Putting a person to rest in a manner that is kind to the environment is gaining popularity and for a good cause. In the United States, approximately one million acres (404,685 hectares) of land have been cleared of their natural plant and animal communities to make room for human burials. On the other hand, manufacturing caskets consumes approximately four million acres (1.6 million hectares) of land every year.
Bodies have been transformed into compost or dissolved in aquamation as part of more recent environmentally friendly burial practices; however, not all environmentally friendly burial practices are brand new. An 11,000-year-old human ritual known as “sky burials” involves humans in various regions of the world looking to the heavens (and the avian predators that may be found there) to pay respect to their deceased and disposing of their bodies.
A sky burial, sometimes known as a “celestial burial,” is a Buddhist funeral tradition. It is a typical manner of dealing with the deceased in the Himalayan area of Tibet and is also done in Mongolia. Buddhists observe sky burials. It entails transporting the deceased to a secluded region of the highlands far apart from any inhabited areas for a private ritual that is held in the belief that it will make it easier for the soul to move on after death.
Since preparations are needed, the sky burial will not occur until a few days after the deceased has passed away. When everything is ready, the body is transported into the mountains and placed on a platform designed specifically for heavenly burials.
At this location, “Su” smoke is burnt to entice predatory birds like condors and vultures, which typically feed on dead animals. A person known as the “burial master” watches over the process, during which the birds will consume the body after a “body bearer has dismembered it.”
What is left is gathered and burned, and what is left of the bones is ground up and combined with tsampa, a staple food in Tibetan cuisine consisting of roasted flour, yak butter, and tea, to make pak which the birds also eat.
Traditional burial practices in the area have not been able to take place below ground because of the environment, which has been documented in other parts of the world.
This demonstrates that sky burials have ceremonial value for Tibetans and the practical benefits of being above ground. It is also connected to the Buddhist philosophy of Tibetan pragmatism, which holds that our souls are released when we die, and the body is no longer required.
The inclusion of carnivorous, carrion-eating birds in the equation indicates the culture’s harmonious interaction with its natural surroundings. It is considered a kind and worthy manner to put the corpse to rest, and it just so happens to be friendly to the environment and generous. The body can be returned to the ground as a meal for another living thing.
In Tibet and Mongolia, presenting one’s corpse to the birds is considered respectable by Buddhists, and burial experts and body carriers execute the rites with a lighthearted attitude, despite the sad prospect of breaking up the bones of the deceased.
The ritual is very private, and it is often performed in a way that is not in the presence of the families. It is carried out in a manner that is supposed to assist the soul’s departure best.
As a result, their right to privacy needs to be respected, tourists should not go looking for sky burials, and visitors to the region should not hang around to observe if they chance to stumble across a ceremony like this while they are there.
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