Practices

Feng Shui for the Dead

Have you ever wondered why the certain Chinese gravestones look alike at times? Or why certain gravestones are on a slope and overlooking a pond? If your guess is it is because of Feng Shui, then you are correct.

Chinese People pout a lot of thought into how things are placed. Even in their homes, they would consult a Feng Shui master first before designing the interior. This practice is also applied when picking the area for the burial, the position of the tombstone, the orientation of the grave, and the like.

Feng Shui, for those who do not know, is a system of geomancy believed to use the laws of both Heaven and Earth to improve one’s life by receiving positive qi (energy). Though all four elements are used in this system, contact with the Earth is most important, especially in death.

It is said that the way the body is placed on the ground can affect the descendants of the person who died that is why Chinese families consult with experts in order to avoid back luck for those who were left behind.

Traditionally, Chinese families do not practice cremation due to the belief that it will bring three generations of back luck. Feng Shui expert themselves did not use to recommend cremation to the families of the departed. But because of modern times, widening options and the fad in inurnment, many families are starting to prefer cremation. With this, the new burial process is slowly becoming acceptable amongst Chinese especially those outside mainland China.

In line with this, many wonder if it is acceptable in the practice of Feng Shui to turn dead bodies into diamonds. This is a new artificial diamond industry. What they do it they take the dead body, cremate it in such a way that the charcoal will turn into ash. They then place that ash under intense pressure in which it pops into industrialized diamonds. Surprisingly, these diamonds are far more expensive than the ones that come out of the mountain. Over time, a whole family can be built into one valuable collection.

When asked about this matter, Feng Shui experts say that not only is this practice “OK” but it also brings good fortune. Diamonds are crystals and crystals are good in Feng Shui. It is said that this practice allows one to create something precious and permanent, with good energy.

When asked about cryogenics, Feng Shui masters ex- press that it is acceptable as well. Cryogenics is the study of very low temperatures and how materials react to these temperatures. Relating this to the dead, this practice is done by burying the dead upside down in jar and freezing it so that generations later will be able to revive it to find a cure for the disease that cause its death.

This idea may sound like it came from a skeptic but some believe it to be true. From a Feng Shui master’s point of view, there is nothing wrong with this practice. Early Taoists believed in the immortality of the body and this is a bad goal in Feng Shui as it is in some Western beliefs.

Other beliefs may include placing the urn at the highest vaults is the best. This explains why vaults get increase in price as they get higher up the shelf. Many believe that the journey of the spirit of the departed will be shorter if placed at a higher position.

Many also look into the direction of where the tomb or urn is facing. This will depend on a lot of things such as the ancestors of the departed, the date of birth, date of death and other things that Feng Shui masters use to identify the proper “qi”. They use a Feng Shui compass to determine this and whichever direction the needle points to after the adjustments are made, then this will be the advised direction on where the urn should be placed or where the tomb or grave should be placed.

Feng Shui is obviously not based on scientific research, nor is it based on the Bible or Koran. It is a set of philosophies that guided the beliefs of Chinese people during the past. I, for one, am Chinese and up until today, I still do not get the idea of Feng Shui. Despite this, I still respect the beliefs that my ancestors followed. As long as it won’t bring you harm, there is no reason to push this practice away.

No to Cremation: Traditional burial process.

The cemetery has always been a place for the deceased to have his or her final rest. For thousands of years, the traditional burial practice has been the most used process of disposing of the deceased bodies. Cemetery came from an ancient Greek word named “sleeping place”, that death is a type of eternal sleep, burying the body and is left to decompose over time. There is also the belief in cultures that the body must be whole for the afterlife thus, the practice of the traditional burial process where in the body slowly decays and is returned back to the ground.

There are two ways to bury deceased bodies. There is the traditional process wherein the deceased body will be placed inside a casket and will open to public view for a few days. Depending on the family’s preference, there will be a funeral procession wherein they will transfer the casket from the funeral home to the cemetery as it goes into its final burial rest. This process is the most conventional practice of burying the dead. For years, this practice is the one that is commonly used across cultures.

Another method is your cremation, where it condenses dead bodies and reducing it to the basic chemical compounds, by burning the bodies until it becomes remains of dry bone, ashes and minerals. Public viewing can be optional in this course, and it can be done prior or after the cremation process. This process is becoming more popular because it is said that cremation has been an easier and cheaper process than those who use the traditional method. People now prefer cremation because it is less costly than the traditional burial process being at least one fifth less expensive than that of a traditional burial.

The crematorium, the body is burned at a temperature of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit or 1093 degrees Celsius. Instead of using coal and coke, which was used prior to the 1960’s, they use natural gas, propane and diesel to fuel the furnaces, also using the latest technology wherein you can control the temperature and there will be less odor emitted from the smoke. Crematoriums can be found in either inside or near the church or on the funeral home.

There are different cultures who believe in the process of cremation, however, some do not allow it because of reasons such as pagan rituals, the disrespecting of the corpse, etc. Each religion and country has different traditions that they uphold and that they cherish. Most Christian religions disapprove of the cremation process; they’d prefer to do the natural way of decomposing of the deceased body, burying them to the ground.

In the Church of Christ popularly known as Iglesia Ni Cristo, the tradition says that God strictly forbids the process of cremation. It was because pagan rituals influenced cremation. Another was because it had religious connotations outside of the church’s beliefs. According to INC members, cremation was not included the bible to begin with. The bible teaches that the dead are supposed to be buried in the grave; wherein they go back to dust and the soul dies with their body. They strictly follow the writings in the bible and all their traditions and beliefs are influenced by what was written down in their sacred book.

Roman Catholics on the other hand did not allow cremation from the beginning. It was forbidden because of the process is pagan rituals of Grecians and Romans, similar to those from INC. They bury their dead in graves or catacombs.

They believe that the body being a sacramental object and this process allows the refusal of resurrection to one’s body. Although outlawed, it was seldom practiced for several reasons such as burning of the multitude of corpses due to battles and famines.  At present times on the other hand, the Catholic Church already allowed cremation as long as it goes through the proper funeral rites before the cremation process.

Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches also disapprove of the cremation process.  It is a rejection of the Christian dogma, and is not permitted to have a church funeral and excluded from liturgical prayers. Although forbidden, there are special circumstances that cremation will be allowed, as long as it will be for a greater cause. Examples of which are during epidemics and when the civil authority allows it.

The process of cremation is becoming more popular because it is a cheaper process than your traditional burial. Some, still continue do practice with the traditional process of burying for religious and personal reasons. Those who can afford it, they usually do the process of the natural decaying, but for money-saving purposes, cremation is becoming a more popular choice. It saves effort and most especially money. The most important thing is that it is the preference of the family or the person who is departed, and that the deceased body is given a proper, final, rest.

Pro-cremation

Derived from the Latin word “cremo” meaning “to burn”, cremation goes as far as its etymology describes it. Cremation is the application of heat that ranges from 1400 to 2100 degrees Fahrenheit (760 to 1150 degree Celsius) to a wooden casket that contains a dead body. That just means that the heat applied is 7 to 11 times the temperature of boiling water. The ruins weigh from 4 to 8 pounds. After the first process, the remains are then ground to granule. Cremation is a 3 to 5 hour process. Cremation is a very old kind of ritual. Archeologists believe that cremation began during the Stone Age, 3000 BCE. The near East part of Europe most likely used it first. As the years passed, by 800 BCE, cremation became the common method in disposing the dead body. After 200 years, the Rome used it also as their way of disposing the dead body. However, some culture did not want cremation as a way of disposing the dead body. For instance, the Christians back then shunned cremation because of the idea that it is related to paganism because of Greece and Rome used it, so they buried their dead in catacombs or underground vaults. However, at present, there are more cultures that allow cremation.

Dharmic faiths, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, require the use of cremation. Their main reason for this is what Bhagavad Gita quoted, “Just as old clothes are cast off and new ones taken, the soul leaves the body after the death to take a new one.” Their belief goes against the reason of the early Christians, because for the early Christian, a body is sacred because it carries the soul, for them, the body is not sacred anymore as the soul already left the body for a new one. Hindu tradition explains why cremation is more preferred in their culture. They believe that cremating the body stimulates detachment, and since detachment plays a huge role in their culture, cremation, for them is a better practice than burial. In addition, they also have a reason for doing a plain burial for children. They are put into the idea that since they are kids, they have not had any attachment since they only lived for such a short period. In relation to cremating, Hindu labels cremation as the “last rites”. As the “last rites”, a Puja, Hindu prayer, is performed to help the spirit of the body transcend to the afterlife.

Christianity on the other hand did not fully agree with cremation. In fact, the Early Christians were against cremation. For them, the body is treated as a sacred material and should be buried properly. Also, a list of Bible verses explains the negativity of burning someone.

“Genesis 38:24: Judah initially ordered his pregnant daughter-in-law to be burned to death because she was guilty of prostitution. This action would have caused the death of the woman and her twin fetuses.

Exodus 32:20: Moses destroyed the golden calf by burning it.

Leviticus 20:14: If a man marries both a woman and her mother, then all three “must be burned in the fire” (NIV). The passage is ambiguous: it is not known whether they would be burned alive, or would be stoned to death first, and their bodies burned later.

Leviticus 21:9: If the daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute, then she “must be burned in the fire.” (NIV)

Numbers 16:35: God exterminated Korah and 250 Israelite men with fire because they opposed Moses.

Deuteronomy 7:25: God commanded that the idols of Pagan Gods be destroyed with fire.

Joshua 7:15-25: After Joshua and his army exterminated the men, women and innocent children of Jericho, a few soldiers disobeyed God’s command and looted the city. As punishment for the theft, and to pay for Israel’s disgrace, God ordered the thieves to be burned. They were stoned to death; their bodies were burned and buried in what was called the Valley of Achor.

Judges 15:6: The Philistines burned Samson’s wife and father-in-law to death.

1 Samuel 31:11-13: Earlier in the chapter, Saul had been wounded and asked for assisted suicide from his armor-bearer. The latter refused, so Saul committed suicide himself. The Philistines impaled Saul’s body and those of his sons and left them on public display. The people of Jabesh Gilead retrieved the bodies, burned them and later buried the remaining bones in Gilead. There have been a number theories raised to account for this unusual treatment to a hero:

Burning might have a local custom in Gilead.

The people of Gilead may have been worried that the Philistines might dig up the bodies and further desecrate them.

Burning might have been necessary because their bodies may have partly decomposed.

the Hebrew word translated as “burnt” might actually mean “annointed”; thus, the bodies might not have been burned after all.

2 Kings 10:26: Jehu demolished a temple consecrated to the God Baal and burned its sacred stone.

Jeremiah 29:22: This verse contains a curse which refers to the time that the Babylonians burned Zedekiah and Ahab by fire.

Amos 2:1: God proclaimed a death curse on Moab because he had reduced the bones of the king of Edom to lime through burning.

The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) contain few references to burning of bodies or objects:

Acts 19:19: Sorcerers who were converted to Christianity brought their scrolls out to be burned.

Revelation 20:15: The fate of those whose names were not written in the Book of Life is to be thrown into the lake of fire.” (Robinson, “Cremation vs Burial: Christian Controversy”)

However, during the medieval period, cremation was practices, and until today, the Church (Catholic) allows the process of cremation already. They still prefer burial, but cremation is already allowed in the Catholic community. In connection to Christianity, Protestants have long before accepted the practice of cremation.

Another religion that accepts cremation as a form of disposal is the Neo-Paganism. Pagans believe that the rising smoke symbolizes the spirit of the dead. Lastly, other religions that accept the practice of cremation are Jainism, Seventh-day Adventist Church and Sikhs.

Cremation was a pagan practice. However, as the period changes, it gets accepted by the modern culture. Nevertheless, some still contradict to it.

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