Buddhist funerals and traditions

Many rules, superstitions, customs, and traditions surround Chinese funerals or Buddhist funeral traditions. Such rituals must be honoured when someone passes away, as it is said to be inauspicious when Chinese or Buddhist funeral etiquette isn’t followed.

One such Chinese superstition on death is the 100 days of the mourning period. There are many other rules and customs that must be followed during the mourning period. Final prayer ceremonies are then held to mark the end of mourning.

However, it’s important to note that Chinese funerals and their traditions vary from each family. This variation depends on the schools of practice and the origin country.

Not all followers have the same practices, with so many Buddhist denominations worldwide. Some follow traditional customs, while others adopt a more modern approach.

This guide discusses common aspects of traditional Buddhist or Chinese funerals. If you are a guest at a funeral, having a basic grasp of these customs may help you know what to expect.

1. What Is A Buddhist Funeral?

Every Buddhist funeral is marked by peace and serenity. Buddhist followers believe in the reincarnation of the soul after death. They spend the mourning period paying homage to the recently deceased person and holding rituals in their honour.

Buddhist or Chinese funeral rituals will always involve the presence of a monk, facilitating prayers and meditations. They “guide” the deceased’s spirit smoothly into the next life, giving the family members time to mourn as the deceased journeys into the afterlife peacefully.

Buddhist funeral services take place before cremation. Families choose this method because they believe the physical body has little significance. It is merely a vessel to house the soul.

Due to an absence of formal guidelines for Buddhist funeral services, many families blend Chinese and Buddhist rituals.

2. Buddhist Funeral Rituals And Traditions

Buddhist funerals flowers

These Buddhist funeral traditions allow a loved one to peacefully transition into the next life. They also provide comfort and peace to the mourning family.

  • Cremation – This is a typical funeral practice in Buddhism. Buddha’s remains were cremated, so many of his believers also chose to follow in his footsteps. Buddhist believers also choose cremation as they believe their bodies are a vessel and reincarnation, but ultimately it depends on the preference of the decedent and their family. 
  • Procession – The procession includes chanting and reciting suttas, prayers and readings. 
  • Funeral Service – Funeral service typically occurs at an HDB void deck, funeral parlour or the bereaved family’s home. Ultimately, the choice of location depends on the family’s preference and budget. 
  • Ceremony – Buddhist monks lead the ceremony, chanting Buddhist funeral prayers and reciting sermons.
  • Altar – The family members erect an altar or shrine featuring figurines and images of Buddha. They also lay their offerings and set up the ancestral tablet honouring the departed.
  • Funeral Length – A Buddhist wake typically lasts between 2 to 5 days, with the funeral procession lasting anywhere between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. The duration depends on the bereaved family’s wishes and the number of bereaved family members and attendees.

3. Mourning Period

After the funeral service, there are significant days after death during which family members continue holding rituals.

For instance, odd-numbered days (7th, and 49th) signify a sense of “becoming” or rebirth. The family members will hold prayer ceremonies and recite prayers to assist the deceased spirit into the next life.

The mourning family will avoid holding any celebrations for 100 days after the passing of their loved one. After this, the spirit is said to have successfully traversed from the temporal life into the afterlife. 

They can continue placing offerings and start celebrating the deceased’s successful passage by enjoying foods enjoyed by the person who passed.

4. Buddhist Funeral Etiquette

Guests and attendees should conduct themselves accordingly when attending any funeral. The same unspoken rule goes for Buddhist funeral services.

If you’ve been invited to one, below are some tips and guidelines to prevent you from committing a faux pas.

  • Paying Respect – Once you’re at the funeral ceremony or wake, head straight to the casket or altar. Pause and reflect for a while. You may also want to bow your head and cup your hands in prayer. After paying respects, find a place to sit and wait for the service to begin.
  • Chanting – You are welcome to participate in the chanting, but don’t worry if you’re not familiar with them. You may remain silent and observe the ceremony.
  • Funeral clothing – If you don’t know what to wear to a funeral, especially a Buddhist one, stick to modest black or dark clothing. Try not to wear flashy clothing and limit jewellery and accessories wherever possible.

Conclusion About Buddhist Funerals And Traditions

The 100 days of mourning after death is but one aspect of Chinese and Buddhist funerals. It marks the successful passing of the loved one into the next life.

During the 100 days, family members ensure the deceased’s spirit transitions as peacefully as possible. They partake in rituals and ceremonies and place food and incense on or near the altar.

While Chinese funeral beliefs and traditions may seem ritualistic, what matters most is that you pay your respects and offer your condolences accordingly. You don’t have to worry if you’re unsure what to do. Family members will be there to help you out.

For more information on Buddhist and Chinese funerals, contact us at Casket Fairprice. We offer funeral services in Singapore for Christian, Buddhist, Taoist funerals, and many others. We hope to lessen your burden during a difficult time, allowing you to mourn and grieve peacefully.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Buddhist Funerals And Traditions

 

What Should You Not Do During Chinese Mourning?

It’s advisable not to wear flashy or bright-coloured clothing during the 100 days of mourning. You’re also discouraged from attending celebratory events such as weddings or parties during this time.

What Flowers Are Appropriate For A Chinese Funeral?

Try bringing white lilies and chrysanthemums, as they symbolise lamentation and grief. Red is often avoided in Chinese culture, as it symbolises happiness.

How Much Money To Give At A Chinese Funeral?

You may give according to your means, and the bereaved family will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

What Is Condolence Money Called?

Condolence money is known as “pek kim”. When giving pek kim, place it in a small white envelope before dropping it off into the donation box.

Casket Fairprice Team
Casket Fairprice Team