Significance of the Buddha’s and Great Masters’ Relics
Ngarampa Tashi Thupten Tsondu Namo Sakiyamuni Buddha.
The word “relic” means “remain” or “something left behind”. When the Buddha, holy monks and nuns passed away from this samsara, their bodies were cremated; it is believed that they left behind three components to be remembered: parts of their bodies like crystals of bone, hair, blood, ashes, their speech, and teachings. Some monks left pieces of bones with very clear letters of Om Mani Padme Hum or other tantric mantras. It is said that in 1963, a Vietnamese monk immolated himself for the benefits of millions of Vietnamese Buddhists. After cremation, his heart remained as a relic. Relics are not necessarily shiny like diamonds or pearls. Some can be black or of unusual colors.
The relics of the Buddha and Great Masters that we see today are a valuable inspiration for us to empower our efforts to practice the Buddha’s Dharma. But the most important relics of the Buddha are his teachings. If we are not serious in applying sincere practice of the Buddha’s teachings in our daily life, then when we come to view these relics even for 24 hours a day, it would be just like watching a movie. When we leave the relic display, it is the same as when we leave the movie theater.
Do not think that after you pray to the relics, you will be blessed with more power, more money, more happiness, more wishes coming true. Not at all, if your mind is not transformed, it will remain as negative as before. You are here to pay homage to these relics. Please pray in front of these relics and promise to earnestly practice the Buddha’s and other Great Masters’ teachings: loving kindness, compassion, patience, honesty, humility, service to benefit all sentient beings… These are true relics of the Buddha.
Some people have doubts and question if these relics are really from the Buddha and Great Masters and how they got to us today. My answer is: there is no need to dwell on these issues. The Buddha’s and Great Masters’ relics are present everywhere, at any time. They are even present in your heart where you have steadfast beliefs, strong enough to inspire determination to practice the Buddha’s teaching.
There is a story about the Buddha’s relics. In the Eastern part of Tibet, there lived a mother and her young son. One day, the son wished to make a pilgrimage to Lhasa to pray in front of special statues of the Buddha. The mother said to her son, “Please, bring home a piece of relic.” The son dutifully promised to do so. When he arrived in Lhasa, he was so excited with the people and scenery of the big city, he completely forgot his promise. So, on his return to the village, he saw a dead dog and removed a tooth from it. He cleaned up the tooth, wrapped it up and gave it to his mother and said, “This is a holy relic from the Buddha!” The mother revered the tooth, she put it on the altar, and every day she prostrated before it and prayed fervently. One day, the tooth sparkled like a diamond. The son was amazed but kept quiet. The mother felt truly blessed. Her certainty in the Buddha and his teachings worked! Such is the power of conviction and devotion.
Let us venerate the relics on display today and make vows to seriously practice the teachings that the Buddha and Great Masters left behind. We will find happiness and peace in our hearts and peace for the world.
Namo Sakiyamuni Buddha