Buddhist Funeral Traditions

Buddhist Funerals

Around the world, there are different Buddhist practises with each having its own funeral traditions but at the core of all practices is the belief in Saṃsāra – the cycle of life. Buddhists believe in reincarnation and so funeral traditions focus on freeing the soul and ensuring they have the best transition to the next life.

Death is a natural part of Saṃsāra and actions in life will determine future lives – this is a unifying belief across Buddhism. The ultimate goal is for humans to liberate themselves from the death and rebirth cycle and reach Nirvana by eliminating base desires and the notion of self to attain enlightenment.

Buddhist Traditions and Funeral Arrangements

Ideally, death would happen in calm and peace with close friends and family reflecting on the good the dying loved one has done throughout life which will help in their next reincarnation. Additionally, family and friends can perform good deeds in their name which will help for their next life. 

Once the person has passed on the body must not be touched, moved or disturbed for four hours to give the soul time to leave the body. Afterwards, they must be kept cold and then be washed and dressed in everyday clothes.

The funeral services are traditionally held at a monastery or family home but now sometimes will be held in a funeral home. Buddhist funeral traditions require a monk to lead proceedings which usually includes reading sermons and leading funeral chants or prayer sutras recitation.

The body is publicly presented laid in a simple open casket. Usually, this is accompanied by an image of the deceased and an image of the Buddha. Mourners often also light incense and candles, fruit and flowers around the body. After the ceremony is complete the casket is sealed and carried to the crematorium. Cremation is preferred for Buddhists as the body is considered a vessel for holding the soul. Organ donation is also approved of as it is seen as a final good deed on earth. 

Other funeral traditions can include: 

  • Making an offering of cloth to the monk on behalf of the deceased.
  • Pouring water into an overflowing cup as an offering.
  • Walking with a stick that physically symbolizes the need for support from the burden of grief.
  • Ringing gongs and bells.

The family may host a reception that provides the opportunity for mourners to continue to pay their respects, offer condolences, and comfort to the family. It is a common tradition too for Buddhists to hold multiple services throughout a set period of mourning that usually includes ceremonies on the third, seventh, forty-ninth, and hundredth days after the death of a loved one.

Select a Buddhist Funeral with County Funerals

When choosing County Funerals for your Buddhist funeral you can rest assured that we will handle all arrangements with dignity and respect in line with your wishes and traditions. For more information on how we can help, reach out to our team of experienced funeral directors. 

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