Buddhist Funeral Rituals
Understanding Buddhist Funeral
Buddhist funerals are meant to be a simple, dignified and solemn expression of bereavement. In Buddhist belief, the funeral service must be within one’s means as Buddhism does not encourage elaborate rituals.
Upon death, the body must be bathed and clothed and then laid down inside a casket. The deceased is taken to a hall or funeral parlour where the funeral wake will be. An altar is to be set up bearing a portrait of the deceased, an image of Buddha as well as offerings of fruits, candles, incense, bouquets, wreaths, and banners.
Monks are usually invited to deliver sermons and rites, however, this can also be carried out by family, friends, and members of Buddhist organizations. During the funeral wake, recordings of Buddhist verses and chantings can also be played in the background.
The final rites are typically performed by the monk and once the sermon is delivered, guests must remove headgears (hats/caps) as a sign of respect. Once the wake is over, the body is moved to the grave for burial or to the crematorium for cremation.
At the crematorium or burial plot, the monks may perform another chanting ceremony following by offerings to the monk and transfer of merit to the deceased. For cremation, the ashes are collected the following day and the ashes may be placed in a columbarium or scattered at the sea, depending on the wishes of the deceased. A puja (devotional prayer) can be performed to signify that the funeral has come to an end.
Memorial service for Buddhist funerals is customary and is usually held on the third, seventh, forth ninth and hundredth day.
What to do as a guest for Buddhist Funeral
It is advised to dress in a white or plain, sombre colour. Guests can pay last respects by standing in front of the altar and bowing with hands clasped together. Donations may be given to the deceased family – usually, there will be a collection record book. These donations may be used to bear funeral expenses or offered to charitable organizations, depending on the wishes of the deceased and family.