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Buddhism in the News


Monday, January 31, 2011

Colorado Town Allows Funeral Pyre Cremation.

CRESTONE, Colo. -- Belinda Ellis' farewell went as she wanted. One by one, her family placed juniper boughs and logs about her body, covered in red cloth atop a rectangular steel grate inside a brick-lined hearth. With a torch, her husband lit the fire that consumed her, sending billows of smoke into the blue-gray sky of dawn. The outdoor funeral pyre in this southern Colorado mountain town is unique. Funeral and cremation industry officials say they are unaware of any other place in the nation that conducts open-air cremations for people regardless of religion. A Buddhist temple in Red Feather Lakes, Colo., conducts a few funeral pyres, but only for its members. (Article by Ivan Moreno of the Associated Press)

James: I have long told family and close friends that my wishes upon death are to have my body cremated and the ashes spread through the four elements of nature: earth, fire, air and water. It is my hope that those ashes will be of benefit to the natural world that made this current life possible. It is a good reminder of the impermanence of life, and a powerful, visual aid to help us let go of the deceased. It seems as though it would help loved ones accept the reality of the death easier than dressing them in fancy clothes and applying make-up as though they are off to a party, rather than no longer alive. I feel that sealing that costumed corpse into a box, to bury in the ground, frozen in time, seems like it often makes the suffering of those left behind more painfully drawn out; leaving them lost to the enslavement of denial.

So, I am pleased to see my home state of Colorado taking the lead on allowing cremation by funeral pyre; especially when you consider the growing Buddhist population here who tend to favor cremation. I like the visual impact of it because so much of the death process in the West is hidden from view--even the current manner of cremating remains occurs behind closed doors. It seems very natural and fittingly appropriate for family and friends to be active participants in the disposal of the body. I don't think there is anything wrong with burying your family in the ground, if that's your style. However, I don't see why there should be laws outlawing cremation by funeral pyre if the proper regulations, authorities and guidelines are established. As well as a location deemed safe and sanitary for such a ceremony.

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO: Cremation by funeral pyre in Crestone, Colorado, USA by Ivan Moreno for the Associated Press.

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Adam said...

Wonderful. I've asked to be creamated as well. I don't need to take up any real estate when I'm dead. Seems wasteful. However, I do understand that grave stones/markers can be a place of comfort and refuge for the survivors, so I've also asked to have a tree planted in my honor. They can mark it if they see fit.


Jayarava said...

Back in 1999 (I think) I attended an open air cremation for a member of our Order in New Zealand. It was able to happen because someone worked with the local authorities and indigenous people - because it was against the law usually and carried many taboos for the Māori.

So it can be done even when legislation and local custom is against you, if it is done sensitively and it's clear that you are serious, sober, and solemn about it.

Sandra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Reymiland said...

I, too, wanted to be cremated until I thought it a higher good to let my body be used for transplants for others to live and perhaps attain Buddhahood. I intend to be harvested like a September cornfield..and whatever is left given to medical students to learn from.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts, exactly, thank you.
I have always found present day funerals macabre. My parents impressed me by being cremated, in a generation not accustomed to the idea. But I had to smile when they still wanted to buried. My mother saying..I can't stand the thought of being on someone mantle. :o)

Good for Colorado, I hope they will lead the way for the rest of the U.S.


(This is James reposting a comment from Sandra. She wanted me to edit it for her, and this is the best way I knew how).

Embracing Freshness said...

This is a skillful post, James. Reymiland, I appreciate your thoughts and you have got me to thinking about organ donation and medical research.

Tim Little said...

With inflation and budget cuts few americans have $14,000 - $20.000 to blow on a funeral when a straight cremation will do fine. cremation urns

Elisheva said...

I so heartily agree. But one can imagine what an enormous leap that would be for many people who have grown in a culture utterly denying this part of our process, to see death so openly. I think its a beautiful thing to be cremated and love this thought that it reflects impermanence an dour true nature. I spread my husbands ashes into a beautiful valley, and washed the urn in a river, in the evening sun, I think it one of the most romantic things I could have done for him. It helped me enormously in the letting go of him and my understanding of all of our passings.
Thanks for your writing, I will link to here x E

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