Today’s Ritualistic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
En route to Lobuche, Nepal, above the hamlet of Dugulha, there is a place called Chukpo Lare, the site of a number of large stone cairns erected by the local Sherpas who work on Mt. Everest. Chukpo Lare is referred to as a memorial site, but it is primarily a place of ceremony and ritual. If a Sherpa dies at Base Camp or on the mountain and his body is recovered, it is brought to Chukpo Lare for cremation.
Most of the expedition Sherpas have relatives who were cremated or honored here, and during the Everest expedition of 1996 they all stopped to recite a prayer for their benefit. A Sherpa named Jamling visited each of the more than 30 cho-lung monuments and prayed and chanted. He stayed longer than the others.
“While returning from the summit in 1992, my cousin Lobsang Tsering Bhotia fell to his death. We’re unsure of what happened, but he may have run out of oxygen and become delirious. Team members carried his body down here and cremated him.”
Corpses are not empty vessels, at least not immediately, and a form of the deceased’s spirit may continue to reside within the body, Sherpas believe. Thus it is best for one’s reincarnation if lamas can be present to perform the proper rituals. The bodies left on the mountain create a special problem: Without funerary rites, malevolent spirits can linger in their vicinity and cause harm. Devout Buddhists, however, say that people with pure motivation will be little troubled by these wandering souls.
If possible, lamas officiate at the cremation, and they treat the fleshly body as a sacred offering; it is first purified, then given by fire. In a similar ceremony on the north side of Everest, dead Tibetans are flayed and left for consumption by vultures in what is known as “sky burial.”
In the deceased Sherpa’s home village, wealthy families will light 100,000 butter lamps in their private chapels and in the monastery, in an appeal for a favorable reincarnation. Monks are called to the Sherpa’s home, too, and the soul is prepared for travel through the transitory, after-death state of bardo. On the 49th day after death, the person is reincarnated.
The ashes are then molded into clay votive tablets called tsa-war, which are returned to the memorial site and placed inside the cho-lung monuments. Sacred objects are enclosed with them, including a piece of juniper with carved inscriptions that must be oriented in the precise alignment it had as part of the standing tree, which is labeled before felling.
Ultimately, the cho-lung represent aspirations for a permanent state of peacefulness – of nirvana. Prayers recited here are said for all sentient beings. “In death, humans lose their individuality,” Jamling explained. “That’s why we discourage keeping souvenirs or remembrances of the dead, and names are not inscribed here.”
Chukpo Lare is not an ancient site. In 1970, after six Sherpas were killed by an avalanche during a large Japanese expedition, the Incarnate Lama of Tengboche hiked up and sanctified the area. It is distinguished from other funeral sites in that the Sherpas cremated here all died untimely deaths, from unnatural causes. This complicates reincarnation and is difficult to resolve ritually.
Sherpas have paid a disproportionately high price in lives lost on Everest. In 1922, seven Sherpa porters were buried under an avalanche below Everest’s North Col, and in 1974 five were taken by an avalanche in the Western Cwm. In the first 70 years of Everest climbing, 54 Nepalese and Indian Sherpas were killed – more than a third of the total climbing deaths in that period.
Because of their contribution to route fixing and ferrying supplies, especially in the Khumbu Icefall, Sherpas are exposed to riskier parts of the mountain that their employers.
Culled from: Everest: Mountain Without Mercy
Lissa sent me a book recommendation:
Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand
by Dana Kollmann
“May I recommend the book “Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand” by former CSI Dana Kollmann. I just finished reading it & I am happy to report that it is, by far, the most graphic and frank book about what is really encountered at crime scene. For instance, the first case she worked independently was that of a man who had blown his own head off with a shotgun. The ceiling fan was on & Dana had to cover herself with anything she could find because of all the randomly flying brain bombs the fan was randomly depositing around the room. Before she left, the responding officers recommended she peek under the couch where a bright blue eyeball stared back at her. Whether you share it or not, make sure you read it yourself!!!!”
Okay, Lissa, if you insist – I’ve started reading the book and I’ll report back afterwards!