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Archive for March 11th, 2010

Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 147                                      Days Blogged: 131 

New Mileage: 8                                                     Total Trip Mileage: 1023

Bidding Farewell!

As I climbed on the bike this evening I did not have a blog topic in mind.  There are always ongoing world events and articles in the paper with spiritual themes.  Of course I could always return to the scene along the beach as we head up the coast. 

 I am amazed at how often topics appear as I go about my blog business on the internet.  I recently made Facebook friends with a young man from Bali Indonesia.  He is a Bali Hindu and I was intrigued to find that he had photos from a “Royal Bali Cremation Festival.”  This led me to research these festivals and discover some intriguing facts about the Bali Hindu cremation ritual.  It is like nothing I have come across in my studies and explorations. 

Parade of Gift Giver!

It seems that in Bali, like with many Hindu communities, cremation is the preferred form of interning deceased family members.  However, the ceremony appears to be complex and costly, as one source noted a family has to be quite rich to afford the ceremony.  So when someone dies they are temporary buried and then once every 5 years, at celestial auspicious times the departed are dug up, rewrapped and carried to a large communal funeral pyre.  It was noted that as many as 100 individuals may be cremated with each festival.  One author noted: “that strange as it seems, it is their cremation ceremonies that the Balinese have their greatest fun! “

Royal Bull and Tower!

A cremation is an occasion for gaiety and not for mourning, since it represents the accomplishment of a Hindu’s most sacred duty: the ceremonial burning of the corpses of the dead to liberate their souls so that they can thus attain the higher worlds and be free for reincarnation into better beings.  A large and choreographed ceremony is conducted.

First there is a parade of gifts for the families of the deceased.  In turn the family feeds everyone and entertains all with band music.  During this time a large bull statue is constructed out of bamboo and velvet along with a tall bamboo temple.

The bull and the tower are then carried to the cremation site.  The road is washed before them and all are sprinkled with holy water.  The path they travel is uneven causing the carriers to “shake” the bull and tower, as a means to “shake of evil spirits.”  Then the bodies are moved to the site and the cremation takes place.  The next morning the ashes are collected and carried to the ocean where they are cast into the water.

Carrying the Bull!

Several tourist guides noted these ceremonies as “must see” events!  I often tell my students that there is a great deal of variation on the surface or form level of funerals.  Cremations are less common in my culture as are joyful celebrations.  But the functions served by funerals in Bali or the USA are much the same: to bring together family and community, to share the memories of loved ones, and to release the loved one spirit.  It would appear to be similar to what you might find in New Orleans or an Irish wake.  The approach toward the event is one of joyful celebration instead of focusing on the “woe is us, how can we survive without them” attitude.  The focus is on the joy and the memory that they graced their lives.  I like that idea!  I guess I would like to think that when the time comes to have my ashes spread that people will not so much grieve at what is lost, but celebrate the seeds I have planted.  I wrote the following poem a number of years ago after attending a “spreading the ashes” ceremony at my church:

 

 

The Bull Burns!

Recipe for my Burial

Place my ashes

   In a large mixing bowl:

 Add one cup

     Of coffee beans

     Dark and oily

     Heavy with fragrance

          (Bavarian Chocolate would do nicely)

 Add one cup

     Of Flower Petals

     Assorted colors

     Soft hues

          (irises, daylilies, and roses too)

 Add a quarter cup

     Of Wild Flower Seed

          (any assortment will do)

 Add a half cup

     Of my Poetry

     Finely chopped

         (works as an odorless fertilizer)

 Add one pinch

Of Blackboard Chalk

 Add one heaping teaspoon

Of color pencil shavings

Ashes to the Sea!

Stir vigorously

With a wooden spoon.

 Find a sunny spot

     Which is easily seen,

     But not heavily trodden.

Apply mixture liberally

     To the dampened earth.

 Assist the rains

     With frequent watering.

 Think of me

   In every wild flower

      In the scent of coffee,

         In the fragrance of colorful blooms.

 Think of me

   In each poet’s word,

      In each artist’s vision.

 I hope you enjoyed the poem and that you will join me tomorrow as we near St. Augustine and several new pilgrimage sites.

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