What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

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  • Hans
    Member
    • Mar 2007
    • 1853

    What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

    Hello Folks,

    with me undergoing a hospice volunteer training course (three hours each week), a lot of questions regarding death, dying and loss come up naturally these days. Last week a wonderful old cat died in my arms that had only found its way to our kitchen a few weeks earlier. I had her cremated, the ashes arrived in the post yesterday. A friend’s mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a few weeks ago. And the wheel of time turns ?

    I am currently reading a book on „Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism" as part of my Ango practice. It is truly fascinating how much approaches and rituals have changed over the past thousand years. Which leads me to the question of this thread.

    What should an ideal Zen „buddhist“ funeral be like? Any favourite texts, sutras, rituals (posthumous ordination....someone putting a coin under your tongue). Any fantasies out there?

    "I don't care cause I'm gonna be dead." is a very valid zenny answer. But funerals have never been exclusively about the dead IMHO.

    Personally I just know that I do find the Heart Sutra to be ideally suited to any kind of funeral-ritual, due to its addressing the natur of non-birth and non-death in such a straightforward manner.

    Thank you for your input.


    Gassho,

    Hans
  • Engyo
    Member
    • Aug 2010
    • 356

    #2
    Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

    Hello Hans,
    I exist in hopes Treeleaf will create a virtual monastery some day, with "Zen Monks In Training".
    Barring this though, I like the idea of being ordained as a Zen Monk at death. Either way, a bit of the old "craving" going on there, but I understand there is (or was) such a tradition:



    The second may prove to be my only chance, alas!
    Gassho,
    Don

    Comment

    • Hans
      Member
      • Mar 2007
      • 1853

      #3
      Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

      Hello Don,

      I like that tradition too...as long as we in the West don't start selling fancy post-death-ordination-names for loads of money (which is sadly only all too common in Japan. Not everywhere, but at a lot of places.).

      Gassho,

      Hans

      Comment

      • Taigu
        Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
        • Aug 2008
        • 2710

        #4
        Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

        When confronted with the death and funerals of beloved ones, I allow myself to go through the whole journey of laughing, crying, singing, being, happy and sad, moon-faced and sun-faced without judging myself or others.
        I sing a little heart sutra and sing along the sutra uttered by the myriad forms and colors and people and stuff. I don't know and place my whole breath and body in this. I also hug people, and eat and drink.
        But that's just me.

        gassho


        Taigu

        PS: Don, why so you need a virtual monastery when you have got a very nice one all around you? Life as it is is the training place. Nowhere else to go.

        Comment

        • Engyo
          Member
          • Aug 2010
          • 356

          #5
          Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

          Originally posted by Taigu
          When confronted with the death and funerals of beloved ones, I allow myself to go through the whole journey of laughing, crying, singing, being, happy and sad, moon-faced and sun-faced without judging myself or others.
          I sing a little heart sutra and sing along the sutra uttered by the myriad forms and colors and people and stuff. I don't know and place my whole breath and body in this. I also hug people, and eat and drink.
          But that's just me.

          gassho


          Taigu

          PS: Don, why so you need a virtual monastery when you have got a very nice one all around you? Life as it is is the training place. Nowhere else to go.
          (Munch, munch, munch) This is the sound of me eating the snake's head.
          Thank you, Taigu.
          Gassho,
          Don

          Comment

          • Jinyu
            Member
            • May 2009
            • 768

            #6
            Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

            Hi!
            I've been also reading the same book some month ago and it is precious, sometimes a bit too "mindy", but I love History and Religion books (Heines and Dumoulin for example) rather than philosophical books (not two by the way, always philosophy in Religion and a view on religion in a philosophical point of view).
            Anyway, like Don, I was struck like don when I read that Dead People received the precepts when they die... even if they can't say yes at each line... :roll:

            But, I think the Hannya Shingyo (Heart sutra) is definitely what I prefer for every occasion. Birth, Death, Marriage, ... Whenever I read it I find new things I haven't understood (that's not difficult to be honest)... very profond really!
            And I like the fact that it is a core text of every school in Mahayana Buddhism.

            But I also like Shariraimon, heard it once at a funeral ceremony at it struck me too...

            But for my personal funeral, if someone can chant the Hannya Shingyo it would be nice, otherwise I hope people just don't get too bored, I hope they will eat and drink as Taigu said and soon be happy to be together and still on earth to share it... for the rest ... I don't really care to be honest... Maybe I'm too young... I think of death and life a lot... but it is not the funeral part of it that is in my thoughts...

            Thank you Hans for this thread!

            gassho,
            Luis/Jinyu
            Jinyu aka Luis aka Silly guy from Brussels

            Comment

            • Shujin
              Treeleaf Unsui
              • Feb 2010
              • 954

              #7
              Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

              This thread made me second-guess myself, so thank you to Hans & all who have posted.

              It's a difficult question to answer. I started out thinking "well, I would like to have X, then this other thing..." Then I remembered who would be at my funeral; my family and friends, none of whom are Buddhist. I'm stuck between the truth that I'm a Buddhist, and these are the traditions of my practice, and the reality that my funeral is a ritual for those I leave behind.

              Like most other people in the world, I love my family. Unlike many people in the world, I trust my co-workers with my life. They keep me safe and I do the same for them. This is, for me, something that transcends religion. I would want both groups to be comfortable, and not wondering "what's this all about?" I know they should respect my wishes, but we're human and I've seen how bizarre things can get at funerals.

              Anyhow, just thought I'd chime in. Thanks for listening.

              gassho,
              Chris
              Kyōdō Shujin 教道 守仁

              Comment

              • gakuse345
                Member
                • Dec 2009
                • 32

                #8
                Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

                Jundo, what of the Jewish/Buddhist?
                jws

                Comment

                • Nenka
                  Member
                  • Aug 2010
                  • 1238

                  #9
                  Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

                  Does anyone know of a Buddhist prayer one might say when a friend dies?

                  Unfortunately, I just lost a mentor.

                  Comment

                  • Stephanie

                    #10
                    Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

                    It would be whatever it needed to be for the people attending.

                    Hopefully my parents would not be in attendance.

                    I would like whoever was there to hear something uplifting, that would remind them that all things come to this, but that death is the engine of life and it must be so. Maybe one of those perfect pieces of classical music that manages to capture the perfection of how fleeting life is, and the feeling of a moment of joy being a moment of eternity. That fireworks are so beautiful because they are gone so quickly. Let us let death remind us to love one another better now, because in that moment of love we taste a thousand sunrises. Goodbye tears are drops of dew on blades of grass lit by an eternal dawn.

                    I would either want to be cremated or to have a "green burial." I used to like the idea of feeding my body to carrion animals, especially my favorite, crows, but while I like the idea, that would be rather morbid for others to have to deal with.

                    Comment

                    • monkton
                      Member
                      • Feb 2009
                      • 111

                      #11
                      Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

                      Preferably it should be on a Thursday in late October, with thin sunshine. Failing that, any day/time/weather condition will do.
                      Whatever gets said - if anything gets said at all - is up to whoever is there.
                      I can just leave my bits and bobs to medical science, and when they're done green burial would be the least harmful - I think Ireland's first and only green burial site only opened this year, so it's still a new tradition here. I hope business is good, (if you see what I mean), so that they can keep going and maybe expand to more sites.
                      The Buddhist judge Christmas Humphries tried to leave his body as food for the dogs in Battersea Dogs Home, but some health and safety law prevented it from being carried out, which seemed very unfair for all concerned.
                      gassho, Monkton

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39221

                        #12
                        Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

                        Originally posted by Jennifer G P
                        Does anyone know of a Buddhist prayer one might say when a friend dies?

                        Unfortunately, I just lost a mentor.
                        Hi Jennifer,

                        I would suggest that any feeling of gratitude that one might speak is a "Buddhist prayer". There are no particular words that need be uttered, but simple gratitude for the person's life and allowing of its seeming end.

                        I might also suggest that we sometimes chant the Heart Sutra to remind us that, from another view, there is no "life and death" apart from our view of this world which cuts things up into pieces, beginnings and ends.

                        I have been asked to perform funerals from time to time for friends and family. In all cases, the most important aspect is to give comfort to those that remain. Thus, I talk to the family about what they would wish ... something more light and open, something more traditional? However, I feel that in all cases, it is important to leave family and friends with this message of gratitude, acceptance, and "no beginnings, no ends".

                        One practice I incorporated into each funeral, including my own mother's, was to have people in attendance speak about how the person had touched and impacted their life. People then realized the effect that this person had had on so many others. Although, usually positive effects ... some people at one funeral spoke openly about how the person was often difficult, and it was not always so. Yet, even there, they spoke with great Wisdom and Compassion about the situation, and the result was honest and great.

                        Originally posted by Taigu
                        When confronted with the death and funerals of beloved ones, I allow myself to go through the whole journey of laughing, crying, singing, being, happy and sad, moon-faced and sun-faced without judging myself or others.
                        I sing a little heart sutra and sing along the sutra uttered by the myriad forms and colors and people and stuff. I don't know and place my whole breath and body in this. I also hug people, and eat and drink.
                        But that's just me.
                        Me too.

                        Gassho, Jundo
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Nenka
                          Member
                          • Aug 2010
                          • 1238

                          #13
                          Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

                          Thanks, Jundo and Taigu.

                          Comment

                          • Martin
                            Member
                            • Jun 2007
                            • 216

                            #14
                            Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

                            Neither my wife nor my children nor most of my friends are Buddhist. I don't think the Heart Sutra would work for them. I'd want them to do whatever they think will work for them.

                            Conversely, if I were to outlive my wife, the Heart Sutra and some of the other suggestions here would be a comfort to me at her funeral.

                            Gassho

                            Martin

                            Comment

                            • Risho
                              Member
                              • May 2010
                              • 3179

                              #15
                              Re: What should a/your Buddhist funeral be like?

                              I know this is an old post, but I'm grateful I found it. For my dog, we are going to do a memorial when we get her urn. A prayer, some incense, candles, flowers and the heart sutra. Definitely lots of tears
                              Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

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