Within the Buddhist religion, the death of a person marks their passing from this life to the next. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, or the rebirth of a person in another form. For the surviving relatives, death is a reminder of the Buddha's lessons about impermanence, and that all things change. Buddhism calls for specific funeral arrangements.
The bodies of Buddhists are traditionally cremated. Cremation, according to the tenants of Buddhism, allows the soul to escape the physical body and await reincarnation in another living being. Immediately following cremation, ashes are typically scattered outdoors. Some ashes are stored in mounds known as stupas. Buddhists believe that a person's soul is reborn through cremation again and again until it has achieved a state of Nirvana. Nirvana is achieved when a person has achieved the correct balance of "right thinking" and "right behavior" in their life.
Specific Customs and Arrangements
The body of the deceased is usually kept for several days prior to cremation. This time allows family and friends to visit with the deceased, sing songs and bring blessings in the form of flowers and prayers. The casket is almost always open for viewing. Bringing flowers or other small offerings for the deceased is acceptable. One traditional offering is to bring the deceased a small book that contains the story of the deceased person's life. Proper attire for a funeral is dark, casual clothing.
Chinese Buddhist Funerals
Chinese Buddhists typically observe a 49-day funeral service. Every seven days, prayers are offered to the deceased. The daughters of the deceased are usually responsible for the cost of the funeral. The head of the family presides over the days of prayer. A second type of Chinese funeral calls for prayers every 10 days until the cremation takes place 100 days later.
Tibetan Buddhist Funerals
Tibetan Buddhists also typically observe a 49-day funeral service. A key difference between a Chinese funeral and a Tibetan funeral is that Tibetans read the deceased person the "Tibetan Book of the Dead." The book is designed to guide the soul's transition through reincarnation.