Relics

Relics

Postby Jikan » Sun Aug 03, 2014 8:51 pm

Some time ago (it's been years), I was exchanging emails with a Nichiren-shu priest. One of the topics of our discussion was death and what comes after. He commented in an offhand way that there had been (or rather have been) signs of realization upon death among Nichiren practitioners--physical relics--but made no further remarks on that topic. I never got a chance to ask for details.

It would be worthwhile and inspiring to consider any cases that anyone here may know of in which, through the strength of his or her practice, someone left relics behind upon death.
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Re: Relics

Postby nichirenista » Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:07 am

I've read a great deal about Nichiren Buddhism, and yet I've never seen anything about this. I do know however that in the Lifespan chapter which Nichiren Buddhists recite every day, the Buddha makes references to people who pay respects to his relics after he dies. The underlying suggestion being that such people are under the delusion that the Buddha has died. The Lifespan chapter is basically saying that the Buddha attain enlightenment eons ago, that he doesn't really die. So while I'm not saying that this doesn't exist in Nichiren Buddhism, I think I can fairly confidently say that it's not a major part of the practice. I shared with some Nichiren Buddhist about how I left the Tibetan exhibit of Buddhist relics, saying that it's not a part of our practice, and they agreed.
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Re: Relics

Postby Queequeg » Mon Aug 04, 2014 9:51 am

I cannot recall any reference to relic veneration as a practice in any of Nichiren's writings. The only reference to relics as evidence of awakening that I can recall concerns the remains of Kumarajiva's tongue after cremation attesting to the accuracy of his translations.

There are numerous references to stupas and stupa oriented practice throughout the Lotus Sutra, including Prabhutaratna's Treasure Tower, but in practicing the Lotus Sutra, there is not the same emphasis on relics in the usual sense - mainly based on this passage:
Lotus Sutra Chapter 10 - "Expounder of the Law"
“O Bhaiṣajyarāja! Wherever this sutra is taught, read, recited, copied, or wherever it is to be found, one should build a seven-jeweled stupa of great height and width and richly ornamented. There is no need to put a relic inside. Why is this? Because the Tathāgata is already in it.

Relics in effect are redefined not just as the remains of the Buddha, but as the practice of the Lotus Sutra itself. This is one of the most critical aspects of Nichiren Buddhism and underlies the reinterpretation of the entire Buddhist corpus.

When my grandfather died, my grandmother told me a bone in the throat that usually disintegrates remained after his cremation. This bone supposedly looks like a monk seated in samadhi and is said to evidence the decedent's buddhahhod. I loved my grandfather, but he was hardly a great bodhisattva, let alone a Buddha. He surreptitiously offered incense on the butsudan when my grandmother was not around and changed the water for the greens offering and made water offerings everyday, but that was the extent of his practice. Its a nice thought.

Then again, the Lotus Sutra repeatedly expounds on the benefits enjoyed by a person who makes even the smallest offerings to the Sutra. So maybe my grandfather did receive some measure of the immense reward promised.
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Re: Relics

Postby nichirenista » Mon Aug 04, 2014 2:44 pm

Queequeg wrote:Relics in effect are redefined not just as the remains of the Buddha, but as the practice of the Lotus Sutra itself. This is one of the most critical aspects of Nichiren Buddhism and underlies the reinterpretation of the entire Buddhist corpus.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is just another way is saying that Buddhist relic worship is subsumed under NMRK.

We don't have relics. We have (O)daimoku.
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Re: Relics

Postby Jikan » Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:28 pm

I'm not asking about the veneration of relics, which is a separate issue, nor about doctrine. Rather, this is what I'm interested in learning more about:

Queequeg wrote: When my grandfather died, my grandmother told me a bone in the throat that usually disintegrates remained after his cremation. This bone supposedly looks like a monk seated in samadhi and is said to evidence the decedent's buddhahhod. I loved my grandfather, but he was hardly a great bodhisattva, let alone a Buddha. He surreptitiously offered incense on the butsudan when my grandmother was not around and changed the water for the greens offering and made water offerings everyday, but that was the extent of his practice. Its a nice thought.

Then again, the Lotus Sutra repeatedly expounds on the benefits enjoyed by a person who makes even the smallest offerings to the Sutra. So maybe my grandfather did receive some measure of the immense reward promised.


It's impossible to say what the content of any one else's practice really is, unless one is oneself a realized being. Buddhist history is filled with "hidden yogis," those who practice very well and unobtrusively...

In any event, events like these can help others to put their faith & trust in practice, and inspire respect and devotion to the teachings.
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Re: Relics

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:34 pm

Queequeg wrote:When my grandfather died, my grandmother told me a bone in the throat that usually disintegrates remained after his cremation. This bone supposedly looks like a monk seated in samadhi and is said to evidence the decedent's buddhahhod. I loved my grandfather, but he was hardly a great bodhisattva, let alone a Buddha. He surreptitiously offered incense on the butsudan when my grandmother was not around and changed the water for the greens offering and made water offerings everyday, but that was the extent of his practice. Its a nice thought.
Apart from doing the specific practice and keeping his mind focused on the boundless compassion, love and grace of Amitabha Buddha, what else would he need to achieve enlightenment?
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Relics

Postby Queequeg » Mon Aug 04, 2014 6:05 pm

Jikan,

As I wrote about my grandfather, the first observation - my skepticism - has been the view I've held for the past 25 odd years. The second part - that maybe the limited practice he performed was all that was required to receive such profound benefit as the Sutra promises - dawned on me as I wrote it. Your point that we can't, as ordinary beings, know the spiritual achievements of others, further undermines my previously resolved skepticism. Thank you.

Sherab Dorje,

In a Nichiren-Lotus household, Amitabha oriented practice would be perceived to be a heresy resulting in severely detrimental karmic retribution. I don't know what my grandfather's practice entailed or if such a detail would have held any significance for him. He may have been contemplating Amitabha for all I know. His actual family background was Shingon, which does encompass some Pure Land practice, but given this, he could have also been practicing devotion to any number of other Buddhist tutelaries, or just some general worship of "Buddha". I don't think my grandmother would have approved if she knew that he was engaging in Pure Land practice - her family background was Pure Land which she deeply repudiated. Then again, she was broadminded enough that she seemed to just be happy that he made offerings to the Buddha, who cares about the details. I mentioned the incense offerings - my grandmother knew he made those offerings because she would find the unburned ends of the incense sticks in the ashes - other Japanese Buddhist traditions burn incense vertically - in Nichiren practice, we generally lay the incense horizontally which allows the sticks to burn completely. That's just to say, maybe he was doing his own idiosyncratic practice at the family alter.

In Nichiren Lotus Buddhism, practice generally starts with the approbation (adhimukti) of the Primordial Buddha - specifically, the Life Span, but more generally, the full body of the Buddha, the Buddha's complete interpenetration with ourselves, and complete devotion (sraddha) to this teaching which is embodied in the Lotus Sutra. This does not necessarily entail present understanding of the Primordial Buddha, but something more like an acknowledgement (adhimukti precedes and does not include understanding). Faith in the Buddha's grace (prasada?), while arguably featured in some respects, is different than the grace you have in Pure Land. In Pure Land, my understanding is that one is wholly reliant on the vow of Amitabha, which is redeemed through faith - whether a single moment or a sustained state of mind. In Nichiren Lotus Buddhism, emphasis is on awakening to Buddhahood here and now - possible only if you are aware of the Primordial Buddha - and sharing this teaching with others in real, practical ways, in this life. As Nichiren taught, we strive to read the sutra with our bodies, here and now, which entails carrying out the Buddha's work of spreading the Buddha's teachings and enduring the hardship that accompanies carrying out this work. We are grateful for the Buddha's compassion in teaching but in line with more mainstream, traditional Buddhism, we honor the Buddha by putting the teachings into practice and striving for Buddhahood now and helping others to do the same. Nichiren Buddhism is actually critical of the passive approach reliant on grace you often find in Pure Land practice which in some interpretations, especially those spreading at the time Nichiren was alive, writes off the efficacy of Buddhist practice, aside from Amida faith, here and now.
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Re: Relics

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:30 pm

I have heard in Japan, there were pure land suicide cults or radicals alone those lines. I realize that Japanese Pure Land is often regarded as "odd", even by their non Japanese Pure Land fellows.
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.-The Sith Code
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Re: Relics

Postby rory » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:20 am

For the Japanese Pure Land schools I can corroborate what Queequeg says. It is different in the Tendai/Shingon Nara sect views which is the kind of practice I continue doing: making a vow to be born in Kannon's pure land of Mt. Potalaka but studying, meditating, chanting dharanis and trying in this life for Englightenment.

The whole pious relic of the deceased is a big Pure Land trope, you can find tons of stories of pious practitioners who died and there are rainbow skies, the dead body doesn't smell and when it is burned there are relics. Nichiren Buddhism doesn't go in for this sort of thing at all, nor wondering who might be some secret pious practitioner either. It's quite social, you're supposed to chant with the group and be out there doing whether it's sharing the Dharma, opening your home to a chanting session, shakabuku etc. There is really no room in Nichiren Buddhism for a silent hermit.
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Re: Relics

Postby nichirenista » Wed Aug 06, 2014 5:41 am

rory wrote:The whole pious relic of the deceased is a big Pure Land trope, you can find tons of stories of pious practitioners who died and there are rainbow skies, the dead body doesn't smell and when it is burned there are relics. Nichiren Buddhism doesn't go in for this sort of thing at all, nor wondering who might be some secret pious practitioner either. It's quite social, you're supposed to chant with the group and be out there doing whether it's sharing the Dharma, opening your home to a chanting session, shakabuku etc. There is really no room in Nichiren Buddhism for a silent hermit.
gassho
rory


Thank you for writing this. I'll be honest. I was afraid this thread would reveal that, unbeknownst to me, relic worship is a part of Nichiren Buddhism, in which case I was ready to pack my bags….
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Re: Relics

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:25 pm

surely, it should be enough for people to know that in each breath you take, there are argon atoms that the Buddha breathed as well, and that in each cup of tea, there are molecules of H2O that performed a function in his metabolism as well. Were that important, my concern for authentication would drive me away from this whole Buddhism thing.

relics......ta......

well whatever floats your boat I guess.
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.-The Sith Code
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Re: Relics

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:41 pm

Queequeg wrote:Sherab Dorje,

In a Nichiren-Lotus household, Amitabha oriented practice would be perceived to be a heresy resulting in severely detrimental karmic retribution.
Sorry, my wrong. It has been a long time since I read the Lotus Sutra and I mistakenly believed that it referred to Amitabha Buddha. In which case I would amend my post to say say: "and keeping his mind focused on the boundless compassion, love and grace of the Sugata, what else would he need to achieve enlightenment?"

The idea that he could achieve Buddhahood in this manner, I imagine, runs contrary to Nichiren Buddhism orthodoxy?
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Relics

Postby Queequeg » Wed Aug 06, 2014 11:29 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Queequeg wrote:Sherab Dorje,

In a Nichiren-Lotus household, Amitabha oriented practice would be perceived to be a heresy resulting in severely detrimental karmic retribution.
Sorry, my wrong. It has been a long time since I read the Lotus Sutra and I mistakenly believed that it referred to Amitabha Buddha. In which case I would amend my post to say say: "and keeping his mind focused on the boundless compassion, love and grace of the Sugata, what else would he need to achieve enlightenment?"

The idea that he could achieve Buddhahood in this manner, I imagine, runs contrary to Nichiren Buddhism orthodoxy?


The Lotus Sutra does mention Amitabha, but he has a different biography than in the sutras devoted to Amitabha. In the Lotus Sutra, he was one of Shakyamuni's brothers in a past life, and alternatively, he is an emanation of Shakyamuni. I've read some assert its not the same Amitabha. Oh, well.

Focusing on the Buddha is not contrary - our practice in part is marked by a singleminded desire to see the Buddha. Not exactly the concentration practice you describe, but this would not be contrary either. However, this is not considered the primary cause of enlightenment. The primary cause of enlightenment is faith (adhimukti) in the Buddha's teaching in the Lotus Sutra. The teaching in the Lotus Sutra is another loooong conversation, but in short, figuratively, its the full and complete Buddha body. Hence, we chant Namu Myohorengekyo - Namas Saddharmpundarikasutra.

The caveat here is that not all Buddhas are the Buddha described in the Lotus Sutra - the Primordial, Eternal, Triple Bodied Shakyamuni revealed in the 16th Chapter. All other Buddhas, according to the Lotus, are emanations of this Buddha.

Anyways, I was kind of being cute with you in my response. No offense. Playing around a little. Its not often that we have guests in the sub-forum asking questions - albeit wrong questions. :tongue:
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Re: Relics

Postby nichirenista » Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:12 pm

Queequeg wrote:
The caveat here is that not all Buddhas are the Buddha described in the Lotus Sutra - the Primordial, Eternal, Triple Bodied Shakyamuni revealed in the 16th Chapter. All other Buddhas, according to the Lotus, are emanations of this Buddha.



In terms of my practice, this has been the single-most important thing for me to understand about the Lotus Sutra.
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Re: Relics

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Aug 07, 2014 12:17 pm

Queequeg wrote:The teaching in the Lotus Sutra is another loooong conversation, but in short, figuratively, its the full and complete Buddha body. Hence, we chant Namu Myohorengekyo - Namas Saddharmpundarikasutra.
I've read the Lotus Sutra, just that it was some 10+ years ago.
The caveat here is that not all Buddhas are the Buddha described in the Lotus Sutra - the Primordial, Eternal, Triple Bodied Shakyamuni revealed in the 16th Chapter. All other Buddhas, according to the Lotus, are emanations of this Buddha.
So Sakyamuni Buddha is considered a Dharmakaya Buddha?
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Relics

Postby Queequeg » Thu Aug 07, 2014 3:55 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:I've read the Lotus Sutra, just that it was some 10+ years ago.


Well, of course I encourage reading it again and again. :smile: I think that it might impress the general Buddhist reader as peculiar in some respects, but also generally unremarkable, maybe puzzling, because of its lack of direct philosophical exposition or practical instruction. I would suggest that aside from the explanation of the Buddha's life span, which is not particularly profound in its letter but rather in implication, its more profound message is at a sort of meta-level, which is why commentaries like those of Zhiyi are critical.

The caveat here is that not all Buddhas are the Buddha described in the Lotus Sutra - the Primordial, Eternal, Triple Bodied Shakyamuni revealed in the 16th Chapter. All other Buddhas, according to the Lotus, are emanations of this Buddha.
So Sakyamuni Buddha is considered a Dharmakaya Buddha?


Shakyamuni of the 16th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra is considered to possess not only the eternal dharmakaya, but eternal nirmanakaya and etnernal sambhogakaya - "I am ever in this world, teaching and converting beings". This is probably a teaching unique to the Lotus Schools. Buddhas such as Mahavairochana, for instance, who are primarily Dharmakaya, are considered incomplete because they lack eternal nirmanakaya and eternal sambhogakaya. Without going into the full exposition, this can be illustrated on the view of Shakyamuni as he appears in "earlier" sutras ie. those preached before the Lotus. This is the entity who was born in Lumbini, awakened at Gaya, first turned the wheel at Sarnath and died in Kusinagara. He may have the eternal Dharmakaya (in some sutras), but his Nirmanakaya and Sambhogakaya have beginnings. He is therefore an incomplete Buddha or provisional Buddha (set aside for the time being that they Shakyamuni is the same entity in all the sutras). Its only the fully eternal triple bodied Shakyamuni that is a complete Buddha. This is the so-called Honbutsu, or Primordial Buddha, that is at the heart of Lotus Buddhism.
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