[PPT] & [Script} Ecological Journey from Campus to the World
The link to the sky burial video from youtube:
Comment if you want to learn more about sky burials!!!!!!!
Concept of Sky Burial
In the Sacred Life of Tibet, Keith Dowman wrote that “the major sky-burial sites of Tibet are important power places……the common belief that liberation from the round of rebirth, or certainly a better rebirth, can be obtained by disposing of the corpse at one of the great sky-burial sites induces relatives to transport it from far away”. The Sky-burial process was considered as an act of generosity—by providing one’s mortal remains to other sentient beings (233-234), vitality was passed on, as repayment to nature.
2. The Role of Sky Burial in Religious Ecology—Religious Background
The relationship between human and surrounding nature has always been complicated. There was a legend saying that Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, fed himself to a tiger because the tiger was too starved, and later after rebirth the tiger became a believer in Buddhism.
As told in the Dummedha Jataka, the Buddha[YW1] , as a prince of Banaras, was appalled by the animal sacrifice tradition and wished to stop it. When his father died, he did not kill animals but performed his own rituals to the spirit of a banyan tree. After he became the king, he announced that he would offer the tree lives of one thousand human beings who precede the practice of animal sacrifice. (Chapple, 138-140) Thus we could learn that in Indian, Buddhism advocated the equality of all living creatures and asked people to do no harm to innocent animals. To look at this story from a different way, however, we could see a “trade” of lives, potentially meaning that one must sacrifice his or her life for killing other innocent beings.
A large amount of ideas of Buddhism was imported from India to Tibet, so they are in many ways alike. However, in the Tibetan Buddism, there were fewer restrictions to people’s living habits—including the acceptance of marriage and eating meat.
This significant deviation in religion was resulted from the severe environmental conditions—because temperature difference was big and oxygen was lacking, there were hardly any edible plants. Thus, to survive, being vegetarian was an impossible choice. （Becker, 84-85）Sky Burial, for this reason, could be seen as paying back the nature: while human eat animal for a living, animals are provided with human flesh as well. This seemingly brutal and fierce way of embracing nature had, surprisingly, reflected the idea of all creatures being equal and living in a mutually beneficial way.
Wendy Doniger: one can feel empathetically for animals--and kill and eat them
Conclusion – Barbara
We choose to present this unique practice in Tibet because of the complexity of its origin. In the semester, we emphasized to approach to the world holistically and balance the role of ourselves in the ecosystem. The sky burial is a profound theme for us to investigate how nature and human have interacted over time. This practice has been going on for centuries and fascinates a lot of people from other cultures. For Tibetans, it is not only a practical funerary method but have more religious implications and cultural meanings. Religion, geology, and biology all have their influence on shaping this practice. It also is provocative for people to thinking about the meaning of life. Are body and spirit separable? What we become of after death? Reflected by the sky burial, these people have a willingness both to give back and to go back to the nature when life ends.
Lastly, due to the time limit, we did not have a chance to show the class how the ceremonial is like. On one hand, we have a lot to discuss here. On the other hand, we were sure about to what extent you would accept this whole concept. If you are interested, there is a well-made video clip which recorded a modern practice of this ceremony. It is worth watching. Actually seeing the natural environment of the area and hearing what Tibetan themselves say about this tradition will, I believe, help you rethink what we have presented here today.