Death and Dying in different cultures Author Note Name, Department, University, Correspondence address. Abstract This paper shall seek to analyze the concepts of death and dying in Christian and Hindu cultures and shall try to discuss the similarities and the dissimilarities between the beliefs and the rituals of both the religions…
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Death for most societies, according to Robert Hertz, was not only about the person who had died but also about the survivors. Funeral rites are a means of preserving the structure of the society that the dead person lived in. The rituals of the death ensure that there is a suitable procedure to be followed that would ensure that the existing hierarchies would not be disturbed in the society (“Robert Hertz”, 2011). The rituals of most societies thus assign roles to different individuals in a family and in the clergy that serves to ensure continuation and regeneration in the society as well. This paper shall seek to analyse the rituals of death that are followed in Hindu and Christian societies that treat their dead in extremely different ways. This is owing to a great extent, to the different fates that people belonging to these different cultures attribute to the departing soul. The death rites of a culture are in many ways related to and dependent upon the religious structures that are a part of that society. Old and new structures contribute to each other in a fluid process that goes on. Despite the differences that cultures have in treating their dead, one can see a desire that runs through them to connect with the departed and ensure the dead person’s welfare in another world; a desire to cling on to the belief that the dead person was still alive in another form that would be better than his or her earthly form, a form to which the survivors could then aspire to in the period following their death. In countries that belong to the west and follow Christianity, there is a more or less uniform procedure that is followed after the death of a person. The death of a person in Christian cultures would mean that the soul of that person had departed to either heaven or hell according to the actions that he or she had performed. In many sects of Christianity, the act of confession is performed when a person is about to die so that his or her sins are forgiven before the soul departs. Heaven and hell are concepts that are intricately connected to death and the life of the Christian believer who bases his entire life and the actions that he performs during it on a desire to enter heaven and attain proximity to God and escape the torments of hell. Dying thus is an occasion that is not meant for mourning since the soul attains the opportunity to finally be united with God. A belief in Jesus enables the dead person to attain salvation, which is synonymous with a union with God. Death is thus an extremely important event in Christian cultures because it reminds the survivors of their mortality and the need for belief in Jesus, which in Christian cultures, would be the first step to attaining an eternity of bliss. Any mistake in this entire process would, according to Christian beliefs, open up to the individual the pathway to hell that meant an eternity of unimaginable torment (“History of Christian Death Rites”, 2011). Following the death of a person, Christian rituals demand that the dead person be anointed and placed in a coffin and following the prayers that are said for this person in a church, in the presence of his or her loved ones, he or she would be buried. There are a lot of symbolic elements that are a part of this ritual. The process of burying a person is symbolic of the return to the earth. Adam, the
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