Tuesday, 2 September 2014

“There are indeed fully liberated ones living even in this age.”

Although the following story relating to how Webu Sayadaw acquired the Buddha relics has been thoroughly discussed with several people knowledgeable about the event, it must be stated that the circumstances surrounding the event are still not entirely confirmed. The video above shows the relics being wrapped by novices at Kan Oo Monastery in Ingyinbin.

The story begins in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where Italian monk U Lawkanatha was a personal associate of the Prime Minister, who was said to be a devout Buddhist. While several different people confirmed it was in fact the particular Ceylonese Prime Minister in question, the precise leader was not able to be confirmed by name. It is known that Webu Sayadaw visited Kandy in January 1958, and the acting Prime Minister at this time was S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, although one person did indicate they thought it was the previous Prime Minister, John Kotelawala.

As the story goes, the Sri Lankan leader was lamenting the fact to U Lawkanatha that there were no fully enlightened beings left in the world, to which the Italian monk responded, “there are indeed fully liberated ones living even in this age.” He went on to describe his experience in Ingyinbin and with the venerable Webu Sayadaw. The Prime Minister was so impressed that he voiced his wish to have the Burmese monk flown to Ceylon at his earliest convenience. Pictures of Webu Sayadaw’s visit to Kandy give some indication of his stay here, and it was during this trip that he was presented with original Buddha relics, which he brought back to store at his monastery in Ingyinbin.

The relics themselves rest in an ornamented lacquer stand in the shape of a white lotus flower. Mounted upon a dark wooden base, there is a small central cup in the middle, and the relics are spread out among the lacquer flower petals. This entire object is carefully sealed in a protective box (itself covered with gold leaf) and wrapped in many dozen of layers of fine silken cloths. Anpetu Yamut describes his experience, noting “they brought out what were said to be relics of the Buddha, which looked like very small crystal clear pearls in a ceramic lotus flower for me to place on the top of my head… After each presentation they would offer the container of the relics to me with both hands to place on the top of my head for blessing/inspiration.”

In his day, Webu Sayadaw would very carefully carry these relics with him wherever he went, and a more formal carrying apparatus is on display on the Paṭipatti side. These days, on special occasions, the relics will be carried in a procession around the monastery or village, and at select times may be taken out for devotees to pay their respects and meditate before. Some very fortunate yogis have even been able to meditate while the relics are positioned above their head. Because of the reverence towards these relics, please note that they are not taken out at every visit and should not be requested to be seen directly.

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