Robots guarded the Buddha's relics?


I was listening to Ajahn @sujato teaching the Samannaphala Sutta while I was at work. This teaching was broken up into several separate recordings, as the group he was teaching was given an account of each version that exists at the moment. During one talk, the subject of King Ajatasatu’s military innovations, specifically a mechanized chariot with spinning blades on its axles, was briefly mentioned by the venerable after he consulted Wikipedia. The claim of this invention did not cite a reference, however.

So, today, I came across this article, which mentions this very same innovation, as well as something quite amazing for the time period: robots and androids!


Space aliens? :laughing:



This is an awesome bit of research. Just the other night we were talking about how many things in the Pali tradition are laying there undiscovered!


Oh, please do elaborate venerable sir!


Well, there are thousands of manuscripts lying around monasteries. We know that many of them are copies of things we already have—canon, commentaries, chronicles, etc. But we don’t know what we don’t know. I doubt if we’re going to find any texts that are hugely important for EBT studies, but for things like this, the cultural history of Theravada, there s doubtless much we do not know.


Hmm, sounds like we need an “Indiana Jones” type to round up all of these texts. For the good of buddhism, of course. :thinking::cowboy_hat_face:


Thanks for sharing this highly interesting article!

As a result I pulled out John Strong’s book as is referenced there and had a highly amuzing time reading through the various stories of robots and other machines that are said to have guarded the relics.

There are actually quite a few different stories going around about it. Of course all from later times. One thing it does show is that people in all ages had a distinct need for science fiction!

John Strong however is a little bit more nuanced and I find the most likely explanations are either a highly ingenious structure of a water-wheel with swords attached that is propelled by a stream. Sort of à la Indiana Jones.

Or the other, more logical explanation consists of something you find all over the world: statues of soldiers and warriors that are said to protect the dead (or prevent the dead from leaving) and that come alive if an intruder presents itself (or the dead get up and try to leave).

Some visuals of A(h)soka vs Assasin Droid:


Are you volunteering? :yum:


I would, but my archaeological background is completely lacking, and my whip skills are non existent. I could be a good sidekick though!

Thank you, Venerable @Vimala, for the Star Wars clip! The force is strong with you, indeed! :lightsaber:


There’s these type of myths in Sri Lanka too- some from the Mahabharata:


The Yantra (meaning ‘machine’, at least nowadays) are said to have magical properties but are often crafted in conductive material, and have fine schematics much like a circuit diagram though such connotations might have been lost!



I’m sure there are tons of texts hidden away in the Tibetan mountains, some earlier than the ones that are known, as writing was just becoming mainstream, and I find it difficult to believe some of it wasn’t written down much earlier. I understand there were potsherds with writing on them at the time but it might be possible to find whole sutras or even collections!