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The
death of a loved one is difficult for anyone no matter what their race, age or
religion. However, how we deal with the body and death and what is represents
is diverse across and within religions. This is going to be explored and discussed
in this essay, with the focus being a comparison between Orthodox Christianity
and Hinduism. The word ‘Orthodox’ takes its
meaning from the Greek words orthos (‘right’)
and doxa (‘belief’).
Hence the word Orthodox means correct belief or right thinking (BBC, 2008). Whereas Hinduism
focuses upon the pursuit of truth and striving to achieve dharma. These
contrasts are evident in how each religion deals with the death and the body of
a loved one, how the body is prepared, the funeral rituals, and the meaning of
the body either into eternal life (orthodox Christians) or resurrection (Hinduism).
However, both religions have the soul in high regard, with Hinduism beliefs
being in your soul and being resurrected, your body is just a carrier of your
soul. In comparison to orthodox Christians, who believe that when you die your
soul goes onto heaven, you only have one body. There is evidence across
religions of the soul, which is believed to live on, but the body doesn’t its
function is to be a carrier of the soul. Therefore, how we treat the body
reflects how the soul is treated, weather the soul goes to heaven or hell or what
body is resurrected as.

Orthodox Christians claim to hold traditional
beliefs and customs; nevertheless, they differ from other forms of Christianity
as their goal is eternal life in comparison to non-orthodox Christians who aim
to enjoy God and to worship him (Wellma, 2013). They believe that at death, the
deceased begins to step through a dark door, seeing demons and a guardian angel
is there to welcome the Christian soul (Larchet,
2012).
It is because of this process which the deceased soul is going through, of
whether their loved one’s soul will be accepted by God or not, that the family
prays as well as the priest. Thus, believing to help the soul get into heaven
and give the deceased strength through the process of judgement. This process
is also seen within the tombs of the Egyptians who wrote guides for the
deceased soul to fight as well as magic spells to give guidance and protection,
so that their soul can live for eternity (The story of God with Morgan
Freeman, 2016).

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 In contrast, Hindus believe that there is one
true god who is the supreme spirit called brahman and they strive to achieve
dharma, that can be described as a moral law. And the actions the soul carries
out while existing in the body will then have to face the consequences in the
next life (Srinivasan, 2011). The body is a carrier for the soul,
the individual soul known as atman, is not created or destroyed it has been and
always will be, it is the body that is everchanging from pervious, current and
future life’s. Thus, the treatment and role of the body is paramount and
clearly defined within Hinduism so that the deceased is resurrected.

The first step in the funeral traditions
for orthodox Christians is to prepare the body, this includes washing and
clothing the body, which is traditionally performed by the family with a priest
present. The body will then be placed into the casket once the priest has
sprinkled holy water on all four sides of the casket (Everplans,
2010).
The reason for the sprinkling of holy water is to remind the deceased of the
day they were given the promise of eternal life. 

Hindus also have the deceased body
washed by family members however, this is where the similarities in the
treatment of the body end. The body is washed in a holy bath called abhisegam,
were the body is washed in a specific mixture including milk and yogurt, they
also recite mantras while washing the body (Everplans, 2012). Once washed the big
toes are tied together, the hands are places palm to palm in the position of
prayer and the bod is shrouded in a plain white sheet (Everplans, 2012) The act of tying the big toes together
and placing the hands in prayer to keep the limbs in place. However, the body is
washed with herbs, spices and scents is to dispel any spiritual corruption,
using the body to aid the soul in its transition to the afterlife and
resurrection.

Both religions carry out a wake for the body, with Hindus
belieg being that the body should be cremated as soon as possible, this is
traditionally done by the next dawn or dusk, to release the soul from the body (Taylor, 2009). Thus, the wake is
very brief before the cremation were the body is displayed in a simple
inexpensive casket and oak or sandalwood is applied to the forehead. In
contrast, orthodox Christians the wake traditionally lasts three days, and the first Panikhida prayer service is carried out (Everplans, 2012).

The most evident difference between the two
religions is in the funeral service, as traditionally all Hindus are cremated
however cremation is forbidden in orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless, Hindus
cremate the bodies on the Ganges river in India, the family place the body on
the pyre, the Karta will circle the body three times counter clockwise and
sprinkle holy water on the pyre, then the Karta sets the body on fire (Everplans, 2012) as you can see from
the image. The reason for this is, that they believe that cremation will
control the physical and spiritual pollution of death, and it releases the
atman from the body, so it can follow its journey. In orthodox Christianity the funeral is very different, with the coffin
being open and at the head of the coffin a bowl of koliva should be placed,
symbolizing the cyclical nature of life and the sweetness of heaven that the soul
is about to enter (Everplans, 2010)

The mourning period for Eastern
Orthodox Christians is very specific and lasts for forty days. Within those
forty days, the third day, the ninth day, and the fortieth day are all significant
and the panikihida service is carried out on each of these days. Because it
represents the different stages that Jesus went through and in turn the
deceased will also. With the ninth day believing that the spirit of the
deceased had now joined the holy angels, leaving the body, however they believe
that the decreased soul remains on earth until the fourth day. Therefore, the
body of the deceased is being used as a vessel for the soul until the soul
leaves earth and goes onto heaven (Everplans, 2010).

In Hinduism the day after
cremation the Karta returns and collects the ashes which are then immersed in
the river Ganges, this also marks the mourning period that lasts for 13 days. The
ashes of the deceased are immersed in the river Ganges as the river is
considered a holy river, coming from heaven to earth therefore, by immersing
the ashes reinsures the re-birth of the deceased. Because it provides mukti
(released from the cycle of rebirth) from the sins of this birth. During this time,
the family will stay at home with a photograph of the deceased being displayed,
and the rite of preta-karma is performed, which is said to aid the spirit of
the deceased to obtain a new body for reincarnation (Srinivasan,
2011).

Furthermore,
the funerals facilitate the psychological tasks involved such as grieving they
are multidimensional events with different aspects of the funeral addressing
psychological and cultural needs (Hug, 2006). Thus, through
religion and the treatment of the body throughout the process allows structure
and order, to help the family in the grievance process and in my opinion aids
saying goodbye. As the person you once knew is no longer there physically,
mechanically they are gone, however this doesn’t stop humans needing to say
goodbye and the body allows us to do this, no matter what religion you have. The
physical remains of someone you love, it a strange paradox as everything you remember
of that person is represented in the tangible nature of the body (Pearson,
1999).
This is shown through many different aspects, for example the grave its shape
as well as depth can co-inside with the social status or gender of the individual.
This creates the question of if the body is just a carrier of the soul, consequently
the body shouldn’t not matter once the individual has died. However, this is
not the case indicating that there is more to what the body represents it isn’t
just a carrier, it also holds strong meaning to those who got to know the individual.

Evidence
of this is not just shown through religion, but it is also being investigated
through science, an example of this is Bina48 who is the worlds most advanced
social robot that is based on a composition of different information from
several people. Finding an early demonstration of the Terasem hypothesis ‘that
a conscious analog of a person can be created by combining detailed information
about the person and using future consciousness software’ (Rothblatt,
2012). Indicating, that it is not only
religion that sees the body as a vessel of the soul, trying to preserve and
live on.

To
conclude, it is evident throughout that religion does have an impact on how the
body is treated after death, in a variety of different ways from how to respect
the dead, helping them on their journey to heaven/resurrection through the
soul.  Nevertheless, the topic of the
soul is evident throughout with the body acting as a carrier to a certain
extent, so that we live on even though our bodies perish. This isn’t only
specific to religion but to scientific development as well. This can be
explained psychologically with how we as humans deal with the death of a loved
one as it is and never will be a nice process, however how the process is dealt
with it constantly everchanging. With a focus being upon that we construct
reality­­, however we only know a reality by our own observations (Kastenbaum,
2009).
Furthermore, to answer the question of what is the body in society, with a
focus upon religion has a base however it is everchanging and varied because
every individual has different observations and beliefs. As a result, the
meaning of the body is slightly different for everyone consequently, affecting
how we all deal with death. Making the question, a very difficult one to
answer, nevertheless, there is a clear emphasis on the soul, with the belief
being that it is the soul or consciousness that makes everyone who they are,
and it is the soul that lives on forever. Furthermore, even though the body is only a carrier of the soul it is
still treated with the upmost respect and importance, as the body is the only tangible
evidence of the soul that we can see. So, by burying or cremating the body, signifies
the end of the body’s purpose and releasing the soul onto resurrection/afterlife. 

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