Buddhism: Environmentally ‘Friendly’ Upright Cremation Box

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(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:

http://www.merit-times.com/NewsPage.aspx?unid=423942

環保坐姿龕棺 全副紙材打造

2015/12/8

【本報苗栗訊】棺材不只能躺,還有坐的!苗栗縣仁德醫專近期研發一款坐式棺材「龕棺」,提供宗教界人士維持「坐化」姿勢回歸淨土,龕棺還以紙材打造,創新不失環保,顛覆以往大眾對棺材的想像。

仁德醫專生命關懷事業科培育殯葬人才,也致力研發生命禮儀創意商品,經宗教界人士鼓勵,創新設計一款坐姿式棺木,因宗教信仰提及安然亡逝、合掌坐化概念,坐棺可配合坐化大體的姿勢,安然前往西方世界。

生關科主任邱達能說,台南萬佛寺法藏法師向他提及此事,過往宗教人士別無選擇,多只能以躺姿入棺,若能設計一款坐棺,解決宗教界人士需求,「就此功德無量」,他特別遠赴大陸杭州棺材工廠「量身」訂製。

坐棺又名「龕棺」,邱達能百無禁忌,以自身身形為樣本,打造一只高一百二十公分、九十公分見方的龕棺,放置在生關科的死亡體驗教室;他說,目前已經完成研發,正在申請專利中,未來預計輔導學生透過育成中心創業販售。

「龕棺」與一般長形棺材大不同,邱達能表示,「龕棺」為組合式設計,上蓋、底座與側板都可拆卸組裝,「不用一根釘子,全由卡榫取代」,底座則採「天圓地方」版面,底部還可裝圓棍,方便出殯時由弟子或親友「抬」棺。

龕棺設計也很環保,全由「紙」打造,再加上一層木片保護;紙做的龕棺比一般木棺容易受熱,不會產生有害物質,邱達能也說,「龕棺火化燃燒集中,也能省柴油」,不易破壞環境生態,也讓往生者回歸大自然。

邱達能也提到,由於「龕棺」比一般棺材高出許多,他特別情商知名宗教聖地苗栗南庄獅頭山勸化堂董事長黃錦源改建一處火化爐,加高爐口因應「龕棺」需求,方便宗教人士使用。

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