What Are the Pearl-Like Objects Found in Monks’ Ashes After Cremation?

February 28, 2014 Updated: February 28, 2014

It has long been held in Buddhist tradition that accomplished monks accumulate a substance in their bodies that ordinary people do not.

This substance is left behind in a monk’s ashes when he is cremated, appearing as pearl-like beads or gems. The substance is thought to be accumulated from other realms, to be not quite of this world.

The beads are called sarira or ringsels. There appear to have been few studies done on this phenomenon. Some sources say the sarira have not been tested, because they are rare and considered sacred.

Stanford University physicist William A. Tiller, PhD., and a team of researchers have studied the energy surrounding sarira.

Nisha J. Manek, M.D., is the lead author of the report, which was presented at the annual Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference at the University of Arizona in 2012. Dr. Manek completed her specialty training at Stanford University and was a long-time Mayo Clinic faculty member before starting her work with Tiller’s Institute for Psychoenergetic Science.

Manek, who is not Buddhist, explained what she felt in the presence of the sarira: “I felt a tangible radiation of exquisite energy flowing from the relics to my heart center. It was highly private and personal, and yet conveyed an immense sense of Oneness or unity with everyone and everything. It had no counterpart in ordinary experience.”

The researchers used methods developed by Tiller to objectively measure what Manek perhaps subjectively felt to be an energy emanating from the relics.

Tiller has been studying the physical impact human consciousness has. He posits that there are two types of substances. One is the kind we are able to perceive with our conventional sensors; he describes these substances as being in the electric atom/molecule level.

The other kind exists in the space between the atoms and molecules.

We usually cannot perceive this other kind, which Tiller describes as having a higher thermodynamic free energy state—it is immensely powerful. Tiller says he has found a way to detect this substance, but only when it overlaps or interacts with the kind of electric atom/molecule substance we are able to perceive and measure. This does not always happen, as the two substances often remain separated. 

Human intention activates a sort of in-between substance called deltrons. The deltrons facilitate the interaction between the two kinds of substances.

Tiller and Manek’s study of the relics found that the relics have been imprinted with human intention.

“Although we may not consider these objects … to have phenomenal consciousness, there is no doubt that an aspect of consciousness is imprinted into both kinds of objects. In the case of the Buddha relics, over hundreds of years, reverential ‘pumping’ has kept these objects imprinted. If there is no respect or love, the relics disappear,” the report states. The researchers also found that “the atom-molecules within the space [around the relics] are ordered more coherently.”

Sarira remain mysterious. It seems the cremation of ordinary people do not leave behind such substances, yet the sarira have not been definitively proven other-worldly.

Ebay is flooded with objects said to be sarira on sale for as little as $10. One Buddhist organization is selling a small collection of sarira for $4,000 to maintain its operations.

Tiller’s and Manek’s studies suggest the sarira may have a certain energy about them that can impact worshipers, but the energy may in part be projected onto the sarira by the worshipers.