Buddhism is one of the most followed religions in Singapore, with 33.2% of the population declaring themselves as adherents. The Buddhist doctrines emphasise on the transcending of the self through attainment of Nirvana, effectively ending the cycle of death and rebirth. Buddhists believe this is possible by following the religion’s traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices at every stage of their lives – even in death. During a Buddhist funeral service, Buddhists are expected to follow a set of strict customs and etiquettes, lest you sabotage the dearly departed’s and your efforts to end the cycle of reincarnation.
Suppose you are invited to attend a Buddhist funeral in Singapore. In this case, you’ll want to make sure that you know the funeral rites and etiquettes. If you’re not sure what these might be, we’ve gathered a few pointers you’ll want to take note of before giving your respects.
Buddhist funeral traditions
Traditionally, the wake held for the deceased will lasts for five days. The wake gives the grieving parties an avenue to pay their final respect to the departed and to express their condolences to the family. Mourners can place their offerings at the altar’s centrepiece where a black-and-white portrait of the deceased will be placed. Guests customarily light a single joss stick when paying their respects at the altar.
The funeral procession features a monk who will conduct the ceremony on the first day and last night of the wake. The monk will then chant a few Buddhist scriptures, as it is believed the chanting aids in eliminating the deceased’s bad karma and easing their journey to the next life or Nirvana. The funeral ceremony will end with a final service on the very morning of the cremation ceremony. It is also expected for the family to burn their offerings on the night before, so do take note if you are sensitive to smoke.
Do’s and don’ts when attending a Buddhist funeral
- Dress attire
The family members of the deceased generally wear white, whereas guests are expected to dress in black. Steer clear of any bright colours, and select other dull alternatives if black is not an option. Displays of wealth are also frowned upon, so avoid wearing any pieces of jewellery when attending a funeral.
Once you have arrived at the funeral, proceed quietly to the altar to pay your respects. When approaching the open casket, it is customary to bow slightly with your hands in front of you in the prayer position. You can pause for a moment of quiet reflection if you wish. Afterwards, you may find a seat and wait for the service to start.
When the monk conducts the chanting ceremonies, follow his lead and stand when he requests the attendees to do so. The service consists of sermons and group meditations. You are welcomed to join, but if you are uncomfortable to do so, it is polite to wait silently until the ceremony is over before talking.
You are not obligated to donate any money when you attend a funeral. However, the gesture will still be greatly appreciated by the family. You can also consider sending a card or flowers to the family but again, remember to avoid any bright colours.
It can be a difficult period for the family whenever a loved one passes away. If you are invited to attend a funeral, it generally means the family values you as a close friend. It is vital to note the proper customs and etiquettes of a Buddhist funeral to ensure you pay proper respect to the deceased and his/her family.
Those looking to arrange a Buddhist funeral but are unaware of the proper rituals and etiquette. We offer a comprehensive Buddhist funeral package and other funeral services. We aim to provide guidance and support to ease the family’s burden during this difficult period.