The following article appeared on the soc.religion.bahai board on Internet and is reposted with permission: From: email@example.com (Thomas Rowe Psychology) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- BAHA'I BURIAL There are three laws currently binding on the American Baha'i community for burial. I should note in passing that the Universal House of Justice (UHJ), the supreme governing body in the Baha'i Faith, has the power to decide which laws are binding in various parts of the world and which are not yet binding. We are heading for a time when all laws are binding on believers everywhere, but with the current differences in culture, the UHJ is allowing a grace period in some cases. The first law is that the body must be buried, not cremated. According to Abdu'l-Baha, there is still some connection, however tenuous, between the soul and the body following death and the destruction of the body, which used to be the throne of the soul, is a shock to the soul. In keeping with that, the body is to be treated with respect and dignity befitting with the station of the earthly home of the soul. Abdu'l-Baha also wrote: "....But the divine order formulated by heavenly ordinance is that after death this body shall be transferred from one stage to another different from the preceding one, so that according to the relations that exist in the world, it may gradually combine and mix with other elements, thus going through stages until it arrives at the vegetable kingdom, there turning into plants and flowers, developing into trees of the highest paradise, becoming perfumed and attaining the beauty of color." (1) The second law is that the prayer for the dead, a special prayer used for this purpose only, be recited as congregational prayer. This means that one person recites the prayer while all present stand in respectful silence. This is the only congregational prayer in the Baha'i Faith. Beyond this, any funeral service should be simple and dignified, usually consisting of prayers and readings from holy text rather than an oration. The third binding law in the West is that the body not be trans- ported more than one hour's travel from the place of death. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the book of laws, Baha'u'llah stated: "It is forbidden you to carry the body more than one hour's distance from the town; bury it with tranquility and cheer in a nearby place." (2) The form of transportation is not specified. As I understand it, the meaning behind this law relates to the fact we are all part of one global family and the entire planet is our home. Therefore, wherever we are when we die is our home. There are three other ordinances which are not yet obligatory in the West, but which nearly all Baha'is attempt to follow. The first is that the body should be wrapped in a shroud of silk or cotton. . Secondly, a burial ring should be placed on the hand that states "I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached >From all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate." The last is that the body should be buried in a coffin made of crystal, stone, or a hard, fine wood. One interesting side note to this is that we should avoid embalming where state law permits. I have read accounts of the embalming process, and while I don't want to offend any morticians or to suggest they treat bodies with anything other than respect, the process itself does not seem dignified to me. In any case, modern embalming does not prevent decay of the body but is a disease control measure. If the family will accept a sealed coffin funeral, there should be no need for embalming. Rather, the body should be washed and shrouded and the burial should take place within one day if practical. There are no specific formats for funerals other than these. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, wrote: "The National Spiritual Assembly should take great care lest any uniform procedure or ritual in this matter be adopted or imposed on the friends. The danger in this, as in some other cased regarding Baha'i worship, is that a definite system of rigid rituals and practices be developed among the believers." (3) Finally, while the passing of a loved one touches those left behind with deep pain and sorrow for their loss, the Baha'i view of a death is that of rejoicing. Another soul has winged its way to the Abha Kingdom and is on a journey to its Lord. Baha'u'llah wrote many passages about this, but my favorite is from the Hidden Words, Arabic # 32: "O SON OF THE SUPREME! I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shine on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?" References: 1. Star of the West, Volume XI, No. 19, Page 317. Quoted in a letter from the UHJ dated June 6, 1971. 2. Kitab-i-Aqdas, quoted in an unpublished compilation, "Extracts on Baha'i Burial," included with a letter written on behalf of the UHJ, March 25, 1984. 3. Principles of Baha'i Administration, P. 14.