Death is an inherent and unavoidable aspect of life. Every living thing is destined to reach this stage at one point or another. However, many religions believe death isn’t necessarily the end of life but rather a transition into the next phase or world.
In the Buddhist community, death is regarded as an event of major significance both for the deceased and the survivors. For the deceased, it marks the beginning of a new mode of existence within the rounds of rebirth. Buddhists believe that an individual’s karmic balance is what determines their next rebirth. While for, the survivors’ death serves as a reminder of just how temporary and fleeting worldly life is.
Here Jonah Engler will describe the etiquettes and traditions that should be followed during a Buddhist funeral.
Jonah Engler‘s Guide to Buddhist Death Rituals
Environment for peaceful dying:
The environment in which a person dies should ideally be calm, quiet, and serene, with as few distractions as possible. Jonah Engler emphasizes that the body should be positioned in such a way that it faces the north or east.
Reflecting On the Person’s Life:
Before the funeral rites begin, take some time to reflect on and honor the deceased person’s life. This helps to remind us of the impermanence of life and can be an incredibly cathartic experience. It also allows us to remember the deceased in a positive light.
Performing Good Deeds:
Jonah Engler highlights that one of the best things you can do for a deceased loved one is perform good deeds in their name. This could be anything from donating to charity to helping out a friend in need. These good deeds will help create positive karma for the deceased and potentially lead to a better afterlife.
After death, the body should be allowed to rest for four hours, washed and dressed in clean clothes. If possible, the body should then be placed in a coffin or wrapped in a shroud. It is also customary to place some items in the coffin with the body, such as a rosary or a picture of the Buddha.
Organ donation is generally not encouraged in the Buddhist community as it is believed that the body should be intact when entering into rebirth.
Jonah Engler’s Guide to Buddhist Death Customs
Cremation: In Buddhism, cremation is seen as the most efficient way to release a person’s soul from the body. The soul is believed to be reborn into another body after death, and cremation is seen as a way to release it from the physical body so it can move on.
Procession: The funeral procession usually starts at the deceased’s house and makes its way to the cremation ground. The body is carried on a bier or in a coffin, followed by the deceased’s family and friends.
Funeral location: The funeral usually takes place at a Buddhist temple but can also be held at the cremation ground.
Leading The Ceremony: The ceremony is usually led by a monk or a Buddhist priest. The deceased’s family will make offerings to the monk or priest, and they will also say prayers for the deceased.
Altar Layout: An altar is set up at the funeral location, and it is usually decorated with flowers, photos of the deceased, and candles.
Jonah Engler believes that thoroughly abiding by the funeral rituals is a way to honor the deceased. It also allows the survivors to reminisce the life of their loved ones while bidding their last farewells.