Sanctification of the Corpse, Transcendence of the Death: The Religious and Cultural Phenomena of Tzuchi's Body Donation

Study of Life and Death 1 (11):91-176 (2011)

This paper examines the Tzu Chi Buddhist groups to promote the general donation how to break the "Save all dead," the Chinese cultural tradition, the community response. Research for Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi volunteers in advocacy, case stories, and generally enable the cremation and memorial service conducted study found that donations in addition to saving act for money or convenience considerations, donors and their families are willing to accept the destruction of the remains, the key Tzu Chi Field is "holy" of the language and rituals in general, a symbol of the body into three kinds, namely, "body ecology", "moral of the body", "Buddha's body," corresponds to "recycle", "moral personality of Practice, "" Buddha out "three implications, there is marked from the material to enhance the mental existence, life and death from limited to unlimited cross, the meaning of these transcendent filmmaking. It involves not only "How do funeral," and includes "how to face death" problem, although the religious community in the Field of Tzu Chi generation, but also cultural habit and closely related, such as the considerable extent to meet the Chinese completed "moral character" sense of achievement needs, and the future world be born good way of expectations. Donations may not be the main cause of religious belief, social or interpersonal environment often led to donations of helping the "practice of imitation." Groups and individuals agree on the meaning of sympathy donations, making the fear of death no longer is taboo things, even beyond the face of donor derived force to settle the death of volume, abnormal formation of the modern Chinese in the traditional "nail in the coffin" as the rationale and concept. This paper examines how the Buddhist Tzuchi organization's promotion of body donation for medical use is able to challenge the Chinese tradition of "keeping the cadaver intact." Researching on Master Chengyen and Tzuchi volunteers' appeals, case stories, and memorial rituals for body donors, the study finds that apart from economical and convenient reasons, donors and their relatives accept the damage to the corpses as a result of the "sanctification" of the donors by Tzuchi's rituals and narratives. The corpses are transformed into three symbols, namely, the body of ecology, the body of morality, and the body of bodhisattva, each connoting to "recycling of resources", "fulfillment of moral personality", and "practice of the Bodhisattva's way". These meanings represent the elevation of physical existence to spiritual existence and the crossing of life and death from limitation to infinity. They become persuasive in preparing not only for the funeral, but also for the death. Their appearance in Tzuchi's socio-religious field is very much motivated by cultural habitus, for example, the value of "moral personality" and the hope for good incarnation in next life for the Chinese. Religious belief is not necessary a factor for body donation. The helping aura in Tzuchi community and personal networks often brings about "mimesis of practices". The echoing of individuals and the group to the meanings of donation makes death not formidable. The body donation establishes a norm of "biding farewell to life," different from the tradition, for modern Chinese
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