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Buddhist funeral

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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In Buddhism, death marks the transition from this life to the next for the deceased.

Among Buddhists, death is regarded as an occasion of major religious significance, both for the deceased and for the survivors. For the deceased, it marks the moment when the transition begins to a new mode of existence within the round of rebirths. When death occurs, all the karmic forces that the dead person accumulated during the course of his or her lifetime become activated and determine the next rebirth. For the living, death is a powerful reminder of the Buddha's teaching on impermanence; it also provides an opportunity to assist the deceased person as he or she fares on to the new existence. BuddhaNet has published a guidance article about the subject, which also discusses the traditions of different Buddhist schools. There are also several academic reviews of this subject.


Theravada traditions

For the non-Arhat, death is a time of transitioning to a yet another rebirth; thus, the living participate in acts that transfer merit to the departed, either providing for a more auspicious rebirth or for the relief of suffering in the departed's new existence. For the living, ceremonies marking another's death are a reminder of life's impermanence, a fundamental aspect of the Buddha's teaching.[1][6] Death rites are generally the only life cycle ritual that Theravāda Buddhist monks get involved in and are therefore of great importance.

A distinctive ritual unique to funeral rites is the offering of cloth to monks. This is known as paṃsukūla in Pali, which means "forsaken robe". This symbolises the discarded rags and body shrouds that monks used for their robes during the time of the Buddha.


Customs in Sri Lanka Offering of cloth on behalf of the dead (mataka-vastra-puja): Before a cremation, at the deceased's home or cemetery, the funeral's presiding monastics are offered a white cloth to be subsequently stitched into monastic robes. During this ceremony, the following verse which was, according to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, spoken by god Sakka after the passing away of the Buddha, is recited:


Impermanent alas are formations, subject to rise and fall. Having arisen, they cease; their subsiding is bliss.

Aniccā vata saṅkhārā, uppādavayadhammino. Uppajjitvā nirujjhanti tesaṃ vūpasamo sukho.

In addition, as relatives pour water from a vessel to an overflowing cup to symbolize the giving of merit to the deceased, the following verses are recited:

As water raining on a hill flows down to the valley, even so does what is given here benefit the dead.

Unname udakaṃ vaṭṭhaṃ yathā ninnaṃ pavattati evameva ito dinnaṃ petānaṃ upakappati.

As rivers full of water fill the ocean full, even so does what is given here benefit the dead.

Yathā vārivahā pūrā paripūrenti sāgaraṃ Evameva ito dinnaṃ petānaṃ upakappati.

Preaching for the benefit of the dead (mataka-bana): Within a week after the funeral (usually on the third day after), a monastic returns to the deceased's home to provide an appropriate hour-long sermon for surviving relatives and neighbors. The sermon is usually held on the sixth day after the death occurred and often family, friends and neighbours are treated to a meal afterwards.

Offering in the name of the dead (mataka-dana): Made three months after the funeral and then annually afterwards, the deceased's survivors hold an almsgiving on their behalf.


Mahayana traditions

In China, numerous instructive and merit-transferring ceremonies are held during the forty-nine days between death and rebirth. For most Chinese funerals, the practice of recitation of the Amitabha Sutra and the name of Amitabha is an important part of death rites. Along with cultural practices, such as the burning of joss paper (which is discouraged by most practicing Buddhists), practitioners are often cremated.

Exposure of the Corpse


"Exposure of the Corpse" (Lushizang, 露屍葬) is the practice of placing the body of the deceased in an open area instead of using coffins or sarcophagi. In the Indian tradition, the practice of exposing the corpse included putting the body in the forest or sinking it under water.[13] Originating from India, medieval Chinese monks also practiced exposing the corpse in the woods but so far no textual evidence support the practice of water burial. In addition, cave burial (Shishi yiku 石室瘞窟) was also a type of Lushizang in medieval China.

The point of exposing the corpse was to offer the body to hungry birds and beasts. After that, the remains were collected. There were three ways to dispose of the remains:

Collect the remains from the woods, bury them or place them in a pagoda Cremate the remains, then bury the ashes or place them in a pagoda Cremate the remains, then distribute the ashes in the woods or water

In China, numerous instructive and merit-transferring ceremonies are held during the forty-nine days between death and rebirth. For most Chinese funerals, the practice of recitation of the Amitabha Sutra and the name of Amitabha is an important part of death rites.[12] Along with cultural practices, such as the burning of joss paper (which is discouraged by most practicing Buddhists), practitioners are often cremated.

Exposure of the Corpse


"Exposure of the Corpse" (Lushizang, 露屍葬) is the practice of placing the body of the deceased in an open area instead of using coffins or sarcophagi. In the Indian tradition, the practice of exposing the corpse included putting the body in the forest or sinking it under water.[13] Originating from India, medieval Chinese monks also practiced exposing the corpse in the woods but so far no textual evidence support the practice of water burial. In addition, cave burial (Shishi yiku 石室瘞窟) was also a type of Lushizang in medieval China.


The point of exposing the corpse was to offer the body to hungry birds and beasts. After that, the remains were collected. There were three ways to dispose of the remains:

Collect the remains from the woods, bury them or place them in a pagoda Cremate the remains, then bury the ashes or place them in a pagoda Cremate the remains, then distribute the ashes in the woods or water



Source

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