Buddhist Funeral Customs 0

buddhist funeral customs

Buddhism is followed by around 600 million adherents around the globe and is thought to have originated in India, between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. It spread quickly and Buddhists are now found predominantly in Sri Lanka, Tibet, Thailand as well as in many other southern Asian nations. The religion emphasises the impermanence of everything and encourages a belief in reincarnation.

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However, Buddhism often emerged alongside other religions, such as Hinduism or local polytheistic religions, and this has resulted in numerous different offshoots of Buddhism, many of which incorporate old gods from other religions or belief systems. There are also a number of different Buddhist schools, including Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna and Theravāda, among others. Consequently, there are no universal funeral rites and customs will differ enormously between groups.

buddhist funeral

Preparing for Death

When death is felt to be near, the family gathers in order to calm and reassure the dying in order to ensure a peaceful transition. As death is considered a natural part of the reincarnation cycle, it is supposed to be accepted both by the person dying and by those gathered to help them. The dying person may be reminded of their good deeds and how these may help them to break the cycle of reincarnation, but otherwise the emphasis is on making them feel comfortable as they move on.


Preparation of the Body

Once death occurs, the body is not touched, disturbed or moved in any way, as it can take some time for the soul to leave the body. It must be completely cold before it is washed and cleansed, and then it is dressed in simple, plain clothes. In some instances, there will be a wake prior to the funeral. This will be a calm and peaceful affair with an open casket and maybe a photo of the deceased, a statue of the Buddha and fruit, candles and incense surrounding the casket. On the morning of the funeral, monks will come to perform the last rites, which consist largely of chanting. This chanting must be practical; that is to say it must aid mourners in contemplation, and must not conflict with the teachings of the Buddhist faith.

Buddhism funerals

Funeral Rites

Both cremation and burial is acceptable to the vast majority of Buddhist sects and the decision is largely a matter of personal preference or local circumstance and necessity. For instance, in Tibet, where firewood is uncommon and precious, cremation is not common and bodies are much more likely to be left out some way out of town to be picked clean by vultures. This is known as a sky burial. While this tradition emerged from a position of pragmatism, it also demonstrates the Buddhist belief that the body is but an unimportant vessel for the soul. The funeral service will be solemn and simple and it is considered inappropriate and ostentatious to display wealth or power at the funeral. When guests enter, they approach the casket and bow with their hands pressed together in prayer, before slowly retreating and finding a seat. Although there are no enshrined or formalised rituals for the funeral service in Buddhism, it is common for monks to attend and lead chanting or for relatives to offer eulogies. If the body is to be buried, monks may also lead chanting at the graveside.


Post-funeral Traditions

In Buddhism, the memorial period can last anywhere from seven to ninety days, though there are usually no official rules prescribing what can and can’t be done during this period. Food will often be served after a funeral service and guests will gather together. In some traditions, monks will hold a ceremony seven days after burial in order to transfer good energy to the deceased and help them on their way.

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Baptist Funeral Customs 0

Baptist Funeral Customs

The Baptist churches have their origins in the reformation movement in Europe. Baptism spread from Amsterdam to England and then across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, where the largest Baptist congregations are now based.

The fundamental principle on which Baptism differentiates itself from other Christian churches is ‘believer’s baptism’. Whereas other parts of the Christian faith baptise infants at a very young age, Baptists believe that you need to be able to personally affirm your faith if the process is to hold any spiritual significance. Here, we take a look at the beliefs, customs and traditions surrounding Baptist funerals.


Baptist beliefs

There is great variety in tradition, custom and belief among Baptists and this fact is reflected in Baptist funerals. While all Baptists are joined in the belief that only those who profess their faith in Jesus Christ should be baptised, other theological differences aren’t as divisive as in other sects of the Christian faith. This means funeral services can be personalised to a greater extent to reflect the life and opinions of the deceased. It also means there are diverse opinions on what death means. However, most Baptists believe that those people with faith in Jesus Christ will find salvation in him and go on to live forever by his side in heaven.


Baptist funeral customs

Diversity of belief between Baptist congregations means that some funerals will be joyous celebrations, while others will be more sombre affairs. The first step in organising a Baptist funeral is contacting the local deacon or pastor. They will assist in organising the funeral and ensure everything is as it should be.

Baptist Funeral CustomsA viewing service is common amongst Baptist congregations. This gives friends and family the opportunity to pay their respects and usually takes place a day or two before the funeral. The funeral itself is led by the local deacon or pastor. Often the casket is closed at the beginning of the service. In many cases, the service and readings will focus on the power of God and His role within everyone’s lives. It’s not unusual for there to be little said about the deceased’s life. Music and the reading of scripture both play an important part in Baptist funerals and both religious and popular music may be heard.

Once the service is complete, it is traditional for prayers to be said and scripture read by the grave site. Once the coffin has been lowered into the ground, the mourners often disperse and reconvene at a reception at the family home, the church or a public space. Food is sometimes provided and it’s usual for mourners to contribute to the meal.


Baptist Funeral etiquette and other customs

Traditionally, mourners are expected to dress respectfully in black and clothes that reveal too much skin are not considered appropriate. However, some families may ask mourners to dress in brightly coloured clothes in honour of the deceased. Sending flowers to the family of the deceased is also common, although individuals may be asked to donate to charity instead.

Catholic Funeral Customs 0

catholic funeral customs

The Catholic Church is one of oldest religious institutions in the world and boasts a worldwide following of around 1.29 billion people. It has had a major impact on western thought, society, culture and politics, and has shaped the way many individuals think about death. Here, we take a look at the religion’s beliefs concerning death and explore the Catholic funeral customs.

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Catholic beliefs

Catholics believe that each person’s soul is immortal and that, at the moment of death, the body and soul separate. While the body, devoid of the spirit that animated it, begins to decompose, the soul is taken to be judged by God. It is then either granted eternal life in Heaven or damned to an eternity in Hell.

However, not all of those granted access to Heaven are quite ready to pass through the pearly gates. Those who have lived a just enough life to reach Heaven but that are still due punishment for some as yet accounted for sin, spend time in Purgatory. Purgatory is a temporary state that purges the soul of sin and fully prepares an individual for Heaven.

catholic funeral customs

Catholic funeral customs

Catholicism maintains its own distinct traditions that differentiate it from other Christian traditions. When death is imminent, a priest is usually called to administer the dying person’s last rites. Traditionally, there are three stages to a Catholic funeral. The vigil – where friends and family gather to watch over the deceased’s body or cremated ashes and pray that their soul reaches heaven. The funeral mass – which takes place at the church and involves the casket or urn being carried to the front of the church and a memorial service led by the local priest. Finally, there is the burial – where the remains of the deceased are taken to their burial place and a priest commits them to the Earth.

Etiquette and other customs

catholic funeral customs

Catholicism is a large and widespread religion that can differ from region to region and that is also open to doctrinal differences. This means that what’s acceptable in a Catholic funeral on one occasion, may not be on another. For instance, in some Catholic communities, cremation is not acceptable. However, in recent years, Catholic religious authorities have shifted their position and many churches won’t have a problem with cremation.

The Catholic Church holds no objection to organ donation, as mainstream religious doctrine supports the idea that once brain function ceases, the soul has departed the body. Likewise, embalming the deceased’s body is common practice if a vigil is to be held and the Church is in no way opposed to embalming.

As a non-Catholic attending a Catholic funeral, you can take part in the entire ceremony but won’t be expected to take Holy Communion, as it’s a practice reserved for those of Catholic faith. After the funeral service, it is common practice for a less formal memorial event to take place at a relative’s home, a pub or another local venue. However, such an event is not a formal part of the service and not all Catholic funerals will end with one.