cambodia

Buddha Relics Stolen, Recovered. Implications?

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Then-King NORODOM Sihanouk holding the koṭṭha (urn) containing the Buddha’s relics

Back on December 9-10, 2013, in the midst of ongoing conflicts between the CNRP and the CPP over the disputed elections, and separate but connected mass garment worker strikes, physical relics of the Buddha, supposed to contain hair, bone, and ashes of the historical Sakyamuni Buddha, were stolen. Yesterday, February 6, 2014, police claimed to have recovered these relics in Takeo province. Before proceeding to links and discussion, it might be useful to discuss the concept of relics in general. More after the jump:

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Alfred Gell describing ‘deathpower.’

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.

<grin>

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sounding

Sounding: in general

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News: Buddha's skull found in 1,000-year-old miniature pagoda in China

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

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