Question: What is the difference between cremation and a regular burial?

Sri Chinmoy: The outer difference you know: when it is cremation the body is burned; when it is burial the body is put into a coffin and buried. Indians especially are fire worshippers. They feel that fire not only consumes everything but also purifies everything. So for fire we have a god, whose name is Agni. We pray to Agni for purification and for self-knowledge, and we also give our dead to him.

From the spiritual point of view, we know that the body has come into existence from five elements: earth, water, air, ether and energy. From five elements the physical sheath came into existence, and with the help of fire it will go back into the five elements. With cremation the physical body will dissolve with utmost purification, which here means transformation.

Again, those in the West who prefer burial also have their own spiritual interpretation. A kind of spiritual compassion comes because the body has served us so faithfully, and we say: “Oh, I utilised this body for so many years and never gave it any rest. Now the soul is not there; the bird has flown away. But the body is there. Let me give the body a chance to rest and have it put into a coffin.” Those who care for burning the body feel that the body, which has done so many silly, evil things in this life, needs purification. And those who care for burial want to give the body a comfortable rest.