April 18, 2007
Head of the Sangha
The noble Sangha of _________
Most revered ______________
Please accept my respectful and humble salutations!
I take this opportunity to bring to your notice a great historic wrong happening in India that is bound to cause a lot of pain to followers of the Buddha all over the world.
As you are aware, the Buddha gave specific instructions that his relics should be enshrined in stupas (pagodas) where devotees can worship them properly. Emperor Ashoka built many stupas for this purpose. The pagodas kept the relics secure for centuries.
As was a traditional prediction, the revival of the Buddha’s teaching in modern times is accompanied by discovery of his relics at many places. Most of these are in India. But having lost the Buddha’s teaching for centuries, there is total ignorance about proper respect for the relics. It is a great disgrace that many of these relics are kept in various museums along with other worldly objects of display. (Attached please find a list of places where Buddha’s relics have been kept in India.)
In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Pali Digha Nikaya, the Buddha has given explicit instructions regarding his relics. The first Agama, the Dirgha Agama, of the ancient Chinese Agamas contains the Mahaparinirvana Sutra which also gives an account of the Buddha’s own instructions about his relics. Both these texts make it clear that the proper places for the relics are stupas (pagodas) where they can be properly venerated by the devotees.
For the past forty years I have tried my best to bring the Buddha Dhamma back to India and to educate people here about Buddha Dhamma. The relics of the Buddha is a subject of utmost importance to all followers of the Buddha and hence now, in my old age (I am 84 now), I feel that I must do as much as I can to educate the governments (central as well as various state governments in India) about proper veneration of the relics.
Actually when I took up the project of construction of a 325 feet pagoda built in stone, it was my wish to have reliable magnificent structure that would have a long life so that the relics remain secure in it for thousands of years. I do not insist that the relics be transferred to this Global Pagoda being built in Mumbai (more information is attached) but I do insist that the relics be properly enshrined. I will be equally happy if the government builds a proper pagoda with a similarly long life or makes arrangement for one to be built. My whole intention is proper veneration and safe-keeping of the Buddha relics.
I am attaching contents of some of the brochures that I am distributing to clarify and emphasize this important issue.
It will be an immense help if you could also write a letter to the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Government of India, New Delhi (with copies to the Prime Minister of India and to Global Vipassana Foundation, Mumbai) expressing your sentiment on this subject. May I humbly request you to emphasize two important points:
1. It is a disgrace that the relics are displayed in a museum. The relics must be kept in a stupa (pagoda).
2. To ensure that the relics are secure they must be placed properly in a pagoda that will last thousands of years.
Such a letter will strengthen my hands in correcting this great historic wrong.
It has been my fortune to have your blessings for the Dhamma work in the land of the Buddha.
Thanking you for your kind blessing for this important work,
With deep respects,
S. N. Goenka