Buddhist View of Death

What is the Buddhist view of death?

For Buddhists, the funeral marks the transition to a new state of life and is of great consequence to both the deceased and those left behind.

You can get more information both from the video below, and from the link underneath it.

As far as prepaid funeral plans are concerned, the providers will differ as to how able they are to deal with Buddhist funeral arrangements, so it is important that you mention your religious affiliations (Buddhist or otherwise) when completing our enquiry form so they can be taken into account in the advice we give.

Buddhist Funerals – the background

When death occurs all the karmic forces accumulated during life become activated and  determine the next stage on the cycle of rebirth. Death reminds us of the Buddha’s teaching on impermanence and allows the living to assist the deceased on their journey.

Many Buddhists today (rather fortunately perhaps) believe in cremation, symbolising setting soul free from bodily constraints to be reborn. Cremation should not be immediate; Buddhists think consciousness continues for several days after the body dies. The funeral will be conducted  according to either Chinese Buddhism or Thai Buddhism as appropriate to the beliefs of the deceased.

Consciousness After Death

Buddhists believe in stages after death (called bardos.)

  • The first bardo is swift is a time in which the deceased passes into the heavens of a deity to which they are attached in life. If the process is not completed at the first attempt, there may be a second.
  • During the second bardo the soul is carried through emotional turmoil on its own desires: the “bardo of becoming”.
  • In the third bardo, the soul enters the final stage of reincarnation and is sucked into another body in which to live another life.

These stages of consciousness occur immediately following death therefore it is important that the body isn’t disturbed for several hours and ideally for three and a half days, which is not always practical.

Funeral Traditions in Thai Buddhism

Here, the funeral will last for a week or so and will include

  • chanting by monks
  • distribution of Buddhist scriptures in the name of the deceased
  • gifts given to Buddhist temples
  • a photographic display of the deceased.

Before the funeral a bathing ceremony is common, and family members and friends will pour water in one hand of the body.

After cremation, ashes may be placed in a chedi (like a mound) at a Buddhist temple. Crying is discouraged during Thai Buddhist funerals as it is believed to cause worry to the  deceased’s spirit.

Funeral Traditions in Chinese Buddhism

The funeral ceremony lasts 49 days, with the first 7 being far the most important. In some traditions prayers are said for the deceased every seven days, while in others it is more like every ten days. The Amitabha Sutra is often spoken, and there may be joss sticks or joss paper burned as well, though not all Buddhists would approve. Cremation is generally preferred, though some will be buried. After 100 days a final prayer ceremony may occur.

Wikipedia on the Buddhist view of death.