(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
[Origin: Miaoli News] Coffins have usually been designed for the deceased to ‘lie down’ within, but now, there is a new cremation device designed especially for Buddhists who want to be sat in the cross-legged meditation posture after death. It is a traditional practice for very advanced Buddhist practitioner to ‘pass away’ whilst maintaining an upright, seated meditation posture (known as the practice of ‘Zuo Hua’ [坐化], or ‘Seated ‘Transformation’). This new cremation device is known as a ‘compact shrine coffin’ (龕棺 – Kan Guan), or ‘niche coffin’, designed to fit-in to a religious or spiritually appropriate ‘space’. Furthermore, as this new device is made entirely of paper and wood, it is considered entirely environmentally friendly.
This new device has been developed by the commercial arm of the ‘Benevolent and Virtuous Medical College of Life Care’, after consultation with the Chinese Buddhist community, and after listening to the many needs and concerns, it was decided to design a simple, straightforward and cost-effective device suitable for the modern era. This is a business initiative premised upon traditional standards of religious and spiritual etiquette, and harnessed to produce a range of goods to help those who follow spiritual or religious beliefs. The founding principle of this type of business is one of a profound respect for the Buddhist community, and the production of goods designed to help that community – rather than to make monetary profit. In this business model, the profit is measured in ‘virtue’ earned, and not in cash gathered. These devices can be designed for either correct Buddhist sitting, or indeed in a manner more suited to Western people. Western people are more than welcome to participate in the use of these new devices, which are manufactured by staff specially trained to retain a ‘respectful’ attitude throughout the construction process.
Qiu daneng (邱達能), the Director of the Life and Bereavement Department stated: ‘I personally approached Dharma Master Fa Cang (法藏) of the ‘Ten Thousand Buddha Temple’ (萬佛寺 – Wan Fo Si), situated in Tainan. He agreed that in the past, devout Buddhist people had no choice as to the device used for their cremation, but now, even if they cannot pass-away unaided whilst sat in the upright meditation posture, they can be placed in this new burial device in a manner that expresses their deepest spiritual and religious beliefs. There is now no need to ‘lie down’ if that is not what you do not want to do. Of course, this a new innovation for Mainland China, and we will be developing training courses to teach the coffin-makers how to generate a virtuous mind-set during the process of manufacture.’
Director Qiu went on to explain that his department is working on a special ‘preservation’ technique premised upon modern science, whereby the deceased body can be respectfully treated so as to maintain its posture whilst sat in the new device, whilst being placed in a specially designed environment (with air conditioning and filtering in effect), that maybe considered a ‘secular’ burial space, whereby these new devices can be respectfully positioned and maintained. This is a matter that is currently being discussed with the Government of China, but such a development would take the strain away from temples and monasteries, or where they still exist, exclusive burial plots for clans, etc. What is needed is a ‘new’ way of viewing traditional attitudes toward ‘death’, that allows a version of the old ways to exist in a technically advanced modern or post-modern China. This development, if it is accepted, will need to train a new generation of young people so that they can understand the religious attitude, and why things were done a certain way in the past. Whatever the case, monetary profit cannot be used to lead this initiative, which must always be facilitated through the agency of ‘respect’ for one’s fellow humanity.
This ‘seated’ coffin is different from ‘long’ coffins in that it is of modular design, and can be stored flat-packed with no problem. When assembled, there is no need for screws or nails – every part fits securely into its proper place and is ‘locked’ tightly into place. A circular raised dome is provided for the base, and there are stout handles which allow family and friends to carry the deceased to the desired location. Director Qiu further stated that this new burial device is made of paper and wood, and is designed to be easily cremated under current Chinese law. In fact, the entire design is currently highly ‘flammable’ to assist the cremation process. As a consequence, this new device does not require diesel or petrol to burn properly at a high temperature, and so is environmentally friendly. It is an easy method for staying close to nature and returning one’s remains to the soil, etc. The upright design of the coffin not only tells observers that the deceased is a Buddhist with a high moral bearing, but is also a better design for the cremation furnace to reduce the entire device (and occupant) to an even level of ash. This new burial device can be associated with the great Buddhist monks of the past, some of whom were cremated in the upright meditation position, whilst others were placed in special ‘bell-shaped’ personal tombs for hundreds of years (whilst their bodies did not decay).
Original Chinese Language Article: