how to manage his remains, telling them not to worry or get overly involved in it.
 
Then there was a description of the Buddha’s passing away and how, even as he was close to death, Buddha asked his students three times if they had any questions or doubts. When they did not respond, he gave one short pith instruction (see quote above) and consciously passed into the state of nirvana beyond suffering. The Karmapa himself paused briefly here, overwhelmed with emotion, and shed some tears for a minute. A moving moment for all.
 
The final part of the teaching was about how after the cremation, Buddha’s remains and relics (Śarira) were divided into eight tribes/peoples to avoid conflict. Then a description of an extraordinary 19th Century archeological find in Piprāhwā is a small village in the Terai region (lowland region) that lies south of the outer foothills of the Himalayas, the Siwālik Hills, and north of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. In 1898, a British landowner, William Claxton Peppé (1852-1937) excavated a large mound on his estate in Piprāhwā, which turned out to be a Buddhist brick stūpa. These have since been authenticated as completely genuine and from 500 BCE.

I have added in several images of these jewel and bone relics, and remains from the official website about them (http://www.piprahwa.com/home). They are truly stunningly beautiful, moving and worthy of great veneration.  A fascinating recent documentary, ‘Bones of the Buddha’ by historian Charles Allen on Youtube about the discovered objects and their authenticity can be watched here. There is also another documentary, on the life of the Buddha (featuring HH 14th Dalai Lama) here.

According to Buddhist belief, there will come a time in the far distant future when the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha will disappear from the world and the relics will no longer be honoured. It is then that the relics that have been enshrined in stupas around the world will break out of their reliquaries and magically return to Bodh Gaya, where they will assemble into the resplendent body of the Buddha, seated in the lotus posture under the Bodhi tree, emitting rays of light that illuminate 10,000 worlds. They will be worshiped by the gods one last time and then will burst into flame and disappear into the sky. This third nirvana is called the “final nirvana of the relics.” Until that time, the relics of the Buddha are to be regarded as his living presence, infused with all of his marvelous qualities. The relics of the Buddha were, essentially, the Buddha. In the Nandimitravadana translated by Xuanzang it is said that the Buddha’s relics will be brought to parinirvana by sixteen great arhats and enshrined in a great stupa. That stupa will then be worshipped until it sinks into the earth down to the golden wheel underlying the universe. The relics are not destroyed by fire in this version but placed in a final reliquary deep within the earth, perhaps to appear again.

To conclude, the Karmapa reminded us why it was important as Buddhists to know the Buddha’s life story, not just as history but as a source of inspiration. It is embarrassing to say we are Buddhists if we do not know or understand Buddha’s amazing life and deeds.

I have been fortunate in this life to be able to see Buddha’s relics on a couple of occasions, the last time being at an exhibition of Buddha’s relics in Bodh Gaya, the place where Buddha attained enlightenment. May all beings have the good fortune to see and pay reverence to Buddha’s remarkable relics and attain full awakening!

Music? Diamonds and Pearls by Prince or Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder. ‘World keep on turning, but it won’t be too long….gonna keep on trying ’til I reach the highest ground!’

Written, compiled and edited by Adele Tomlin, 19th September 2021.

 

DAY 12 (PART 2) ORIGINS OF SECRET MANTRA by 17th Karmapa

Devadatta’s attempts to takeover and murder the Buddha and other challenges 

“However, we also say that where gods flourish demons also do. So there were many problems during the time of the Buddha. One of the people making most of the problems in the Buddha’s life was Devadatta. The biggest event in the latter half of the Buddha’s life was the schism in the sangha, when it became divided into two, caused by Devadatta. This is how it happened. The King Bimbisara had become a student of the Buddha, as I said. Later, Ajatashatru, the son of King Bimbisara,put his father in prison and made himself King. He then went to take refuge in Devadatta, the Buddha’s cousin, making Devadatta even more famous. So as he became more well-known, Devadatta also got more confident and hoped to take control of the Buddha’s sangha. He said, ‘you’re getting old, we are cousins, just let me takeover and take care of the Sangha.’ First. he asked the Buddha to allow him to take over. The Buddha did not accept it at all. Devadatta then got very angry and thought I have to get rid of the Buddha. He tried many different ways. One way was setting a crazed drunken elephant (he gave the elephant alcohol) on the same route as the Buddha was going in order to kill him. Some say it was many elephants. It almost worked, but then the Buddha pacified the elephant who bowed down before the Buddha. “It didn’t work, so I need to do it myself”, he thought. So he went up a hill and waited up there and as the Buddha walked by, he pushed a huge boulder down from a mountain top. It almost killed the Buddha, but in the end, it did injure the Buddha’s foot and made it bleed. This is where the precept about ‘not drawing blood with malicious intent’ came from. The next thing Devdatta did, was he made up his own five precepts or rules to rival the Buddha’s. Among them was not eating meat at all. He would say Gautama eats meat (only if they are pure in the three ways and offered). Yet, Devadatta said, if you eat any meat that harms beings and that is not good. So my disciples will never eat meat.
 
So he made these attractive precepts which got the younger monks to follow him and he fooled them all. Most of the younger monks believed him with his nice words and went off with him. Thus, there became two groups. He had divided the sangha into two separate groups. Then, Devadatta thought, now ‘I am really something special’. However, through the efforts of Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, all Devadatta’s monks and brought all the monks following Devadatta back to the Buddha, and finally, Devadatta’s community fell apart.”

[Author’s note: this narrative regarding Devadatta has been thrown into doubt by some Buddhists who say that Devadatta was actually an emanation of Buddha himself. Other scholars say that Buddha himself praised Devadatta as a great bodhisattva. See Reginald Ray (1994).]

“Not only that,  the Kosalan King, Prasenajit, also had an evil son Virūḍhaka. He would not listen to anyone. Based on his friend’s advice, he exiled his own father the King. Sent him off to the border and exiled him. In the end, the King had nothing to eat and he had a radish he could not digest  and died because of that . In the past, Virūḍhaka had gone to Kapilavastu where the Buddha lived as a child. He had a dispute with the Shakyas who had beaten him up and  ridiculed him , he vowed that he would become King and get revenge. His friend who was with him said he would remind him about it. When Virūḍhaka became king he had forgotten about it, but then his friend reminded him what had happened. He was then King, but his friend had given him bad advice, so he immediately went there and killed almost all of the Shakyas there as revenge.

In the latter part of the Buddha’s life, there were several sad and unfortunate events such as this. I won’t speak about them all in detail.”

Food poisoning in Gandarhava Nagara

“The Buddha left Rajgir, crossing the Ganges, to Vaishali. On the way, he passed through many towns and villages, and came to the town of Gandarhva Nagara, where a blacksmith named Cunda Kammāraputta offered the Buddha food, which made Buddha sick from food poisoning.

Some people in the ‘Minor Topics in the Vinaya‘ say there was an evil student of the Buddha, a bikshu, who had put a little bit of metal in the food who gave it to the Buddha and he couldn’t digest it and that is what made him sick.
 
In any case, after the Buddha ate it, he vomited blood and had diarrhoea. Some say it was pork, and some say it was mushrooms[1]. Whatever it was, the Buddha ended up with an incurable sickness. This is the main reason why he passed away.

There is a well-known Japanese medical scholar who researched the cause of the Buddha’s death. He used the Mahaparanirvana Sutras as the source[2], there was one in Pali and also in Sanskrit, and said it was probably an ulcer, or sickness in his stomach. Even though the Buddha was very sick, he continued to Kushinagara[3].”

[Note: interestingly the Sutra states that the Buddha specifically told Kunda to serve that particular food to him and to give the sangha other food.]

The last question asked to Buddha in Kushinagara

“The reason why the Buddha had to pass away in Kushinagar was later explained in many different ways by Buddhist scholars. They say that when the Buddha passed away, he went there so there would not be disputes at the time when his remains were being discussed. As the people there were powerful and independent, there would be less of a danger of people attacking them suddenly. This is one explanation[4].

Once he had gone there, the Buddha knew that he was going to pass away soon. Even though he knew that, he continued to help sentient beings until his last breath. He declared that the blacksmith, Cunda was innocent. Cunda felt great regret that he had given the food that Buddha had gotten sick from. In order, to ease this regret the Buddha told people he was innocent and predicted he would become rich in the future[5].”
 
[It is said that the Buddha told Cunda that ‘the person who serves the Buddha his last meal, earns tremendous merit.’]

Buddha’s last student, Subhadra – ‘judge a person by their practice and actions, not by their name and external appearance’

“Even the night before he passed away, a practitioner named Subhadra[6] came to ask him what he considered to be a very difficult question[7]. He said he must see the Buddha to ask it. Ananda stopped him and thought that the Buddha was sick and might pass away in a couple of days, and told him why do you have to come to ask this now? Please don’t make things difficult or harmful for the Buddha’, Ananda said. However, the Buddha overheard the conversation and told Subhadra to come and said ‘this is the last person I am going to speak to, so please bring him in.’ 

Subhadra’s question was: ”Everyone says their religion is right. So who is right? I cannot decide who is right or not. Please tell me, how do I know who is a great being?” The Buddha replied “If you are someone who the factors of the great path then you are a  noble being. If you are someone who does not practice the factors of a great path, then you are not a noble being.”

I think this is a profound answer. Buddha didn’t say ‘Oh he is not a great being and I am.’  He said ‘If you want to know if they are a great being,  look at what they practice. You cannot judge that on external appearances. If you think ‘oh he is a non-Buddhist, looking at his clothes and so on, you cannot say they are bad because of that. We cannot say just because someone looks externally like a Buddhist and wears the clothes of a Buddhist, that they are good either. We have to look at what practice are they doing. What is moving their mind?

That’s the actual summary of it. When he said this, Subhadara’s question was answered. He felt that Buddha had a vast view and his doubts were resolved. So, Subhadra became the Buddha’s last student. After that, there were no more new students. That night, the Buddha passed away.”

Buddha’s Advice on who should lead: ‘The Leader is the Sangha and the Protector is the Dharma’

The passing of the Buddha, or Mahaparinirvana, Gandhara art, 2–3rd century CE. ZenYouMitsu Temple (善養密寺), Setagaya, Tokyo.

“Even as he was about to pass away, he was still persistently teaching Dharma. In the Theravada tradition, according to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha gave testaments and predictions about what would happen with his students and the community of the sangha.  He asked the sangha questions, “What other hopes do you have from me?’ Buddha asked this again and again. He had such great loving-kindness for them. Even though he was about to pass away, so he told them to ask him whatever they needed to know at that time. 

He also said: ‘ I have known the dharma clearly on the outside and clearly on the inside. There is no Dharma I have concealing or hidden. I have taught everything. Among the Tathagata’s dharma, there is no dharma that I have concealed from my students. You might think there is something I did not teach, but there is nothing I did not teach. I have taught everything that is clear on the outside and the inside. In the future, the leader of the sangha is the sangha itself. There is no other leader. Even I, the Teacher, the Buddha, am not the boss or leader of the Sangha. The sangha as a community must govern itself. There should not just be one person to do that.’

Although we speak about a succession of elders, such as Mahakashyapa and Ananda, this is primarily meant in terms of those who upheld the lineage of the true dharma. It does not mean they were the leaders of the sangha. It is not saying there is someone above the sangha telling them what to do. 

Then the Buddha continued, 

“You must be your own light to dispel the darkness. You must be your own protector. To do so, hold the dharma like a lamp. The dharma is like a protector and guardian. Do not mistake who your protector and guardians are. It is the true Dharma. The dharma is the beacon that shows you the way.”

Buddha’s leaving advice to students on how to deal with his remains

This East Javanese relief depicts the Buddha in his final days, and Ānanda, his chief attendant.

“Also, when the Buddha passed away, he told his students they did not need to worry or get involved about managing the remains of his body.  Don’t get fooled by that’. You monastics should strive at the true purpose’. He was telling them they need to be diligent about practice. He also said: “You do not need to worry that you will not have a teacher after I have passed away. The dharma and Vinaya I have taught will be the teacher who shows the path. So you have to listen to them.’

This is similar to what some of the Kagyu forefathers also said.  For example,  Gampopa predicted that after he passed into nirvana, people might think, “If only I could have met Gampopa.” Gampopa advised that such people do not need to be sad or disappointed they did not meet him: ‘There is the  Jewel Ornament of Liberation and Precious Garland of the Path that I have composed and reading those is the same as meeting me. Even if you met me in person, there’s nothing better”.

This is really important to remember and understand. When we think about ourselves, how many of us have actually studied the Jewel Ornament of Liberation? Not many.  On one hand. we see Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa as very important in our lineage. We haven’t been paying much attention to the representations of his speech. 

It is the same with Buddha, what was the representation of his speech? It was the Dharma that he taught. It is all these volumes of texts. Where do we put these texts?  Actually, we  stack the texts like bricks and rocks, between other volumes.  It’s like putting them in prison and leaving them there for centuries. This is a wall of dharma, we say. It’s been there for 300 or 500 years gathering dust the whole time. We need to open them, and think about the meaning, we need to experience them. They are not there just to stack up and look good. If we stack them like that, then there would have been no meaning or purpose for the Buddha to have taught the Dharma. 

At the very end, the Buddha said to everyone gathered, “Do you have any more questions? Any doubts? Tell me.’’ He asked this three times. 

However,  everyone remained silent and were so sad that could not say a single word, never mind a question.  ‘So the last words of the Buddha were: 

“All composite phenomena are impermanent. Strive diligently for liberation.”

This means that all things change, there is nothing stable at all. So people need to be careful and practice one-pointedly.” He immediately entered samadhi passing into nirvana beneath a great Śāla tree.”

[At this point the Karmapa paused for a minute, overwhelmed with emotion and briefly wept openly.]

So even when he was about to pass away, he didn’t give up on his students. He asked them again and again what doubts they had. In this great state of love and compassion, he passed away. “

Large reclining Buddha statue at the stupa at Kushingar.
Reclining Buddha passing away, statue in the Ajanta Caves, India. Cave 6

Dividing the Buddha’s Remains and a 19th Century Treasure Find

“The Buddha passed away at the age of 80. The people who took care of his remains were the Mallās of Kushinagara. They offered flowers and scent and eventually cremated his remains. His bones basically. The relics were apportioned among eight different tribes or countries, and at one point it seemed like there may be a dispute about them[8].”

The sharing of the relics of the (Buddha). Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, 2-3rd century CE. There was said to be almost a war over it.

“The Bulis of Allakappa; the Koliyas of Ramagrama; the Brahmins of Vethadipa; the Mallas of Pava; the Mallas of Kushinagar; Ajatasattu, king of Magadha; the Sakyas of Kapilavastu; and the Licchavis of Vaishali[9],each got a vase, Those who received a vase of relics built a stupa in their own lands. The ashes were also put in a vase and they were put in a stupa.”

The sharing of the relics of the Buddha by the Brâhmana Drona, to eight kings (four are visible). Relief from the Cave of the Painters, Kizil Caves, circa 500 CE
The stupa at Kapilavastu
Stupa at Piprāhawa

[Note: The relics were later dug up by Ashoka, and used the relics (said to have been divided into 84,000 portions) and had stupas built over them throughout the region he rules.  Many of the remains were taken to other countries. The Ashokavadana narrates how Ashoka redistributed Buddha’s relics across 84,000 stupas, with the distribution of the relics and construction of the stupas performed by Yakshas.  When the Chinese pilgrims Faxian and Xuanzang visited India centuries later, they reported most of ancient sites were in ruin. The relics found at Piprāhawa are now said to have been buried there during the time of Ashoka.]

The division of the relics of the Buddha by Drona the Brahmin, Gandhara, Zenyōmitsu-Temple Museum, Tokyo.

The 19th Century Relics find in Piprāhawa, India

“In 1898, archeologists [more specifically amateur archaeologist William Claxton Peppe] excavating the ruins of the Shakyas in Piprāhawa[10] found a vase fille with bones. On top of the vase, was an inscription by the Emperor Ashoka, and an even earlier one (in a different script) saying: “These are the remains of Shakyamuni for the Shakyas to make offerings to.” Thus it is definite they were the undisputed Buddha’s relics[11].”

The stone coffer in which the relics and urns were discovered below the ground. Image from http://www.piprahwa.com/home
Sukiti-bhatinaṃ sabhaginikanam sa-puta-dalanam iyaṃ salila-nidhane Budhasa bhagavate sakiyanam. “This relic-shrine of divine Buddha (is the donation) of the Sakya-Sukiti brothers, associated with their sisters, sons, and wives.” One of the sandstone casket (reliquary) with inscriptions from 2nd century BCE.

Handwritten note by discoverer W.C. Péppe to Vincent Arthur Smith about the inscription, 1898. Image from http://www.piprahwa.com/home

Images above from http://www.piprahwa.com/home.

“These important relics were sent abroad, it was the time when India was under British control. They were sent to the King of Thailand and later to the Kakuōzan Nittai-ji temple, Nagoya in Japan. They are said to be in that temple. The vase the relics had been in was given to a museum in Calcutta. They took all its contents out and only kept the vase[12].”

Researchers say that the story of the relics divided into eight tribes must have been an actual historical event because they found the vase given to the Shakyas. Later, in Tibetan Buddhism, we have the tradition of considering stupas as very important. the reason they began was the Buddha’s remains had been placed in stupas that made them sacred. The tradition of offerings to the stupas arose from that and that is why stupas are considered so important today. In the future, if I have more time I will say more about this.”

Depiction of where the relics were sent

[Author’s Note: This was the first time that relics of the Buddha had been found in India. In the National Geographic documentary Bones of the Buddha’, historian Charles Allen talks about the find, which can be watched for free on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yn3lk6xTF24. The film explains how the discovery happened, and that nothing had been found like it before in India, or since.

Allen may be wrong about saying the jewels in the small urn were offerings though. It is highly likely they were sacred relics produced from the Buddha’s cremation and/or bones. This is a well-documented phenomena in Tibetan Buddhism, and enlightened and realised practitioners are renowned for doing this when the bodies are cremated. 

The film also confirms that the urn and inscription (in Brahmi not Sanskrit) were made 150 years after the Buddha passed away and yet the relics were those of the Buddha. After another archeological dig at the site in the 1970s, an even older burial was found underneath which was from the time of the Buddha and was most likely the place where the Shakyas had originally buried the relics at the time of his passing. Researchers say that the stone coffer casket, containing the urn were most likely created by Ashoka and added into the burial site to give due honour to the relics.

In this essay, Charles Alllen pieces together the letters, made available to the public on this website, to recreate the sequence of events initiated by the discovery at Piprahwa.  There is also a website about the relics found then here: http://www.piprahwa.com/home. A close up image of many of the jewels found in the coffer of the stupa can be seen here: http://www.piprahwa.com/thejewels].

Since May 2019 until May 2021, this year, many of these jewels and relics have been housed at the Rubin Museum of Art,  ‘CHARGED WITH BUDDHA’S BLESSINGS RELICS FROM AN ANCIENT STUPA EXHIBITION’, see here. Images from that exhibition are below. While writing this piece, I wrote to the Rubin Museum asking the curators to return the relics to India, their rightful home and heritage. Personally, I think such sacred relics are not suitable to be shown in art galleries, but should be in sacred Buddhist places and temples, where they can be venerated and offered to by those with faith and devotion.]

 

Conclusion

“We have to take the lives of the masters as great examples and how we need to practice. They achieved that result when they practiced like that. We have to strive to do such deeds ourselves. Only then is there a point to the life stories of the Buddha and the great masters. If we think it is just a story, there is no point to it. 

We have to consider his intentions. We have to understand that the original intention of the Buddha was to teach others, to spread the dharma out of compassion not to show his attainment. If we mix it up with other traditions and customs, then we are fooling ourselves. We just don’t then really understand the original impetus and intention the Buddha had for teaching.  The Buddha only taught this after thinking very deeply. He didn’t think ‘Oh now I am a Buddha, I am awakened and I have lots of thing to say to you.’ It was not like that. This is another important point to keep in mind. Even only saying a little about the life of the Buddha has been very fortunate.   In our tradition there’s very few of us who really know about the life of the Buddha. Other traditions know more, and it becomes a bit embarrassing. In the future, I think that it is important to take more interest in his life. The reason being the person who taught is the Bhagavan Buddha. If we say we’re followers of the Buddha, it’s just a little embarrassing I think.”

[Note: “Today, at the place where the Buddha passed into Parinirvana, in a beautiful park stands a modern shrine erected by Pandit Nehru, housing a large recumbent statue of the Buddha (see photograph below), which had been installed at Kushinagar by the monk Haribhadra during the reign of King Kumaragupta (415-56 CE), the alleged founder of Nalanda Monastery.

Alexander Cunningham, a British archaeologist noted the existence of a huge vaulted chamber which he dated no later than 637 AD with the reclining Buddha. The reclining Buddha statue and vihara were discovered and excavated along with the adjoining stupa, and were restored in March 1877. The statue was found broken and scattered into numberless fragments and was entirely reconstructed and the temple also repaired, and roofed by the Archaeological Survey of India.

A few hundred meters away, on finds the ruins of a large stupa, now called Ramabhar, which marks the place of the cremation. Here is a short video of the Kapilavastu museum and the Stupa there.

Shrine at Kushinagar, India
Reclining Buddha statue at Kushinagar, India

Further Reading

Mahāparinibbānasutta in the original Pali SuttaCentral

Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta: To Cunda the Silversmith (AN 10.176)

Translations

The Great Discourse on the Buddha’s Extinguishment, translation by Bhikkhu Sujato

The Discourse about the Great Emancipation, translation by Bhikkhu Ānandajoti

“Maha-parinibbana Sutta,” or PDF, translated from the Pali by Sister Vajira & Francis Story

Essays

Bhikkhu Sujato (2012), “Why Devadatta Was No Saint, A critique of Reginald Ray’s thesis of the ‘condemned saint’”

“Mahaparinibbana-sutta and Cullavagga,” article by Louis Finot, published in the “Indian Historical Quarterly” (8:2, 1932 June 1, pp. 241–46), concerning the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and a related text.

“Did Buddha die of mesenteric infarction?” by Ven. Dr. Mettanando Bhikkhu, a Thai monk and former medical doctor, published in the “Bangkok Post” (2000 May 17).

Radich, Michael (2015). The Mahāparinivāṇa-mahasūtra and the Emergence of Tathagatagarba Doctrine, Hamburg Buddhist Studies Vol. 5, Hamburg University Press.

Ray, Reginald (1994). Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations. p. 168. (A condemned Saint: Devadatta), used by permission of Oxford University Press.

Paul Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations.Taylor & Francis, 1989,

Zimmermann, Michael (2002), A Buddha Within: The Tathāgatagarbhasūtra, Biblotheca Philologica et Philosophica Buddhica VI, The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, pp. 82–83.

Yuyama, Akira (1981). Sanskrit fragments of the Mahāyāna Mahāparinivāṇa-sūtra: Koyasan manuscript, The Reiyukai Library.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/A-museum-for-Buddhas-relics/articleshow/1002329.cms

http://nalanda-insatiableinoffering.blogspot.com/2017/07/piprahwa-buddha-relics-restoring-from_3.html


Endnotes

[1] “In the Mahāparinibbāṇa Sutta, Gautama Buddha and a group of bhikkus stay at Cunda’s mango grove and are offered by him a meal. The meal consists of sweet rice, cakes and sūkaramaddava, which is translated differently depending on the buddhist tradition. Since the word is composed by sūkara, which means pig, and maddava, which means soft, tender, delicate, two alternatives are possible:

  • Tender pig or boar meat.
  • What is enjoyed by pigs and boars.

In the latter meaning, the term has been thought to refer to a mushroom or truffle, or a yam or tuber. The idea that the Buddha’s last meal consisted of pork is generally supported by the Theravada tradition; while that it was a vegetarian dish, by the Mahayana tradition. These may reflect the different traditional views on Buddhist vegetarianism and the monastic precepts. In the sutta, the Buddha asks Cunda to serve the rice and cakes to the community of bhikkus, and to only serve the sūkaramaddava to him. Any leftovers should be buried in a pit. Cunda does as he is told.”

[2] The text of the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra in the original Sanskrit has survived only in a number of fragments, which were discovered in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Japan. It exists in Chinese and Tibetan versions of varying lengths. There are four extant versions of the sūtra, each translated from various Sanskrit editions:

  • The “six fascicle text”,[note 2] the translation into Chinese by Faxian and Buddhabhadra, translated during the Jin dynasty (266–420) between 416 and 418, containing six fascicles, which is the shortest and earliest version;
  • The “northern text”, with 40 fascicles,[note 3] translated by Dharmakṣema between 421 and 430 in the Northern Liang kingdom, containing forty fascicles. This version was also translated into Classical Tibetan from the Chinese.
  • The “southern text”,[note 4] with 36 fascicles, in approximately 453 by Huiguan and Huiyan during the Liu Song dynasty, integrated and amended the translations of Faxian and Dharmakṣema into a single edition of thirty-six fascicles;
  • The Tibetan version (c790CE) by Jinamitra, Jñānagarbha, and Devacandra.

According to Hodge, some other versions have also existed.”

[3] “The main narrative of the Buddha’s last days, death and the events following his death is contained in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (DN 16) and its various parallels in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan. According to Anālayo, these include the Chinese Dirgha Agama 2, “Sanskrit fragments of the Mahaparinirvanasutra”, and “three discourses preserved as individual translations in Chinese”. The Mahāparinibbāṇa Sutta महापरिनिर्वाण सुत्त” is Sutta 16 in the Digha Nikaya, a scripture belonging to the Sutta Pitaka of Theravada Buddhism. It concerns the end of Gautama Buddha’s life – his parinibbana – and is the longest sutta of the Pāli Canon. Because of its attention to detail, it has been resorted to as the principal source of reference in most standard accounts of the Buddha’s death.”

[4] “According to one theory, Kushinagar was the capital of Kosala Kingdom and according to Ramayana it was built by King Kush, son of Rama, protagonist of the epic Ramayana. While according to Buddhist tradition Kushavati was named prior to the king Kush. The naming of Kushwati is believed to be due to abundance of Kush grass found in this region.

In 1896, Waddell suggested that the site of the death and parinirvana of Gautama Buddha was in the region of Rampurva. However, according to the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, the Buddha made his journey to Kushinagar, died there, and this is where he was cremated.  It is believed that during his last day he walked into the groves of trees near the city and rejoiced at the blossoms of sala trees (Shorea robusta) before laying himself to rest.  Modern scholarship, based on archaeological evidence, believes that the Buddha died in Kushinagar, close to the modern Kasia (Uttar Pradesh).”

[5] “Before entering the parinirvāṇa, the Buddha told Ānanda to visit Cunda and tell him that his meal had nothing to do with his getting ill, and therefore should feel no blame nor remorse; on the contrary, offering the Tathāgata his last meal before passing away was of equal gain as of offering him his first meal before attaining buddhahood, and thus he should feel rejoice.”

[6] “Subhadra was said to be a 120-year-old Brahmin who was much respected, but whom Ananda had turned away from the monkhood three times.”

[7] “According to Mahāparinibbāna-suttanta, the Pali version of the Nirvana Sutra, Subhadra heard that the Buddha might die that night in Kushinagara, and he went to see him. Though fatigued and weak, Shakyamuni preached for Subhadra, who was deeply impressed with Shakyamuni’s teaching and immediately became his follower. According to The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom, Subhadra had a dream in which all people were deprived of their eyesight and left standing naked in the darkness, the sun fell from the sky, the earth cracked, the seas went dry, and Mount Sumeru was toppled by a great wind. In the morning, hearing that the Buddha would enter nirvana “before the next day,” he went to Shakyamuni and joined the Buddhist Order; that night he attained the state of arhat.”

[8] “Originally his ashes were to go only to the Shakya clan, to which Buddha belonged; however, six clans and a king demanded the body relics. To avoid fighting, a Brahmin Drona divided the relics into ten portions, eight from the body relics, one from the ashes of Buddha’s cremation pyre and one from the pot used to divide the relics, which he kept for himself. After The Buddha’s Parinibbāna, his relics were enshrined and worshipped in stupas by the royals of eight countries: to Ajatasattu, king of Magadha; to the Licchavis of Vaishali; to the Sakyas of Kapilavastu; to the Bulis of Allakappa; to the Koliyas of Ramagrama; to the brahmin of Vethadipa; to the Mallas of Pava; and to the Mallas of Kushinagar.”

[9] “The Buddha passed away at the age of 80. The people who took care of his remains were the Mallās of Kushinagara. They offered flowers and scent and eventually cremated his remains. His bones basically. The relics were apportioned among eight different tribes or countries, and at one point it seemed like there may be a dispute about them: the Bulis of Allakappa; the Koliyas of Ramagrama; the Brahmins of Vethadipa; the Mallas of Pava; the Mallas of Kushinagar; Ajatasattu, king of Magadha; the Sakyas of Kapilavastu; and the Licchavis of Vaishali.”

[10] “One of the world’s pre-eminent discoveries of relics of Gautama Buddha occurred at Piprahwa in 1898. William Claxton Peppé, a British landowner, excavated an ancient Buddhist stupa on the Birdpur estate near the border of India and Nepal.  After digging through twenty feet of brickwork, he unearthed a large stone coffer containing gold, jewels, fragments of bone and five reliquary urns. An inscription on one of the urns identified the pieces of bone as the relics of the Lord Buddha which had been given to his own Sakya clan following his cremation. The bone relics were given to the King of Siam (Thailand) to distribute among the world’s Buddhists.  The coffer, the reliquary urns and the jewels were given to the India Museum in Kolkata but, with the exception of the coffer and a replica urn, are not on display for the public to see.  W. C. Peppé was permitted to keep a small amount of the jewels. These remain in his family today. “http://www.piprahwa.com/home.

[11] According to the PBS series Secrets of the Dead, an urn containing these was discovered in a stupa at Piprahwa near Birdpur [historical British variant as Birdpore], a Buddhist sacred structure in the Basti district of Uttar Pradesh in India by amateur archaeologist William Claxton Peppe in 1898. Piprahwa became identified by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as Kapilavastu. In 1971 K.M. Srivastava continued excavating the site and discovered 22 bones in two soapstone urns, dating them to the 5th century BCE.[citation needed] The report on these findings was filed 20 years later in 1991. Piprahwa as Kapilavastu is contested by Nepal who believe Tilaurakot to be Kapilavastu; however the relics were displayed by Sri Lanka in 1978.”

“Mortal remains of Buddha belonging to third or fourth century were found during an excavation in 1962–1963 at Devni Mori which is a Buddhist archaeological site near Shamalaji in Gujarat. Ashes of Buddha were found in a gold bottle wrapped in silk cloth within a copper bowl that was kept in a casket. The 1,700-year-old casket’s inscription in Brahmi script mentions ‘Dashabala Sharira Nilaya’ — which stands for ‘abode of the bodily relics of Lord Buddha’. The remains are preserved in the Museum of Department of Archaeology and Ancient History of the Faculty of Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda – Vadodara.”

The state government has also approached the Japanese government to help build this museum,which will have a 1,700-year-old casket that is termed as the ‘dhashavala sharira nilayah’ or the ‘abode of the bodily relics of Lord Buddha’.

At present, the casket is stored at the archaeology department of MS University in Vadodara. The ashes are lying in a gold-plated bottle placed in yet another box in the casket.

The inscription on it, in Brahmi script, deciphered by SN Chowdhury, one of the archaeologists involved in the excavation, says the casket was made “during the rule of King Rudrasena, some time during the 127-year rule of the Kathika kings”.

Made in stone by ‘Varah, the son of Sena’, the box inside the casket also contains silk bags found in India. The excavation was begun by PA Inamdar of MS University in 1936 and completed by RN Mehta and SN Chowdhury in 1963.

The state governmnt has asked the Japanese to help build a replica of ‘Dev

[12] It is also said by the Peppe Trust and family that: “After the discovery at Birdpur the Government of India, heeding the advice of Prince Prisdang who had since become The Ven Jinavaravansa, donated the fragments of bone and ashes to the King of Siam who subsequently shared them with Buddhist communities in other countries. The remainder of the find, e.g the stone coffer, the reliquary urns and the items referred to as ‘treasure’ were placed in the Imperial Museum in Calcutta. W. C. Peppé was allowed to retain a number of items from the excavation. These have remained within the Peppé family since 1898. The photos included in this gallery are of some of the jewels and sarira that W. C. Peppé was permitted to keep.” http://www.piprahwa.com/thejewels

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