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The Tibetan Book of the Dead by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, editor

The four Northern Buddhist methods of disposing of a corpse correspond to those mentioned in various of the sacred books of the Hindus:  a human body is said to consist of four elements - earth, water, air, and fire - and it should be returned to these elements as quickly as possible. Cremation is considered the best method to adopt. Earth-burial, as among Christians also, is the returning of the body to the element Earth; water-burial is the returning of the body to the element Water, air-burial, to the element Air - the birds which devour the corpse being the denizens of the air; and fire-burial, or cremation, the returning of the body to the element Fire.

When air-burial is adopted in Tibet, even the bones of the corpse, after the birds have stripped them of flesh, are disposed of by being hammered to bits in small cavities in the rocks of the funeral hill, then mixed with flour and formed intoa dough and given to the birds to devour. The men who perform this part of the burial belong to a -special caste, and, being regarded as unclean, are ordinarily shunned by other Tibetans. The Tibetan air-burial is thus more thorough than that of the Parsees, who allow the bones of their dead to remain in the air and slowly decompose.


In a Tibetan funeral of the ordinary sort, neither a coffin nor any corpse-receptacle is used. The corpse after being laid upon its back on a sheet or piece of cloth spread over a framework, commonly made of a light material like wicker affixed to two poles, is covered with a pure white cloth. Two men, inserting their heads between the projecting ends of the two poles, act as pallbearers.  In Sikkim, however, the corpse is carried thus sitting, in the embryonic posture described above.

 

ISBN: 1435101251

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