Sky Burial

Vimeo below is a better video

open vimeo above

I was standing in the cadaver lab, working over the dead man and slicing and dicing his arm. I was perfecting taking the radial nerve out and dissecting other tissue before suturing it back together.  At some point I realized how special the person was that donated his body to science, in effect letting me cut him to pieces and then trying to put him back together.  I tried to figure out how he died:  gun shot, cancer or old age.  I think it was cancer because the arm was so thin.

Ok So I said a prayer of thanksgiving and then proceeded to chop him up and that took me back to my memories of the “SKY BURIAL” below

                 Arden and I had attempted to ride our bikes around the world and by the time we got to Nepal we were trekking up the Kalikondaki River Valley, well past the Annapurna circuit.  One of things we had wanted to see was a very spiritual function the “SKY  BURIAL”.  We as humans have some special functions we celebrate:  birth, (puberty- or coming of age), marriage, and then death.  So the sky burial celebrates and deals with death.  For the western person, especially 25 years ago, the SKY BURIAL was unheard of, but it is of significant importance.  In the west, we usually have a what could be a long ordeal celebrating a persons death.  It can include: wakes, embalming, casket, viewing, burial service and then remembrances in a party function.  This can take well over a week to happen depending on the religion. Now, more frequently, the person is cremated (burned) with the ashes saved in an urn.

In Buddhism and on the Thirteen plateau the burial must happen immediately because there are no freezer or functions to preserve the body.  So without much wood for fuel, the sky burial becomes very important and in my opinion it is the most ecologically favorable way to dispose of a body.
             So Arden and I tried so hard to witness a “SKY BURIAL” on the Tibetan Plateau in Northern Nepal but unfortunately we never got to see it due to a very bad disease I picked up.  But we did see a film about the process at the English Embassy. The Sky Burial is religious, holy and is not gruesome.  Monks take the body while drinking Chang and then proceed to chop it up in a sacred spot where huge black vultures come and feast on the parts.  The monks chop and saw the body to manageable sizes for the wonderful birds and these mighty beasts carry the parts away as food for their families.  The head is saved until last and then the holy monks break open the skull, allowing the spirit to be released and the circle of life is complete.
This is an amazing religious experience.  I have asked Arden to preform a sky burial for me in my back yard.  Could you imagine a fox running down Seminary with my arm in its mouth with the wedding ring still on the finger of my arm –  now that would be a stopper.          Honestly this is the most efficient, ecological and environmentally friendly way to dispose of bodies.
Here is a video showing you what I had hoped to see and what I saw in the embassy of England in a film format 25 years ago.