A few months ago, I wrote a short series titled Approaching Death as a way of exploring grief rituals for my upcoming book with Elliott and Thompson (DEATH’S SUMMER COAT). Regardless of where we live or who we are, we must make preparations for the end that awaits us all. Historically, this was a problem of space and health as well as grief and loss. While our ancestors had to bear the burden of sorrow for a missing friend just as we, they also had to deal with pressing practical concerns–such as, what do we do with the body? To leave it lying would attract pestilence; to burn it would use fuel, to bury it would require workable soil. And so, in each culture, burial differs due to climate and geography as well as spiritual practice and cultural assimilation. As part of a series on the Daily Dose, I provide a brief look at death-in-transition–something that many cultures, from Borneo to India to Egypt have in common.
To Buddhists, for instance, death is both the beginning of rebirth and also a final embrace of non-existence. Preparation for this cycle begins in life, but continues into death. Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche explained it by suggesting that the Tibetan Book of the Dead could also be reasonably called the Tibetan Book of Birth. Over a period of forty-nine days, a lama (religious person) chants from the book over and over, frequently in front of the corpse, but after burial, they will chant over a picture or memento, so that the soul may obtain a good rebirth.
Death, in many of these cases, is all about the transitional journey. [Read More…]