What Are Some Buddhist Funeral Customs?

There are no one single set of Buddhist customs that apply to all sects but there is a general way the funerals are held and certain things that are common in almost all kinds of Buddhists.

The funeral can be very ritualistic or one that bends heavily towards traditions or it can be simple, modern, and dignified. One thing that is common in both types is the simplicity and the leaning towards donations and charity instead of lavish proceedings no matter who the deceased is.

Even family members are encouraged to donate to charities in the name of the deceased rather than offering things to the family.

Traditional Customs

The Buddhist customs offer a ceremony presided over by the monks who chant, deliver a sermon and perform the final rites. If a monk is not available, the family members are also allowed to carry out the traditions and ease the dead into their next life.

Some of the common practices to help the deceased include offering a monk some clothing on behalf of the dead person, pouring water into an overflowing vessel, and also giving offering or charities known as “Dana”. Some other traditions are:

  • Family wears white and may also walk with sticks to signify how weak the grief of a loved one has made them.
  • Chant prayers and hymns to lessen their grief.
  • Fruits and flowers are brought to the house of the deceased but food are not preferred.
  • Gongs and bells are rung while incense in burned.

Grief in Buddhism

Even though the concept of reincarnation is accepted largely by the Buddhist community, grief is not discouraged by the loss of a loved one.

The family and the closed ones are understood and their need to mourn is sympathized with but there is always the understanding of the impermanence or transience of life at the background of it all and death is taken as a means to remind the family and the loved ones of that
very fact of life.

The focus of this is also to understand that death is imminent and to not while away one’s life in meaningless deeds but rather reform actions and try to move towards Nirvana or eternal peace.

Cremation or Burial

The deceased may be buried, if that is the desire of the family but cremation is the traditional Buddhist way to honor the dead.

Monks, if present, perform the last rites and deliver their sermon before the sealed casket is carried to a funeral home by either the relatives or transported by a car where it is cremated.

Family members walk behind the casket in respect of the dead while the rest of the mourners are advised to send good thoughts and feelings towards both the dead and the family in the trying time.

The cremation is usually held in open air pyres as the family watches and the cremation ashes are then scattered at a specific place, kept at home or even buried. A woodland burial is also not an unheard practice for the Buddhists. If you need a funeral service, get started here.