The following is the greater part of an article that originally appeared on-line
at the site of the Tsurphu Foundation. That article derives from Ken Holmes'
1995 book, Karmapa.
WHITE BONE RELICS
This is a concise history of the various relics of different sizes, shapes and colors, which were found at Tsurphu during the reconstruction of
the monastery. Many small, white, round bones were found buried in the earth.
Relics such as these often come from past Buddhas or Bodhisattvas of the tenth
If one has strong faith and devotion, thousands of relics often manifest from just one.
It is essential to keep it in a very pure and clean place, cared for very well.
Prayers and offerings should be done; otherwise it may not multiply.
These relic bones are often round, in other dimensions could be considered being a precipitation of bliss arising from the central nervous
system of highly realized masters and the activity of the Bodhisattvas. These precious
"rinsels" (as they are known in Tibetan) exude a powerful blessing, as they are from the very body of the Buddha and the Karmapa (who is
prophesied to be the Sixth Buddha of this aeon). They are often used for the
consecration of stupas, temples and shrines. Always treated with the utmost
respect, they are kept in special, (preferably high) places and can also be worn
for protection and blessings.
Usually they are not taken internally. However, they may be taken internally
when one is very sick and close to death. When they are used like that, it
is said that the essence of the "rinsel" [also ringsel]
rests at the crown of one's head.
For those with meditative concentration, the "rinsel" will quicken the opening of the crown chakra at the top of the central channel,
helping to prevent the possibility of falling into the lower realms upon leaving
the body in the moment of death. According to Drupon Dechen Rinpoche of Tsurphu,
one who swallows the sacred relic will never go to hell!
As previously mentioned, the 20 meter high statue at Tsurphu, the Tsurphu Lhachen, was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
It contained over two pounds (900 grams) of Buddha Katsyapa's (Buddha Osung - the Third
Buddha), sacred bone relics possibly dating back 4,000 years ago! All these
precious white bone relics fell to the ground, unnoticed for many years.
Another source for these white relics dates back to the late 12th century.
Towards the end of the life of the First Karmapa these sacred relics came from this
Karmapa's body. A statue of Dusum Khyenpa called "Nga-dra-ma" in Tibetan (literally a statue which "Looks like me" (Karmapa) was
built, and these relics - white and generally round as well - were put inside this
smaller statue. After the destruction of Tsurphu Monastery remains were found underneath the temple ruins with many white relics around it.
S. B. wrote:
"I have some of the white bone relics [mentioned above] and it's said that they come from
the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa. They look indeed like (very little) white pearls.
As often as I read this text about the relics I cannot help but feel deep sadness about the fact that such unbelievable precious religious
items like the big statue of Lord Buddha and so much more have been destroyed.
BLACK BONE RELICS
There were also found smaller black relic bones, mostly quite round in shape, which came from the many masters and Mahasiddhas, who were
once residing at Tsurphu Monastery. Some were from the incarnations of the Gyalwa
Karmapas and some from the Shamar, Gyaltsab and Pawo Rinpoche Lineages and their spiritually advanced disciples.
There were fourteen sacred "Kudungs" (corpses of great Lamas) at Tsurphu when it was destroyed.
Most of these black bone relics came from these "Kudungs".
BLACK STONE RELICS
There is yet another type of relic: The small sacred black stone relics from
the shores of Lake Namtso- - a lake extremely sacred to the Karmapas. It is
the largest salt water lake in Tibet, about a day and a half drive by jeep from Tsurphu.
According to history, the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, visited Lake Namtso.
The historical legend tells that he flew there by using his miraculous powers.
As he stood near the lake, he threw a handful of black pills into the lake and requested the protectors of the Lake, Dorje
Gurdak (a wrathful emanation of Guru Rinpoche) and other various Naga gods and demi-gods, to ever increase these black pills in number as a source
of faith and for the benefit of beings in the future.
About four centuries later, the Fourteenth Karmapa, Thekchok Dorje, came to the lake and requested Dorje Gurdak and another protector, Nyen
Chenpo Thang-La, to be guardians of these sacred stone relics after throwing a handful of black pills into the lake.
Still to this day they continue to appear around the shores of this lake and they are regarded as very
auspicious relics, especially for filling statues.
~ from Karmapa: His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje by Ken Holmes, 1995.
For more about this topic, read Norma Levine's Blessing Power of the