The question has forever haunted the living: “Is there life after death?”
For many religions and traditional cultures, the answer has been constant. From the many traditional beliefs on death and re-birth, it is easy to see that most of these religions and cultures treat death not as an end of life but rather a new stage. Whether as life in heaven as a final reward for a living a good life or as rebirth into a new form, death is generally believed to be simply a spiritual metamorphosis and new chapter.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the conception of “reincarnation” which can be found articulated in many Oriental religions. Although the details vary, most religions have rituals, customs and traditions that are consistent with the concept of death as essential continuation of life. And perhaps arguably the most glaring embodiment and practice of reincarnation can be found in the Buddhist funeral practices. For Buddhists, a person’s energy transfers or transforms into a new life form after death. Under this tenet, the soul survives physical death and is simply reborn into a new body and this cycle continues until, through rebirth and good karma, a person finally reaches eventual enlightenment and the state of nirvana which is an end of all forms of suffering.
Based on this core belief, Buddhist funerals are organized and conducted as a preparation for a new life rather than an end of it. For instance, preparations in a Buddhist funeral start even before death. In fact, in Singapore Buddhist funeral services start during this preparatory stage and friends and family are expected to be at the side of the dying person to help the person reflect on the good and bad deeds he or she committed in his or her life. This is a way of preparing the dying person to accept an inevitable fate and prepare him for the next phase of his journey. In Singapore Buddhist funeral service, a small statue of the Buddha is placed by the head of the dying person and “parittas,” or protective verses are chanted to make the person comfortable and allow better preparation on the part of the dying.
Upon death, Buddhist funerals services in Singapore assure that the body of the deceased should not be touched, or moved. This is so as not to disturb the soul which has not yet left the body and is in fact still in the process of acceptance and preparation. Since the deceased is bound to be reborn, Buddhist funeral services in Singapore avoid dressing up the body in fancy clothes and opt to clothe it with simple clothing that the deceased normally wears so that he or she may come in to his new life the way he or she lived.
Buddhist funeral services in Singapore also emphasizes the need for the “dana”, an act of purifying the mind of the giver. A series of ceremonial chants are made to symbolize that the Sangha, or community, has already accepted his or her fate. As part of the dana, the community receives the blessings on behalf of the dead, eventually gives it to the deceased and only then can he or she continue with his or her journey. Since Buddhist death is generally signifies a new journey, guidance is an important element of Buddhist funerals and these funerals services in Singapore make it a point to involve monks to lead and perform the last rites on the morning of the burial or during cremation. Along with the family, friends and community, the holy person guides the deceased in his journey to the afterlife.
A life worth living is simply a life worth dying for.
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