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  Why I prefer cremation  


Though I am a Christian, I have asked my son to cremate me after I kick the bucket. Other Christians have a right to their own beliefs regarding post-mortem rites. Here, I want to stress on why, in the context of our country, adherents of all religions should opt for cremation.

For those readers who go to church, I want to say that the Bible doe not prescribe burial as the only method of disposing the dead. Early Christians adopted neutral Jewish practices. When customs from other religions do not compromise their loyalty to Jesus Christ and when they foster social harmony, their Nepali counterparts should adopt neutral, Nepali, cultural norms as well. After all, the Bible commands living at peace with all, when possible.

Contrary to popular belief, early Palestinian Christians did not actually bury; they kept their dead in caves. The geography of Israel enabled this because the soft limestone, which the region has abundantly, formed countless caves over the centuries. So, when a first century Christian died, his body rested in a hillside hole, his family could have bought. The Old Testament has the story of Abraham buying a cave to bury his wife. He did not purchase a plot of land to dig a grave in. So, the argument that only burial in a hole dug in the ground has validity lacks biblical basis.

If Palestinians had cremated their dead, the early Christians also would have done the same. If the Israelite society exposed their corpse to feed the vultures as the last kind act of the deceased, Palestinian Christians would have followed that as well. The church throughout the world has adopted local, neutral practices of followers of other religions. Otherwise, survival in a society becomes impossible. Even Christmas takes after a local festival to the sun-god, and no one actually knows when Jesus was born.

The Roman Catholic community of Nepal has shown us a sterling example of adoption of a local, neutral custom. When my English teacher, Rev Father Watrin, SJ, of St Xavier’s School passed away, the Assumption Church in Kathmandu held the service. Then, I followed the funeral procession to Kaal Mochan Ghat at Teku. Each person present there lighted a small twig and placed it on the burning pyre. Later on, the Church kept part of the ashes in a designated area. Simple, sane!
Adherents of all religions can adopt cremation, and avoid unnecessary battles by beleaguering the Nepali governments. We need to help the present cabinet under Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal to form the constitution by May 28 and bring the peace process to conclusion. Why distract it now with our burial-demands which a cool-headed government that comes after the first post-republican election can address in the future?
I will die one day, and my family will cremate me in Arya Ghat or Kaal Mochan Ghat. I have hardly done any good for my society while living. At least at death, I will have the satisfaction that my dead body will not occupy scarce Nepali soil that can have better uses.

Most countries have a scarcity of land. In the United Kingdom, a Methodist Church pastor took me to a funeral. The crematorium had a hall where the pastor and the relatives of the dead sat through a service with the body in a coffin at the front. At the end of the pastor’s message, a curtain closed the body out of sight. The corpse then awaited cremation in the computer controlled gas furnace. Relatives would collect the ashes and valuables, like gold from treated teeth/ornaments, a few days later. When asked why the pastor did not order for a grave to be dug, he said only the rich and famous could afford a grave.

In Japan, Christians cremate the body first; and then bury the last lump (called astu in Nepali) that does not burn. This means the space the deceased actually needs in the ground measures only a few cubic inches.

In our small country, tinier than most Indian states, we can scarcely afford the many cubic feet that millions of full-sized corpses require. Innumerable people alive do not have land for a roof over their heads. Imagine purchasing a hill-side for the sake of the dead! The solution lies in our tradition which practices cremation. Last year, the cost of fire-wood and the services of the pyre-tender came to about Rs 7000 at Pashupati’s Arya Ghat. This shows how simple cremations are. Just think of the hassle if you opt for a burial.

The cultural tradition we have inherited teaches us that a corpse should go to the burning pyre, away from a village, as soon as possible. Burial entails taking a dead body to a plot that may be close to a habitation-site. Also, many consider burial an incomplete post-mortem ceremony which will create ghosts. No wonder most people in the Shleshmantak forest area and others object to it. You may not believe in ghosts, but others do.

Winston Churchill once said, "Only a fool never changes his mind." People who have grown up thinking burial as the only proper means of disposal of the dead (some Christians, a few Janajatis, sannyasis, giris) should transform their thinking for the sake of social harmony and saving land for the roofless. Why irritate adherents of other religions unnecessarily?

We do not have any, exclusively "proper" method of disposing the dead. It depends on the circumstances. Terrorists blow up airplanes, and some have jumbo jets for their graves. Other bomb-stricken bodies may dissolve as particles into the air. People who die on ships probably end up in the bellies of fishes.

Blocking roads, going on hunger strikes to force the government to give burial grounds can, on closer investigation, open up many hidden, self-defeating issues. An example of which is : Some rich Nepali churches have already bought land for burial. The question naturally arises—why do they not they make their plots available, for a fee, to churches poorly equipped then them? If such churches do not share among themselves, as the early Christian community did, should we ask the government to provide land that comes to use only when someone dies and lays vacant at other times?

By avoiding patient discussion, people who block roads to press their demands prove that, like others who do the same, they have no claim to higher morality. Leaders urging the people to do so, may end up as ministers one day, but they loose their spiritual authority. Most religions allow fasting to get closer to god, not to threaten the society with suicide. Gandhi fasted “to death" and got away with it because he challenged the relatively humane British. Had Hitler ruled India, a deceased Gandhi could have lain on the funeral pyre after his first successful fast.

I will die one day, and my family will cremate me in Arya Ghat or Kaal Mochan Ghat. I have hardly done any good for my society while living. At least at death, I will have the satisfaction that my dead body will not occupy scarce Nepali soil that can have better uses.
Published on 2011-04-03 01:10:21
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Why I Prefer Cremation
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The writer seems grown up in the western culture, as he is feeding up some of the western culture. Culture is those things followed by people , the locally cultivated in the native soil.well its fair to accept that cremation is the way , but what could be the pollution , and deforestation invited by the use of logwoods. Further , if we buried the body it helps rebacking of the fertility of the soil , and more it helps to preseve forest , help in green EArth .so khatri ji , its not fare to say [more]
  - pahara
I am 100% agree with Dr. Khatri!! [more]
  - bhuvan devkota
I do believe the same as Dr. Khatry mentioned. I think you have read from the book:"I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.-Esc.3:2".

I also prefer to cremate. [more]
  - Gobinda
_____1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 (NIV, ©2011)

15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caug [more]
  - Akash
Thank you, Ramesh, for a very helpful and erudite treatment of this current problem. One issue you didn´t touch on that may concern a few Christians concerns our bodily resurrection (cf 1 Thess 4,16). It may be worth briefly putting minds at rest! [more]
  - Richard Odell
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