Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
A real Buddhist funeral is a simple,
solemn and dignified religious service.
As practised in many Buddhist countries, a
real Buddhist funeral is a simple, solemn and dignified ceremony.
Unfortunately, some people have included many unnecessary, extraneous
items and superstitious practices into the funeral rites. The extraneous
items and practices vary according to the traditions and customs of the
people. They were introduced in olden days by people who probably could
not understand the nature of life, nature of death, and what life would be
after death. When such ideas were incorporated into Buddhist practices,
people tended to blame Buddhism for expensive funeral rites. If only the
Buddhist public would approach proper persons who have studied the real
Teachings of the Buddha and Buddhist tradition, they could receive advice
on how to perform Buddhist funeral rites. It is most unfortunate that a
bad impression has been created that Buddhism encourages people to waste
their money and time on unnecessary practices. It must be clearly
understood that Buddhism has nothing to do with such debased practices.
Buddhists are not very particular
regarding the burial or cremation of a dead body. In many Buddhist
countries, cremation is customary. For hygienic and economic reasons, it
is advisable to cremate. Today, the population in the world is increasing
and if we continue to have dead bodies occupying valuable land, then one
day all remaining available land will be occupied by the dead and the
living will have no place to live.
There are still some people who
object to the cremation of dead bodies. They say that cremation is against
god's law, in the same way they have objected to many other things in the
past. It will take some time for such people to understand that cremation
is much more appropriate and effective than burial.
On the other hand Buddhists do not believe
that one day someone will come and awaken the departed persons spirits
from their graveyards or the ashes from their urns and decide who should
go to heaven and who should go to hell.
The consciousness or mental energy of the
departed person has no connection with the body left behind or his
skeleton or his ashes. Many people believe that if the deceased is not
given a proper burial or if a sanctified tombstone is not placed on the
grave, then the soul of the deceased will wander to the four corners of
the world and weep and wail and sometimes even return to disturb the
relatives. Such a belief cannot be found anywhere in Buddhism.
Buddhists believe that when a person dies,
rebirth will take place somewhere else according to his good or bad
actions. As long as the person possesses the craving for existence, he
must experience rebirth. Only the Arahants, who have gone beyond all
passions will have no more rebirths and so after their death, they will
attain their final goal Nibbana.
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