Buddhist Funeral Traditions
Although funeral customs within the Buddhist religions differ, every Buddhist shares a basic philosophy of life and death that is very different from Western beliefs. Buddhists believe that every soul is reborn into the world of suffering (our universe) until the soul has been cleansed. The goal of the Buddhist is to escape the cycle of rebirth by achieving Nirvana.
Buddhist are not very particular regarding the burial or cremation of a dead body. In many Buddhist countries, cremation is customary. For hygienic and economic reasons, it is advisable to cremate. There are still some people who object to the cremation of the dead bodies.
When family and friends express grief at Buddhist funeral services, their main objective is to ensure the deceased a safe and pleasant journey to the next life. To do this, they may:
- Wear a traditional white cloth as a headband or armband
- Walk with sticks to symbolize that grief has left them the need for support
- Chant appropriate sutras (prayers)
- Bring offerings of flowers and fruit
- Burn incense to sweeten the air
Although Buddhists understand death is not an end, only a transition from one form to another, it is acceptable to show grief. In doing so, friends and family members acknowledge the loss of their loved one.