Friday, January 29, 2010

The Significance Of Rituals In A Buddhists Funeral

by Danny Wong

(Editor's Note - This is a guest post. For more information, check out Mr. Wong's site below or Eastern Philosophy And Meditation.)

Buddhism is one of the most popular religions practised extensively across the globe. The basic principles of the religion are based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddhism teaches compassion and universal love for mankind and awareness of the Ultimate Truth.

Buddhist funeral rites are also based upon these fundamental principles of the religion. There are certain mandatory rites that need to be adhered to during the funeral of a dead person. These rites are meant to ensure that the departed soul is raised to a higher stage. The good energies of the dead are invoked to pray and wish the best for the dead person's next life beyond this birth.

The first task in funeral rituals is that of giving the body a traditional wash. Then comes the stage of chanting of religious texts by the monks, thereby guiding the soul towards the path of spiritual liberation. The teachings of the Buddha, which speak of the value of goodness and compassion in life, are read aloud. Meanwhile, the body is made ready for the final rites. The deceased is normally provided with some money put in his casket by the family. This is done to pay for the dead person's journey across the mythical River of Three Hells.

Then the casket is exhibited to the family and friends to enable them to pay their final respects by putting it at the altar. The relatives and friends offer condolences to the dead person's family, while the attendees pray for his soul. The priests carrying out the rites keep chanting the sutras along with the proceedings. After the chanting is over, people present at the ceremony bow at the altar. As the visitors start leaving, the family members give a gift to each other to show gratitude for sharing their sorrow.

Once these rituals are over, the family members can decide to cremate or bury the deceased based on their family beliefs. These rites are meant to allow the family to overcome their sorrow by offering prayers that will elevate the deceased to a higher pedestal of enlightenment and knowledge.

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