Sky Burial in Tibet
Sky Burial in general
Sky Burial is a funeral practice performed by the Buddhist with a human corpse that is placed on a mountaintop to feed the vultures. Being as human, we need to understand the basic process of a human life cycle, once you were born, you are meant to die someday. Being a Buddhist, we believe in the next life, when we say, reborn, it doesn’t mean that you will be reborn as you are now but your consciousness or the spirit will pass down to the next life. We have no power to choose “when to die or where to reborn” but solely depends on the power of one’s karma and ignorance that determines one’s death and rebirth. There are all sorts of people and some are suffering, some are satisfied and content. If your conducts are rightful and karma then you will surely be born in a happy and materialistic family and vice versa.
Preparation of body for the sky burial:
When the ritual is about the perform, all the vultures will be mingle overheard and wait until the body breaker asked them to eat. As the sky burial is taking place, the body of the deceased will be covered with a cloth, lamas from the respective monastery will chant mantras and burn Juniper incense around the dead body, once the ritual is over, the body will be chopped by the body breaker with his tools, all the vultures will be patiently circling overhead waiting body breaker’s call and sometimes there need certain people with sticks to prevent vultures before the ritual finish. Vultures will clean up the whole body within few second and once the vultures completed the whole body, The only the bones remain, these bones are broken with mallets, ground with Tsampa, butter or milk and will give to the crows and hawks. This allowed the passed away person’s soul move to the next life.
What Buddhist belief about life?
In Buddhism, we believed that the human body is a temporary temple or the house for the soul or the spirit. Human bodies are just empty vessels once the spirit separates from the body. When the body is separated from the spirit, we have a tradition to offered the body to vultures by chopping the whole body. It’s an act of final donation to the vultures and can save other small animals being haunted by the giant vultures. Even after the death, the body of the passed away person is still helping other sentient beings as a final donation and it’s an act of respectful farewell to the beloved one. This practice teaches us the impermanence of life. Such funeral practice mostly will take place near the monasteries or certain high plan places on the mountain tops. This particular funeral practice has been performed by some Buddhist for many many years and still practicing.
What makes local people unhappy by tourist’s reaction during the Sky burial?
Sometimes, in our tradition, we encounter many strange signals or signs, if some people conducted wrong things in their whole life, even the vultures will hesitate to eat the meat of the certain people. Sometimes, these things are hard not to believe. Sky burial has been performed in Tibet for many many years and it’s more like a normal routine for the Tibetans yet for the other, it appears to be new discovery and they are taking photos and laughing when the ritual is performing which make the relatives, local people and the monks intolerance of such unethical behavior. And the locals might act aggressively since it’s their relatives or family member’s death. When tourist came to the spot and was taking photos, laughing, it is clear, they are not able to understand the essence of the culture. Some people act like it is only happening with other peoples but not with themselves which truly shows how much knowledge they have about the life of human cycle.
Is every Tibetan family practicing sky burial?
Not all Tibetan families will practice sky burial. Different families opt for different ways according to their beliefs and capabilities. Some prefer a more traditional funeral, but the average funeral cost is high so unless they can fundraise for it, they may struggle to afford it. The sky burial procedure is an inexpensive ritual for some families, which is why they choose to leave the body on the high mountain tops to be eaten by the vultures, birds, and animals. Sky burial is performed by the body breakers and no family members will act on one’s beloved’s body. Some time, Tibetans believe that paying a visit to the sky burial sites will allow or help you to enlighten your view about the life. It makes us to think and conduct rightfully and be more compassionate. Death is something that no one can avoid off. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that one day, we too go through this process in a different.