What happens to us when we die? This question has puzzled great thinkers for over 25 centuries now. We have been looking for answers everywhere and our extremely sharp brain can’t accept the fact that we go into nothingness after living such an eventful but short life in this infinite universe. We can’t accept the fact that we have such a short role to play. We have been looking at religion for our answers from a very long time and many learned and gifted scholars and thinkers have been trying to look for the answers. Everyone has their own views and prophets gone through a lot of trouble to find out as to what happens after death and what the motive of our lives is basically. For example Lord Buddha also known as Siddharta, meditated under a tree for many years after leaving the courtly luxuries to find the true meaning of life and to find the end of all suffering on this planet.
Buddha came to the conclusion that life is a huge cycle and the meaning of our life is to get freed from this cycle of rebirth but doing well in life. He preached that our present lives are a result of the actions of our previous life and that if we have to get free from this cycle of rebirth then we need to free ourselves from all the evils and the desires and live a completely unmaterialistic life. This process is called nirvana and this is the ultimate goal of a Buddhist.
WHAT IS NIRVANA?
Nirvana is actually a Sanskrit that basically means to blow out and was first used by Lord Buddha himself. We can see that in the later ages this theory had its effect on other religions of India like Hinduism and Jainism though nirvana is slightly different in every religion.
Nirvana corresponds with the word moksha a lot in Indian culture for example we can see that there is reference of nirvana with the word Nirban in Sikhism and Sikhism also has rebirth in its order and it says that one needs to be completely devoted to the teachings of Guru Nanak and God to get freed from the cycle of rebirth and attain moksha which is basically nirvana. In Jainism you attain Nirvana or moksha so that you move onto something where there is no pain or suffering, there are no illnesses and no death and you can attain this nirvana by living a pure life without any desires and evil, just like Buddhism.
In Hinduism we don’t find any reference to nirvana before the advent of Buddhism but it is after the advent that nirvana got introduced into the religion. The nirvana of Hinduism is not to transit into nothingness like Buddhism but it is to reach mental peace. In the Mahabharata we find that the Pandavas end up in heaven and that is what nirvana is all about. A person is stuck in the cycle of rebirth until he lives the kind of life where he attains perfect peace of mind and there are no more questions in his mind and his mind is still. Then one frees himself from the circle of life and moves onto heaven.
So nirvana has been a common goal amongst all the religions that originated in India but it originated from Buddhism.
NIRVANA IN BUDDHISM
Well after days of meditation in the harsh conditions of the world under a banyan in Gaya, Lord Buddha was enlightened and he had reached his goal. He came up with a number of teachings which he preached from that time while travelling to various parts of India. His teachings brought to life a new religion which was the common people loved as it talked about renunciation from pain without any costly rituals but just by abstaining from greed, any kind of desires and having a calm mind. According to Lord Buddha humans, animals, all are equal and that all living things have a soul that is immortal. This soul keeps taking rebirths in different forms depending on the actions of their previous life and this will keep on happening until you attain nirvana and your soul moves onto another dimension that is into nothingness and a place where nothing exists and everything is just stable. To attain nirvana all you have to do is practise abstinence from worldly desires and instead spend your life looking for the truth and meditating. Once you attain nirvana, you are free from all the pain and suffering of the world. Though later according to particular sect of Buddhism, even after attaining nirvana you do take rebirths to serve humanity and to spread your knowledge and way of life that is Buddhism.
FUNERALS IN BUDDHISM
Funerals are very important for the Buddhists, just not for the expired but also for the family members. Rituals are held that are meant to help the dead in their next journey and scripts are read out that will help the dead on their way. Certain sects gift a white cloth to the priest presiding the funeral and the priest has to wear that white cloth as a ceremonial dress.
Buddhists practise mummification in some sects. Many sects practise the cremation of the dead bodies and this is the most common practice in Buddhism. Some even place the dead bodies is caves and forests where they are consumed by scavengers because they believe that flesh is temporary and doesn’t last.
The cremated remains are kept in a building called the columbarium. Columbarium originates from the roman times, who used to keep the urns containing the cremated loved ones in monuments that were, build underground. Many a time’s places of religious worship have columbariums in them and this is a very safe way to preserve the remains while saving space. The Mandai Columbarium is one of the most famous columbaria’s in the world and has the latest technology which helps save space. It also houses the remains of the last two Presidents’ of the country.