Tibetan Buddhists have a unique funeral custom called sky burials, in which the dead are taken to a high-altitude area for vultures to consume their remains, a practice that is regarded as spiritual and practical.
How they are prepared: Sky burials reportedly serve as an offering to the gods and a way to prepare the soul for reincarnation. The preparation begins with the body being wrapped in white cloth and left in a cleaned area of the house the deceased used to live in. The body is left undisturbed for five days, and then monks — or Lamas — read the Holy Scriptures to the dead to cleanse its soul from sin.
Sending off: Once the deceased’s family has selected a “lucky day,” the body is then unwrapped and bent in a sitting, fetal position with the head between the knees before a burial master takes the body up to the mountains, generally far away from the residential area, where they chop the remains in pieces while laughing. A “Su” smoke is then lit to attract vultures as the Lamas perform their chant.
Why they are laughing: Tibetan Buddhists believe that chopping the body while laughing can bring a good mood to the atmosphere and get rid of any darkness in the soul before reincarnation.
Why they do it: Besides the spiritual function of the ritual, such as presenting an offering to the gods and providing a gateway to reincarnation, sky burials are considered functional as the grounds in Tibet are often reportedly frozen, making the burial process difficult.
Popular locations: Some of the more popular sky burial platforms are located in Drigung Til Monastery in the Maizhokunggar County, Tibet Autonomous Region; Sera Monastery in the outskirts of Lhasa; and Samye Temple in Lhoka.
Some restrictions: According to the customs, strangers are not allowed to witness the burial as this would disrupt the soul’s transition. Additionally, family members cannot attend the burial due to the belief that their presence would discourage the deceased’s soul from reincarnating in order to stay with living relatives.