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In Sikhism, birth and death are closely intertwined because they are both part of the cycle of human life of ‘coming and going’. This cycle is seen as a stage toward complete unity with God – or Liberation.
Sikhs believe that the soul itself never dies. Death just marks the progression of the soul from God, through the created universe, and back to God again. In life, a Sikh believes that if they are sufficiently prayerful and righteous, they may break the cycle of birth and death and return to God.
In southern Ghana, among the Ga people, there is a big demand for ‘Ababu Adakai’ – also know as ‘fantasy coffins’. These are large coffins sometimes shaped like chili peppers, sports sneakers or taxi cabs. In fact, just about any object imaginable.
Ancestors are thought to be much more powerful than their living relatives. They can influence the lives of the living. Additionally, the social status of the dead depends partly on how extraordinary their burial coffin is.
In the culture of the Ga, dying is a transitional period from this life to life in the next world which continues much as it did on earth. Because the dead can influence living relatives from beyond the grave, it is important to keep them happy so that they might grant you good luck in the future. And hence ‘fantasy coffins’!
While these views on life might seem quite disparate, they both share the belief that our lives here on earth are just a step onward toward a better life. And that taking care of business in this world, will ease your way into the next world.
The importance of family, and the belief that elders can protect us from death is prevalent in Mexico and Japan.
Swedes and Australians share a pragmatism that is reflected in the way they approach death.
Along with the sorrow of death, there is an uplifting joy and celebration shared by both Jews and Humanists.
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