San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Brian Day, Staff Writer
Tooth from the Buddha himself among priceless relics
The largest collection of Buddhist relics in the United States, including a priceless tooth of the Buddha himself, recently donated to a Rosemead temple was on display Sunday for a public sneak preview.
Most of the sacred, 2,500-year-old relics had never been viewed publicly prior to Sunday’s unveiling at the Lu Mountain Temple, Dharma Master YongHua said. Future plans are to enshrine the relics in a “stupa,” or monument, for permanent display.
They elicited fascination, awe and prayers from those who visited the small temple, which is also the home of the Buddhist organization Bodhi Light International, Inc.
“That’s why these relics are around, to inspire faith in believers,” YongHua said.
The crown jewel of the collection is a tooth of the Buddha. The tooth, a molar, is now 3 to 4 inches long, is it has continued growing following the death of the Buddha, Master XianJie explained.
“We believe it’s very significant,” he said. “It’s the only one we know of the in the United States.”
Four other known teeth of Buddha are enshrined throughout the world, with a couple others possibly existing out of public view, XianJie said.
Other relics, or “sharira” include about 10,000 crystals of various shapes and colors said to have formed during the cremation of the Buddha, as well as several of his closest disciples, Master XianJie explained. The unexplained crystals are also said to multiply on their own.
The relics are believed to bring blessings and healing wherever they go, he added.
YongHua said the presence of the relics bring blessings to Rosemead and beyond. “This is good for the State of California, and it’s good for the United States,” he said.
To be in the presence of the relics is believed by Buddhists to be no different than being in the presence of the Buddha himself, YongHua said.
Also among the relics was a hair from the Buddha’s head, which is said to move on it’s own “in response to energy or faith,” XianJie said.
The tooth and some of the crystal sharira possessed sweet, unexplained odors.
Among those who visited the temple Sunday were Thilantha Gunasekara and his wife, Yamuna, of Whittier.
The couple moved to the United States six years ago from Sri Lanka, where another of Buddha’s teeth is enshrined in the “Temple of the Tooth,” Thilantha Gunasekara said. The tooth is under heavy military guard and not generally accessible to the public.
“In our country, it’s preserved and encased in so many cases,” he said. It is only brought out every few decades during times of dire need, such as drought or famine.
But in Rosemead, visitors were invited to get within a few feet of the sacred relics.
“During our lifetimes, we have not been able to see it so close,” Thilantha Gunasekara said.
The relics on display in Rosemead were given to the temple in recent months and weeks.
The process began in January when Vietnamese Buddhist Tam Huyhn, who had been collecting the relics for six or seven years, spent a week meditating with the temple monks, YongHua said.
“He was inspired,” the Dharma Master said. “Eventually, he realized (the collection) was meant to be shared,” he added. So the man donated his accumulated relics to the temple.
In the wake of that donation, another Vietnamese Buddhist, a woman whose name was not available Sunday, was “so impressed with that act of generosity” that she decided to donate her own priceless relic: the tooth of the Buddha.
“There were wonderful conditions that brought the relics to us,” YongHua said. “We are very fortunate.”
Because of the priceless nature of the religious artifacts, the temple has increased security to ensure their safety, he added.
Another public display of the artifacts is expected in May, however the specific plans had not been finalized, temple officials said.
For more information, visit Bohdi Light International’s website at chanpureland.org.