Tibetan Buddhists perform sky burials in the mountains of Tibet signifying the beginning of a new life for the deceased who is being “buried”. The sky burial is a ritual that is practiced only by Tibetan Buddhists and is different from many other rituals from around the world. Throughout history, the Tibetan sky burial has been regarded as a unique practice in regards to its meaning, the process, and the reasons behind the practicing of the ritual.
The process of the Tibetan sky burial begins with a person’s death. According to Buddhists in Tibet, death is not the final stage in a person’s life. Death is merely the beginning of a new stage of that person’s life (Birth, Death and Rebirth: Sky Burial and the Cyclical Cosmos of Tibetan Buddhism n.pag.). “Tibetans believe that, more important than the body, is the spirit of the deceased. Following death, the body should not be touched for three days, except possibly at the crown of the head, through which the consciousness, or namshe, exits. Lamas guide the spirit in a series of prayers that last for seven weeks, as the person makes their way through the bards, intermediate states that precede rebirth” (Logan n.pag.). Tibetan Buddhists believe that after a person has died, the soul exits the body which leaves an empty corpse that needs to be disposed. The person should not be touched so that the soul is able to leave the body and enter their new lives in the afterlife. Reincarnation occurs after the vultures leave their droppings. The soul is in the droppings and the soul will live on as part of the earth. After the “burial”, the soul is now in the birds. The soul then leaves the body after the bird leaves its droppings. The soul is transmitted from the birds to the droppings. Once the droppings are on the ground, the soul is then transferred from the droppings to the ground where the soul will remain in the earth (“Tibetan Sky Burial Student Witnesses Reincarnation” 9). The meaning of the sky burial is important to a Tibetan Buddhist and their religion.
The process of the “sky burial” is intriguing to many. Before the actual “burial” takes place, the body cannot be touched for three days. After three days has past, the body can be then wrapped in a ceremonial white cloth and taken to the location where the “burial” can take place (Logan n.pag.). The location that the “burial” will take place is very remote from any civilization. The burial site is at the top a mountain or hillside. Multiple bodies are taken to the burial site by hand cart before anybody else arrives to witness the sky burial (Ciolek n.pag). The steps before the sky burial takes places are some of the most important steps to performing the ritual.
During the sky burial, the body is dismembered and fed to predatory birds. After the body has been taken to the burial site, the butcher and the family arrive to witness the “burial”. The monks that come to the sky burial are dressed in ceremonial clothing. ...