Talk about my understanding to celestial burial.
I went to Tibet many years ago and had a chance to witness the celestial burial. I would like to talk about my understanding to celestial burial. The usual interpretation about the celestial burial is described below.
“Celestial burial is a folk custom of Tibetans. All Tibetans believe in Tibetan Buddhism, and they regard it as their greatest wish to ascend to heaven after death.”
“Vultures used for celestial burial are regarded by Tibetans as divine birds, which can take people’s souls to heaven.”
“Tibetans regard it as their greatest wish to ascend to heaven after death, so they chose the Heavenly Burial Platform as the most ideal way to heaven.”
“Tibetans believe that it is lucky to have a corpse eaten by raptors. If the corpse is not eaten completely, it is considered that the deceased is guilty. They also ask the Lama to chant sutras until the corpse is eaten.”
The purpose of Mahayana Buddhists’ practice
Tibet is a holy land of Buddhism. Buddhism founded by Sakyamuni has been completely preserved and passed down in Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism is Mahayana Buddhism. The purpose of Mahayana Buddhists’ practice is not to extricate themselves, but to extricate all sentient beings, not limited to self-sentient. Tibetan Buddhists think life is a sea of suffering. All living beings are too persistent to recognize the true meaning of life, so they have been reincarnating in the six paths, living and dying, dying and living, and suffering immeasurably. It is like wandering in the sea of suffering. I don’t know where the shore is. Buddha told all living beings that the only way to get rid of samsara is to get realized. We should not only be “self-conscious”, but also “aware of others”.
There are three levels of consciousness, one is self-conscious; another one is conscious-realized together with friends and relatives; The third level is that self-conscious-realization is not enough alone, but to help all living beings arriving to the other side of the shore. In particular, the third level is the most generous and compassionate. Tibet King had such a kind of wish, he would not become a Buddha if someone were left in the hell, which reflected the Buddha’s broad compassion and the idea of equality for all living beings.
People should accumulate merits and virtues for yourself
In Buddhism, Donation to the temple to support monks, and help to print scriptures are alms and offerings. All sentient beings have been reincarnating in the six ways. Since the beginning, countless sentient beings have been our parents for hundreds of thousands of times. Giving to all living beings can also be seen as providing for all living beings who have been our parents since the beginning.
People should accumulate merits and virtues for yourself. Giving and feeding is an effective way to accumulate food resources. According to the Book of Life, when Sakyamuni practiced, he gave alms with his head, brain, limbs, hands and feet, sacrificed his body to feed tigers, and cut meat to feed eagles. These acts of giving alms with his body are a kind of highly giving, called internal giving, which has great merit. When we meet beggars, we usually give some money and food, which is a form of giving. The benefactor, affected by the causal relationship, will multiply his merits and virtues.
Death is a return of life, nothing to fear
Life is the beginning of death, and death is the beginning of life. There is no need to stick to the flesh. A human being is just a boat carrying life. When we are conscious and truly aware of the life value, this boat will take us through the sea of samsara to reach the other side of consciousness.
Since charity can accumulate wealth for us, it is an integral part of life in Tibet. You may understand why many people in Tibet kowtow their heads and go to Lhasa all the way, and then donate their life savings to the temple, as if to complete a sacred work. Knock your head long is a practice method of Mahayana, while giving is to accumulate merit for yourself. This is one of the most common ways of practice in Tibetan life.
Let us review the topic of the celestial burial
Since the human body is just a boat in life, when life ends, the boat is useless. So why not take the flesh as the last alms and offerings in this life? The eagle and vulture are also sentient beings. Feed flesh to the wild animals is equivalent to giving to the sentient beings. There are also records of “sacrificing oneself to feed tigers” and “cutting meat to feed eagles” in the ancient books of Han Buddhism, which is a concrete manifestation of the Buddhist’s compassion for all living beings. Such merits are great.
Please do not simply think that the celestial (sky) burial is a wish that the goshawk and vulture will bring their souls to heaven. There is a strong relationship with their belief of Buddhism. The author hopes that all travelers to Tibet should pay respect to the dead from your hearts in case that you come across the celestial burial.
Please restrain your curiosity to Celestial burial, a unique funeral custom. Don’t watch it outside! Let the deceased rest peacefully, follow the wind, and take care of the feelings of the other family, which is also the respect for life and faith.
If you can recite the following prayer scriptures, it will also bring you immeasurable merits and virtues.
May all sentient beings have enough joy and cause!
May all living beings be happy without suffering!
May all living beings stay away from anger and hate and live in a peaceful neighbor!