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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Missouri Storm Chaser’s Ashes to be Released into a Tornado 0


What would you say if you could write your own obituary? For a creative option, you can’t beat Jim “Mad Dog” Sellars’ self-penned goodbye, in which the adventurous former ice cream dipper, butcher, weatherman, telephone lineman, reserve policeman and veteran storm chaser from Missouri announced that his ashes would be released into a twister.

“My friends the ‘Outlaw Chasers’ will launch my cremains into a tornado at a later date”, Sellars wrote. “That’ll be fun!!!!”

The scattering will be a fitting tribute to a man who chased well over 100 tornadoes in his lifetime. Speaking to the Kansas City Star, Sellars’ older brother John described Jim as a dedicated and generous person who approached all his hobbies whole-heartedly. “If he knew (a tornado) was going to set up somewhere, in Oklahoma, or Alabama, he would load up with a couple of people and go chase.”

“If he found something that interested him, he jumped into it all the way up to his neck.”

Even when Sellars was confined to his bed due to illness, he continued to track tornadoes for the National Weather Service’s SKYWARN program, also sending out radio reports to help his fellow storm chasers.

“It was a tough time for him, but he spent every waking hour helping people all over the radio”, said John. Condolences on Sellars’ memorial page describe him as both “fun loving”, “generous” and a “big hearted guy who was very devoted to helping others”.

Jim’s self-written obituary tells the story of a busy life well lived, with memories of family, friends, and a range of careers:

“I remember the 1960 Winter Olympics we had in our snowy backyard, sitting with Dad watching the satellite Echo 1 flash through the night sky.

“I was honored as a Policeman to have met and protected … Presidents Reagan and Ford, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, George Carlin, Dolly Parton, Mac Davis, Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones, Elvis and many more.”

It also paints a portrait of a self-deprecating man with a strong sense of humour. “I had a few tryouts with the Reds, Phillies and Cardinals. … I was either too drunk or too hung over to do much good … But I had fun.”

Yet, as you might expect from a long time storm chaser, the weather seems to have been Sellar’s enduring passion. “I saw my first tornado in Sept 1975 and my last 30 years later … I liked all kinds of weather, rain, snow, sleet, hot, cold … I really didn’t care as long as I was here to see it.”

Despite the unusual nature of his brother’s last request, John has promised to launch the ashes into a tornado as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Jim Sellars is survived by his two children, a son and a daughter, and four grandchildren.

“I loved all my family, friends, caregivers, and the people that made my world turn.” Sellars said. “So, as we move forward on our path around the sun at 66,660 mph, let’s all pray, hope, or wish for peace and love for our world.

“Bye for now. … See ya on the other side.”

Do you have any unusual wishes for your own ashes? Make sure your family know what to do when the time comes by sharing your funeral wishes in your will with Beyond. It’s free, easy and takes just ten minutes. Start writing your free will here today.

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.