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Stūpas and Relics in Esoteric Buddhism

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Chapter Summary

The veneration of relics occupies a special place in Buddhism, as it does in many religious traditions. Buddhist traditions distinguish different types of relics. The earliest canonical description of the use of a stūpa is found in the Mahāparinibbāna sutta and concerns the internment and worship of the Buddha's relics in a stūpa. The worship of stūpas has been a central feature of Mahāyāna Buddhism from the time of its inception during the second century BCE. Relics and stūpas played a key role in the propagation of the Buddhist teaching in South and East Asia. Esoteric Buddhism continues Buddhist traditions regarding stūpas and relics but adds two distinctive dimensions to their use. There are several important scriptures and manuals in the esoteric Buddhist tradition in China that detail various aspects of the worship of stūpas and pagodas.

Keywords: Esoteric Buddhism; Mahāyāna Buddhism; relics; stūpas



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