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burial(burial urn)

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The Astrology of the Deceased is cast to determine the various activities to be carried out when a person dies.This is based on the Year-signs of the deceased and family members, a...

The Astrology of the Deceased is cast to determine the various activities to be carried out when a person dies.

This is based on the Year-signs of the deceased and family members, and the time anddate of death. The funeral rituals differ widely in different communities and locations all over the world, depending on the social customs and religion. Int he Tibetan format, also, they differ slightly from place to place but they all rely principally on Tibetan Astrology. Thus most Tibetans are aware of the significance of their Year-sign. This branch of astrology can be summed up in three key parts which are crucially taken into consideration; the after life of the deceased, the continuing welfare of the family of the deceased and the actual death and funeral rites.

Beinga Buddhist, and a believer in an afterlife, it becomes of utmost importance to ensure a good rebirth for the deceased. For this, the moment of death and the following period until the 49th day is considered very crucial. Firstly, it is necessary to get The Transference of Consciousness ('Pho-Ba) ritual performed by a qualified lama immediately after death. The body is then kept at home for three-and-a-half days as it is believed that even if the outer breath has ceased, the inner breath takes an average of three-and-a-half days to subside.A prayer ritual is then held on the completion of each week during the following seven weeks, and various other rituals as instructed in the astrological reading are carried out including the consecration of the Astrological Deity of the deceased.

For the welfare of the remaining family members prayers and pujas are also held to end the continuity of in auspiciousness in the family and to ensure health and long-life.Therefore it becomes very important to ensure that the astrological guidance,as advised in the reading, is followed keenly with total reverence and faith.On completion of a year after the death, a grand prayer is held in the name of the deceased. In all the prayer ceremonies related to death, relatives, friends and neighbours alike take part and contribute usefully in terms of labour and costs. There is a Tibetan saying, 'Don I be late intimes of need, don't be early in times of celebration!

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The actual funerals ritual must be strictly followed according to the steps mentioned in the astrological reading; some of these procedures may differ from place to place, as previously mentioned. These procedures are observed for the well-being of both the deceased and the remaining family members. It includes details like who can and cannot see and handle the corpse; whether there is any remaining life-span or not; to which object does the mental faculty of the deceased have an attachment; where is the negative energy residing; what should be the colour and shape of the veil for the corpse; when and in which direction should the corpse be carried out; who should sweep the track of the funerary procession; what prayers and invocations should be done before the body is taken out, etc. A very important matter for consideration is the direction and timing of the funeral procession; this is meticulously determined by consulting an astrologer. The body is then taken to the funeral place, followed by many elaborate procedures which may differ slightly according to local custom. Whatever the case, the guidelines as laiddown in the astrological reading will be followed.

Now for the actual disposal of the body, there are many methods and they can all bedescribed in terms of the five ways of elemental burial. Firstly, for the element of Wood, which symbolizes the Air element, there is the traditional sky burial-also known as mountain disposal. This was a very popular practice in Tibet,where in the body is cut into pieces and fed to vultures after special prayers. Secondly, for the element of Fire,the body is taken to a cremation ground and burnt. This category of funeral was mostly carried out exclusively for persons of high rank like reincarnate lamas. However, TIbetans in exile mostly choose to cremate the body in accordance with local practice. Thirdly, for the element of Earth, the body is buried in the ground. The body is only buried when the person has died due to a contagious disease or an epidemic or by a

weapon wound. This is also the form of burial for children - especially for the newly-born. In the fourth procedure for the element of Iron, which symbolizes the Space element, the body is Death by weapon woun preserved in a stupa or a royal monument.

The entombment in a royal monument was the practice of the Bon tradition in pre-Buddhist Tibet, during the reigns of the earliest dynasty. One can still witness some of the tombs of the ancient Tibetan kings at Yarlung, Tibet. The preservation of the body in amagnificent stupa is still practiced these days - in both Tibet and exile - for some exalted lamas. The fifth method, for the element of Water,entails submersion of the body into a river to be fed to the fishes. This is practiced only in some regions of Tibet, particularly when another kind of funeral requiring elaborate rituals is unfeasible. (This thangka depicts the five ways of elemental burial; Cremation (Fire), Interment (Earth), Entombment(Space / Iron), Submersion (Water), and Sky Burial (Air/ Wood) - also known as Mountain Disposal)

[By Buddhist means, we arc the union of this physical body and the consciousness. At the time of death, the consciousness leaves physical body behind and enters an intermediate state for a maximum 49 days. The consciousness then enters another form of body in a rebirth and continues into the cycle of birth and death. This intermediate state-the Bardo period- is considered very crucial for spiritual reaiization because of the fact that a qualified lama, along with the proper faith and virtue of the deceased, can guide the departed consciousness to the right path.]

[Depending on the Year-sign and the year of death, each person is bestowed with an Astrological Deity. The family of the deceased consecrates and dedicates a statue or thangka of that deity to ensue favourable rebirth for their relative. A white track of flour is drawn showing the path for the body to take till the threshold of the house. And as soon as the body is out, the person identified with the correct Year-sign has to sweep the track clean.]

Notes:

A CONCISE INTRODUCTION TO TIBETAN ASTROLOGY

Men Tsee-Khang, Tibetan Medical & Astro. Institute

恭敬经典 南无阿弥陀佛 合十

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