i An Offering of Relics of the Buddha | Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

An Offering of Relics of the Buddha

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India – A long-standing ambition of a group of Sri Lankan Buddhists led by the Most Venerable Dr. Waskaduwe Mahindawansa Maha Nayaka Thero, head of Amarapura Sambuddha Sasanodaya Maha Nikaya, and coordinated by Dr. Damenda Porage, Founder President of the Sri Lanka-Tibetan Buddhist Brotherhood in Sri Lanka, was fulfilled today. Accompanied by monks and lay supporters, the Most Venerable came to Dharamsala to present relics of the Buddha to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Monks scattering flower petals lead the way as the relics of the Buddha are carried up the drive of the Main Tibetan Temple to offer to His Holiness the Dalai Lama waiting at the gate to his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 4, 2024. Photo by Tenzin Choejor

Following the Buddha’s passing away and the cremation of his mortal remains the relics that remained, fragments of bones and teeth, were divided among eight kingdoms and stupas were erected over them in Allakappa, Kapilavastu, Kushinagar, Pava, Rajagriha, Ramagrama, Vaishali, and Vethapida. During excavations at Piprahwa, which is identified with Kapilavastu, relics of the Buddha were discovered that had been enshrined by Shakyan relatives in Kapilavastu. In 1898, a British official, William Peppé made a gift of these relics to the erudite Sri Lankan monk, Most Venerable Waskaduwe Sri Subhuthi Mahanayake Thera, who brought them to Sri Lanka.

The Most Venerable and his party arrived this morning at Kangra airport and drove up from there to His Holiness’s residence. Groups of Tibetans, many holding silk scarves, flowers and incense in their hands, gathered by the side of the road from the lower reaches of Dharamsala town up to Mcleod Ganj to pay their respects. Large numbers of people gathered near the gate to Gangchen Kyishong and the Central Tibetan Administration and below the Tsuglagkhang, the Main Tibetan Temple. Both sides of the driveway to His Holiness’s residence were decorated with strings of Buddhist and Tibetan flags.

While artistes from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts sang and danced in celebration, His Holiness sat on chair outside the gate to his residence to greet the relics, the Most Venerable and his party as they arrived. Monks from Namgyal Monastery staged a formal welcome playing horns, strewing the path with flower petals and holding a yellow, silk parasol over the portable reliquary. His Holiness stood to welcome his guests and paid his first respects to the relics. He then drove with the Maha Nayaka Thero up to his meeting room where they and the delegation sat together.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Most Venerable Dr. Waskaduwe Mahindawansa Maha Nayaka Thero riding a golf cart to the meeting room at his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 4, 2024. Photo by Tenzin Choejor

The Venerable Samdhong Rinpoché, Ling Rinpoché, Kirti Rinpoché and Sikyong Penpa Tsering joined the meeting.

“We, members of the Sri Lankan Mahasangha appreciate your service to the world,” the Most Venerable Dr. Waskaduwe Mahindawansa Maha Nayaka Thero told His Holiness. “Teaching the world loving-kindness is one of the Buddha’s accomplishments. You too are doing what the Buddha did. We have metta for everyone. Cultivating warm-heartedness is what the Dharma is about. We are all human beings, which is why we love all human beings.

“We pray for your good health and long life and offer these relics to you.”

His Holiness respectfully touched his bowed head to the portable reliquary as the Sri Lankan party chanted auspicious verses.

“It seems that since the time of the Buddha interest in his teaching has grown around the world,” His Holiness told them. “The Nalanda Tradition utilizes human intelligence. I’ve met scientists who take an interest in what the Buddha taught, not out of faith, but on the basis of reason. They also take a genuine interest in what the teaching of the Buddha reveals about human psychology.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama meeting with the delegation that came to offer the relic of the Buddha at his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 4, 2024. Photo by Tenzin Choejor

“Many years ago, when I met Chairman Mao Zedong he praised my scientific turn of mind but warned me that religion is poison. I think that if he could see the interest scientists show in Buddhism today, he would consider becoming a Buddhist himself. This is because the Buddha’s teaching takes a scientific approach.

“I respect all religious traditions, but it’s Buddhism in particular that employs reason. This is why we are able to hold our own in discussions with scientists. I’ve met scientists who were initially sceptical about religion in general who eventually became Buddhists.

“Now, on a practical level, the world needs peace and that’s the core of the Buddha’s message. However, I’m prepared not to mention Buddhism as such but to emphasize secular ethics and universal values crucial among which is compassion. The important thing is to have a warm heart. Consequently, I’m committed to encouraging people to cultivate loving-kindness. What I want to convey is that I’m fully committed to promoting the Buddha’s message from a secular point of view. What do you think?”

“It’s a good way to approach the future,” Maha Nayaka Thero replied.

“The world needs peace,” His Holiness continued. “Our experience of peace begins when we’re born, and we bask in our mother’s kindness and affection. This is our introduction to peace of mind. It’s this that sows a natural seed of compassion within us. We receive a clear lesson in love and compassion right from the start of our lives. Our experience of our mother’s love and compassion has a deep influence on us all. Having been nurtured in this way, it’s important to keep these feelings alive and to act on them throughout our lives.”

Members of the delegation that offered a relic of the Buddha pose with for a photo with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on April 4, 2024. Photo by Tenzin Choejor

As the meeting came to an end, the visitors approached His Holiness one by one to pay their respects personally. In response, His Holiness first offered a statue of the Buddha and a Dharmachakra to Most Venerable Dr. Waskaduwe Mahindawansa Maha Nayaka Thero to be installed in his monastery and then gave him another smaller statue for his personal use. Next he offered a statue of the Buddha to each of the other monks and lay people in the party. Photographs were taken that record this historic occasion.

(Media Statement from Most Ven Dr Waskaduwe Mahindawansa Mahanayake Thero can be viewed here.)