Celestial burial, pagoda burial and cremation
Tibet is vast in territory, and there are diversified ways of burial, such as celestial burial, pagoda burial, cremation, water burial and burial in the ground. In the past, the selection of burial way is connected closely with everyone's economic and social status.
Celestial burial is comparatively widespread burial custom among Tibetan, and it is also called "bird burial". People who believe in religion hold the idea that the celestial burial is placed with their dream of going up to "heaven". The specific way is: roll the body of the dead, and bend the head to the knees to make a sitting posture. Wrap it with white Tibetan quilt, put it on the earth platform, which is on the right side behind the door, and invite Lama to chant soul-redeeming classics. The corpse-carrying man carries the body to the celestial burial platform in a luck day. "Sang" (incense) smoke is firstly lit up to attract cinereous vultures, and the master of celestial burial dismemberments the corpse after the Lama finishes chanting. If the dead is a monk, a design with religious meaning should firstly be carved at the back of the dead. Then the master takes out the internal organs and throws them around. He smashes the bones and skull, and mixes them with Zanba. Groups of cinereous vultures fly to fight and peck the food. It is the luckiest of the corpse is all eaten by vultures, which means the dead has no sin and the soul has gone up the heaven safely. If there are some left, the remainder should be picked up and cremated, and Lamas chant soul-redeeming classics at the same time. Tibetans think that the cinereous vultures in the mountains around the celestial platform are "magical birds": they only eat human corpses and don't hurt any small animals. This kind of burial is influenced by the spirit of "sacrificing oneself to feed the tiger" in biography of Sakyamuni, so it is still very popular now.
Pagoda burial is a noble burial for virtuous and talent persons after they die. After famous Living Buddhas pass away, in addition to large scale of chanting and magic exercising, the intestines and stomach should be laved with mercury, "Sela" perfume, camphor liquid and saffron liquid, and the surface of the corpse should be cleaned with camphor and saffron liquid. Then wrap the corpse with silk, dress it up with kasaya and put it into the spirit pagoda to reserve the remains. The Lamas who are on guard light butter lamps to worship it day and night everyday.
There are varieties of spirit pagodas, such as gold spirit pagodas, silver spirit pagodas, wood spirit pagodas, mud spirit pagodas, etc. The rank of different pagodas is decided according to the status of Living Buddhas. Dalais and Panchens are put into gold spirit pagodas after they die, and other Living Buddhas only be put into silver, wood or mud pagodas.
Cremation is another kind of noble burial next to pagoda burial, and it was restricted to living Buddhas, feudal lords and people with high status. After remains of Living Buddhas and eminent monks are cremated, their bone ashes are stored in relics pagoda or are put in coffin after being mixed with mud and rubbed into mud balls as big as eggs. Then the coffin is buried in a selected lucky day. The burying place is usually fixed. When cremating, pieces of specially chosen firewood are piled crisscrossly, the dead is put on the wood and "is seated" there with wood around supporting it. When the wood pieces are piled over the head, oil or wine is poured on the wood. Then the cremation starts and fire is lit up from the four directions of the lower part. The Lamas sit facing the dead and chant classics. At the same time, they narrate merits and virtues of the dead, and wishes the soul go up to heaven and be accepted by gods in heaven. When the fire is going out, people leave there in groups, and the ashes are collected and stored after three days. From that day on, Lamas are invited to chant and redeem the soul of the dead every seven days. After chanting for forty-nine days, the funeral is finally finished.
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