Jun 20, 2019

Posted by in Giáo điển | 4 Comments

Letter to Disciples No.174: Sariras and the misconceptions (Thư gửi các trò 174: XÁ LỢI VÀ NHỮNG ĐIỀU NGỘ NHẬN)

Dear disciples!

In practice number six, most of you answered the sixth question correctly, “Buddhist attainers often leave sariras after their cremations.” That is true, my disciples. However, some of you might not entirely understand, thus misconceive about sarira. Firstly, we should understand the origin and definition of sarira. Sariras (or शरीर in Sanskrit and 舍利 in Chinese) are the round-shaped beads formed after a cremation or the remaining bones of a Buddhist attainer. Sariras can also be pearly or crystally and found in the ashes of some Buddhist attainers. Their formations are yet to be explained by modern scientists. They are the treasures of the Buddhist world.

We are proud that only Buddhist attainers can leave sariras after their cremations. In this Dharma Degeneration era, however, everything can be counterfeit and imitated, including sariras! In Vietnam, sarira was once very widely discussed among monks and lay-Buddhists. Rumor had it that, in Bình Dương province, there was a female lay-Buddhist who had lots and lots of sarira to worship in her altar. Many monks and lay-Buddhists came to request her a share. On the other hand, she made many offerings with her “sariras” to many monasteries. This lay-Buddhist also made that same offering to Song Nguyễn Tantra house. She came in September 2010 in a group of 34 people. I made my reception and, with my disciples, I made my offerings to the sarira on that same day. It turns out, they were just self-created stone (one stone would naturally recreate itself multiple times) and just being mistaken as “sarira.” Here is the evidence:

1/ Later on, during my disciples’ visit at her house in return for her favor, Mật Hải saw the altar where the lay-Buddhist worshiped the sariras; there were Tudigong, Caishen, and her ancestors being worshiped alongside the Buddha. Even her worshiping was against the Dharma, how would any sarira be created in such wrong-view dominated place?

2/ Mật Hải and I then examined those sariras offered by the lay-Buddhist to see if it real. After testing with three different measurements, we immediately knew they were fake. I then told Mật Hải to put these away. Otherwise, if we continue to worship them here, Song Nguyen Tantra house would never have its success today.

3/ About a week after this incident, I encountered an article about sarira by the Dalai Lama, warning the fact that there are “sariras” manifested by the devils, which should not be worshiped to avoid losing merits.

Dear disciples,

Returning to our practice number six question about the formation of sarira after the cremation of a Buddhist attainer, I would like to further explain this phenomenon. Most Buddhists think of sariras as the remainings after cremation. There can be different relics such as a piece of white bone or different sizes of beads shining in five different colors, depending on the level of attainment. Why does this phenomenon exist? Everyone who practices Buddhism at a certain level (first level of meditation and beyond) can leave sarira. Non-Buddhist practitioners may never leave sarira, despite their attainment in meditation, since their practices are outside of the Dharma orbit. They could not connect with the blessing from the Buddha and Enlightened beings, which is essential to the formation of sarira.

From these references, we understand why many Buddhists leave no sarira despite their years of practice. This reality becomes a “psychological weakness” for many monks that they refuse cremation. Usually, their disciples will perform burials and even build graves right inside of their monasteries, in the middle of the city where many people pass by every day.

About those self-created stones that were mistaken as sarira in particular, though they are existed and quantified at that moment, they have never been originated from any monk of any Buddhist school or country. They were considered sarira, by many people whose understanding about sarira is minimal, only because of their pure white color. On the other hand, with the mentality of a spiritual slave and unthinking worshiper, many people accept this deception so readily. This readiness is the cause for the popularization of fake sariras among monasteries and homes of lay-Buddhists at the time. If someone, out of the courageousness of a Buddhist, tried to break these sariras with hammers, put these sariras in water to see if they sink or gravitate towards each other, etc., they would have known the authenticity of the sariras. The phenomenon of a stone recreating itself multiple time is influenced by the power of devils, not by the blessings of the Buddha and Enlightened beings like I have clarified above (the second evidence).

Dear disciples!

I want to clarify to you more about the phenomenon of sarira, so there will be no misconception. If someone who is a great, a virtuous, an attained practitioner, yet leaves no sarira after his/her cremation, then which other references we could base on to evaluate he/she cultivation? From this question, we explore the definition of Dharma-body (Dharmakaya) sarira and form-body (Sambhogakaya) sarira. Form-body sariras are the sariras we have examined earlier in the article; they are the bones, the beads, the colorful crystals found after a cremation. Dharma-body sariras, however, are the intellectual works pass down by the practitioner, which is the most crucial sarira.

Form-body sariras might be precious, but they are only physical objects to demonstrate the attainment of that particular practitioner, not to benefit others. Worshiping form-body sariras can cause fanaticism by fanaticizing individuals. For example, if a person worships a sarira with their complete reverence, at best they will only receive worldly merits, not the foundation of Enlightenment and the path to Liberation. Therefore, in the Three Jewels, there are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, not sarira. Back in the day, the Buddha sariras were shared by only eight countries to worship. However, the Buddha’s Dharma-body sarira – His sublime teachings documented in sutras, precepts, and rhetorical pieces – has always been the power source of liberation for millions of followers. Therefore, in the Bequeathed Teachings Sutra, the Buddha has taught us to take the precepts as our teacher, take the sutras (His Dharma-body sarira) as our testimonies. Nowadays, millions of Buddhist practitioners are still paying homage to His Dharma-body sarira every day by practicing one in ten Buddhist activities, not by looking at His form-body sarira every day.

Back to the definition of Dharma-body sarira, they are the intellectual works of a practitioner aiming to inspire others in their cultivations and guide them to the orbit of the Dharma with proper, scientific, and realistic academic practices. I also have to emphasize the importance of authenticity — the practitioner has to write his/her works, not to delegate the pieces to his/her disciple. Why so? Because when the teacher and the writer are at a different spiritual level, how would the writing adequately convey the teachings? There are even disciples who alter translations and messages. Nguyễn Minh Tiến once declares that, in one of the 14th Dalai Lama’s works, three Yoga practices (Tantra, Maha, Anu) of Gelug lineage are said to require an absolute vegetarian diet, which is misleading.  Three months ago, I asked Mật Diệu Hằng to send a letter, written in English, from the Center for Tibetan Yoga Research, Application and Practice, Song Nguyen Tantra house to the Dalai Lama’s office in Dharamshala (India), and the Dalai Lama has personally received the letter (according to Dharamshala post office) but yet to respond. This incident has raised in me a question about the transparency and efficiency of their Dharma activities; or maybe, they were not ready to announce the reality, that their translator has “drawn snake with legs” and disgrace the person who has entrusted him.

From these explanations, we should be more cautious in our judgment and evaluation of a Dharam body sarira through one’s intellectual works, especially their writings (article, letter, poem, etc.), which will be published, distributed, examined by the public, and evaluate by the Buddhist community. Therefore, evaluating the attainment of a practitioner should not be limited to evaluating their form-body sariras, though this is still a very common practice. In the meantime, Dharma-body sariras, as the foundation of Enlightenment and the path to Liberation, are often being ignored. Consider this, by definition, there are two types of Arhat: (1) liberated-by-wisdom Arhat (pannavimutta) who attain Enlightenment with wisdom and without any supernatural ability (like the case of Ven. Diệu Hiền), and (2) liberated-in-both-way Arhat (ubhatobhagavimutta) who attain Enlightenment with both liberation knowledge and supernatural abilities.

From those mentioned examinations and clarified evidence, I conclude this article with my prayer:

1/ O Guru Padmasambhava, please turn my mind towards the Dharma.

2/ All-Knowing Ones, do not let me deviate into any wrong and inferior path.

3/ Compassionate Guru, who is not different from them, please look after to me.

Phước Thành village, Dec. 15, 2016

Thinley- Nguyên Thành

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  1. Tantra Upatissa says:
    Dear Guru thanks for sharing this article.

    By reading this I came to know the meaning of Sariras. I feel Sariras should not be worshipped out of ignorance. Sariras are the left over of monks or sometimes enlightened beings after their bodies are cremated. They look like beads. Instead of worshipping Sariras one should follow Dharma or methods of meditation thought by Buddha or Guru. We give respect to Sariras but do not pray to them.

    May Guru and his consort live long for sake of other beings.

    May all beings be free from suffering and get enlightened.

    Om Mani Padme Hum..

  2. tantra mahavita says:
    Dear Holy Guru: Thank you very much for sharing this article. I bow my head to the feet of the Holy Guru. The Sariras (remains of the enlightened ones after their bodies are burned) we respect them, but we do not pray to them. We must follow the Dharma and the meditation methods thought by the Buddha or the Guru. May the Guru live a long time for the benefit of all sentient beings. May all beings be free from suffering and find the Buddha Nature. OM MANI PADME HUM
  3. Mật Diệu Hằng says:
    Kính bạch Thầy!

    Con xin phép được dịch comment của đạo hữu Tantra Upatissa sang tiếng Việt như sau:

    Kính bạch Thầy!

    Con cảm tạ ơn Thầy đã viết bài.

    Đọc bài viết của Thầy con hiểu được ý nghĩa của xá lợi. Con hiểu rằng chúng con không nên thờ cúng xá lợi một cách mù quáng, vô minh. Xá lợi là những hạt nhỏ trông giống ngọc trai hay pha lê được tìm thấy trong tro hỏa táng của một số vị tăng Phật giáo hoặc của các bậc giác ngộ. Thay vì  thờ cúng xá lợi thì hành giả nên thực hành pháp và thực hành theo phương pháp mà đức Phật và Thầy đã chỉ ra. Chúng con trân trọng xá lợi nhưng không cầu nguyện xá lợi ban phước.

    Con cầu nguyện Thầy Cô trụ thế lâu dài vì sự lợi lạc của tất cả chúng sanh.

    Cầu nguyện tất cả chúng sanh đoạn trừ khổ đau và đạt được giác ngộ.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  4. Tantra Sutradaka says:
    Reverend Gurujee

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    I bow before your lotus feet

    I am really very delighted through this article for two simple reasons

    1.    Today though we are living in the age of science and technology that does not believe in religion, religiosity and spirituality. At the same time our frustrated interests have prompted us to take shelter on anything from where we have any ray of hope to get redeem of our frustrating ambitions. This has arisen in us a fresh superstition that prompts us to bow before demigods, relic worship and many others. Taking the benefit of our struggles, frustrations and sinking hopes, some so called spiritual /religious priest type person take the benefit of making the modern man to rely upon the worship of demigods or sarira as narrated in the letter to Disciple No. 174.

    2.     Buddhism is a Godless religion and devoid of the rituals, idol worship and other tantrums of other sematic religions. In Dhammapada Buddha says he is simple a teacher to guide the people, nothing else. While I was in process to write my book “I conducted an empirical study wherein I asked some questions from Sri Lanka’s Buddhists both lay men and monks. Sri Lanka is a Theravada Country. But to my great surprise it was revealed from their answer that like other orthodox religion the Buddhists of Sri Lanka worship the relic (Tooth) of the Buddha. Thy have assigned some abnormal powers like locomotion to it. They believe that like an Arahat it also possesses the ability of levitate and fly. This is the reason the common people worship it and once in a year observe a huge ceremony . ( Avinash Kumar Srivastava, Living Buddhism, Impression Publication, Patna, 2011, ISBN978-81-906148-7-0, Page No. 229- 230)

    3.    The present letter to disciple No. 174 becomes most relevant and enlightening in the sense that it will help the common masses, who are following such beliefs, awake from their dogmatic slumber. It is withal for those who have not been affected with such erroneous views to keep them separated from such lucrative religio-spiritual traps of wrong practices on the name of Buddha and Buddhism.

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    Long live our Holy Guru alng with his consort

    Tantrasutradaka

    Avinash Kumar Srivastava

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