Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Maybe Some Things Don't Change

I’ve just finished reading Jonathan Sumption’s The Age of Pilgrimage: The Medieval Journey to God. It’s a fascinating account of pilgrimage in the Age of Faith and of all the other things which used to go together with pilgrimage – relics and hospices, dreams and visions, souvenirs and indulgences, vows and most of all, the intense faith of the simple folk. One section of the book, that dealing with supposed miraculous healings, reminded me a bit of what goes on in some religious establishments here in Singapore. I quote from Sumption –

The view propagated by the (Protestant) Reformers was that miracles were concocted by a conspiracy of clergymen in order to induce simple men, who knew no better, to part with their money…On the eve of the Reformation there was considerable evidence to support such a view, and the Church’s critics made full use of it. In his diatribe against the pilgrimage to Wilsnack, John Hus alleged that the clergy paid handsome sums to beggars to wander from town to town announcing that they had been cured or exorcized at Wilsnack. Hus had himself sat on a tribunal convened by the archbishop of Prague to examine those citizens of Prague who asserted that they had been cured there. These included a boy whose deformed foot was found to be worse than ever, and two women who were said to have recovered their sight ‘but who, on clear investigation, were found never to have been blind.’ One witness testified that after three days and nights of fruitless vigils at Wilsnack he was suddenly seized by a priest who cried out ‘A miracle! A miracle! Come and see this citizens of Prague whose withered hand has been healed.’ ‘O priest, why do you lie thus’, the man exclaimed with unusual presence of mind, ‘see hand is as withered as ever.’


John said...

Some things never change. We still see exposes of this happening by charismatic televangelists today.

Are there said to be any healings by Buddhist monks or the Buddha himself?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear John,
We Buddhists are not much into fake ‘healings’. Our speciality is fake relics.

John said...

LOL, Bhante. In the story of Kisa Gotami, I heard Bhante G. say that the Buddha could have brought the woman's child back to life, but he chose not to so she could learn that everyone experiences death. I know that not everything is to be taken literally (thank Buddha).

Shravasti Dhammika said...

I don’t know where Bhante G got that additional detail from. It’s certainly not in the original story. See Dhammapada Atthakatha, 273-5)