THE DHARMA DISCOURSES O...

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THE DHARMA DISCOURSES OF CARDINAL MASTER CHŎNGSAN(CHŎNGSAN CHONGSA PŎBŎ)

Part Two: Dharma Discourses

Chapter Two: The Way of Propriety

8

8. The attendant asked again, “According to common custom, when parents pass away, their children display their devotion by arranging a burial site in the mountains chosen according to yinyang geomancy, which presumably will affect the descendants’ fortune or misfortune. In our Order, however, we are instructed to choose between burial and cremation as suits the circumstances. What is the reason for this?”
The Master replied, “When parents pass away, it is right for the children to choose a burial site in the mountains where the soil is good. However, it is not right for the children to put too much effort into the task, connecting the descendants’ fortune to the site, or, should some misfortune occur, to transfer the skeletons to a new location. As a rule, a plant while it is alive receives vital energy from the soil, but once it has dried up and died it can no longer do so. It is even less the case for a skeleton from which life force has already left and has turned into dust—how can it receive energy from the soil and determine the descendants’ fortune or misfortune? We must understand that this, too, is a formality and expedient to encourage the spirit of gratitude. Although cremation could seem a bit callous at first glance, what possible difference could burial or cremation make to a skeleton that has already lost consciousness and turned into dust? According to the Buddhist interpretation, people’s physical bodies are an assemblage of karma. Hence, for the spirit, cremation may even have a more beneficial dimension.”