Temporary Exhibit, “The Emergence and Convergence of Cultures, Beliefs, and Kindness”

A Holy Buddhist Relic of Tsung-TsaiThanks to the generosity of the Butler Buddhist Sangha, The Maridon Museum is hosting a temporary exhibit, “The Emergence and Convergence of Cultures, Beliefs, and Kindness.”  On display is a holy Buddhist relic of Tsung-Tsai, lovingly known as Si-Fu. He was the subject of the book, “Bones of the Master,” a story of friendship, courage, and deep devotion to a spiritual teacher, all set in mysterious Inner Mongolia. This exhibit will run until April 30.

The Emergence and Convergence of Cultures, Beliefs, and Kindness

In 1914, a man was born in Inner Mongolia. He was raised in the Shaolin Temple, a warrior monk. 108 years later, he dies in California surrounded by Buddhist monks, his students, his temple congregation, and two dedicated female students from the sangha he organized and led for thirty years in Butler, Pa.  His mark on the world is not just what is recorded in the international best seller, Bones of the Master, but an epic journey of the mind, spirit, and body which culminated in his relics in his cremains confirmed by holy monks as those of an enlightened Buddhist saint. His cremains have been interred at the school which he founded and funded in Taiwan for Buddhist children to attend to learn to read and write.

After his death, Roshi Cynthia Marshall and Celia Puz, members and leaders of the Butler Buddhist Sangha, were informed that the Sangha would receive one of the holy precious relics of Tsung Tsai’s journey for the Sangha to keep in respect and reverence. David Wuchina, a Maridon docent and a member of the Butler Buddhist Sangha, graciously flew to Los Angeles to be given the relic since it was too precious to mail.

Because of The Maridon Museum’s connection to Buddhist Art, the sangha wished to display the relic here for a limited time. It will be on display for the students of The Introduction to the Philosophy of Buddhism class and for the public.

We ask the public to consider reading Bones of the Master so that they can fully appreciate the honor Butler Buddhist Sangha has been given to possess this relic which is a pearl from a man of strength, compassion, spiritual enlightenment, and international fame, Tsung-Tsai.

The Concept of Buddhist Relics

It has long been held in Buddhist tradition that accomplished monks accumulate a substance in their bodies that ordinary people do not. This substance is left behind in a monk’s ashes when he is cremated, appearing as pearl-like beads or gems. The substance is thought to be accumulated from other realms, to be not quite of this world.

Although the term śarīra can be used to refer to a wide variety of Buddhist relics, as listed above, it is generally used to refer to pearl or crystal-like bead-shaped objects that are purportedly found among the cremated ashes of Buddhist spiritual masters.

These objects are considered relics of significant importance in many sects of Buddhism since they are believed to embody the spiritual knowledge, teachings, realizations or living essence of spiritual masters. They are taken as evidence of the masters’ enlightenment and spiritual purity. Some believe that śarīras are deliberately left by the consciousness of a master for veneration, and that the beauty of the śarīras depends on how well the masters had cultivated their mind and souls. Śarīra come in a variety of colors, and some are even translucent.

Sariras are typically displayed in a glass bowl inside small gold urns or stupas as well as enshrined inside the master’s statue. Śarīras are also believed to mysteriously multiply while inside their containers if they have been stored under favorable conditions. Saffron threads are sometimes placed within or around the bowl containing individual śarīra as an offering.

The occurrence of śarīra is not restricted to ancient times, and many Buddhists have shown that śarīra are not limited to humans or masters. Many texts of Pure Land Buddhism report śarīras of many adherents, some occurring recently. Some Buddhists associate a student’s spiritual life with the amount and condition of the śarīra they leave after cremation. Many Pure Land Buddhists believe Amitābha‘s power manifests cremated remains into śarīra. Many claim that pearls of śarīra rain at the funerals of eminent monks. There are reports that śarīra may appear, multiply, or disappear, depending on a keeper’s thoughts.