Every culture has their own beliefs and central purposes for funerals. In the Buddhist culture, funerals are an occasion for sending off the deceased and helping them enter the afterlife. Notions of filial piety are also held in high regard, as the deceased’s family members are the ones who will pay their respects and perform a dignified farewell for their departed loved one.
Understanding the Buddhist funeral must begin from understanding these concepts and values that Buddhists live by.
1. Death is a natural part of life
The very essence of Buddhism lies in the belief that nothing is permanent. Buddhist believers subscribe to the notion that death is a part and parcel of life. In other words, where there is life, there is bound to be death one day. Thus, the departure of a loved one should not necessarily be seen as a devastating event, but rather, the natural progression of the world. Holding tight to this belief helps people come to terms with the death of a loved one with feelings of peace and acceptance.
Most Buddhists believe in reincarnation after death. Instead of being the end-point of life, death is seen as the beginning of a rebirth. After death, it is believed that a person will enter into a new physical form, which can be one of 6 realms (heavenly, demigod, human, animal, ghost, or resident of hell). The cycle of rebirth is thought to happen indefinitely until one has achieved Nirvana – the enlightenment and liberation.
What a person becomes reborn as in their next life is determined by Karma. This notion encompasses the idea of ‘what goes around comes around’, where one’s every action can be counted against or towards them in the future. Thus, Buddhist believers who want to rack up good karma for a better afterlife will strive to do a lot of good deeds in their lifetime. Some believe that the recitation of rites and prayers at a deceased’s funeral can also help them boost positive karma and facilitate their chances of being reborn into a better realm.
4. Filial piety
Funeral arrangements are typically handled by the deceased’s children or younger family members, according to the values of filial piety. Aiding in the deceased’s path to their afterlife or enlightenment is also one way for the younger generation to show their love, respect, and gratitude to the departed family member. That is why many families take a lot of care in planning the funeral, as they want to make sure they give their honoured family member the best send-off they can get.
Buddhist funerals are very distinct due to these core beliefs. Yet, there are also many different variations of Buddhism around the world and even in Singapore. When arranging for a Buddhist funeral, it is crucial to be aware of the deceased’s beliefs and the family’s wishes. Thankfully, there are funeral companies in Singapore which specialise in Buddhist funeral services that can help with such arrangements so you can plan for one with ease.