Sunday, 8 May 2016

Cremation and Relics of Sayadaw U Pandita

As a previous post noted, on the 22nd of April 2016, Sayadaw U Pandita was cremated. While no relics were found (which some believe would indicate full enlightenment and which were greatly anticipated by his supporters), there were golden-colored debris found in the cremation coffin, as shown below.

The following story is shared by U Sarana:

"U Maung Aye, a close helper of Sayadaw U Pandita, shared what he heard from Sayadaw U Pandita. Sayadaw U Pandita told to U Maung Aye, that he spoke with Mahasi Sayadaw about a month or so before Mahasi Sayadaw passed away. At that time Mahasi Sayadaw told to U Pandita that to his (Mahasi Sayadaw's) surprise, Mahasi Sayadaw had a dream. It is impossible for an Arahant to have a dream - and thus Sayadaw U Pandita knew, that Mahasi Sayadaw was not an Arahant at the time when this was said. However, Sayadaw U Pandita told U Maung Aye that it is not possible to tell for sure whether Mahasi Sayadaw became an Arahant shortly before he (Mahasi Sayadaw) passed away or not."

Following is a preview on the "Relics" section from the upcoming Shwe Lan Ga Lay:

Similar to the English expression “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” so also can one say that the value and purpose of a relic rests upon the perspective of who happens to be before it. For rulers of any kind, from kings to elected officials, the acquisition of sacred relics is seen as an implicit acknowledgement that the leader has developed sufficient paramis to justify his rule (Specifically, if a king was said to be a righteous ruler, it would follow that his reign would see good weather and plentiful harvests, and that white elephants and Buddha relics would find him.) For pagoda-donors, enshrinement of relics amplify the merit they are already due to receive with the meritorious construction. For tourists, they are yet another curiosity to marvel over, photograph, and later revel to friends back home. For treasure-hunters and occult worshipers, relics represent another object to seek out, collect, and make use of. For supporters of a particular monk, they are seen as real evidence of his attainment and may forever be honored throughout the lineage. For many lay Buddhists as well as monastics, they are a profound symbol representing the Triple Gem in all its depth, and which guard against the decline of the Sasana. For historians and scholars, they are an object of study when analyzing politics, religion, and war. For religious scholars or defenders of the faith, relics can pose a challenge to the heterodoxy in that there is not explicit reference to them in the scriptures. And for some meditators and yogis, they offer a profound inspiration and vibrational support to the Path. 
Relics are not only confined to Burmese Buddhism or even Buddhism in general, but worship and reverence of sacred objects can be found across eras and cultures. As Schopen writes, “these bodies and bits of bone and otherwise seemingly dead matter have played a lively role in religious practices, economies, and institutions.”

The English relic is derived from the Latin relinquere, meaning “to leave behind,” and this certainly fits the Burmese Buddhist understanding of material “left behind” from the bodies of the country’s great monastics and meditators. Relics thus transcend the worldly and the divine, the material and spiritual, becoming a living embodiment “left over” from the great meditative masters in whose paths we are endeavoring to follow. As Mircea Eliade writes, they are the “manifestation of the sacred in profane contexts.”

Following is a photograph of the relics left by Sayadaw U Pandita: 

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