Death- An Integral Part of Tibetan Buddhism and Culture

This is a practice which is followed by most all

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This is a practice which is followed by most all Tibetans, who may use the variety of techniques such as sky burial and cremation, which are both fairly common practices. These rituals are in opposition to the Western way in which the corpse is dressed up and made to look “alive”, while the Tibetans leave nothing left of the soulless shell of the person they once knew. Tibetans are culturally very ritualistic and superstitious, placing much importance on ceremonies- especially those which pertain to dealing with the dead. As mentioned earlier, there are sky burials and cremation, in addition to sinking of bodies in rivers, and also burials, although burying one’s dead is not quite common in Tibet due to the lack of land available for such use (Shen et. al.). The ceremonies are all vastly different from each other and involve different mediums or steps, but in the end there is one common basis behind the rituals. This common basis is the concept of impermanence and the idea that the soul leaves the body once the person as died (Gyatso 1995). The shamans or lamas do their ceremony for the dead in their community, allowing the soul to reach a good rebirth during the transition between death and life. These ceremonies which have a basis of Tibetan culture behind them are integrated with Buddhism and the Buddhist values which emphasize nothingness and impermanence. To give a brief explanation on the concept of nothingness and impermanence, it is basically the idea that all things in the world are temporary and the moment it comes into existence, it has already started the process of falling apart and becoming nothing again (Gyatso 1995). This idea that everything is dying, or heading towards become nothing is one of the driving points of the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. It also is assimilated into Tibetan culture in the way that Tibetans are all expecting to meet their demise sooner rather than later (Duncan 1964). The impending approach of death by way of impermanence is something that is
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apparently on the minds of all Tibetans as they continue to expand their minds as Buddhists and are affected by the foundation of their heritage and society. Through the stressing of impermanence and karma, Tibetans came to incorporate Buddhism in their daily lives by trying to maintain good karma and handling the difficult way of life in the extreme Tibetan altitudes. In such difficult living conditions, it is not surprising to
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  • Fall '09
  • Germano
  • Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism

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