(42) Experiencing Puja at the Buddha's Tooth Temple in Kandy - Thoughts on what traditional Buddhism in Sri Lanka is all about.

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Travels to Buddhist sites in India and Sri Lanka (42)
Experiencing Pooja at the Buddha's Tooth Temple in Kandy - Thoughts on what traditional Buddhism in Sri Lanka is all about.

Previous Article(41) Visit to Kandy, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka - Discover the best promenade for a walk! Enjoy the greenery, the lake, and the beautiful historic city"In the previous article, I introduced the streets of Kandy, but in this article, I would like to finally talk about the symbol of this city, the Buddha Tooth Temple.

Buddha Tooth Temple in KandyWikipedia.

The Buddha Tooth Temple, as its name suggests, is a temple where Buddha's teeth are housed. Let's start with this Buddha's Tooth Temple in Kandy.A History of Buddhism in New Asia 04: Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, Buddhism in Stillness and Motion.Let's look at the explanation of

Kandy is the last capital of the Sinhala dynasty and home to the "Dharada Maaligawa" (the Temple of the Buddha's Tooth), which is revered as the holiest place of pilgrimage. The Buddha tooth (canine tooth) was brought from India in the 4th century, and since then it has been a symbol of kingship. Wherever kings resided, a building for the tooth was built.

When the Sinhala dynasty was established in Kandy, the Buddha tooth was moved to Kandy and dedicated there. Since then, Kandy has become a sacred Buddhist site as the town of "Buddha Tooth Temple" and is still visited by many pilgrims. The Buddha tooth is displayed to the public once a year during the month of Asara (July to August), and during the festival called "Perahara Festival," a magnificent elephant parades through the city of Kandy with a special container on its back in which the Buddha tooth is enshrined.

Some line breaks have been made to make it easier to read on smartphones, etc.

Kosei Shuppansha, Yasuaki Nara and Masahiro Shimoda (eds.), New Asian Buddhist History 04: Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, Still and Moving Buddhism, p. 155-156

I recommend this video, which I introduced in my previous article about the Perahera Festival, for easy understanding.

At the root of this festival is also the Buddha tooth.

The Buddha tooth, inherited from the Anuradhapura period, became a symbol of royal authority. Although there is now a Buddha tooth temple in Kandy, there used to be a Buddha tooth temple in Polonnaruwa.

Where there is kingship, there is Buddha's tooth. Conversely, Sri Lankan Buddhism is Buddhism because of kingship.

To begin with, Buddhism in this country began when King Tissa met Elder Mahinda. In other words, from the very beginning of its history, it has had an extremely strong connection with royal authority. This is the difference from India. Buddhism in India was also mainly donated by royalty and aristocracy and big merchants, but it was not integrated with the governance of the country. This is also related to modern Buddhism (Protestant Buddhism), which I will discuss in the next article, so please keep this in mind.

Let us now look at the actual Buddha's Tooth Temple.

Once inside the precincts, the Buddha Tooth Temple is located straight ahead.

Behind that white exterior wall is a hall where Buddhist teeth are kept.

I decided to visit the hall at the same time as watching the evening prayer (pooja) at 6:30 pm.

The sight of the gleaming Buddha's tooth temple naturally uplifts one's spirits.

Let us now enter the hall.

We came in front of the hall where the Buddha's teeth are kept. The ivory that stands in front of the hall is impressive.

And when I arrived here, I was surprised to find that the hall where the Buddha's tooth is housed is outside. The building and its white exterior walls were built around the hall. This was unexpected.

As time approached, a band waiting in front of the hall began playing drums and flutes. At this point, the hall was packed. The hall is so popular these days that early reservations are essential. Originally, there were quite a few locals who came to the festival, but recently foreign tourists have joined the crowd. It is no wonder the place is so packed. It is just like Kyoto.

The monks have arrived. The chanting is about to begin in the hall, but we outside could not see it. The following is a video I took.

The Buddha tooth itself is enshrined on the second floor of this hall.

In front of the Buddha Hall on the second floor, there is a huge crowd as everyone waits to see the Buddha's teeth, which will be unveiled later in the day.

Beyond this is the room where the Buddha's tooth is enshrined.

After the VIPs and special visitors have finished their visit, the doors are opened to general visitors.

The golden object at the end of the door is the Buddha's tooth storage vessel. The Buddha's canine teeth are stored in this huge crown-shaped vessel. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the hall. This is the limit. If you are interested in what this golden Buddha bowl looks like, we recommend you to come to Kandy to see the real thing.

I saw it up close and was simply overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance, size, and variety of decorations. The overwhelming light of authority itself made me feel its history of being worshipped not only as a religious belief but also as a proof of royal authority.

The puja at the Buddha's Tooth Temple was indeed an interesting experience. It was very different from the pujas in Haridwar, India.

Haridwar was full of chaos and heat. In contrast, the Sri Lankan Buddhist temple had tropical flute and drum music, but the overall atmosphere was very subdued and peaceful. It was orderly.

The differences between Hinduism and Buddhism, or perhaps the differences between Indians and Sinhalese, are also reflected there. It is still interesting to compare them.

Main entrance to Butsudoji Temple

Now that I have told you about the pooja at the Buddha Tooth Temple, I would like to tell you an interesting fact about this temple.

This hall is located in the precincts of Butsudenji Temple. Here is what is enshrined here.

To my surprise, the Hindu goddess Pattini is enshrined in the precincts of the temple.

There is also a temple dedicated to the indigenous god Natha in the immediate vicinity.

Why is there a temple of Hinduism and indigenous deities in the Buddha Tooth Temple, the sacred site of Sri Lankan Buddhism?

This is because in Sri Lankan Buddhism, Buddha and other deities were considered to coexist.

In other words, Hinduism and indigenous deities have continued to coexist with Sri Lankan Buddhism as entities that revere and protect Buddha's teachings. This is exactly the same as the Japanese practice of Shintoism and Buddhism.

This is the so-called Buddhist pantheon of Sri Lanka, a form of faith.

And here is the important part: Buddha is indeed at the top of the pantheon (pyramid hierarchy), but since he has transcended the mundane world, he is unfortunately not suitable for prayers for the simple desires of believers, such as "I want money" or "I want more success in life. So people pray to Hindu gods and indigenous deities. This is how the division of roles came to be.

Thus, in Sri Lanka, Buddhism and other deities have been worshipped in a fusion.

In addition, the faith of ordinary lay believers used to be(30) A Brief Explanation of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka - A Word on its Differences from Japanese Buddhism.I have something more to add here, which I talked about in my article on the

Traditional Sri Lankan Buddhism performs what is called the Pirit Ritual.

This is like a Buddhist ritual in Japan. At each milestone in one's life, a priest is called to recite sutras and listen to sermons. Pilgrimage rites are held on the anniversary of death as well as at funerals. This is a very important Buddhist practice of making offerings to the dead.

This is the oldest chedi in Sri Lanka called Thuparama in Anuradhapura. This is a very important holy place where Buddha's right clavicle is housed, and I actually experienced the Pirit ritual here.

The monks of Anuradhapura Monastery read sutras to me and I prayed to them. Even though I had no context in Sri Lanka, I was touched by this moment.

Through these Pirit rituals, there was a strong connection between the ordained and the ordained. This is similar to the situation in Japan. Although the countries and cultures are different, the similarities are still there. If you are interested in the Pirit Ritual, please read the introductory book by Tamotsu Aoki, ed.The Sacred Land of Sri Lanka: The Rituals and Practices of a Living Buddhism.I would like to recommend the following

And one last point. We must not forget an important point in Sri Lankan folk beliefs.

That is exorcism.

As I discussed in this article, exorcism was a deeply ingrained presence among villagers in Sri Lanka.

A dancing demon wearing a mask like a lama-hage. This demon is also a trickster who makes the villagers laugh with a series of gags and crude jokes. There is a history of healing the people of the village through such devil dances. It has also coexisted with Buddhism in the village.

This exorcism ritual is now a part of the Candian dance. Those who are unfamiliar with exorcism rituals may be "aghast," but after reading Noriyuki Ueda's book, watching this exorcism performance is a fascinating experience. If you come to Kandy, you must see the Candian dance. I was completely fascinated by the hot beat of the taiko drums and the skill of the performers who made the sounds with their own bodies.

When we think of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, we tend to think of strict Buddhism, but the actual beliefs at the level of life were very broad. Only ordained believers adhered to a strict lifestyle, but there were many different layers of beliefs among the lay believers. They also coexisted with the gods and practiced exorcism. The Buddhists, on the other hand, chose to coexist with them rather than reject them.

Sri Lankan Buddhist beliefs are also varied. Strict Buddhism is not all there is.

Now that I have discussed traditional Buddhism in Sri Lanka, I will finally discuss "Protestant Buddhism" in Dharmapala in the next article.

The following article will also be full of surprises for all of you.

Next Article.

Click here to read the previous article.

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