Singapore is a religiously diverse country, consisting of Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Muslims, and a small percentage of atheists. Buddhism is one of the most extensively practised religions in the country, with around one-third of the people adhering to this faith and its teachings, traditions, and beliefs integrated with their daily lives.
Buddhist funeral rites and customs are an important aspect of Buddhist funeral services in Singapore, as they are rich in cultural and historical significance. Their purpose is to help the departed transition into a new life based on their karmic imprint and establish the basis for funeral and post-funeral ceremonies. Buddhist funeral rituals focus on the temporary nature of life and assist loved ones left behind in developing their spiritual knowledge, devotion, and compassion.
Read on to learn more about what to expect, how to participate, and how to prepare for a Buddhist funeral service in Singapore.
Buddhism and Funerals
One of the fundamental ideas of Buddhism is the law of cause and effect, which indicates that if one does good deeds without reservation, good things will come to them. This principle holds true even after a person dies and enters the afterlife. Buddhists believe that the positive or negative effects of one’s actions in this and prior lives would be carried forward into their future reincarnations. This cycle of life will continue uninterrupted until the human spirit is eventually freed from it through enlightenment.
Although Buddhists recognise death as a transition from one life form to another, expressing grief is acceptable. It allows family and friends to mourn the loss of a loved one while still acknowledging the fleeting nature of life. The grieving process encourages individuals to reflect on one’s own morality and to conduct good deeds in memory of the deceased.
Buddhist Funerals in Singapore
A Buddhist funeral can be held at a family house, a funeral parlour, void decks, or, in some situations, outdoor areas specified by a funeral service provider. Professional funeral directors overseeing the entire process will often coordinate and curate the funeral and its ceremonies. A Buddhist monk serves as the officiant at these Buddhist funeral services in Singapore, enabling the soul to move from one life to the next through prayers and chanting. Following the funeral, the body can be taken to a crematorium or a cemetery to provide a final resting place for the deceased. Buddhist funeral practices are intended to offer peace and serenity to grieving families and help ease some of their pain and sadness.
Depending on the ‘school’ of Buddhism, the funeral ceremonial traditions can differ from country to country. There are primarily two types of Buddhist funeral practices in Singapore: Mahayana and Theravada. The Mahayana school is the most common in Singapore and uses Sanskrit as its primary language to emphasise the value of compassion and wisdom.
Despite the variety in customs, a funeral wake is usually held for friends and relatives to offer their condolences to the family. The ceremony requires the presentation of a portrait of the deceased, which serves as the funeral altar’s centrepiece. Offerings such as incense, flowers, and fruits will be placed around the altar. During the wake, family members gather to chant the Buddhist sutra to assist in the purification of their loved one’s past karma. The Buddhist monk in attendance will also deliver various sermons and lead the chanting of various Buddhist scriptures. These rituals are typically performed on the first day, the night before the funeral procession, and on the day of the funeral procession.
Buddhist Funeral Etiquette
Mourners are expected to arrive quietly and approach the altar to pay their respects by bowing, pausing reverently for a moment in front of the altar or lighting a single joss stick and reflecting on the deceased’s life. If chanting occurs, attendees are welcome to join in, but if they are unfamiliar with the chants, they may remain silent. When monks are present, mourners often heed their suggestions regarding when to sit and stand.
When attending Buddhist funerals, it is best to dress in white, black, or any other neutrally coloured attire that makes it comfortable to sit or kneel during the ceremony. Wearing jewellery at these funeral services is discouraged as it can come across as pretentious.
People often send flowers and plants to be displayed at the funeral or bring flowers to personally offer to the family. White lotuses are a popular choice for Buddhist funerals. During funeral ceremonies, cards and charitable offerings are also accepted.
It is essential for guests to follow proper etiquette when attending a Buddhist funeral service in Singapore. Respect for the deceased and the grieving family is observed by dressing appropriately and following the funeral customs and rites.
Final Resting Place in Buddhist Funerals
Following the conclusion of the wake, the casket is sealed and lifted onto a hearse. Before the body is transported to its final resting place, the mourners will form a procession behind the hearse to pay their last respects.
Depending on the decision of the family, the deceased will either be taken to a crematory or a cemetery. If cremated, the loved ones will scatter the ashes at sea or entomb them in a government or temple columbarium. However, if the family decides to bury the deceased, the body will be gently lowered to the ground while a Buddhist monk leads the chanting for the final blessings.
In Buddhism, the physical body is regarded as nothing more than a vessel for the human soul. As Buddhists also believe in reincarnation, cremation is often the preferred option when it comes to laying a loved one to rest. Furthermore, organ donation at death is a respected choice, as it is perceived as a good deed.
Buddhist Funeral Services in Singapore
Nowadays, rather than organising everything yourself, it is common practice to entrust Buddhist funeral services to professional funeral directors. This is due to their extensive knowledge and experience with numerous religions and cultures. It also reduces the burden of grieving families, as these professionals will handle and coordinate all parts of the funeral process.
With over 15 years of experience, A LifeGrad Funeral Services LLP is a one-stop destination providing funeral services for all religions. We are committed to organising dignified and unforgettable funeral ceremonies with a personal touch. As part of our service portfolio, we also provide Buddhist funeral packages in Singapore. Families can personalise this package to their preferences after taking their financial circumstances and religious beliefs into consideration.
Our compassionate and dedicated staff will provide clear and transparent information regarding funeral products and services to guide bereaved families through these difficult times. For any inquiries, call us now at +65 6262 3086.