What Is a Buddhist Funeral?
A Buddhist funeral is the ritual of paying respect to and cleansing the body of the departed before the cremation takes place.
The bereaved members of the family come together to recite mantras, light candles, and share tea. In addition to this, they provide food for the monks who will be conducting the rituals in honour of their loved one.
The burial service of a Buddhist typically lasts for approximately an hour, although it can last for as long as three hours if there are other rites involved, such as chanting or the burning of incense.
It is crucial not only for Buddhists but also for anybody else who has lost a loved one to think about what kind of service they would like in place of a traditional burial ceremony with embalming and caskets, all of which cost money that may not be accessible when someone dies unexpectedly.
The importance of tranquilly and harmony is emphasised throughout all aspects of a Buddhist funeral.
Even if some of the rituals may be different from one another, it is common practise for families to organise a funeral ceremony and build an altar in memory of a deceased loved one.
In most cases, families organise a straightforward ceremony.
Monks typically preside over these services, which also include times of prayer and meditation in addition to the more conventional pursuits.
The Buddhist funeral service is typically followed by the cremation of the deceased.
Because there are no established rules for conducting Buddhist burial services, some families opt to combine Buddhist rites with the practises associated with the Christian faith.
Buddhist Death Rituals
Funerals in the Buddhist religion involve a number of rites and ceremonies that are meant to aid the deceased's transition into their next life. The following are examples of common practises and traditions:
- Environment for Peaceful Dying: When someone is nearing the end of their life, their loved ones do everything they can to make the surroundings as serene and comfortable as possible. It is customary for immediate family members and close friends to be there during the demise of a loved one.
- Reflecting on the Person’s Life: Those who were close to the deceased may ponder the virtuous acts that the deceased individual performed throughout their lifetime.
- Performing Good Deeds: It is also possible for members of the individual's family and friends to undertake acts of goodness on their behalf in order to offer merit to the deceased loved one.
- After Death: In Buddhist culture, it is customary to allow the deceased's body to lie in repose for a period of four hours after they pass away. Nobody should move, touch, or otherwise bother the person during this period of time. Buddhists subscribe to the doctrine that it takes some time for the soul to depart from the body after death.
- Organ Donation: Many Buddhists make the decision to donate organs because they believe that this final act can be viewed as a good deed and is in accordance with Buddhist ideals regarding death.
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How Are Buddhists Buried?
There are a few different kinds of Buddhist funeral ceremonies, but most of them involve a memorial service with an altar dedicated to the deceased individual.
Following the ritual, the body is incinerated, and there may be times set apart for prayer and meditation. After a wake, the body is incinerated in some cases, which means that the funeral itself is the cremation service.
Why Do Buddhists Cremate Their Dead?
Cremation is an important ceremony for Buddhists because they believe it frees the soul from its attachment to the physical form after death.
As Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was burned to ashes on a funeral pyre, Buddhists frequently adhere to the practise of cremation.
How Do Buddhist Monks Bury Their Dead?
In some regions, monks are only permitted to cremate their deceased; but, in other regions, monks are permitted to bury their deceased.
Do You Send Flowers To A Buddhist Funeral?
In some regions, monks are only permitted to cremate their deceased; but, in other regions, monks are permitted to bury their deceased.
What Is A Buddhist Funeral Like?
You should prepare yourself for either a funeral with an open casket, a funeral that takes place immediately before the cremation, or a memorial service that takes place after the burial or cremation of the deceased person. Buddhists do not adhere to any funeral rites that are set in stone.
Prayer and meditation will most likely be part of the funeral service, and these activities will most likely be lead by a monk or group of monks. In the event that there are no monks present, the chanting will be lead by members of the family.
Buddhist Beliefs About Death
Buddhists believe in reincarnation as well as the liberation of the soul, which is quite similar to the beliefs of Sikhism and Hinduism.
They believe that death is an inevitable aspect of the continuous cycle of life known as sasra, and that the actions a Buddhist takes throughout their lifetime will define the lives they will lead in subsequent incarnations.
This is a doctrine that is shared by all schools of Buddhism and serves as the cornerstone around which Buddhist funeral practises are built.
The achievement of nirvana, or freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth, is considered by many adherents of the Buddhist faith to be the pinnacle of spiritual progress.
In order for them to accomplish this, they need to free themselves from their fundamental yearnings and any conceptions they may have of who they are in order to achieve complete enlightenment.
Saṃsāra And The Six Realms
In accordance with the doctrine of sasra, Buddhists hold the belief that after death, a person will be reborn into one of the following six realms, depending on their karma:
- Gods realm (DEVA) – individuals who crave power and fortune but lack compassion or insight to achieve either goal. The gratifications that can be found in this world prevent people from reaching nirvana.
- Human realm (MANUSYA) –the one and only domain in which it is possible to achieve nirvana and free oneself from the cycle of samsara.
- Demi-god realm (ASURA) – individuals who are strong and powerful, but who lack patience, are quick to anger, and are filled with envy.
- Animal realm (TIRYAGYONI) – those who are foolish, ignorant, and have no interest in improving themselves. It is said that they prey on one another, which causes them both to suffer.
- Hungry ghosts (PRETA) – persons who are prone to compulsive behaviours, obsessive thoughts, and addictive substances. They are said to have very small lips, but very huge stomachs. They are described.
- Hell realm (NARAKA) – persons who are prone to compulsive behaviours, obsessive thoughts, and addictive substances. They are said to have very small lips, but very huge stomachs. They are described.
Buddhist Funeral Rites
According to Buddhist tradition, the passing of a loved one should take place in an atmosphere that is quiet and tranquil, in the presence of close friends and family.
They should all come together and think on the kind acts that the dying person has performed during their life in the hope that it may assist them in their subsequent incarnation.
In addition, the deceased person's loved ones and friends can carry out charitable acts on their behalf, which they believe will be a source of merit to the deceased person.
After the individual has passed away, their body should not be touched, moved, or otherwise disturbed for at least four hours.
The reason for this is that Buddhists believe that the soul does not immediately depart from the body after death. The body needs to be kept at a cool temperature, and after that, it should be cleaned and dressed in the person's regular attire.
Buddhist Funeral Traditions And Customs
There is the option of holding a wake, during which attendees can pay their respects to the departed and offer their sympathies to the relatives of the deceased.
In front of the casket, there will very certainly be a portrait of the individual who has passed away.
At the wake, this will take its place as the focal point of the family altar that has been prepared for the occasion. Candles and other offerings, such as bouquets and bowls of fruit, are also placed on the altar. Additionally, there will be incense being burned.
It is acceptable to exhibit flowers in a subdued manner within a funeral home if the wake is being held there. According to the canons of Buddhist tradition, an image of the Buddha should also be positioned in close proximity to the altar.
Cremation is the prefered method of disposal among Buddhists, however embalming is also permitted. Each family makes their decision based on what is most important to them.
When it comes to the burial or cremation of a deceased person, there are no hard and fast rules.
Rituals performed at a Buddhist funeral often take place in the morning before to the interment or cremation of the deceased.
In accordance with the customs associated with Buddhist funerals, verses are recited, and monks may be asked to preside over the event.
Again, it is dependent on what the family decides they want. The funeral service, be it the burial or the cremation, could be handled solely by the family.
Donation of organs is not something that is frowned upon in Buddhism. In addition, since they consider autopsies to be a method of assisting others in need, these procedures are permitted as well.
They do recommend that a medical examiner wait at least three or four days before doing an autopsy, which is the amount of time necessary for the soul to depart the body.
Observing the rituals associated with a Buddhist burial not only helps a deceased family member or friend make the journey to the next life, but it also provides solace and support to the bereaved members of the family.
- Buddhist Cremation: Because of the Buddhist belief in reincarnation, Buddhist burial practices focus on cremation – the preferred choice for laying a loved one to rest.
- Procession: After the ceremony, if there is a casket, it may be sealed before it is transferred to the crematorium.
- Funeral Location: Traditionally, many Buddhist funerals happen in the family home, or in a religious space, but there are many variations in modern practice. Families determine the location based on the number of attendees and their preferences for ceremonies.
- Leading the Ceremony: A monk or a group of monks will generally lead each funeral ceremony, offering a variety of sutras (Buddhist funeral prayers), chants, and reading sermons.
- Altar Layout: Buddhist funerals feature an altar with photos or statues of Buddha and offerings, as well as photos and objects that honor the person who has died. There may be flowers and food.
- Bells and Gongs: Often there will be a ringing of bells or gongs as a part of the funeral rituals.
- Length of Funeral: Most Buddhist funeral services last between 45 – 75 minutes, depending on the wishes and particular traditions of the family.
What Do Buddhists Do At A Funeral
The following are examples of Buddhist funeral rites:
- Making a donation of cloth to the monk on behalf of the deceased
- Embellishing the altar with a picture of the departed together with a statue of Buddha
- Putting water from one cup into another that is already full to capacity
- They are walking with sticks to represent the need for help as they work through their grief.
- Sutras, depending on the context, chanted or sung (prayers)
- Bringing sacrifices like flowers, candles, and food as offerings
- Incense being burned
- Ringing gongs or bells
Buddhist Mourning Period
Following the conclusion of the funeral services, the family may opt to throw a reception at which friends and acquaintances can continue to pay their condolences.
It is typical practise for Buddhists to hold many services throughout the period of grieving for a deceased loved one. This is in contrast to the majority of other religious traditions, which hold only a single event after the passing of a loved one.
There are some days that hold special significance in the Buddhist grieving journey; activities or rituals are performed on the third, seventh, 49th, and 100th day after the death of the person being mourned.
Because odd numbers provide a sense of "becoming," some families choose to hold the funeral three or seven days after the death of a loved one, or they may continue funeral festivities for three, five, or seven days after that.
In Buddhism, a significant event takes place 49 days following a person's death.
The period of total mourning typically lasts for 49 days, during which time Buddhist prayers are offered for the departed once per week for a total of seven weeks.
The prayers make the transition from this world to the afterlife easier for the departed loved ones.
Although the specific number of days that pass between a person's death and their rebirth is believed to be 49 in Buddhism, the number of days that pass might vary from one Buddhist tradition to another.
For instance, several communities have the belief that a person's karma is what decides how quickly they will be reincarnated, which impacts the length of time spent in grieving following a burial.
For the first one hundred days after the death of a loved one, grieving families will refrain from participating in any festive events.
On the one hundredth day, they hold a party to recognise the individual's successful transition into the new life that lies ahead for them.
During this ceremony, the family has the option of including prayers and offerings on behalf of their deceased loved one. Afterwards, they may eat dishes that the deceased person particularly enjoyed eating in their lifetime.
Buddhist Funeral Etiquette
Due to the fact that different Buddhist organisations adhere to a variety of customs, it is common for families to express the manners that are expected of individuals who would be attending.
If you are ever unsure of something, you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions.
Funeral ceremonies in the Buddhist tradition may involve some or all of the following elements:
- Arrival: When those who are grieving arrive at the service, they are welcome to make their way silently to the altar so that they can pay their respects. It is customary to show respect for a deceased loved one by clasping one's hands in front of the chest or folding them in prayer while making a short bow; however, you may also enquire about the proper protocol when you arrive.
- Offerings: Mourners who attend Buddhist funeral rites often bring offerings to the deceased, such as flowers, candles, and fruit, which they place at the casket before the body is buried. However, these are not at all what was anticipated, so there is no need for concern if you are uncertain. Simply show up, and everything will work out just fine.
- Chanting: Attendees at the funeral are encouraged to take part in the chanting in whatever way they feel comfortable. Do not be concerned in the slightest if you are not already familiar with the chants. It is not only acceptable but also extremely nice to maintain a low profile and quietly observe the festivities.
- Cues: You won't feel out of sync during the funeral service since monks who are directing the service will typically provide clues about when to sit and stand during the services.
- Clothing: The family covers themselves by dressing in white or wrapping themselves in white fabric. Do you have questions about the appropriate attire to wear to a Buddhist funeral? Dress for the occasion should be understated and either dark or black. Stick to more understated and affordable options when it comes to your attire and jewellery, please.
In Buddhist funeral rituals, there are many different beliefs, practises, and rites, but the most important thing to remember is that you will be very welcome no matter what you bring with you.
If you are unsure about what steps to take, you shouldn't stress about it.
If you want to be sure that you are wearing the appropriate attire, arriving at the exact correct time, or if you want to know how your condolences might be communicated in the most appropriate manner, feel free to ask someone in advance.
The family will consider it an honour to have you there and will express how much they value your presence at the gathering.
You will also take part in a lovely memorial service that is packed with significant rites and moments.
How Long Is A Buddhist Funeral
The length of time that a Buddhist burial service will run can range anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes, and it all depends on the wishes of the deceased and their family.