A Look at Buddhist Funeral Traditions
The Buddhist way of life teaches that death is a natural part of the life cycle and that it is necessary for a person who is dying to mentally prepare for the next incarnation. The Buddha did not leave specific instructions for preferred funeral services and so Buddhist funeral traditions can be flexible. However, there are some traditions that Buddhist families will generally follow after a death and at the funeral home.
Buddhist families prefer that the dying process take place in a calm, peaceful setting. When the individual dies, family members are expected to cleanse the body. The decedent is dressed in everyday clothes, rather than garments for special occasions. Some Buddhist families prefer that the body be left in place for at least four hours before being moved to a funeral home. However, if the decedent wanted to donate his or her corneas or organs, then the proper authorities should be notified shortly after the death. Some Buddhist families prefer to avoid embalming when local regulations will permit this.
If a visitation or wake will be held, it is appropriate for the family to choose a simple casket and to arrange the altar with candles, incense, and other offerings. The decedent’s portrait and an image of the Buddha may be displayed.
The family may choose to have a teacher or other member of the Buddhist community perform chants. If this is not possible, then the family may perform chants or set up an audio recording of chanting. The chants should be focused on life’s impermanence and the transference of merit. It is traditional, though not required, for a Buddhist to be cremated. Cremation services follow the precedent established by the Buddha. However, some families may prefer burial. During all of the services, it is expected that the family and other mourners wear white. Head coverings should be removed during chanting or other rites.
At Chapel of the Chimes Oakland, your family will find compassionate and culturally sensitive funeral services in Oakland. Our funeral home works closely with each family to ensure that the funeral or cremation services are an appropriately personalized celebration of life. Call (510) 654-0123 to speak with a funeral director.