The FGS Buddha tooth

The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:29 pm

Elsewhere I have brought up that Foguangshan under Ven. Xingyun's leadership has claimed to have a real Buddha tooth relic from a certain Kunga Rinpoche, which was enshrined in their recently built stupa complex near Gaoxiong, Taiwan.

I personally feel this is a highly questionable claim given the findings presented in Changing Minds: Contributions to the Study of Buddhism and Tibet in Honor of Jeffrey Hopkins.

For the relevant section see Google Books from page 31 here.

There are a few key points to list here.

- The Sakya lineage at the time never heard of a Kunga Rinpoche in India. This Kunga figure is in fact just a monk living in Nepal. The FGS claim he is a rinpoche was either misinformed or misleading.

- There are no historical records of this Buddha tooth in Tibet. The relevant persons in the Tibetan Buddhist community at the time were unaware of this tooth, too.

- AFIK these ten eminent rinpoches that attested to the authenticity of the tooth have not been named.

- Despite having purportedly brought a tooth over from India to Thailand for ceremonies, the Thai royal family was not invited.

- If this was a real Buddha tooth, why wouldn't it have been given to someone like HH Sakya Trizin or HH Dalai Lama? Why pass it onto a Chinese monk who is largely unknown in the Tibetan world?

So, here's my question: does anyone here really believe this is a real Buddha tooth?
Last edited by Astus on Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Call for personal debate
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby LynyrdSkynyrd » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:34 pm

IMHO, it truly does APPEAR to be a complete and total fake. What's the old expression? If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck.....

The burden of proof always rests on the one with something to prove, correct? And thus far, there is no proof. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence (as posted above) that tends to make it look like a sham.

Now, if someone were to produce proof...(proof besides Hsingyun himself said it, which, if you are not a follower of Hsingyun, is not proof) that would be a different story.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:46 pm

Outside of the Chinese speaking world not many people seem to know about this.

In any case, with FGS trying to expand into the English speaking world and offering university programs in English, I think it best that people become aware of these outstanding issues.

Claiming to have a real relic and enshrining it in a huge stupa is no small matter.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Astus » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:50 pm

Is there a single tooth relic anywhere that was confirmed by an independent team of scientists to be at least from around the time of the Buddha? Or any other Buddha relic?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:55 pm

Astus wrote:Is there a single tooth relic anywhere that was confirmed by an independent team of scientists to be at least from around the time of the Buddha? Or any other Buddha relic?


As far as I know, no, but this tooth is purportedly from Tibet, though no record of it exists, and the prominent Tibetans consulted on the matter were unaware of its existence.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Astus » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:08 pm

Indrajala wrote:As far as I know, no, but this tooth is purportedly from Tibet, though no record of it exists, and the prominent Tibetans consulted on the matter were unaware of its existence.


There are a couple of other questions.

Did Buddha live in Tibet? Does the Tibetan government/church have all there records intact from the time before the Communist occupation? Did they have a reliable record of every relics throughout the country? Is the tooth from a temple that is well known? Do other relics in general have some certificate next to them? Is there a way to tell the difference between genuine and fake relics? What is the importance of that tooth relic anyway?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Adamantine » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:21 pm

I suppose the verifiability of any relic is an open question: however, usually in my experience there is some level of provenance that lends a degree of authenticity, going back through generations whom the said relic has been passed down to. For instance, HH Dudjom Rinpoche was personally given many relics by various reputable sources, and all of them have a provenance. Provenance of course is also a significant aspect of deciding on the authenticity of antiques or art, etc.

So it seems in this instance the provenance is not really being shared, and what is known is questionable. Of course, this does not prove it is not a Buddha relic, but it does create a larger justification for critical skepticism.

However, even if it was totally fabricated and a pure fake-- there are certainly worse scandals in Buddhist institutions than this. And we all know the dog's tooth story: even if it is not a valid support, a support for faith can be quite important regardless.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:26 pm

Astus wrote:Did Buddha live in Tibet? Does the Tibetan government/church have all there records intact from the time before the Communist occupation? Did they have a reliable record of every relics throughout the country? Is the tooth from a temple that is well known? Do other relics in general have some certificate next to them? Is there a way to tell the difference between genuine and fake relics? What is the importance of that tooth relic anyway?


Something like a Buddha tooth would have been remarkable even in Tibet. People would have known about it, especially the higher echelons.

Besides remains dug out of archaeological digs, I'm not likely to believe claims of Buddha relics.

Still, in this case the claim is made it was a Buddha tooth that was kept in Tibetan monastery, and yet the Tibetans were unaware of it.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:32 pm

Adamantine wrote:... even if it is not a valid support, a support for faith can be quite important regardless.


That kind of logic can be taken way too far, and frankly it often is: it is all called "skilful means".
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Astus » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:43 pm

Indrajala wrote:Still, in this case the claim is made it was a Buddha tooth that was kept in Tibetan monastery, and yet the Tibetans were unaware of it.


Certain Tibetans currently are unaware of it. Do we have the records of the mentioned temple and information on the area?

Besides remains dug out of archaeological digs, I'm not likely to believe claims of Buddha relics.


Then why is this one so interesting unlike all the others around the world?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:44 pm

Are you implying in the absence of such details the legitimacy of the relic is enhanced?
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Astus » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:45 pm

Indrajala wrote:Are you implying in the absence of such details the legitimacy of the relic is enhanced?


The legitimacy is unknown without evidence. Isn't that logical?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:49 pm

If there are no known historical records of the tooth and present day Tibetans of high rank in the Buddhist establishment are unaware of such a tooth relic, then clearly the legitimacy will be called into question.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:54 pm

If you go to Thailand you can find all sorts of Buddha relics up for sale: bone relics, blood relics, sweat relics, alms bowl left-over rice relics... you name it. You can pick them up real cheap on an ebay auction. So what is the big deal here? Why should anybody here care?
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:57 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:If you go to Thailand you can find all sorts of Buddha relics up for sale: bone relics, blood relics, sweat relics, alms bowl left-over rice relics... you name it. You can pick them up real cheap on an ebay auction. So what is the big deal here? Why should anybody here care?


They built a massive stupa complex to house it. It wasn't cheap.

Actually the real issue in my mind are the misleading details provided. This "Kunga Dorje Rinpoche" for instance was just a monk. Not a rinpoche.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Jikan » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:08 pm

Indrajala wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:If you go to Thailand you can find all sorts of Buddha relics up for sale: bone relics, blood relics, sweat relics, alms bowl left-over rice relics... you name it. You can pick them up real cheap on an ebay auction. So what is the big deal here? Why should anybody here care?


They built a massive stupa complex to house it. It wasn't cheap.

Actually the real issue in my mind are the misleading details provided. This "Kunga Dorje Rinpoche" for instance was just a monk. Not a rinpoche.


coupla questions to help me understand your position (apologies if I'm being dense):

1. why does it matter if the stupa complex was expensive or inexpensive? why is this an issue for you?

2. why does the difference in title between just a monk and full-on rinpoche matter in this instance? (i.e., could this be attributed to a gap in translation or such?)
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:10 pm

Indrajala wrote:They built a massive stupa complex to house it. It wasn't cheap.
And battles and wars were fought over the tooth relic currently housed in Kandy Sri Lanka. So what? Humans will always be humans...
Actually the real issue in my mind are the misleading details provided. This "Kunga Dorje Rinpoche" for instance was just a monk. Not a rinpoche.
Rinpoche just means "precious one". It is an epithet and not really a formal title.
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Jikan » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:17 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Indrajala wrote:They built a massive stupa complex to house it. It wasn't cheap.
And battles and wars were fought over the tooth relic currently housed in Kandy Sri Lanka. So what? Humans will always be humans...

True, but I'd hope we all hold Buddhist institutions to a somewhat higher standard than the all-too-human. Would those warring factions who fought over the Kandy relic be a fair target for criticism on an online Buddhist board had such a thing existed then? Surely yes.

I don't think this is a sensible comparison, though. It seems to me that the FGS stupa complex represents a massive investment in resources in a project I don't understand very well. I'm interested in Indrajala's perspective on it. I would like to hear others, too. Perhaps a better comparison might be the FPMT's Maitreya statue project in India?

I should add that I'm sympathetic to & and appreciative of the work FGS has done in the US (which I am familiar with), such as getting a Buddhist university off the ground near Los Angeles (University of the West). No small achievement.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby jmlee369 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:23 pm

While Buddhism has a long history of spending vast sums of wealth on various monuments, I feel that in the modern era, especially within a movement that calls itself Humanistic Buddhism, it is necessary to reconsider the benefits of offering merit making opportunities in such a manner (the story of the poor woman's single lamp comes to mind). For one thing, if anyone involved intentionally deceived the public, that is a violation of precepts on multiple levels. Also, the sutra quotation regarding the four tooth relics (if we take it seriously) comes from one of the Mahaparinirvana Sutras in the Chinese canon, with the claim that of the four relics, one was taken by Indra, another by nagas, leaving just two for the human realm. This brings up doubts more than anything, since there are at least 4 purported tooth relics in this world, each surrounded by controversy. We have the one in Kandy that lead to bloodshed, the one in Taiwan with murky origins, the one in Singapore that has been plagued with doubts from the start, and the one in China that is said to be a non-human tooth. It's hard not to be a bit cynical, especially considering how much power and money is involved with all these relics. I can't help but imagine all the other ways in which the money could have been spent.
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Re: The FGS Buddha tooth

Postby Indrajala » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:42 am

Jikan wrote:1. why does it matter if the stupa complex was expensive or inexpensive? why is this an issue for you?


It swallowed a lot of money that came presumably from Buddhist devotees.

FGS is an influential organization around Asia. They are significant in places like Singapore and Malaysia, and elsewhere with the Chinese diaspora.

What they do sets a great precedent for other organizations, too. When you're the big guy, others tend to emulate.


2. why does the difference in title between just a monk and full-on rinpoche matter in this instance? (i.e., could this be attributed to a gap in translation or such?)


It is a formal title, isn't it? If the PR department was misinformed and misled, okay, but then there are other details that need to be addressed.

It all sounds rather dishonest and deceptive.
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