For the past few days, the facebook of Buddhist in SE Asia is abuzzed with the news of the death of a Chinese Monk in Indonesia. What made this mundane affair amazing is the relics that appeared after his cremation.
Buddhists believe that great practitioners will have relics after cremation. See the shiny pearl like stuff attached to the bones in the picture above?
In one way, it motivates the disciple to practice harder for enlightenment. Such relics are considered a miracle and Buddhist are delighted by their occurrence. An otherwise sad affair of death becomes an occasion of celebration and devotion for the devotees when relics are found after cremation.
In another story, I had a friend whose father died of cancer when she was 15 years old. Her dad was a Pureland practitioner and passed away at home while she was attending school. According to her story, her entire apartment was mysteriously suffused with the scent of lotus on the day of her father’s death. After cremation, there was a singular white relic that her family brought home to be honored at the family altar. The miraculous part of this story is that the relic continue to grow in size over the years.
Sakyamuni Buddha also left behind multiple relics after his cremation. Likewise, his close disciples at that time. If you are interested, exhibition of their relics can be seen at the Buddha tooth relic temple in Singapore. You’ll be amazed http://www.btrts.org.sg/sacred-relics-of-the-buddha/
Another temple that host relics is in Bangkok. Wat Pathum Wanaram near Siam Paragon. It is in the meditation hall and you’ll see people circumabulating it.
A word of caution though. Craving and greed for relics also cause suffering.
It was recorded that a war nearly broke out because Buddhist disciples (the kings of various states in India) were fighting over the rights to keep these shining relics immediately after Buddha’s cremation!
Besides relics, some Buddhist masters may leave behind a non-decomposing body or incorruptible body. The Buddhist honorably name such remains as Vajra Body. (indestructible body) One of the most famous uncorrupted remains belongs to the sixth Zen patriarch Hui Neng. Certain temples in Taiwan and Hongkong also host Vajra body of their past abbot or abbess.
Then there were cases of spontaneous combustion. The practitioner passed away, very dead. Then the body just burst into flame and self cremate, leaving the surrounding unharmed by the fierce fire.
There are also account of practitioner who passed away in Sitting posture of meditation etc. Specifically, passing away while standing up is a considered a miraculous feat by Zen Buddhist.
Last but not least (based on my limited knowledge) is the rainbow body in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. The practitioner passed away and the body just shrank, it can continue shrinking until it simply disappear (in some cases) When that happen, it is said that the body dissolve into light. Some eye witnesses claim that light is emitted during the process.
Imagine the size of a full grown person shrinking to the size of a toddler or smaller (30 cm) or completely vanishes. It is amazing to me. (all within a period of 7 days or lesser!)