Sunday, November 02, 2014

A sky burial in Tibet

Here I was a few years ago in a Tibetan part of China, witnessing a sky burial. For years I've read about what happens during a sky burial and what it is. Upon arrival at a little dingy hotel in Litang, we were asked if we want to witness a sky burial, its now become a tourist attraction. My previous reading of it was more respectful. So some 17 of us were waiting the next morning at the reception desk in the hotel. We came from England, Holland, Israel, the USA, Hong Kong, Poland and China. we went in 2 mini vans to the site, a small hill where colorful prayer flags flap in the breeze. It was a clear and pristine morning, the air was so clean, at that altitude, unlike the air in the big cities of Chengdu where we originated from. We waited for 2 hours not knowing if there will be a sky burial. Then in the horizon a few mini vans appeared but towards the back of us a solo mini van also appeared. This was the van that carried the body. The Tibetan Buddhists believed that the soul if it has done enough good deeds on earth goes into nirvana and no longer inhabits the body. The body is now being used to feed another living thing, in this case, the vultures. The body breaker then comes over, slices the body and called on the vultures to feed. He then breaks the bones, mix it with tsampa and continues to feed the vultures until the whole corpse is consumed. Strewn all over that hill are pieces of human hair, fragments of skull and other bones, knives and scissors. The whole area where we were standing to witness the sky burial was an open cemetery. None of us could speak after what we saw. As I explained to some in our party, they felt better, asked if I was a believer. No, I am not, I'm not a very curious person. So what do you think?

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