In quote on August 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm
Both of my long-term readers know that the key concept in my work on Cambodian funerals and religion is deathpower, the social power created through the proper (moral or amoral) management of death. A colleague recommended Alfred Gell‘s monumental 1998 volume Art and Agency: an anthropological theory to me, and what do I find on p. 149 but this gem, which practically describes my work:
A Buddha statue celebrates the possibility of a ‘good death’ and monks are semi-dead individuals who aspire to the ultimate good-death condition….In a sense, then, what the relic does is make the Buddha state like the Buddha, by making it ‘dead’ through the insertion of a ‘death-substance’–in the rather paradoxical sense that Buddha-hood implies death-in-life.
In notice on February 16, 2010 at 10:02 am
Today is the day that Buddhists around the world mark the death of the historical Buddha, a moment called his parinirvana. Thanks to Rev. Danny Fisher for the reminder. on the BBC page about this day, they remark that
The day is used as an opportunity to reflect on the fact of one’s own future death, and on friends or relations who have recently passed away. The idea that all things are transient is central to Buddhist teaching. Loss and impermanence are things to be accepted rather than causes of grief.
Having just last week lost a woman from my family that I have routinely described as the living hearth of my extended family, I will certainly be meditating on her passing, and impermanence. I miss you, Aunt Jackie.
Now, a word about the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Buddhist text which describes the days leading up to the Buddha’s final nirvana:
The Mahaparinibbana sutta is the locus classicus for discussions of funerary ritual, relics, and post-mortem attitudes toward the dead. Toward the end, the Buddha gives directions for his funeral (which is expertly analyzed by John Strong in his excellent book Relics of the Buddha as a rejection of kingly, brahmanical authority and prestige), and the division of the Buddha post-cremation relics.
What is rarely noted about the text however, is the way in which the entire sutta is framed by war. At the beginning, patricide king Ajatasattu (“He who is without enemies,” largely because he seems to have murdered them all) asks the Buddha for advice on how to conquer a neighboring republic. The Buddha advises the king that as long as Ajattasattu’s neighbors continue to practice the community teachings of the Buddha – which are explicitly non-religious, and not even terribly ‘Buddhist’, but generally just good advice – he will be unable to conquer them. The king decides to go after them anyway, and begins preparations for war. Read the rest of this entry »
In sounding on January 28, 2010 at 9:50 am
The National Museum in Phnom Penh has received 4 new pre-Angkorean Statues:
“There are two sculptures of the Buddha and two male deities. The sculptures are very outstanding in terms of historical and artistic quality. The standing Buddha is one of the best we have, truly a masterpiece of Khmer art.”
The remains of King Le Du Thong (1679-1731) was reburied earlier this week in a ceremony mixing traditional and contemporary practices. The remains of the king were uncovered in the middle of the last century and were housed in the Vietnamese History Museum until reburial. [link]
Apparently my good friend Hun Hunahpu, the Maize God, was on BBC radio recently. [link and image via Agro Biodiversity Weblog]
In Uncategorized on December 1, 2008 at 9:18 am
Still skeptical, but the story continues, this time with pictures (of the stele, not the urn or the relics) over at Epoch Times (via Shambala Sunspace)
In Uncategorized on November 27, 2008 at 11:02 am
I’m writing the ethnographic description chapter of my dissertation on Cambodian funerals, and was looking for images of the cremation of Suddhodana, Siddhartha Gotama’s father.
In Cambodia, the Buddha is often shown lighting the cremation fire, an image which occasionally causes some controversy, since it is understood that Buddhist monks are not to light fires, especially those for cooking (note the correlation between cremation fires and cooking fires).
And I found this lovely image from a Burmese mural of the Buddha presiding over Suddhodana’s funeral (but not explicitly lighting it.)
via Buddhist eLibrary :: – The Buddha’s Father was cremated
In Uncategorized on November 25, 2008 at 9:32 am
Really? This seems like big news.
LONDON: Archaeologists have claimed that a 1,000-year-old miniature pagoda, unearthed in Nanjing, China, holds a piece of skull belonging to
Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.
According to a report in the Telegraph, the pagoda was wedged tightly inside an iron case that was discovered at the site of a former temple in the city in August this year.
The four-storey pagoda, which is almost four feet high and one-and-a-half feet wide, is thought by archaeologists to be one of the 84,000 pagodas commissioned by Ashoka the Great in the second century BC to house the remains of the Buddha.
The pagoda found in Nanjing is crafted from wood, gilded with silver and inlaid with gold, coloured glass and amber.
It matches a description of another of Ashoka’s pagodas, which used to be housed underneath the Changgan Buddhist temple in Nanjing.
A description of the contents of the pagoda indicate the presence of a gold coffin bearing part of Buddha’s skull inside a silver box.
Although scans have confirmed that there are two small metal boxes inside the pagoda, experts have not yet peered inside.
According to Qi Haining, the head of archaeology at Nanjing Museum, “This pagoda may be unique, the only one known to contain parts of Buddha’s skull”.
But he said there would be a lengthy process before the cases could be opened.
“The discovery of the relic will have a huge influence on the cultural history of Buddhism in China and will establish Nanjing as a premier site. It will be a great encouragement for Buddhists as well as for future studies,” said De Qing, an expert in Buddhism in Nanjing.
On the other hand, I always get a bit skeptical when experts involved in such religious discoveries make remarks like the following. Remember Jesus’ coffin?
“It is important for Buddhism as a religion to have these sarira, or relics, to show its followers. The more a Buddhist practises, the more relics will remain of him after his death. I am hugely excited. I think they should take the skull outside of the container, it is a sacred item, but it is not an untouchable item,” he added.
via Buddha’s skull found in 1,000-year-old miniature pagoda in China- ET Cetera-News By Industry-News-The Economic Times
In Uncategorized on November 10, 2008 at 11:15 am
A great photo of a glazed ceramic tile from 15th century Burma, in the British Museum’s collection, along with a very nice description of these gents, and their place in the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
But the reason I looked into it? The hilarious title on a posting of it over at Texas Liberal, called “Ass-headed Demons. Do You Have Them In Your Life?“
Yes I do, TL, yes I do.
In Uncategorized on September 8, 2008 at 4:52 pm
Awesome. 19 meters (62 feet) long, a Buddha in the parinibbana pose. (Nota Bene to BBC news: not “sleeping.”). There’s an unembeddable video on the site. Very very cool.
Here’s the link.