08/23/2022 In Singapore, majority of the population are Buddhists. Buddhists believe in reincarnation; they believe in being born an infinite number of times until they reach Nirvana, a state of enlightenment which is being able to see the world as it really is. They believe in Samsara which is a cycle of life consisting of life itself, death and rebirth. Buddhists believe that nothing is permanent and that includes our life, as well as the form of life our souls take on. In Buddhism, death in not the end of life in itself but it is the end of the physical body we are attached to in this life. Our soul will be attached to a new body based on the accumulation of one’s actions in the past life.
This law of cause and effect is termed as karma. Rebirth will be into any of the 6 realms, with 3 being good realms:
Upon achieving Nirvana, it is believed that the enlightened individual physically dies without being reborn. The very staunch believers are usually cautious to leave the deceased untouched after death until 8 hours has passed. This is due to the belief that the spirit takes 3 to 8 hours for the spirit to depart from the physical body. Even when 8 hours has passed, the body is handled carefully so as to allow the spirit to leave in peace. The dearly departed would usually be dressed in a set of clothes that he/she is comfortable in.
Buddhist funeral services generally have these elements in Singapore:
- Encoffining Ceremony conducted by a Monk (Usually 1,3 or 5 Reverend Monks)
- Final Night prayer service
- Final Day send off
Two altars would be seen at Buddhist Funeral Services in Singapore. The altar closest to the deceased is the deceased altar and the items placed there are for the dearly departed. Vegetarian food and fruits are often placed as offerings for the deceased. A joss stick holder would be placed in the middle of the deceased altar for the placement of joss sticks offered by family, friends and relatives. Candles are also a common sight in Buddhist funeral services. The other altar is meant to be the God’s altar. A Buddha Statue would be placed with fruit offerings, incense and candles.
A lot of emphasis is placed on not allowing the joss-sticks to burn out completely. It is said that there would be positive effects for the future descendants if the joss sticks are continuously burnt throughout the Buddhist funeral.
In the olden days, family members would all gather together in the house of the deceased on the seventh day following the death date. This is when the dearly departed is thought to return back home. In fact, some family members even scatter rice grains or flour on the floor just to see if their beloved has really came back to visit.
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