Monday, September 29, 2008

buddhist cremation 50 years ago

my grandaunt passed away when i was in primary school. she had been sick for sometime and during her last few days, she was moved to a room set aside for the dying at the kong meng san phor kark see temple at bright hill road. in those days, cremation was still not so widely accepted. the hindus cremated their dead and some buddhists practised it because buddha was also cremated. people of other faiths generally did not accept cremation in the past.

those were the days when there was no gas furnace and the cremation was actually carried out in the open within a building which looked like a pagoda. the dead was not placed in a coffin but in a wooden structure that resembled a huge metronome. i remember my late grandaunt was placed upright and seated in a lotus position and all around, she was propped up by incense papers. the bundles of incense papers were stuffed into the spaces around her. when all was done, they sealed the metronome-like structure.

a few buddhist monks chanted prayers and carried out the ceremony before the fire was lit and the pyre was soon consumed by flames. however, the burning lasted much longer than today's gas furnace. i cannot recall how we collected the ashes. today, my grandaunt's remains are still stored in a urn at the kong meng san temple. every year, during qing ming, some members of my family will be there to pray for her.

today, for practical reasons more people have accepted cremation although there are some religious groups that discourage it and there are some that forbid it.

4 comments:

Icemoon said...

eh, looks like you have photoshopped the thing. What was it originally?

By the way, how they get the deceased to seat in a lotus position??

yg said...

i don't have photoshop and anyway, i don't know how to use it. i transferred the photo to a note-pad and use the paint-brush to conceal certain parts.

i am hazy about that; i think the structure was constructed in such a way that support was given to enable the deceased to maintain that position. also the incense papers helped.

Victor said...

I didn't know that a Buddhist cremation was carried out like that 50 years ago.

At first, I thought that those black spots on the object were rust stains.

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