Aemilius wrote:How about the Diamond sutra perspective? " Those who seek me in form and sound see me not", Tathagatas are seen in seeing the Dharmakaya, the Truthbody! What then is the seeing of some little fragments of bones ? Maybe it helps you to realize that they once were real living persons ??
The lines say the truth for sure. As buddha said, to read, think, understand and realise prajapramitra can accumulate much more merit than bowing to buddha's stupas.
However, Buddha himself also said in ratnasiddhi dharani tantra: 'buddha's relic is more precious than wish-fulfilling jewel, those who hold it will not be stained by downfall, like one who holds magic horn will keep the water away for 6 feet.' Also in Nagaraja sutra: 'those who see even the remainders of buddhist master's body, will not go to three lower realms.' There are many many more buddha's words about the benefits of paying respect to relics in both mahayana and hinayana texts. When you said 'what then is the seeing of some little fragments of bones', it seems that you either didn't read them, or you doesn't take it seriously.
Many great Tibetan lamas traveled long distance, just to bow to the famous Shakyamuni statue in Lhasa. Why they do so? Seems that they don't understand the Vajra-cutting sutra?
We need to be aware of an occasion: people tend to think 'oh, I understand this, I have high view, I don't need to pay respect to Buddha's body speech and mind representives because they are just materials.' But actually they can't even take care of their own mental weaknesses or outside negative circumstances. When they got problem, they cry and pray to dieties, dharma protectors as FORMS, they ask this and that masters for MO and blessing, seek some puja or mantras so badly that they totally forget the dharmakaya they kept on mouth is beyond good or bad. When they die, they can't be even as confident as an old word-blind lady who have accumulated many 'material' merits.
Actually in highest view, you don't need to chant mantra. Mantra is 'sound' isn't it. Visualisation is 'form' isn't it. You don't even need a flesh and blood master to guide you. However beings can't see dharmakaya directly. Even most of Buddhists can't. They always say 'emptiness, dharmakaya, nature of mind', but they just get the idea from books, like a tropical resident talking about north pole from travel books.
Remember what sutra says: 'boddhisattvas never get tired of accumulating merits' 'there is no too small merit for boddhisattva to accumulate.' Because merits and realisation are together, you can't really realise emptiness without merits. Also remember what heart sutra says: form is shunyata, SHUNYATA IS FORM. emptiness is not to deny buddha's great wisdom, compassion and ability. The blessing is really powerful, while it's shunyata AT THE SAME TIME.
I think if you have very strong faith and devotion, you will get equal blessing at your own home when praying. but don't forget, as buddha's mantra doesn't only work for people have faith: mantra can bless people or animals who have no idea on Buddhism, so does relics. The great compassion and abilities of buddha and great masters are beyond imagination.
Finally, thank you for reminding me to keep the shunyata view when I go to the next relic tour. I hope many people here will also have the luck to see those relics, keep buddha's teaching in mind at the same time.