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Relics of Shakyamuni.jpg
Various ?ar?ra from the Buddha and various students in the collection of the Maitreya Project
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Buddha relics from Kanishka the Great's stupa in Peshawar, Pakistan, now in Mandalay, Burma. Teresa Merrigan, 2005

?ar?ra is a generic term referring to Buddhist relics, although in common usage it usually refers to pearl or crystal-like bead-shaped objects that are purportedly found among the cremated ashes of Buddhist spiritual masters. Relics of the Buddha after cremation are termed dh?tu in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta.[1] ?ar?ra are held to emanate or incite 'blessings' and 'grace' (Sanskrit: adhih?na) within the mindstream and experience of those connected to them.[2] Sarira are also believed to ward off evil in the Himalayan Buddhist tradition.


?ar?ra? (pronounced sharirah) means "body" in Sanskrit. When used in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit texts to mean "relics", it is always used in the pluralar?r. The term ringsel is a loanword from the Tibetan language. Both of these terms are ambiguous in English; they are generally used as synonyms, although according to some interpretations, ringsels are a subset of ?ar?ras.

?ar?ra can refer to:

  • Dharmak?ya ?ar?ra, which are sutras as told by the Buddha. According to Ding Fubao's Dictionary of Buddhist Terms, a Dharma body ?ar?ra is "the Sutra as told by the Buddha: That which is unchanging in what is told by the Buddha, is of the same property as the essence of the Buddha himself, hence it is called the 'dharma body ?ar?ra'".
  • Remains of the Buddha or other spiritual masters, either cremated remains or other pieces, including a finger bone or a preserved body, similar to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox incorruptibles.
  • Broken-body ?ar?ras refers specifically to cremated remains.
  • When used without qualification, it generally refers to the pearl-like remnant of a master left after cremation.

Pearl-like ?ar?ras

Although the term ?ar?ra 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 ?ar?ras are deliberately left by the consciousness of a master for veneration, and that the beauty of the ?ar?ras depends on how well the masters had cultivated their mind and souls. ?ar?ra come in a variety of colours, 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. ?ar?ras 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 ?ar?ra as an offering.

In the Korean Samguk yusa it is said that the monk Myojong received a ?ar?ra from a turtle which caused others to treat the monk better.[3]

The occurrence of ?ar?ra is not restricted to ancient times, and many Buddhists have shown that ?ar?ra are not limited to humans or masters. Many texts of Pure Land Buddhism report ?ar?ras of many adherents, some occurring recently. Some Buddhists associate a student's spiritual life with the amount and condition of the ?ar?ra they leave after cremation. Many Pure Land Buddhists believe Amit?bha's power manifests cremated remains into ?ar?ra. Many claim that pearls of ?ar?ra rain at the funerals of eminent monks. There are reports that ?ar?ra may appear, multiply or disappear, depending on a keeper's thoughts. One's vow may also be important. One legend holds that the translator Kum?raj?va wanted to demonstrate that his translations were not false; as a result his tongue remained intact after cremation.[]

Scientific analysis

Relics of buddha from the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand

There is evidence that under certain conditions of heating, human bones can form crystalline structures.[4] In one chemical analysis, ?ar?ras were found to be composed of the constituent elements of both bones and stones.[5]

This, however, does not explain why ?ar?ras should be found only in monks and not in other cremated human bodies.

Documentary films

Pearl relics are documented in the 2008 film, Unmistaken Child, among the cremation ashes of Geshe Lama Konchog.

In Javanese language

Javanese has a strong historical bond with the Hindu tradition and Sanskrit liturgical language. ?ar?ra is also used in Archaic (Kawi) Javanese, preserving its original meaning of 'body' or 'human body'. The word also finds its way into the modern Javanese language as "slira" with the same meaning. "Sliramu" (strictly translated as 'your body') and "sliraku" (strictly translated as 'my body') are usually used in poems or songs to replace "you" and "I", respectively. The word is not common but is used in both oral and written contexts.

See also


  1. ^ *"Maha-parinibbana Sutta,"
  2. ^ Martin, Dan (September 1994). "Pearls from Bones: Relics, Chortens, Tertons and the Signs of Saintly Death in Tibet". Numen. 41 (3): 274. doi:10.2307/3270352.
  3. ^ Il-yeon: Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea, translated by Tae-Hung Ha and Grafton K. Mintz. Book Two, page 100f. Silk Pagoda (2006). ISBN 1-59654-348-5
  4. ^ "Scanning electron microscope observations of heat-treated human bone". Forensic Sci. Int. 74 (1-2): 29-45. June 1995. doi:10.1016/0379-0738(95)01735-2. PMID 7665130.
  5. ^ "A Brief Introduction of Forshang World Foundation". Forshang.org. Retrieved .

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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