Tibetan Sky Burial is an ancient Ritual. Tibet being situated on a high plateau, the ground is hard and rocky, making traditional burial impossible. Natural resources such as wood and fuel are scarce so cremations also are difficult. Sky Burial is the best solution.
In the local language, this ritual is called 'Chator' or giving to the birds. According to Buddhist philosophy, the practice of generosity is extremely important. This last act of generosity, of feeding the birds, is done and the merit is dedicated to the deceased for his next life or travel through the bardo (intermediate state).
Bodies of the dead are offered also as a final act of kindness and compassion towards other living beings.
According to Tibetan Buddhist perspective, the body of a deceased person is not touched for three days. Sometimes the mind or consciousness will remain in body for up to 72 hours. When the signs appear indicating that the mind has left the body, then it may be taken to one of the Tibetan temples.
One of my teachers remained meditating in his body for thirteen whole days after 'death'. During this time, even though his breathing and heart had stopped, his body remained fresh and without decay. There are hundreds of cases like this documented in Tibet. There are some really fascinating stories.
Friends, family and monks from the local monastery will gather to do prayers, say mantras, chant and burn incense.
The Chinese government banned this practice from around 1960 to 1980 due to it's somewhat morbid nature. Only Tibetans are allowed to continue this practice now.
The flesh is cut off the bodies by professional butchers and along with the organs, fed to the huge vultures. The bones are then pulverized and mixed with tsampa (the local staple of barley flour) and is fed to other smaller birds who have been waiting patiently nearby.
One of the Tibetan myths is that the spirit will carry on through the birds.