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Sacred relics not being given enough respect

by ANCHALEE KONGRUT, Bangkok Post, June 27, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand -- Have you had enough of mystique with the craze surrounding the Jatukarm Ramathep talisman? If not, click onto e-bay, the popular auction website, and bid for what are purported to be the Lord Buddha's relics. A recent successful bid for one such item was just US$19.99 (642 baht). The seller went by the name ''Holy Buddha''.

<< Objects which are claimed to be relics of the Lord Buddha are now for sale on e-bay, a popular auction website. A group of devout Buddhists sees this as a sign that Buddhism has been degraded. — PHRAKRIT JUNTAWONG

Such bids worry the School for Life Foundation, a small group of devout Buddhists who lobby the Sangha Council and the Supreme Patriarch to ensure the relics are treated with respect.

They believe the relics should be kept secure and that a chedi, or pagoda, is the proper place for this.

Acharavadee Wongsakon, the group's founder, said sales on websites like e-bay are just the tip of the iceberg and warned that the objects on sale could be bogus.

''But what is enraging is that the relics of the founder of Buddhism are treated in a disrespectful manner,'' she said. She criticised the council and high-ranking monks who have turned a blind eye to the problem.

In India, relics excavated from ancient chedis during the period of British colonisation were displayed as artifacts in glass caskets in museums, she said.

In largely Buddhist countries such as Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand, relics should be treated as sacred and kept in chedis where they can be worshipped.

The group will lobby Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to ask the Indian government to remove the relics from public museums and instead put them in chedis.

In Mumbai, India, the construction has already begun of a ''Global Pagoda'' where relics can be kept.

Buddhists believe worshipping the Lord Buddha's relics brings prosperity and happiness.

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