Celebrating Buddhist Death Customs

In times of loss, understanding the customs and traditions of the deceased’s religion and culture can offer comfort and a way to honor their memory. If you have a Buddhist loved one, learn about the specific traditions and customs that occur when a Buddhist person dies. 

Funeral Services

When a Buddhist person dies, their body is typically kept for several days before the funeral service takes place. During this time, family and friends gather to pay their respects to the deceased and offer condolences to the family.  
The funeral service itself is known as a “wake” or “visitation.” On the morning of the burial or cremation, monks are invited to perform the last rite, chanting which includes “going for refuge” of the Three Jewels (“I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha.”) and the Precepts. Family and friends may also recite prayers or offer incense to honor the departed. At the end of the service, the body is cremated or buried.  
Family Traditions

In addition to funeral services, several Buddhist traditions occur after a person dies. These traditions vary depending on the specific school of Buddhism and the family’s cultural background.  
For example, some families may choose to hold a memorial service on the 49th day after the person’s death, as this is believed to be when their spirit has completed the transition to the afterlife. Others may perform daily offerings of food or incense to honor their loved one’s memory.  
How Non-Buddhists Can Show Respect

As a non-Buddhist, you may feel unsure about how to show respect to the person who has passed away and their family. One simple action is to offer condolences and express your sympathy. This can be done through a card, a phone call, or an in-person visit.  
If you are invited to attend the funeral or visitation, it’s important to dress modestly and respectfully. Avoid overly bright or flashy clothing, and consider removing shoes before entering the area where the service is being held. You may also bring a small gift or donation to honor the deceased’s memory.  
Coping With Grief

Losing a loved one is never easy, and family members need to have support during this time. The Buddhist tradition emphasizes the idea of impermanence and the cycle of birth and death, which may offer some comfort to grieving loved ones.  
If you are coping with losing a loved one, consider contacting your spiritual leader or a grief support group. It can also be helpful to practice mindfulness and meditation as a way to process your emotions.  
When a Buddhist person dies, several traditions and customs take place to honor their memory and guide their spirit to the afterlife. 

No matter what your beliefs may be, understanding and respecting the deceased’s religious and cultural customs will provide comfort during this difficult time. 

Together, we can create a meaningful experience that celebrates the life of your beloved family member or friend.  Contact Fitchett-Mann to learn more about our services to honor and remember your loved one. We are here to help you through this difficult time. 


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