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Buddhist Funeral Services in Singapore (Part 1)

Buddhist funeral services in Singapore incorporate Buddha’s teachings along with Chinese customaries. These Chinese customaries focus on the importance of filial piety, and are based on individual dialects.

In this section (part 1), we will elaborate on Buddhist funeral setups, Buddhist funeral chants, as well as Buddhist funeral offerings.


Buddhist Funeral Setup

Buddhist funeral setups are often simple in nature, as most Buddhist monks advocate cutting down on unnecessary funeral expenses. Many will also prefer a more environmentally friendly approach as well.

Yellow or Beige drapery are commonly used as the standard theme for Buddhist funerals. To Buddhists, yellow symbolises holiness and enlightenment, while beige is associated with purity and rest, which conveys hope for the departed to move on peacefully.

Very often, there will also be a display of Buddhist scriptures to give peace and consolation to the bereaved families. These scriptures serve as a reminder to all that life on earth is impermanent, and only upon achieving enlightenment, will one be relieved from all suffering.


Buddhist Funeral Chanting

With a strong influence from Chinese culture, Buddhist Mahayana monks may conduct certain rituals based on the appropriate Chinese customaries. However, the essence of such rites remain — which is to create merits to be transferred to the deceased and bereaved families.

The more commonly chanted sutras (scriptures) at Buddhist funerals are:

1) Amitabha Sutra

The Amitabha Sutra uses imagery to describe the western paradise and the methods to be reborn there. This is the most commonly chanted sutra in Buddhist funerals.

2) 3 Combined Sutra (Lotus Sutra - The Universal Gate Chapter, The Diamond Sutra & The Great Confession & Repentance before the 88 Buddhas)

This combination of sutras gathers the 3 most popular sutras chanted in the Mahayana lineage. With compassion of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva aka Guan Yin, the wisdom of emptiness, and the powerful merits of confessing one’s past deeds, this combination is often preferred by the general Buddhist.

3) The Original Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra

The Ksitigarbha aka Di Zang Wang Pu Sa, made great vows to relieve one from suffering and also gave clear directions on how one can create great merits to benefit the dearly departed. This sutra consists of 3 volumes, and monks will normally require more than 2 hours to complete reading it.


Buddhist Food and Flower Offerings

Vegetarian food is normally the preferred choice of meal at Buddhist funerals, as it reminds one to be compassionate to all beings. That being said, there are also sects with no dietary restrictions.

A standard meal offered to the deceased consists of: 1 bowl of rice, 6 types of vegetarian dishes, 3 types of fruits, and 2 types of pastries/ buns. Additionally, there will be 5 different types of fruits offered before the Buddha’s statue or image.

Fresh flowers are also preferred at Buddhist funeral wakes, as a blooming flower symbolises the impermanence of life. Thus, it is a reminder that one must open their heart like a blooming flower to others, similar to how flowers open themselves up for bees to collect nectar freely.

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