Amulets in Buddhism?

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Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby ylee111 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:38 pm

I am Chinese from a Pure Land Buddhist family (I think we are as Buddhist as "the average Christian family in America)." In many of my community temples in New York City, charms and wards and amulets are given out for donations. I am curious about what other specific sects of Buddhism does this practice occur in? I have seen the amulets in many Thai Nikkaya and Tibetan/Himalayan traditions and someone told me Nichiren sects as well. I find this phenomenon fascinating as from what I understand it is not in the core teachings yet it occurs cross-culturally in the Buddhist groups across Asia (but not in the West despite the mystical revival of the 60s).

I am new so excuse me for any faux pas I may make.
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby Blue Garuda » Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:32 am

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Need help on finding info on amulets in Buddhism.

Postby ylee111 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:04 am

Thanks for the reply Blue Garuda. I think a book on the matter across Asian cultures would be helpful. Or a blog with charms from all different Buddhist traditions which follow the practice.

I am specifically looking to find out more about this cross-cultural phenomenon because I am seeking out sources for omamori , thochags, and other charms in New York City temples to give to my parents and family.

Do temples in either the Zen sects or Jodo traditions believe in handing out items to people to help them obtain "good karma"?
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby Wesley1982 » Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:54 pm

If you visit a particular Buddhist country/province/region ask the locals and will show them to you, or have have one made for a cash sale... (real amulet prolly cost more $)
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby Kaji » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:19 am

ylee111 wrote:I am Chinese from a Pure Land Buddhist family (I think we are as Buddhist as "the average Christian family in America)." In many of my community temples in New York City, charms and wards and amulets are given out for donations. I am curious about what other specific sects of Buddhism does this practice occur in? I have seen the amulets in many Thai Nikkaya and Tibetan/Himalayan traditions and someone told me Nichiren sects as well. I find this phenomenon fascinating as from what I understand it is not in the core teachings yet it occurs cross-culturally in the Buddhist groups across Asia (but not in the West despite the mystical revival of the 60s).

I am new so excuse me for any faux pas I may make.

Can you read Chinese? If so, I could send you some information in Chinese that I have come across about Buddhist amulets/relics and how to properly handle and use them. In Chinese Buddhism especially the Pure Land school, the Buddha beads that one can wear on a wrist are the most common type.
Namas triya-dhvikānāṃ sarva tathāgatānām!
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby plwk » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:54 am

In Chinese Pure Land Buddhism, the wrist mala is optionally worn as a recitation counter and a reminder to practice and not as an amulet...the greatest 'amulet' is one's own proper Dharma practice, which is consistent with the Teaching & Discipline, funny how some people would invest their time and resources going after trinklets but would not do the same for Dharma practice...
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby Kaji » Fri Aug 24, 2012 3:48 am

plwk wrote:In Chinese Pure Land Buddhism, the wrist mala is optionally worn as a recitation counter and a reminder to practice and not as an amulet...the greatest 'amulet' is one's own proper Dharma practice, which is consistent with the Teaching & Discipline, funny how some people would invest their time and resources going after trinklets but would not do the same for Dharma practice...

Ah, so it's called a wrist mala, thanks for that. It functions as a recitation counter and reminder to practise, as you write, but it is also classifed a holy item. There are rules and guidelines, for example:
- On the number of beads
- On the bead material
- On where it can be worn (with specific rules on putting it around your neck depending on e.g. a monk's seniority and post in a temple)
- On when it can worn and when it should be taken off, e.g. you should not wear one when going to the toilet or having sex
- On where it should be placed when not worn and used, usually at a Buddhist altar and not a dirty place
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby ylee111 » Fri Aug 24, 2012 4:16 am

Thank you Kaji. I cannot read Chinese though:).

Curious, do Chinese Ch'an temples give out these amulets?

"...funny how some people would invest their time and resources going after trinklets but would not do the same for Dharma practice..."

"The trinket" is a sigil, which symbolizes one's will and intent, both by the one who consecrated it and the one who puts reverence into it. For example, you do not pray to the statue of Kannon (Kwan Yin) but bestow homage to Kwan Yin symbolized by the statue. However, omamori purchased in the form of "Hello Kitty" are probably "no bueno."
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby plwk » Fri Aug 24, 2012 4:42 am

In Chinese Pure Land Buddhism, the wrist mala is optionally worn as a recitation counter and a reminder to practice and not as an amulet...the greatest 'amulet' is one's own proper Dharma practice, which is consistent with the Teaching & Discipline, funny how some people would invest their time and resources going after trinklets but would not do the same for Dharma practice...

Ah, so it's called a wrist mala, thanks for that. It functions as a recitation counter and reminder to practise, as you write, but it is also classifed a holy item. There are rules and guidelines, for example:
- On the number of beads
- On the bead material
- On where it can be worn (with specific rules on putting it around your neck depending on e.g. a monk's seniority and post in a temple)
- On when it can worn and when it should be taken off, e.g. you should not wear one when going to the toilet or having sex
- On where it should be placed when not worn and used, usually at a Buddhist altar and not a dirty place

Thank you and could you perhaps cite the scriptural/commentarial textual sources/references for the list of do's and don'ts, in order to understand the proper mechanics and validity? I have known about all these but to date, no monastic or laity could refer me to proper sources other than questionable customary oral sayings...

Yes ylee111, I agree on that but when one uses the term 'amulet', there is a general tendency for some to place reliance on it per se for whatever intention and for some, to a point of paranoia that they cannot leave home or do anything without it and goes beyond symbolical gestures of practice reminders... then where is the proper practice of worthy refuge and reliance as seen in the Teaching and Discipline?
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby Kaji » Fri Aug 24, 2012 5:04 am

ylee111 wrote:Thank you Kaji. I cannot read Chinese though:).

Curious, do Chinese Ch'an temples give out these amulets?
(...)

If the amulet is a property of the temple that is meant to be given out, the monk or nun may give it to you. However, from my observation this is not a usual thing in temples in Mainland China. Having sutra and other texts on shelves for people to take is much common.

In many temples in China nowadays, especially the bigger temples, there are merchants outside that sell amulets and other Buddhist items. I have mixed feelings about buying things from them.
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Re: Amulets in Buddhism?

Postby Kaji » Fri Aug 24, 2012 5:10 am

plwk wrote:Thank you and could you perhaps cite the scriptural/commentarial textual sources/references for the list of do's and don'ts, in order to understand the proper mechanics and validity? I have known about all these but to date, no monastic or laity could refer me to proper sources other than questionable customary oral sayings...

Yes ylee111, I agree on that but when one uses the term 'amulet', there is a general tendency for some to place reliance on it per se for whatever intention and for some, to a point of paranoia that they cannot leave home or do anything without it and goes beyond symbolical gestures of practice reminders... then where is the proper practice of worthy refuge and reliance as seen in the Teaching and Discipline?

No, I am not able to cite scriptural/commentarial textual sources/references. These are simply things that I have learned, which I do not disagree with. I have been taught that respect, sincerity and humility are key to good and proper practice. For example, one should always use both hands, which should be cleaned beforehand, to hold a book containing sutra - this is for a high level of respect for the sarira of the Buddha's Dharma body. If you treat it as a comic book, not only does that show a lack of respect, the Dharma protectors might do something about it... so I've been taught.
Namas triya-dhvikānāṃ sarva tathāgatānām!
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