Bliss and Wisdom’s treasure trove of relics in Taiwan and Singapore – rare relics of the Buddha, Lama Atisha, Lama Tsongkhapa, and more
Bliss and Wisdom founder Master Jih-Chang passed away on 15 Oct 2004 in Xiamen, China. According to the Nov 2004 issue of Bliss and Wisdom’s official magazine, Voice of Bliss and Wisdom,
Before Master died, his thoughts were clear, earnestly advising his disciples on Buddhist practice, as well as the future direction Bliss and Wisdom should take, showing that he clearly knew he was about to die. Even after his death, his countenance was peaceful, and he smiled naturally. For three days, his disciples chanted sincerely and maintained a quiet environment for him. Three days later, when his disciples were changing his clothes, they discovered that his body was soft, his joints were softer and more mobile than usual, and his skin smooth and shiny. His originally swollen feet also healed. After his cremation, his bones were fresh and white, with numerous and colorful relics.
Bliss and Wisdom appears to have been suggesting that Master Jih-Chang was practicing advanced meditation techniques to achieve enlightenment in the bardo state after his medical death, a practice known as thukdham. A short description of how this can be achieved was given by the Dalai Lama. One recent master who achieved this was the former 100th Ganden Tripa Lobsang Nyima.
On 22 Oct 2004, just one week after Master Jih-Chang’s passing, his relics were brought back to Taiwan. Venerable Fan Yin, former first abbot of Fengshan Monastery, spoke to the devotees before the relics arrived, according to Voice magazine.
Venerable Fan Yin told the devotees that the ceremony to welcome Master’s relics is not an occasion for grieving or farewell, but a celebration of Master’s perfection of the glorious wisdom body. We should be happy for him, and contain our grieving, solemnly welcoming Master’s relics, and praying that our teachers will reincarnate in our midst with through their willpower.
Three years later, Bliss and Wisdom crafted a stupa to contain the relics, known as the Stupa of Honor and Victory (尊勝塔). The stupa was installed in Dabei Vihara (大悲精舍) on 27 Nov 2007. According to Voice magazine, the reigning abbot of Fengshan Monastery, Ven Ru Zheng, supposedly traveled to India in Jul 2005 and received three Buddha relics from the Dalai Lama, as well as the Dalai Lama’s robe. Other items in the stupa, of unknown provenance, include a bone relic from Lama Atisha, a hair relic from Lama Tsongkhapa, the body relic of Lama Ensapa (posthumously recognized as the 3rd Panchen Lama), the robes of the 10th Panchen Lama, and a bone relic from Geshe Lobsang Gyatso of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics.
Out of these relics, Lama Ensapa’s relic and the 10th Panchen Lama’s robes are particularly significant because both are likely to come from Chinese territory, or a Chinese-sanctioned lama or temple.
According to Voice magazine, Lama Ensapa‘s physical body shrank magically after he passed away. It was placed in a Tibetan temple for hundreds of years and hidden from the Communists during the Cultural Revolution before being re-discovered. An unidentified master gifted a portion of his physical body to Bliss and Wisdom, to be placed in the stupa.
The 10th Panchen Lama supported the Chinese government when the Dalai Lama escaped to India, and eventually held the post of Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress, China’s national legislature. He died in 1989 on Chinese territory. In light of these facts, it is highly likely that only the Chinese authorities would have access to his robes, and the robes could not have been presented to Bliss and Wisdom without Chinese approval.
Years later, Venerable Fan Yin reveals that Master Jih-Chang never produced any relics, and did not die peacefully. He claims that he was manipulated into claiming that there were relics. According to his statement on 21 Jun 2017,
We saw that Master’s eyes were protruding, his stomach was bloated and we were all shocked. Mary Jin told the senior monks that Master Jih-Chang was expressing an emanation of the wrathful deity Mahakala. We were all cheated. When Master was cremated, Jin claimed that she saw Master Jih-Chang in the form of the wrathful deity Mahakala, filling the entire sky, but none of us could see it.
We all saw that Master’s remains did not contain any relics. The supposed relics in the stupa are all fakes. I was surprised then but suppressed my suspicions. Those who had their suspicions have all left.
Adding to the already impressive array of relics now housed in Hushan Campus, more relics arrived in June this year. According to Bliss and Wisdom sangha’s Facebook page, Mihintale Monastery of Sri Lanka presented the Buddha’s relics to Fengshan Monastery on 30 Jun 2017.
The very generous abbot of Mihintale also gave Buddha relics to Bliss and Wisdom Monastery in Singapore. A grand ceremony was held to welcome the relics on 10 Aug 2017, with “fairy maidens” leading the procession. Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung also graced the occasion.
If handing over two sets of relics seems generous, this is not the first time Mihintale Monastery has given relics away. In 2000, the Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, also received relics originating from Mihintale abbot Dhammaratna.
In 1995, Mihintale Monastery abbot Ven Dhammaratana donated two relics of Buddha to Ven Saranankara Nayaka. In 2000, Ven Saranankara brought this sacred relic of Gotama Buddha to Malaysia, housing it at Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple in Kuala Lumpur.
While thousands of Bliss and Wisdom followers gathered at BW Monastery in Singapore to welcome the relics, some former Bliss and Wisdom followers were not impressed.
“I find it strange that Mihintale has so many relics to give away,” said Woo, a Malaysian.
“Relics are extremely rare and genuine ones are treated as national treasures in Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. They are guarded 24/7 and seldom loaned to other countries,” said Chaloem, a Thai immigrant living in Hong Kong.
In 2012, a temporary display of Indian Buddha relics in Sri Lanka took place only after a formal request from Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “The relics will have the status of a Head of State in Sri Lanka,” reported The Hindu. It was transported on a special Indian Air Force aircraft, and received by the Sri Lankan President in Colombo, Sri Lanka.