This guide will explain what happens at a Buddhist funeral and the death rituals that must take place according to Buddhist funeral traditions.
Buddhist beliefs about death
Buddhists believe death is part of the cycle known as saṃsāra, in which a Buddhist’s actions in life and all previous incarnations of life will affect future incarnations.
By freeing themselves from all desires and notions, Buddhists believe they will leave the cycle and reach the state of nirvana (Heaven).
Buddhist death rituals
After a death, the body of the deceased should not be touched or moved in any way because Buddhists believe the soul does not leave the body immediately after you've stopped breathing.
The body must be completely cold until it can be prepared for cremation - before it can be prepared, the deceased should be dressed in normal everyday clothes.
What happens at a Buddhist funeral ceremony?
A Buddhist funeral ceremony can be quite diverse. It is typically held at a Buddhist monastery, though some families prefer to do it at their own home.
During the service, monks and other members of the Buddhist community are invited to read sermons or eulogies. According to Buddhist funeral customs, chanting may be led by monks and guests can either join in or sit silently. At this time, mourners and monks may also sing Buddhist funeral prayers which are also known as sutras.
What happens at a Buddhist cremation?
A Buddhist may be buried or cremated, though Buddhist funeral customs usually specify cremation as the preferred option. The cremation service usually takes place at a local crematorium, with the ashes scattered, buried or kept in an urn at home.
What to wear to a Buddhist funeral
At a traditional Buddhist funeral ceremony, the family will usually wear white or use white cloth to cover themselves. Often it is asked that women refrain from wearing jewellery, and that all mourners stay away from wearing red.
Mourners are asked to wear dark and conservative clothing, typical of many funerals. If you’re worried about what to wear to a Buddhist funeral, our advice on appropriate funeral attire should suit the occasion
What happens after a Buddhist funeral?
A reception may be held after a Buddhist funeral, where mourners are invited to pay their respects. This usually depends on family traditions as well as other Buddhist funeral customs.
Source: Buddhist Society
Arrange a Buddhist funeral for your loved one
Your local Dignity Funeral Director can cater for any type of religious funeral and will help arrange a fitting service which reflects your loved one's beliefs and final wishes.
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We also have a number of Funeral Directors which specialise in Asian funeral services.