Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rites of cremation for a village elder in Ban That village...

The week of mourning closed on Saturday morning with the Abbot from Wat Sriskat in Nongkhai traveling to the home of the dead man for the ceremonial chanting followed by lunch. With the villagers following behind, the casket was carried on the back of a truck to the cremation site, a simple raised structure with a single chamber for burning the body.

Upon arrival at the crematorium, with mournfull music playing, the truck circled the building three times, with the family walking slowly behind. Then, the casket was carried up the stairs and placed on a platform leading to the furnace where it would be burned. The top of the simple wooden casket was removed so the body could be symbollically washed by family and community members by their sprinkling coconut water over it. The top was then replaced so the remaining ceremonial activities could be completed over the next three hours. Activities included chanting by the Buddhist monks, community member speeches, honoring the man by placing envelops with money on his casket which would later be distributed to the monks and other charities. The final act involved each member of the community walking up the stairs of the crematorium to lay a small bundle of wood on the casket.

From the book, Buddhism and Society by Melford E. Siro...

"Man is an aggrigate of five material factors and processes which, at death, disinegrate without residue." (the five aggrigates being: the physical body including the five senses; feelings/emotions; perceptions; mental formations; and consciousness)

"For buddhism it is the continuation of life across an almost endless cycle of rebirths which is inevitable, and it is this possibility which is the ultimate tradgedy. The extinction of life, which others might lament as man's automatic and inevitable fate, is viewed by Buddhism as neither inevitable or lamentable. On the contrary, for Buddhism, it is not the extinction but the persistence of life that is automatic and - but for the practice of Buddhist discipline - inevitable."

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