Funerals are often solemn affairs, and Buddhist funerals are no exception. For first-timers at a Buddhist funeral, it is not strange to feel out of place, especially if you do not share the same faith. However, it is still crucial to be clear about the etiquette – after all, respect should still be a given at any funeral.
What are some things you should be careful of doing when attending a Buddhist funeral? We explore more below.
1. Don’t dress as you please
Your dressing says a lot about how much you respect the event. Just as no one would wear flip-flops to a wedding held at an expensive hotel, no one should be dressed flippantly for a Buddhist funeral.
At Buddhist funerals, modest and simple clothing is recommended. This means no flashy clothes that will distract from the mourning activities. The colour of choice should be muted colours, or black or white. If you are also a Buddhist, and expect to be involved in the rituals, it is wise to wear comfortable pants or flowy skirts that you can kneel comfortably in.
2. Avoid the colour red
We mentioned that muted coloured clothes are best for a Buddhist funeral, but on top of that, you should especially avoid wearing anything red. Red is a celebratory colour in the Buddhist and Chinese culture, making it very insensitive for someone to turn up in red at a Buddhist funeral.
Besides your outfit, make sure to keep away from gifting anything red as well. This applies to flowers, the envelope for your cash donation, and any other sympathy gifts. Instead, stick to colours like white or yellow.
3. Abstain from rowdy behaviour
If it’s your first time attending a Buddhist funeral, you might be surprised to find people chatting or even playing card games during the wake. These activities are typically done to entertain the guests while they are there, especially during the night vigil. However, this does not mean that you can be loud or boisterous during the funeral.
While you are allowed to chat and snack, be careful not to laugh or speak too loudly, as a sign of respect to those who are mourning. If you need to leave at any time, simply make your exit quietly without disrupting any ongoing rituals.
4. Don’t forget the cash donation
If you have a special relationship or corporate ties with the deceased, it might be a kind gesture to present a sympathy gift such as a flower wreath. If not, it is also perfectly acceptable to just gift the bereaved family a small cash donation.
The cash donation should be presented in a white envelope to a member of the host family at the reception area. The amount you give depends on your closeness to the deceased and your financial ability. This cash can go towards helping the family cover the costs of the funeral, so a little really goes a long way.
Attending a Buddhist funeral for the first time can be tricky if you have no idea what to do. Hence, getting to know some of the rules of etiquette before you go will be immensely helpful. Reading up about some Buddhist funeral customs can also enlighten you on the rituals that you see going on at the wake or funeral so you can remain respectful as a visitor.