Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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The Tripitaka is not simply an inert collection of manuscripts or books. It is a living thing, a store of ideas that has marked many aspects of social life, from ritual to ethics to mediation practices, to literature, art, and education. The ideas and ideologies of the Tripitaka pervade society. One of the main ways through which the Tripitaka leaves the library and penetrates society is the sermon, which adapts the ideas and ideals of the Tripitaka to suit circumstances and audience. As an example of one sermon genre, the "royally authorized sermon", we translate an excerpt from the Pathamasambodhi Sermon, by Somdet Phra Sangharaja Pussadeva (then holding the rank Phra Sasanasobhana, and one of the most significant figures of 19th century Siamese Buddhism) to present to His Majesty King Rama IV during the Royal Ceremony of Visakha Puja. The excerpt translated here is from Part 4 of the sermon, "The Account of the Distribution of the Relics". Somdet Phra Sangharaja Pussadeva relates how the Brahman Dona distributed Sakyamuni's relics. He takes this as a basis to define and describe the four types of shrines (cetiya): a shrine with physical relics, a shrine by association, a dhamma shrine, and a shrine by designation. He skillfully adapts classical sources-the Tripitaka and its commentaries-to the needs of his time, introducing the subject of Buddha images and examining the value of the cult of relics.

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