The origin of sky burial remains largely hidden in Tibetan mystery. It is a kind of religious significance of the ceremony. Tibetans are encouraged to witness the ceremony to face the death and feel the impermanence of life. They think the body is nothing but an empty container. The spirit of the dead has withdrawn from the body and incarnated into another cycle of life. If you have a good chance to go a Tibet tour, you can never miss to watch it.
Before the sky burials of Tibet began, the stones were laid flat and the dead body was put on them. The sky burials people let dead body dismembered by using the sharp iron and then chanting, bone residue mixed with Tsampa to lead the vultures to eat. They will make sure there is nothing to left, then burn by fire and put the stones back again as if nothing had happened. There are no words to tell what happened just now but only have scorched earth to tell us the impermanence of life and freedom.
The sky burials are a kind of wisdom of the prairie culture. In Tibetan Buddhism, as the flesh is nothing but an empty skin, there is no need to keep it. People in the mainland of China who mostly regard laid to rest as the basic tradition don’t understand sky burials and once misread it as cruel.
According to legend, the hawk and vulture are the incarnations of the ambassador of God and Dakini. The flesh is only eaten by them, and the dead can walk on the road to heaven. Dakini is a female Bodhisattva who often served as the messenger between ordinary person and Buddha. She has great power to fly in the air. Inflicting damage on eagles and vultures are absolutely forbidden in the Tibetan area as they may turn into a female bodhisattva. There are many females who became Buddhist believers turned into vultures. Once they heard the chant scriptures, they will fly to sky burials spot to form ties to the deceased. This is a kind of salvation. Not everyone has the chance to see a Dakini. They lurk in the middle of the human being and can’t be recognized by the naked eye.
It is said that only people who occupy a noble position can accept the sky burials, but the normal people buried in the lake surrounded by the mountain. Clothes and shoes were scattered all around. I saw the baby pink shoes when the child died at the age of two or three. I also saw the old man with gray hair and braids. The end of the last journey of life, the things which dead loved will be discarded, such as the wooden bowl. For health reasons, Tibet people for a lifetime only a bowl to eat Zanba. The bowl mostly made from the wooden inlaid silver edge, even copper.
The only way to respond to the friendship of Tibetan friends is to respect them with deep empathy and respect for the last quiet of the dead. For respecting the dead people and his or her family, please put down the curiosity, horror, and shock. Don’t get too close. Put away the camera, the process of sky burials is not allowed to take pictures, whether in law and custom. Whether you come here or deeply visit, even if they say they allowed you to take pictures, even if you give money, you’d better not take pictures. Why you have the opportunity to see the sky burials is a splendid chance by Dakini blessing. If you go to Mount Everest, Seda, Litang, or other places of Tibet, you will appreciate the sky burials brings you the truth.
In a piece of black ash, there is a photo of the family. “The old man in the picture was the dead man.” the Lama said. Seeing a happy family in the picture, I raised a nameless emotion in my heart, like a voice said softly:” Oh, I understand, the death is such normal that everyone we loved will die, I will die.” I asked the Lama, “In Tibet when a man died, will his family cry sadly?” “No, Tibetans regard death as the beginning of a new life,” he said. “This is an auspicious thing and should be blessed.”
If you are interested in Tibet culture tour, please feel free to ask me the questions about this.