Every culture defines different entities and ideas in relation to which the individual can experience his or her identity and physical or mental substances on which one's identities are located. Mortuary rites described in Hiroaki Mori and Yukari Hayashi's film The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life and Beth A. Conklin's essay Thus Are Our Bodies, Thus Is Our Custom': Mortuary Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society, reveal how the Tibetan Indians of Ladakh and the Wari' of Rondônia define their identities. The Wari' experience identity in relation to their familiar, tribal, and ecological circumstances, and these identities are corporeal they are located in the body. Tibetans, on the other hand, express identity at individual, community, universal, and absolute levels; individual identity is located equally in body and mind, while community and universal identities are progressively more mental as the scope of identification increases. The absolute identity, which is of the broadest scope, is purely mental. This analysis is borne out by an examination of how Wari' and Tibetan communities interact physically with the corpse and reincarnation mythology in both cultures.Pre-contact Wari' culture's physical interaction with the body of the deceased illustrates the nature of familiar identity in that society
[...] In Tibetan societies, individual identity is part of a synergy between body, consciousness, and la, the life force (Koenig). Note also that, beyond anecdotal evidence, one of the central ritual prescriptions of the Tibetan mortuary tradition is to lay out the body and not disturb it while the consciousness within it seeks to leave and find a new body. Therefore corporeality has a significant bearing on individual identity, but only in relation to the mind. “Thus Are Our Bodies” does not describe a significant individual identity in Wari' culture; instead, broader identity constructs are set up. [...]
[...] The emphasis on participation of the kin in the funerary rites, and in particular, the act of distributing the deceased's fluids among family members affirms and values the familiar identity. Furthermore, that familiar identity is immanent in the flesh of every family member, which explains the significance of cannibalism among pre-contact Wari'. Tibetan mortuary practices reveal that familiar and community interactions play a similar role as the Wari' family does, but it is a relatively minor one. In The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life, Leonard Cohen intones that Palden Tsering's family makes offerings of fire from his body as way to release their attachment to it. [...]
[...] Tibetans also have a view of reincarnation. As it is framed in the Bardo Thodol, however, identity beyond death is not as part the community and the ecosystem but instead as a participant in a universal community of beings. After death and time in the bardos (intermediate stages), one can be reborn among the heavenly beings, the titans, the humans, the animals, the hungry ghosts, or the sufferers in hell (Koenig). This places one in the context of a very large group of beings. [...]
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