Celestial burial, end or beginning of life
The last event of a person’s life cycle is the funeral. This is a sad ritual.
The Tibetan people believe in Tibetan Buddhism and in the theory of past, present and future life. Therefore, a funeral is imbued with Buddhist concepts. It is a ceremony to expiate the sins of the dead and, moreover, a guarantee for the future life of the dead. It is a key event for everyone.
Tibetans traditionally and generally adopt the celestial burial. The dead person, shrouded in white cloth, is first placed in a corner of a room on sun-dried mud brick instead of a bed made of other materials. Tibetan Buddhism expounds that the soul of the dead sometimes refuses to leave the house, although the body is removed. So if its body is placed on mud brick, the soul will leave, since the brick will be taken out of the house to a road intersection.
A man is often consulted to divine the specific date for the funeral. Usually, the body of the dead will be kept in the room for three to five days before burial. Once relatives, friends and neighbors of the dead receive the sad news, each family will send one person with a jar of wine to express condolences.
During the days before burial, the family of the deceased sends for lamas to chant sutras or perform Buddhist rituals to expiate the sins of the dead. If the family is rich, they will light 100 lamps for the dead.
A red pottery vat, whose mouth is covered with wool or a white hada, usually hangs at the gate of the deceaseds house. Inside are blood, meat, fat, milk, cheese and butter. With each passing day, more of these items are added, which are meant for the enjoyment of the dead.
If a family loses a member, the other members will not comb their hair, clean their faces, wear ornaments, or sing and dance for 49 days. During the funeral arrangements, the family members and their neighbors are not allowed to hold a wedding, sing or dance. Everyone mourns the loss of the dead.
On the day before the burial, people offer their condolences and say farewell to the dead, bringing with them garmai zumda, which includes a hada, Tibetan joss sticks, a sacrificial lamp and money. Besides the above-mentioned articles, relatives, friends and neighbors also bring tsampa, milk dregs, tea and ox lard to boil toba (a type of congee).
The burial takes place early in the morning. Led by a lama, the descendants of the deceased carry the dead to the door, and relatives, friends and neighbors, holding Tibetan joss sticks, see the dead off to a fork in the road a distance from the house. Finally, one or two friends accompany the dead to the graveyard and supervise the whole process of the celestial burial presided over by a celestial burial master. Family members usually are not present at the scene.
After a family member dies, lamas are sent for to chant sutras for the dead every seven days seven times. A rich family will hold a sacrificial ceremony for the dead on the 30th day, when one lama is sent for to chant sutras.
On the first anniversary, commemorative sacrificial activities are performed in the family home, and relatives, friends and neighbors gather there, bringing hadas, tea, wine, meat, butter and money. The host prepares food to thank the guests for their help during the past year.
From: China Tibet Online