Buddhist Funeral Rites. What Is Expected?
Buddhist funerals vary quite significantly according to the tradition the individual belongs to. Generally there is no great clash with normal British traditional funerals, no issues for doctors or medical staff to worry about. Some consider it best for the dying person to be assisted by a teacher or fellow member of the Buddhist tradition. It is obviously helpful for those close to the person to be aware of how to contact a suitable source of comfort in advance. Most Buddhist funeral rites involve cremation, following the Buddhas example.
Some Buddhists feel that the deceased should not be disturbed for at least 4 hours after passing. Others also a minimum of three and a half days should elapse before an autopsy, or cremation. Embalming is to be avoid unless essential. The general wish is that the body should be disturbed as little as possible.
Buddhist Funeral Services.
There is no such things as a specific “standard” for Buddhist funeral services. Most will have their own group or community who can offer a teacher or community member to take the funeral service. If there is no strong connection, it is more important that the deceased has made their wishes clear. Are they closest to the Zen, Tibetan, Theravada, Pure Land traditions for example? The Buddhist Society may then be able to suggest helpful local contacts to help and advise. Or maybe there is a Buddhist Chaplain serving the hospital or hospice who can help?
Planning Ahead to ensure your Buddhist Funeral Rites are followed.
This is where a prepaid funeral plan comes into its own. Your family may be badly upset and troubled if they have no idea what your wishes would have been. No one knows better than you whether or not you want a Buddhist funeral ceremony. Or which tradition you would like it to follow. General guidance can be included in the plan, and more up to date guidance kept with the plan documents. Many recommend putting your final wishes into your Last Will and Testament, but the author is sadly aware that these are often well out of date. They are also often not discovered until after the funeral has taken place! Again, if you don’t have an active connection, be specific about the kind of Buddhism you feel connected with. Don’t forget to include details of any texts or chants that you would like to be recited.
Arranging A Buddhist Funeral Ceremony.
Most Buddhists are cremated, after the example of the Buddha, but this is not invariably the case. Some Buddhist traditions say that at least 4 days should pass before the body is cremated and that embalming should be avoided if possible. The general advice is that the body should be left as undisturbed as possible in the interval between death and cremation or burial.