Hundreds of followers have flocked to a Buddhist temple in Southern California to view what is claimed to be a still-growing, 2-inch-long molar with healing powers that belonged to Buddha himself.
Thousands of years after Buddha’s death, the tooth, already about four times the length of the average human tooth, is continuing to grow because of what are believed to be its special powers, said Thomas Meier, a monk at the Lu Mountain Temple whose monk name is Xian Jie.
The tooth, which Meier says is 2,500 years old, is on display alongside other relics including a hair said to be from the Buddha that reportedly moves on its own and 10,000 color crystals said to have been extracted from the cremated remains of Buddha’s body.
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Meier said an 80-year-old resident at the temple in who has experienced leg pain since she was a child was healed when the tooth and other relics arrived.
The tooth, which went on display on Sunday at the temple in Rosemead near East Los Angeles, is thought to be the only Buddha tooth currently in the United States and one of only a few existing sacred teeth from Buddha himself, according to a press release issued by the temple.
“It’s a matter of faith,” Meier said. “If these things are real, people have responses to them -- like people get healed in its presence."
The tooth was donated to the temple by a Buddhist in Vietnam who has collected thousands of Buddhist relics over the years, and wanted to share the relics with Buddhists in Southern California, Meier said.
The authenticity of the tooth has not been verified by an outside source. The longest human tooth on record was 1.26 inches long, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.
But Sonya Lee, an expert in Buddhist relic worship at USC, said fact-checking in Buddhist worship is not the most important factor in discerning whether a relic is really from the body of the sacred Buddha -- it’s what the believers witness while in its presence.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s genuinely from Buddha’s body,” Lee said. “It’s really the legend that makes it meaningful.”
How authentic the tooth and other relics may be is a common question, Meier said.
“How people react to them -- that’s where real test of it is,” Meier said.
Baby sparrows tried to peck their way into the room where the tooth was stored prior to its unveiling to the public, Meier said, because they "sensed something."
Other supernatural occurrences noted in relation to Buddhist relics include radiant lights or strong odors, Lee said.
“Relics can give off a great fragrance if responding favorably to prayer,” Lee said. “Or it can give off a great stink if it’s not.”
More than 200 people have visited the tooth and other relics over the course of the two days they have been on display, Meier said. Normally the temple sees 10 visitors on any given weekend.
As for the authenticity of the tooth, Lee said: ”What’s sacred is in the eye of the beholder.”