Buddhist funeral practices are dominated by the concept of reincarnation. The belief of reincarnation or “Samsara” is a common one in Buddhism and Buddhists consider death as a way to get closer to Nirvana or the eternal peace and destination of a soul.
A soul is said to keep going in a cycle of life and death, reincarnated in a different being according to its deeds until it breaks the cycle by good deeds and virtue and heads towards Nirvana or the state of absolute bliss.
Death is also important in Buddhism because it serves to remind the family and the community of the impermanence of life, as taught by Buddha himself.
The Buddhist funeral is a dignified and respectful procession, taking place generally after a week of the death. Awake or a viewing occurs between the death and the funeral and then the funeral takes place at home, not a temple usually.
The Buddhist funeral is very similar to the Christianity and a lot of other religions except the part about cremation as the family stands in front of the house and greet mourners at their entry, accepting consolation along the way.
There is no set rule about cremation as the family or the deceased have already decided upon it but if it is cremation then it is respectful according to some sources, for the family to view the full process of cremation. If the body is buried, the family looks away after burial, in respect of the dead.
Attending a Buddhist Funeral
Generally close family and friends are the only ones invited to a funeral proceeding and those who are not a part of the Buddhist faith are not expected to participate.
Men and women sit together, head covering isn’t required and the shoes are only to be removed if the funeral is set to be held at a temple. White is the color of the family but the mourners and friends that attend the funeral usually wear black.
An interesting thing to note here is the fact that while flowers and gifts can be sent to the grieving family, food is considered disrespectful. Usually, charity is encouraged in the name of the deceased as the religion stresses heavily on the importance of charity.
If the funeral is to be held in a temple, men and women are both allowed to wear any dresses as long as they are comfortable as they need to sit on the floor during the ceremony. The obvious choice of dress includes a tie for men and a dress in the case of women.
There are quite a few different beliefs in the Buddhist community and there is no one ritual or ceremony that is common to all Buddhists. The proceedings of a funeral depend on the teachings the family follows or the wishes of the deceased.
In most cases, the deceased leaves behind their preferences and their wishes that the family executes but if they don’t, the family traditions are followed during the funeral and after it. Hire us if you need funeral services.