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“Nirvana, the Ultimate Happiness”
Special Exhibition at the Central Buddhist Museum
Proof of Awakening: Sari Relics in One Place
A large number of well-known sari (sacred relics) in Korea were recently displayed all in one location. The Korean Buddhism History and Culture Memorial Hall at the Central Buddhism Museum of Jogye Order of Korea held this exhibition from July 1 to August 24 – the largest in fifteen years. This special exhibition entitled “Nirvana: the Ultimate Happiness,” concerned sari or the worship of sacred relics. This was an opportunity to revisit the true meaning of “Nirvana” as there were a total of 938 articles on display, ranging from four national treasures to seventeen treasures along with 171 well-known cultural objects from around Korea.
Sari or sacred relics, resulting from the cremation of Buddhist practitioners, are physical proof of how high the practitioner’s level of cultivation was with regard to the ultimate goal of Buddhism – Nirvana. In particular, the Sarijangeomgu (sari containers)or metal craftwork container storing the ‘Jinsinsari (Buddha’s genuine sacred relics) which was created to pay tribute to the spirit of the Buddha, represents not only immeasurable sincere devotion, but also extraordinary artistic significance.
The sacred relics (the Jinsinsari)and Sarijangeomguwere shown to the public for the first time by the original owner Hyundeungsa Temple in Gapyung, Gyeonggido Province after these were returned by the Samsung Foundation of Culture in 2005. Additionally, the Mugujeonggwang Great Dharani Sutra was only shown until July 6 because of concerns related to its preservation.
Wangheungsagisarigi or bowls for the sacred relics from Buyeo County, Treasure No. 176 in the exhibition, were the oldest sari containers in the country. In this Sarajangeomgu, sacred relics were enshrined in a carefully crafted gold sari container which was encased in a silver container, and again in a bronze metallic sari container. The inscription of the Sarajangeomgu was traced back to the time of King Changwang in Baejae (577 C.E.), so it received its honorary place among relics in the country. Along with sacred relics, porcelain, Sarajangeomgu (National Treasure No. 126) and the Mugujeonggwang Great Dharani Sutra, the world’s oldest wooden block print, found inside three storied Seokgatop pagoda of Bulguksa temple were well-received by visitors.