In Buddhism, the devotees believe that death is a natural part of the life cycle. According to them, death leads to rebirth. The belief in reincarnation means that a person’s spirit remains quite near and seeks a new body and a new life. This is quite an essential and comforting principle.

Buddhists do not consider death to be the end of life. Therefore, they are not afraid of death. According to the Buddhist belief, how a person is born and what sort of a life he gets depends on their previous life’s good and bad actions.

Buddhism approach to death

In Buddhism, the people think that a dead person has passed on to the next birth, so funerals are not sad occasions. It is also believed that this person will experience a much happier and more fulfilled life after death. The dead person’s family offers prayers and offers food to monks to improve their dead relatives’ future.

There are also ceremonies conducted for the benefit of the deceased person and even for the family and the friends of the diseased person who is left behind. There might also be a sermon that will emphasize teaching the Buddhist religion about non-self and impermanence. The Buddhism ceremony will also help develop merit that will again be transferred to the dead person to ensure that he or she has a better circumstance.

Buddhism death and afterlife

Where does the soul go after death in Buddhism?

In Buddhism, people believe in the cycle of death and rebirth. This is referred to as the Samsara. It is only through eventful enlightenment and Karma; they can try escaping Samsara and finally achieve Nirvana, which is considered an end of the suffering. Our life is in the cycle of death and rebirth that is called the Samsara. This is a cycle that one should try to escape from. When someone dies, their energy gets into another form. 

Buddhists believe in the law of Karma or intentional action. By their excellent stories, the Buddhists hope to gain enlightenment or get a better future for themselves. If your actions are right, then it will result in a better rebirth. Both Buddhism believes in rebirth or reincarnation.

 

What is heaven and hell for the Buddhists?

The concept of hell and heaven among the Buddhists is different from the other religions. Buddhists do not agree with the fact that the spaces are eternal. This is entirely irrational to condemn a man to hell for the weaknesses he has.

But it is reasonable to provide him every chance to develop himself. According to the Buddhists, those who go to hell will improve themselves by using the merit they had gained earlier. The gates of hell do not have any locks. Hell is a provisional place, and there are no grounds as to why people should suffer there permanently.

According to the teachings of Buddha, there are no heaven and hell beyond this world. They are there in this world itself. Thus the Buddhist concept of heaven and hell is quite reasonable. The fire of the hell of this world is hotter than the fire of hell in the world beyond. No fire equals anger, greed, lust, and ignorance. We are blazing with as many as eleven types of mental agony and physical pain. 

The people can destroy the whole world with these fires. According to Buddha, the simple definition of hell is a place where you experience pain and suffering in this world as well as in the world beyond. On the other hand, a place where you are happy in this world and the world beyond is referred to as heaven.

Buddhism reincarnation- What is it?

Reincarnation is the transmigration of a soul after the death of the present body to a different body. But there is no such teaching existing among the Buddhists. This is quite a surprise for a lot of Buddhists as well. The essential doctrine of Buddhism is no soul or no-self.

According to Buddhism, there is no permanent spirit of an individual self that will survive death. For this reason, Buddhism does not believe in reincarnation in the traditional sense of the term as is understood in Hinduism. 

But the question that might arise here is how is it that the Buddhists often speak of rebirth? If there is no permanent self or soul, then what is it that is reborn?

Buddha has taught us that what we consider “self” is self-consciousness, ego, and personality. It is the skandhas that have created this. According to Lord Buddha, our physical and emotional beings, beliefs and ideas, and consciousness work together to create an illusion of “me.” 

He believes that every moment the illusion of “me” renews itself. Nothing is carried over from one life to the next, and even nothing is carried over even from one moment to the other. But that does mean that “we” does not at all exist. It merely means that a permanent and unchanging “me” does not exist.

8 Stages of death in Buddhism

When a person dies, the winds that are connected with the four elements- the earth, the fire, water, and the air) deteriorate till the time these elements do not any longer work as the basis of consciousness. 

We are made of 5 aggregates, the four elements and the six senses of powers, and remaining human beings depend on these twenty factors. When we die, all of these factors undergo deterioration in a series of as many as eight dissolutions.

The first dissolution is the amassed form. Here, there are a deterioration of the eye and its objects, visible shapes, and colors. An individual will not be able to close or open the eyes any further.

The body becomes extremely thin and loses. When the earth element dissolves, the dying person feels as if they are sinking and going under the earth. This does not happen naturally and is simply an inner experience. 

In the second dissolution, the feelings of the dying person tend to get combined. The inner experience of the body is that it does not experience any feelings of pain or pleasure. This is a deterioration of the water element.

 

The third dissolution is that there is an aggregate of the perception. During this time, the dying person can recognize the elements. When the first element diminishes, then the body tends to lose its warmth; when the nose sense deteriorates, you will no longer be able to experience the smell. During this time, one starts panting.

During the fourth dissolution, there is a complete dissolution of some of the compositional factors. During this time, the mind loses its ability.

In the fifth dissolution, the consciousness in its gross form ceases to exist, and thereby, the subtle forms get revealed. Thus all the gross conceptuality is wholly left behind. 

During the sixth dissolution, the red drop you got from your mother tends to rise from the naval level.

At the time of the seventh dissolution, the drops start moving towards the heart center where consciousness and the subtle combination of wind energy resides, and once it is reached, the drops tend to close between them. One experiences the radiant black sky.

 

When one reaches the eighth dissolution, then one starts to gain consciousness again, and the light of death finally manifests itself. During this time, one tends to experience a sense of emptiness.

Buddhist death rituals 49 days

What happens 49 days after death in Buddhism?

Some Buddhists start to perform religious ceremonies just after seven days of the death of the person. After that, they will keep repeating this ceremony every day for the next 49 days. The significance of the number 49 is that 7×7 = 49. These ceremonies include rituals and prayers.

The traditions associated with this are derived from a book called ” The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” also known as the Bardo Thodol. The Tibetan Buddhists use this book so that they can guide their consciousness towards reincarnation once they die. 

According to the Buddhists, until they attain Nirvana, a person will continue with the cycle of birth, life, death, and then rebirth. But the Buddhists do not believe that rebirth will take place immediately after the person dies.

it is believed that the person will first go through an intermediate state before they are born again. Many Buddhists believe that the maximum number of days when a soul stays at its intermediate stage is 49 days. It is for this reason that they perform religious ceremonies every day for a total of 49 days. 

 

To improve the odds that a person might experience after death and also to provide a positive rebirth, these rituals are performed. After the death of a person, he goes through three stages. Prayers help them in moving through these processes smoothly.

Death Ritual in Buddhism

According to the Buddhists, at the time of death, the person passes through a process referred to as Samsara or reincarnation. They can be reborn as Gods or demigods, humans, animals, hell creatures, or hungry ghosts.

This will depend on the actions and the thoughts. Indeed, Buddhism does not require any specific practice at the time of death. However, the rituals certainly help these individuals to achieve a better station in their next life. Both burial and cremation are practiced in Buddhism.

There are indeed different forms of Buddhism. However, it is the belief in the rebirth that is shared. Death is the transition from one life to another. The funeral customs that the Buddhists follow vary depending on the various sects and from one country to another. The funerals can be simple and dignified, or they can be quite traditional and ritualistic. But the most important aspect of Buddhism is peace and serenity. 

Some of these rituals and customs are as follows:

        • There is an awakening when the mourners pay their tribute to the dead person and share their condolences with the deceased’s family.
        • This can be either a memorial service after cremation or burial, or it might also be an open casket funeral before the cremation.
        • There will also be a portrait of the deceased, which will be in the middle of the altar in the coffer’s front.
        • There will also be an image of Buddha near the altar.
        • Offerings include fruits and white and yellow flowers.
        • One can provide donations to the deceased’s family, but they cannot provide them food as it is considered inappropriate.
        • Buddhists also prefer cremation, the reason being that it releases the soul from the physical form.
        • Embalming is also allowed.
        • There is no specific time frame mentioned as to when the cremation will take place. The funeral rites will be conducted on the morning of the day of burial or cremation.
        • Verses will also be changed during this time.
        • The funeral rites will be conducted by either the monks or by the family members.
        • Organ donation or autopsies are also allowed in Buddhism. This happens after 3 to 4 days of death because it is believed that the soul has already left the body by that time.
        • Buddhism is practiced by people belonging to different cultures. Therefore the attire tends to be quite varied. There are. However, certain traditional colors are worn that are more or less the same.
        • The family wears white clothes that symbolize grief and also is a sign of respect.
        • The family might also wear either an armband or a headband.
        • Friends might also wear black.
        • One should not wear bright color clothes, and red attire is specifically deemed as inappropriate. 

After the death of a person, the following rituals are performed by the Buddhists:

 

Chanting

According to the Buddhists, chanting texts from Buddhism will generate merits that will be passed on to the deceased person and help him at the time of rebirth.

Cloth of the Dead

The Theravada Buddhists ( the ones from Srilanka, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia) can incur good favors to the deceased by offering the monks white cloth use to create the robes. The merit that is generated by this deed is transferred to the dead person by pouring water into an overflowing cup while performing the chants.

Buddhist death rituals in Thailand and Southeast Asia

The Buddhists who belong to Thailand and the Southeast Asian countries follow the following rituals:

Bathing ceremony

During this ceremony, the deceased’s family and friends pour water on one of the deceased’s hands before they place the body in the coffin. Candles, incense, and wraths surround the coffin. There is also a photo of the deceased placed alongside the coffin. 

There are also colored lights hanging above. In case the body is to be cremated, then the cremation is postponed for a week. This way, the relatives of the deceased can show honor to the deceased person. In these circumstances, the monks come daily to chant over the body. 

Offering food

Before the body is buried or cremated, the deceased’s relatives offer food to the monks who visit their homes for the deceased. This also helps in providing merit to the deceased and also helps them in their rebirth.

Buddhist death rituals in Srilanka

Preaching

Once a week after the funeral of the deceased has passed, the Buddhist monks return to the home of the deceased and preach a sermon for about an hour along with the neighbors and the relatives. After this, the family, friends, and neighbors enjoy a meal together.

Offerings

The Buddhists provide offerings in the name of the person who has died after three months of the funeral. This continues every year after that. The aim is the same. It is to gain merit that can be transferred to the deceased to aid him in reincarnation.

Buddhist death rituals in Tibet

Sky burial

This is the practice where the body is left to be eaten by the vultures. This is a way for the deceased person to gain merit posthumously. This is considered to be an act of generosity to the animals. This ritual was also accepted for certain practical reasons. There was a scarcity of firewood in Tibet, and this made the burning of the corpse quite difficult.

Reading of the texts

The 49 days between death and rebirth is referred to as Bardo. During this time, the deceased’s relatives read certain texts related to the practices that were followed by the deceased. These readings also help in the journey to rebirth.

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