The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[The Sixth Chapter for Recitation]

download

[44: The Distribution of the Relics]

The Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has attained Final Emancipation in Kusinārā.” Then the Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): “The Gracious One was a Noble, and I also am a Noble, I am worthy of a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics, I will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the bodily relics.”

Then the Licchavīs of Vesālī heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has attained Final Emancipation in Kusinārā.” Then the Licchavīs of Vesālī sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): “The Gracious One was a Noble, and we also are Nobles, we are worthy of a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics, we will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the bodily relics.”

Then the Sakyas of Kapilavatthu heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has attained Final Emancipation in Kusinārā.” Then the Sakyas of Kapilavatthu sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): “The Gracious One was our foremost relative, we are worthy of a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics, we will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the bodily relics.”

Then the Bulas of Allakappa heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has attained Final Emancipation in Kusinārā.” Then the Bulas of Allakappa sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): “The Gracious One was a Noble, and we also are Nobles, we are worthy of a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics, we will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the bodily relics.”

Then the Koliyas of Rāmagāma heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has attained Final Emancipation in Kusinārā.” Then the Koliyas of Rāmagāma sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): “The Gracious One was a Noble, and we also are Nobles, we are worthy of a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics, we will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the bodily relics.”

Then the brahmin Veṭhadīpaka heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has attained Final Emancipation in Kusinārā.” Then the brahmin Veṭhadīpaka sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): “The Gracious One was a Noble, and I am a brahmin, I am worthy of a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics, I will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the bodily relics.”

Then the Mallas of Pāvā heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has attained Final Emancipation in Kusinārā.” Then the Mallas of Pāvā sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): “The Gracious One was a Noble, and we also are Nobles, we are worthy of a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics, we will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the bodily relics.”

After this was said, the Mallas of Kusinārā said this to their community and group: “The Gracious One has attained Final Emancipation in the area of our village, (but) we will not see a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics.”

After this was said, the brahmin Doṇa said this to their community and group: The name Doṇa means Measurer, and is therefore a mythical name. The Commentary records that before he spoke the verses below, he recited another (spontaneous?) poem, which became known as Doṇagajjitaṁ, Doṇa's Roar. It is said to have been 500 verses long (dvibhāṇavāra). Unfortunately there appears to be no record of this poem.01

“Listen, dear Sirs, to a sentence of mine:
Our Buddha was one who spoke about forebearance
It is not good that there should be a battle
About sharing the relics of the Best Man.

Let us united, in concord, dear Sirs,
With joyful minds, make eight shares (of the relics),
And set up Shrines in every direction
(So that) many people may gain faith in the Visionary One.”

“Now, brahmin, you must divide the Gracious One's bodily relics in eight equal divisions.”

“Certainly, dear Sir,” said Doṇa the brahmin, after replying to that community and group, and dividing the Gracious One's bodily relics in eight equal divisions, he said this to that community and group: “Please give me this urn, dear Sirs, and I also will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the urn.” The Commentary tells a rather embarrassing story here. It says that Doṇa stole the right eye-tooth of the Buddha while the others were distracted and put it into his turban, but Sakka then stole it and enshrined it in the Cūḷāmaṇi shrine in Tāvatiṁsa Heaven. Realising that it had gone Doṇa then asked for the urn!02 They gave the urn to Doṇa the brahmin.

Then the Moriyā of Pepper Wood heard: “The Gracious One, it seems, has attained Final Emancipation in Kusinārā.” Then the Moriyā of Pepper Wood sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinārā, (saying): “The Gracious One was a Noble, and we also are Nobles, we are worthy of a share of the Gracious One's bodily relics, we will make a Shrine and hold a festival for the bodily relics.”

“There are no more portions of the Gracious One's relics, (instead) take the ashes from the Gracious One's body.” Therefore they took away the ashes.

Then the Magadhan King Ajātasattu, the son of Lady Wisdom, made a Shrine for the Gracious One's bodily relics at Rājagaha and held a festival. Comm: Kusinārato yāva Rājagahaṁ pañcavīsati yojanāni ... evaṁ dhātuyo gahetvā āgacchantānaṁ sattavassānisatta māsāni sattadivasāni vītivattāni; from Kusināra to Rājagaha is 25 leagues ... while the relics were being brought, 7 years, 7 months, and 7 days passed by.03

The Licchavīs from Vesālī made a Shrine for the Gracious One's bodily relics at Vesālī and held a festival.

The Sakyas from Kapilavatthu made a Shrine for the Gracious One's bodily relics at Kapilavatthu and held a festival.

The Bulas of Allakappa made a Shrine for the Gracious One's bodily relics at Allakappa and held a festival.

The Koliyas of Rāmagāma made a Shrine for the Gracious One's bodily relics at Rāmagāma and held a festival.

The Veṭhadīpaka brahmin made a Shrine for the Gracious One's bodily relics at Veṭṭhadīpa and held a festival.

The Mallas of Pāvā made a Shrine for the Gracious One's bodily relics at Pāvā and held a festival.

The Mallas of Kusinārā made a Shrine for the Gracious One's bodily relics at Kusinārā and held a festival.

Doṇa the brahmin made a Shrine for the urn and held a festival.

The Moriyās of Pepper Wood made a Shrine for the ashes at Pepper Wood and held a festival.

Thus there were eight Shrines for the bodily relics, the Urn Shrine was the ninth, and the Ashes Shrine was the tenth, and so it was in former times. The Commentary says these words were added at the 3rd Council. It also tells how Ven. Mahākassapa later collected most of the relics together again and that King Ajātasattu build a shrine for them. This was rediscovered by King Asoka who had them enshrined in the 84,000 monasteries he built throughout Jambudīpa. The story is obviously told to try to reconcile the two traditions.04

 

The Distribution of the Buddha's Relics

 

(There were) eight measures of the Visionary's relics, The following verses, which the Commentary says were added in Tambapaṇṇi (Śri Laṅkā), also record the growing dispersion of the relics. They should be compared with the even more advanced last chapter of Buddhavaṁsa, one of whose verses is quoted verbatim below and another of which seems to be paraphrased.05
Seven measures are honoured in Jambudīpa,
One measure of the most Noble Man
The King of the Dragons honours in Rāmagāma.

One tooth is worshipped in the Heavens,
And one is honoured in the city of Gandhāra,
A further one in the realm of the Kaliṅga King,
And the King of the Dragons honours one more.

Through the power (of these relics) this Lovely Earth
Is decorated like a most excellent hall.
Thus this body of the Visionary One,
(Is) well esteemed by those who respect the respectable.

Honoured by Lords of Divinities, Lords of Dragons, and Kings,
(The relics are) honoured by true Lords of Men,
Worship those (relics) after holding up your hands,
A Buddha is rare even in a hundred aeons.

Altogether forty even teeth, the hair, and body hair (relics) were
Carried off successively by the Divinities to the (various) Universes.

The Discourse about the Great Emancipation,
The Third (in the Mahāvagga section of the Long Discourses) is Finished.