Hindism

What world religions practice cremation? Why do some reject it?

What world religions practice cremation? Why do some reject it?

GORDON’S QUESTION:

What do various faiths say about cremation vs. burial of remains? I know in some places like the United Kingdom cremation has become very common, maybe even surpassing ground burial.

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Cremation (high-temperature burning that turns a corpse into ashes and bone fragments) is indeed by far the majority practice in the United Kingdom today. It’s also on the upswing in the United States, where the National Funeral Directors Association posts these statistics: As recently as 2005, families chose cremation with 32.3 percent of deaths, rising to an estimated 48.5 percent for 2015 and a projected 71 percent by 2030.

One reason for the shift is cremation’s lower cost, currently a median $6,078 compared with $8,508 for burial (with vault). The NFDA says other reasons for cremation’s growing popularity are “environmental concerns, fewer religious prohibitions, and changing consumer preferences such as a desire for less ritualized funerals.”

Advocates of cremation say it’s sanitary, makes better use of land particularly in cities, and the “cremains” can be portable if preserved in urns rather than scattered. Non-religious arguments on behalf of burial are continuation of tradition acceptable to all family members, and the permanent site always available to visit for reflection (though cremated ashes can also be preserved at one location such as a columbarium).

Turning to the religious aspect, cremation is customary in both Hinduism and Buddhism, religions that believe the dead person will be reborn into different human bodies or other species over countless lives. In the highly disputed suttee tradition, some Hindu widows would immolate themselves alive on a funeral pyre after their husbands’ bodies were burned up.

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Pew Forum does its thing again: Gazing into a global crystal ball of religion stats

Pew Forum does its thing again: Gazing into a global crystal ball of religion stats

Pew has spoken. And the world of religious affiliation will be forever changed.

I refer, of course, to last week's blockbuster report from the Pew Forum's Religion and Public Life project on what global religious affiliation might look like in 2050, and, in at least one key indicator, by this century's end (more on this below). I say blockbuster not because of its immediate impact but because of the many interesting projections it contained.

The report's projected changes in religious affiliation harbor potentially monumental geopolitical ramifications. That's why I found it at least mildly surprising that most of the media attention so far has been restricted to first-day stories. Two such examples are here, at Religion News Service, and here, at The New York Times.

But perhaps I should not have been surprised. As a specie we're far more reactive than proactive -- as are the preponderance of our mainstream news providers, trapped as most are in the 24/7 rat race. Excuse me. I meant news cycle. Though I bet think tanks, security agencies, religion watchers, multinational corporations and entrepreneurs, and even some savvy novelists will pore over this report for some time to come.

The report was careful to limit its political projections -- a wise choice, I think, given how iffy this all is -- about the possible consequences of its numerical projections.

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Pseudo-guru Bikram Choudhury and another scandal in the totally secular world of yoga

Pseudo-guru Bikram Choudhury and another scandal in the totally secular world of yoga

Wait, wait, wait. I am sure that I have read this news story before. This hot, sweaty New York Times news feature -- which just screams alternative spirituality at the top of its gray lungs -- sounds so familiar.

LOS ANGELES -- He is the yoga guru who built an empire on sweat and swagger. He has a stable of luxury cars and a Beverly Hills mansion. During trainings for hopeful yoga teachers, he paces a stage in a black Speedo and holds forth on life, sex and the transformative power of his brand of hot yoga. “I totally cure you,” he has told interviewers. “Whatever the problem you have.”
But a day of legal reckoning is drawing closer for the guru, Bikram Choudhury. He is facing six civil lawsuits from women accusing him of rape or assault. The most recent was filed on Feb. 13 by a Canadian yogi, Jill Lawler, who said Mr. Choudhury raped her during a teacher-training in the spring of 2010.

Let's see, we have a story about a pseudo-guru whose teachings are handed on to this disciples, teachings (doctrines maybe) about sexuality (perhaps the word tantra is used), healing, spiritual transformation, philosophy, anatomy and the meaning of life.

Now there is trouble in paradise. Where have I heard this before?

Maybe it was back in 2012 in The Washington Post?

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