Coping With Loss: The 49 Days In A Buddhist Death Rite

How long does a Buddhist funeral last? While some may tell you the ceremonies last about 45 minutes to an hour, what you may not know is that there is often a longer period of mourning taken into account when there is a death in the family.

While there are vast differences across Buddhist traditions, some numbers bear special significance. If you have wondered why there are funeral ceremonies conducted even as late as 49 or 100 days after the deceased’s death, we’re here to tell you why.

Rebirth within 49 days

In many Buddhist traditions, 49 days is the total mourning period, with prayers conducted every 7 days, across 7 weeks. These Buddhists believe that rebirth takes place within 49 days after death. So these prayers are conducted to facilitate this journey of the deceased into the afterlife.

The exact length of time varies across different Buddhist traditions, and some also highlight the deceased’s karma as a determining factor of how soon they will be reincarnated.

The significance of odd numbers

Most Buddhist funerals last for 3, 5 or 7 days. You will notice these are all odd numbers; this is no coincidence. While the family may choose how long they want the funeral to last, odd numbers are preferred because even numbers are usually reserved for celebratory events.

Some also think of odd numbers as having a sense of ‘becoming’, while even numbers are ‘whole’ and ‘complete’. Thus, holding a funeral 3 or 7 days after death can remind the family that death is not the end – rather, it is a transitory period into another life.

End of the mourning period

During the mourning period, many Chinese or Buddhists in Singapore believe in withholding from celebratory activities. For example, they will not be expected to attend events like weddings and baby showers. This abstinence of celebrations usually lasts for 100 days.

Some families hold another ceremony on the 100th day to celebrate the end of the mourning period, as well as celebrate the successful passing of the departed into their new life. This is typically commemorated with elaborate offerings and prayers.

Conclusion

While there are many different beliefs and ways of determining the mourning period and activities even within Chinese and Buddhist cultures, understanding the significance of these numbers can help you make a better decision when it comes to planning the afterlife arrangements of a loved one. Ultimately, it is up to what you know of the deceased’s beliefs, and the family’s beliefs, to make the best and most meaningful choices.

If you are unsure of any Buddhist or Chinese funeral traditions, you can count on a funeral company for advice. Here at Buddhist Funeral Services, we specialise in organising Buddhist casket and funeral services to help you plan a dignified send-off.

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