First he and it is almost exclusively a male burns juniper in order to attract the vultures.
They arrive in hundreds to perch nearby and circle overhead. Meanwhile the man, a rogyapa, or "breaker of bodies," calmly sets aside his blade and grabs a hammer to pulverize the remaining bones.
For Tibetan Buddhists, death is a complex, spiritual journey that has little to do with the physical form. The journey starts at sunrise and the family joins the procession, beating drums and chanting. The rogyapas shovelled what little remained of the body back into the plastic bag.
For those that conceive of an afterlife, the next question is how do you get there? Additionally, subsurface interment is difficult since the active layer is not more than a few centimeters deep, with solid rock or permafrost beneath the surface.
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In keeping with the beliefs of Vajrayana Buddhismwhich is heavily practised throughout Tibet and parts of Mongolia, a sky burial is considered to be the most generous and practical means of disposing a corpse.
The Sky burial represents an act of compassion, feeding the dead body which no longer has a function, to the sacred vultures as a final act of charity.
It might sound like an alarming concept for people living in our current society but its values and philosophy are surprisingly beautiful and virtuous. In the observation of the traditional Tibetan ceremony we had learned more about this culture than books could ever teach.
The body breakers scrubbed their arms and hands with water, ridding themselves of any evidence of the sky burial. However, the practice continues to diminish for a number of reasons, including restrictions on its practice near urban areas and diminishing numbers of vultures in rural districts.