Hindu Practice of Cremation
>From: Mr RV Anamalay <email@example.com>
-This may seem like a silly question, but what seems to be the
-basis of the hindu practice of cremation? Also, what are the
-reasons for deviating from the general practice of cremation?
I wrote this article in response to someone who was criticizing
cremation and was in favor of burial. I have edited it somewhat
to post it here .
To me, the Hindu cremation is the most sensible way to dispose
of the matter; with an overcrowded planet, we need space for the
living, without competing with the dead for it. In crowded cities
like Bombay and Hong Kong, it is most galling, though I am sure
other places have the same problem as well. It is not surprising
that crematoriums are increasing greatly in number in the U.S
and other countries.
Also, in the case of an epidemic, I'd feel more comfortable
knowing that all the infected bodies have been reduced to
ashes. Seems safer and more hygienic.
Cremation follows logically from the basic doctrine of the
Hindus which says that the body is like a garment, to be
discarded when worn out. After death, the body has no
further significance, and should be disposed off so the
elements can mingle with the earth and disappear. No further
revelling-in-death fetishes are possible once this is done - this
is to reinforce the idea that material existence is
transient and will turn to dust - philosophy searches for
the Real and the True in this confusing, constantly changing
universe - human existence is like a bubble
in the ocean, present here and now, leaving without a
trace tomorrow. The soul (Jiva) that has departed is
commemorated in Vedic utterances which have the character of
Eternity, and no further ado is made of their earthly remains which
are now destroyed with finality as they have joined the realm
of the Unreal. Whatever is real has departed, and the unreal
substance has no significance which would demand preservation.
I love the philosophical consistency of this line of thought;
it shows the clarity of thinking of the ancient Hindus. It is
also a refreshing contrast to the various morbid death cults
which expend more money and energy on the dead than on the
living; the massive tombs, the sepulchres, awful dirges
calculated to make the mourner sink deeper into melancholia, and
other gaudy productions are in strong contrast with the demands of
the event; dignity, simplicity, cleansing expression of grief,
and reflection on the profound philosphical issues that death
must bring to the surface...
Having said that, it is a fact that Sannyasins and little
infants are not cremated but buried. If anyone knows why,