Religious Approaches To Death
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training mind away from body
Means to becoming bodhisattva
Project ideal Buddha worlds
Basis for Tibetan Book of the Dead
“the departed” “ghosts” turn against family that fails to do so. Failure: Wandering ghost for eternity.
viewed negatively in Hinduism, as trapped in human body/cycle
blood and puss, cross on on a cow crossing the vaitarani river with aid on a cow (requested by mahaptra)
where ashes are cast. Channels between heaven/earth.
- “fathers” “ancestors” , intercede with gods for
- family that performs death rites properly success: one year journey ends with preta
- Want to turn deceased parents into ancestor (pitr) so they don’t come
- back as (pretas
- older than doctrine of karma, one born as debt
- to three groups, which repaid as follows:
1) Vedic seers: by learning vedas
2) Gods: by offering sacrifice
3) Ancestors: by having sons
rice balls/ body
Water carries pinda to preta, and feeds
Rite of the Skull
soul/breathe must escape corpse, skull split open by son, failure condemns soul/ghost to eternal wandering
Fire “cooks” restores life-body
Ashes cast into water = Ganges
Weighing of the Heart
the god Ma’at weighs the heart
Field of Reeds
- flourishing nile, when we die we can go,
- somewhere geographically pleasant
Opening of the Mouth
- occurred after the deceased had arrived at his tomb.
- The basic purpose of which was to re animate the mummy.
- Renewed relationship of ka and ba with the corpse.
- Words of the text appear in Pyramid texts.
- The revised version were purification, the sacrifice of a bull, the mouth- opening itself, and the presentation of offerings.
- Ritual ended with an invocation to the gods at the placing of the mummy or statue in the tomb.
used in funeral rites to protect the dead, many different kinds each used for different purposes
- bird – like ba,
- dwells in mummy at night, travels by day, death rites bring ba back to the body/tomb, to remain there.
dwells in mummified body, receiver of offerings, immortal life-force of the deceased, remains in/near tomb
sun god, main goal of deceased is to join sun god.
Pyramid texts, coffin
texts, and book of the dead
were concerned primarily with the destiny of the deceased in the afterlife. These are the Books of the Underworld, the most important texts used in the king’s tombs in the New Kingdom.
Book of the Dead
- developed by the beginning of New Kingdom. Comprised ~ 200 spells. Created at Thebes in 17th Dynasty.
- Provided instructions and access to magical power to assist the deceased in his passage to the afterlife and in his existence there.
- Most are ‘ personal’ spells. Most important addition to text corpus was spell 125, relating to judgment of deceased to determine his worthiness to receive new life.
- complied after the end of the old kingdom.
- Examples are found inscribed in cursive hieroglyphic script on surfaces of wooden coffins, tomb walls, mummy masks and papyri.
- These texts express the possibility that all Egyptians could attain divine status in afterlife.
- Develop the notion of 2 main contrasting concepts of the afterlife: the heavenly travels of ba, and the existence in the earthly netherworld, through preservation of the corpse and nourishing of ka.
- organized into 3 different categories. One category consists of ‘incantations’ of a protective nature, designed to ward
- off the attacks of dangerous creatures such as snakes, or other hostile entities.
- Second category
- comprises the words to be spoke at the enactment of important funerary rituals carried out for the benefit of the dead
- Third category
- comprises the ‘personal’ spells designed for the deceased’s own use, particularly the transition to the next world.
a cemetery, especially one of large size andusually of an ancient city.
was at once necropolis and chapel, no burials found in temples. Has yielded the statues of recumbent women suggesting an incubation rite
a burial place for the bodies or remains of many individuals, often of a single family, usually in the form of a small building
- characterized by the continuity between life and death through the exaltation of the ancestors associated with the stones.
- Man hopes his name will be remembered through agency of stone.
bodily remains of saints, martyrs
infinity reducible, transferable
housed in shrines, reliquaries
- we bury not because we want to dispose, but
- because we care
a sacrificial act, gods are the source oforder, and sacrifices feed the gods
Tower of Silence
related to Zoroastrian, how they decompose their dead, feed them to animals
the force or substance responsible for power, fertility, etc.
concentrated in skull
many be inherited, or transferred
mana objects tabu (powerful)
“shamans” who return from the dead, report on situation, location of dead in bardos, non-scriptural elements of delog accounts of worlds of dead
Buddhist Tantra, “diamond” clarity of enlightened consciousness
Tibetan Buddhism a form of Buddhist Tantra
Celestial Buddhas and bodhisattras
“mild” and “fierce” forms
forgetting, river of forgetting
Souls drink from Lethe
- Those lacking wisdom
- drink to excess, amnesia
“descent” Orpheus descended into underworld
- Burial w/ tablets
Entrance to hades
Preparations for souls journey
Myth of Er
- Er is a “reanimated” warrior, geography of underworld,
- new bodies chosen through lots, only philosopher knows which lot to draw
- Plato’s book. Stated that the soul returns to
- earth after a long time.
Oppositions in Phaedo:
World of ideas –material world
Soul – body
Philosophers – other humans
contemplation – sense perception
the invisible – the visible
- 5th-4th c. BCE
- pupil of Socrates.
- Teacher of Aristotle.
- Attempted to complete his master’s teaching and to provide a scientific basis for the validity of knowledge, he studied mathematics.
- Was fascinated by the Pythagorean conception of universal unity, order of cosmos, and harmony.
- Said soul- not life- was most precious thing, for it belonged to the ideal and eternal world
- borrowed from the “orphico” – Pythagorean tradition, and adapting to his own system, the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul and of “recollecting”.
- He rediscovers and develops the archaic ontology: the theory of Ideas carries on the doctrine of exemplary models that is characteristic of traditional spirituality.
- Plato’s idealism:
- “ideas” prototypes for
- worldly things
- World of Ideas home of
- elevated immortal soul
- Contemplation of ideas
- >> perfect knowledge>> soul’s freedom
- insisted on the inestimable value of the soul, for it alone was source of knowledge.
- Concentrated on maieutics, a method of arriving at self-knowledge and the discipline of the soul’s facilities.
- Investigation of natural world did not interest him.
ancestral mounds (Dobu)
- yams = ancestral spirit
- called tomot = human being
- specific to family lineage
- alternation of generations
- yam gardens = ancestor mounds
- were known as ancestors (ancestral spirits)
- wealth was measured in yams
- displayed in front of house
- given up in potlatch, ritual of maximum exchange
- yams give life to descendants(as food & as ancestors)
- descendants give life to ancestors (yams) through cultivation
- yams give prestige to descendants through potlatch
- descendants give prestige to ancestors through ability to exchange
potlatch reciprocity, prestige, loss of face
3 souls (Zoroastrianism)
- inner soul (ruwan)
- wandering soul (daena) -> after death, dreaming
- heavenly soul (fravashi) -> dwells eternally
- in Zad Sprem :
- bone and sinew- earth
- Blood – water
- Hair – plants
- Fire(body heat) – light
- Breath – wind
named after Zoroaster/Zarathustra
Iranian religion over 2000 years, early cult of fire, halo of fire over head
z. eschatology likely influenced New Testament & Qur’an
surviving Parsee (Persian) community in India
leave bodies to be eaten by birds (tower of silence – how they decompose their dead
the study of human generation, the origin of man
theory concerning the coming into of existence
universe macro > micro at birth
human body micro > macro at death
themes- myths about relationship between: creation of universe and body of creator god
Destruction of universe and bodies of creatures, especially humans.
on this day “all awaken” to be judged by Allah
- The final days:
- Signs, trumpets,
- resurrection/gathering together, “reckoning” (hisab), bridge, possibility of
from greek diabolis, satan in Islam
- tradition of Islam. Important for understanding Qur’an.
- Later hadiths: barzakh is a time/place where soul dwells between death and resurrection
time/ place where soul dwells between death and resurrection
Qur’an: on judgment day, a “barrier’ (barzakh) shall divide saved from damned
resurrection at the end of time, resurrection bodies joined with spirit/ souls all subject to final judgment.
bodily resurrection, most contested part of Qur’an
naf- soul, ruh – spirit souls born twice/die twice
satan in Isalm also called the fallen angel, The “Force of evil”, Ilblis
a fallen angel “jinn”
- creator in Qur’an.
- Satan’s temptations are part of Allah’s plan. None can guide those who Allah leads astray.
Muhammad in paradise (photo)
the “seal of the Prophets” successor to Adam,Moses, Jesus… Biblical teachings were valid but denied by Jews & Christians
- revealed by Allah to prophet Muhammad, from AD
- Text compiled 644-654
- CE, after Muhammad’s death
Foundation of Islam: “I submit”
Predestination in Qur’an resembles Christian doctrine
not the body that died
provided by god
source the seed or kernel sown in life
bodily resurrection (qiyamma) is most contested part of Qur’an
direct link between creation of Adam and final resurrection
Allah creates eternal bodies for dead at resurrection
physical body is not resurrected
Allah clothes seed or kernel in spiritual body
sheep and goats
sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell
Book of Revelation
New Testament sources on Resurrection
(Gk. Soter, “savior”) doctrines of salvation, how one becomes saved, enlightened
Jesus as “second Adam”
- innocent Jesus’s self-sacrifice will redeem
- guilty Adam’s sin/fall
- Legend of bones, skull
- of Adam beneath Calvary Hill
- Blood of Christ falls
- on bones, redeeming humanity
- Christian Doctrine of Predestination by Saint
- Augustine, 5th c.
- Fall part was of God’s
- greater plan
- Incomprehensible to
- humans, because she we are not God
(Gk. Eschaton, “theend”) doctrines of end of time
Jewish underworld mentioned in Samuel 2:6
Valley of Dry Bones
- Ezekiel 37:1-14.
- Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dried bones = prediction of resurrection.
- The dead bones are people of Israel, who living in exile, have given up hope.
- The restoration of the bones to life (by the Lord giving them flesh and breath of life) indicates that God will open the graves of Ezekiel’s audience and restore them to the land of Israel (promise land) to live in their own soil.
- Connection to Zoroastrianism, with a resurrection of the dead figures
Garden of Eden/Paradise
- Eden = “delight”
- two trees: life, knowledge of good and evil (death)
- four rivers, include Tigris & Euphrates,
- knowledge & death
- created by Lord God
- named by Adam
- wild creature with human speech
- relationship to Adam and Eve: tempted Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil
- made to keep Adam company, and be his helper.
- Eve = “life” born from Adam’s rib
Eve Adam’s “wife” & “daughter” no incest or shame in sexuality
created by Lord God. Earth + water = clay >>> man
“The Cast Skin”
- A Melanesian Myth.
- People never grew old but cast off their skins like snakes and came out with renewed youth.
- A woman growing old went to cast off her skin in the water, but when she came back her child no longer recognized her so she went back to put on her cast and from that time one mankind became mortal.
“Stone and Banana”
- Indonesian Myth, uninformed primal couple, transient vs. permanent life, message that failed.
- Natives of Poso say that sky was very near to earth, creator would send them gifts from the end of a rope.
- He sent a stone, they didn’t want it. He sent a banana, they took it, therefore they rejected immortality for mortality.
individual reincarnation based on past acts
powers of good vs. evil, evil has taken over, trapped souls in bodies
sin/error committed by primal (wo)man
explanation of why a all-knowing perfectly almighty God permits evil.
judges of the death of the Mesopotamian underworld (Nergal & Erishkigal)
the lady/judge of the underworld and decide fate (eat place below
“voluntary” opposite of “obligatory”
- called “cutting up”
- feast with the dead, last day of the month, offered to/on behalf of dead and to Annunaki
“skeleton” one’s “double” or “shadow”
“breath” soul or spirit
communal ritual practice suspension of grief public show of grief memorial moument
Kigal/House of Dust
- Babylonian Underworld
- the realm of Nergal and Erishkigal- annunaki judges
- tablet of destinies.
- Gains immortality (some story of the flood and god’s decisions to make him and his wife their “kin” establishing them at mouths of the rivers.
- He reveals the secret of immorality to Gilgamesh.
- Sole human “immortal” and lives on edge of the world.
- Lord of Uruk, (a
- city-state in meso-potamia.)
- Semi divine figure in
- “epic”. (two-thirds a divine being, song of goddess Ninsun and a mortal.
- Is a tyrant who
- overuses his power, mistreats people, violates women.
- Makes it his goal to
- become immortal, but fails. Snake steals away the plant that gives youth back.
- He is later elevated
- to a divined ancestor.
- A king of the
- underworld. His name means “the old man is youthful” dead Gilgamesh is honored
- in underworld, god’s make him “Lord of the Dead”
- meditation tools
- “Circle” in Sanskrit
- Depict Buddha worlds
Yama, torments are mental projections
Personal “guardian” deity
Mirror of Karma
Release through knowledge
- 3 “in
- life” (waking/dreaming/meditative states)
3 during the 49 days after death, best chances for enlightenment
1) Moment of death
2) Reality between
3) Becoming>> rebirth
at death, mind >> Buddha is at heart of mandala
Encounters Buddha’s successively lower, fiercer forms
Finally, cast from mandala >> world of rebirth
city on the banks of Ganges
ritual of uniting the pretra with the pitra, twelfth day, or after one year.
Tablet of Petelia
orphic gold tablets
A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic or sorcery for purposes of healing, divination, and control over natural events.
- titans kill baby Dionysius like sacrificial
- victim and eat all but heart, burned by Zeus’s thunderbolt, ashes of Titans + heart + earth >> human race
- Dionysios myth is
- basis for:
1) Orphic view of dual human nature
“flesh” – Greek. is a box-like funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved in stone, and displayed above ground, though they may also be buried.
first part of elaborate funeral burials. Laying out of the body. relatives and friends came to mourn and pay their respects.
the deceased was brought to the cemetery in a procession, the ekphora, which usually took place just before dawn
Those Buddhas, or those manifestations of the one buddha-nature, who appear in the trikāya forms of manifestation, in thesambhoga-kāya. They are accompanied by bodhisattvas. They are prolific in number.
- represent the embodiment of indivisible bliss
- and emptiness
is a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains.
funerary practice of Tibetan Buddhists, incision of the human body and placed on mountaintops to show the impermanence of life
- is the beneficent force from God that flows through the physical and spiritual spheres as prosperity, protection, and happiness.
- Baraka is the continuity of spiritual presence and revelation that begins with God and flows through that and those closest to God.
Sufi Islamic shrine built over the grave of arevered religious figure, often a Sufi saint or dervish.
both Osiris’s mother and sister, unites sexually with Osiris, conceives Horus, the “new Osiris” whom she marries
- seth, his brother, kills and dismembers Osiris,
- sister Isis reassemble pieces,
are a collection of philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion
funerary figurine in the form of a mummy
were used by the Ancient Egyptians during the mummification process to store and preserve the viscera of their owner for the afterlife.
for a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the after life in ancient Egyptian religion.
- half-savage creature was created to balance out Gilgamesh (defeat him).
- He lives in peace with the wild beasts, drink and eat together.
- Fights with Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh wins but conceives affection for Enkidu and they become companions.
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