Saturday, December 19, 2009

By Andrew Wond

The fundamental teachings of the Buddha form the core of the Buddhist religion which is the main religion in many nations of the world today. Buddhism teaches mercy and universal love for all creatures and awareness of the Ultimate Truth.

These main tenets of Buddhism are evident in the rites practised during a Buddhist funeral. When death occurs in a Buddhist family, there are some main rituals which are followed with the aim of ensuring that the deceased's soul can soar to an elevated level. The good energies of the deceased are invoked to pray and wish the best for the dead person's next life beyond this birth.

The first stage in funeral rites is that of giving a traditional wash to the body. Monks are invited to chant different religious scriptures, and these chants are believed to give the soul the correct guidance to attain spiritual freedom. Then Buddha's teachings that emphasize on the significance of kindness and concern are recited aloud by the monks. Meanwhile, the body is made ready for the final journey. The relatives generally place some coins in the casket along with the deceased. This is for enabling the deceased to pay and wade across the River of Three Hells.

The casket is then put before the altar in the house for friends and relatives to pay their final respects. While friends and relatives offer condolences, visitors are expected to pray for the dead person. The priests carrying out the ritual keep chanting the sutras as the proceedings move on. After the chanting is over, people present at the ceremony bow at the altar. As the visitors begin leaving, the family members give a gift to each other to show gratitude for sharing their sorrow.

Once these rites are over, the family members can decide to bury or cremate the deceased according to their family beliefs. These rites are meant to enable the family to overcome their grief by offering prayers that will raise the dead to a higher pedestal of enlightenment and knowledge.

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