Buddhist funerals are generally simple occasions.
However, most Buddhists believe in reincarnation and see death as a transition between one life and another, so funerals tend to have an atmosphere of joyful remembrance as well as sadness for the loss of a relative or friend.
Buddhist funerals include appropriate readings and tributes to the deceased.
Buddhist temple. Crematorium. To find a Buddhist temple near you, visit this website.
Length of funeral and other 'rules'
In some cases men wear a tie and women a skirt or dress but this is not compulsory and can vary according to the family or deceased’s wishes. Clothing should be comfortable for sitting on the floor during meditation.
Buddhism deems viewing the body to be a valuable reminder of the impermanence of life.
The Buddha’s body was cremated and therefore many Buddhists follow this example. Buddhist’s respect for, and care of, the environment is leading to a greater understanding of the environmental damage that cremation causes and greater numbers of 'green' burial.
From the order of service, see below, it is clear that a full Buddhist funeral ceremony takes longer than the 30 minute normally allotted at the crematorium.
It is worth considering booking two slots, although this adds to the cost of the funeral as it involves more time spent by the funeral director and the staff of the crematorium.
Another option is to have the longer ceremony at the Buddhist temple, followed by committal at the local crematorium.
Things to discuss beforehand
- Who will be the pallbearers?
- Who will do the readings?
- Are there any special readings you want?
- Are there special prayers you would like included?
- Are there special songs or music that you would like to suggest?
- How much are the fees?
- Should you bring your children if they are young?
- Are there rules about what memorials you can choose?
Order of Service
The coffin may be brought in either before or after the congregation has assembled. It may be surrounded by significant objects - tokens of love or reminders of the person who has died, such as photos. The coffin may be open or closed.
Welcome and introduction:
The funeral usually begins with a welcome which includes a greeting, reference to the deceased, and an explanation of the ceremony.
The central part of the funeral includes:
- Readings of poetry, music, etc;
- Collective chanting, recitation or singing;
- Silent meditation, possibly with some guidance;
- A short talk giving a religious perspective on death;
- Personal rituals, which can include writing cards to the person who has died, laying flowers, lighting candles, etc.
The funeral usually includes several tributes from family and friends.
Towards the end of the funeral there are some references to letting the deceased person go. This may accompany the committal or cremation. This may refer to a 'good rebirth' or simply to 'going forth in peace'.
At the end of the funeral there is usually a reference to ongoing life, for example in images of nature such as leaves in spring, and cycles of day and night.
There may be some ritual element such as offering incense, chanting mantras and leaving token offerings.
Secular music, readings and other features
These are usually included and can be planned with your celebrant.
Should we have a gathering afterwards?
Many Buddhist funerals are followed by a gathering to celebrate and meditate on the life of the person that has died.
These are held if it is the choice of the individual or his/her family.