Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Shocking Ritual: Sky Burial

A normal practice in Tibet, revolting to the world, called “sky burial”. In Tibet, the question “what about the bodies?” is actually a real problem because of the unsuitable geographical conditions.
It is almost impossible for anyone to bury their relatives. For Buddhists, it is not imperative that the bodies of the deceased are preserved. The bodies need to “re-enter” nature, especially because they believe in reincarnation.
After a solemn procession, the relatives of the deceased head for a remote location. 

Then, the deceased is stripped of his clothes and carefully sat on earth. Then, his relatives come and make dozens of cuts over the whole body.
They get away from the corpse and wait for “nature to do his part”. Dozens of vultures, attracted by the smell of blood, come and simply devour the “meal”. Then, after the eagles have done their job, the family comes and get the remains of the body. All the bones are gathered in one place and chopped.
But such a procedure is adopted only for the rich because it requires the participation of the most important members of the community. Poor people simply abandon their bodies on the rocks and let nature take its course.
The practice of “sky burial” is considered as an act of generosity. He who died offers by “sacrifice” food to the remaining relatives.
Chinese authorities, who control Tibet, have banned the practice in the 1960′s, but have accepted it as legal again in the ’80s.


  1. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share.. ..

  2. It is shocking only if you don't know the wisdom behind that practice. Need to understand what death means in Tibetan Buddhism.

  3. But the point is for the whole body to be consumed. So the body is carved up and the bones cracked/pulverized then put on the choicer parts of the meat so that the vultures consume them first. Then the rest of the body meat is added.

    Note in areas where vultures are not available other less suitable carnivores are acceptable, that is probably where the leave out for nature to take its course comes from.

    I've read that very young babies can be thrown into the river for the fish to eat.

    Note that some of these practices are changing as the region is becoming more Sinofied.

    Also, the Sky Burial tradition was outlawed by the Chinese until the mid 80's when they relaxed restrictions on religious practices.

    1. Oh and the practice of dissecting myriad corpses in order to make even the bones palatable to the vultures has been credited with the relative sophistication of Tibetan Medicine in the pre-scientific medical world. It has been asserted that Chinese Medicine owes a great debt to the Tibetan tradition. Ayruvedic (Indian Herbal) Medicine may also have been influenced as well. Tibet was a historic crossroads and trading route between India and China, As well as sharing many cultural and religious traditions.

  4. Most likely the most "green" burial there is.
    Why waste wood and stone to build a coffin or a gravestone, or gas, wood whatever to be turned into ash. Its only shocking if your a close minded person.

  5. shocking for a western mind, you mean.