Ehipassiko Chanting Group
The Ehipassiko Chanting Group (ECG) provides free Buddhist chanting services for funerals with the Wat Ananda Youth (WAY) as its custodian and in association with the Buddhist Fellowship.
Ehipassiko means “Come and See”, an important teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha taught that we should not just believe what we are told. Instead, we should ask questions to clarify any doubts that we have and see for ourselves the relevance of His teachings. ECG hopes to invite friends to see for ourselves the Three Universal Characteristics as taught by the Buddha, namely Suffering (Dukkha), Impermanence (Anicca) and Non-self (Anatta) when we attend funeral/wakes.
The objectives of ECG are:
(a) to practice and propagate the Dhamma through the proper ways of conducting a Buddhist funeral/wake service;
(b) to give spiritual support and guidance to the bereaved family; and
(c) to acquire merits by performing meritorious deeds for the purpose of sharing the merits with the deceased.
If you are interested to join the group, please contact email to
. Members will get to learn numerous Buddhist chants and can volunteer to provide their service to help support those family members who are going through the difficult times.
Buddhist's Perspectives on Death
According to the Four Noble Truths, life is unsatisfactory (Dukkha). Dukkha includes birth, aging, sickness and death. From the day one is born, death is inevitable. Though life is uncertain, death is certain.
Death is a subject that most people do not like to hear or talk about. However, as Buddhists, we should not avoid discussing about it. Instead we should use every opportunity we have to understand about Death and how to face it should the day comes when we or our loved ones have to face it.
The Buddha imparted the teaching on Death very skillfully to one of his disciples, Kisa Gotami. One day, her younger son died and she was very sad, having just lost the elder son earlier on. She took the younger son in her arms and went around looking for a way to revive him. Finally, she managed to meet the Buddha. She begged Him to bring him back to life and He agreed. However, He asked her to look for mustard seeds but it had to come from a family where there was no incidences of death.
Kisa Gotami went from house to house looking for a family without death but her efforts proved futile. She finally realized that death happened to everyone and she accepted her son’s death. She decided to take refuge under the Buddha and learned from him until she attained Nirvana.
Understanding that Death is unavoidable enables one to cherish our relationship with our loved ones. We should learn to be forgiving, both to forgive them for any mistakes that they have made and to seek forgiveness for any mistakes that we have made. So long as we have spent quality time with our loved ones, we should not feel sad when the day comes for us to part. Instead, we should give them permission to go and also assure them that we are able to take care of ourselves. We should also continue to honour the person after his death eg we should continue to practise what he has taught us, do meritorious deeds in his name and share the merits with him.
Helping someone who is Dying
Some recommended ways to help someone who is critically ill and on the verge of passing on:
- The best way is to encourage the person to have a positive and peaceful mind. That means being free of disturbing emotions such as fear, anger, attachment, etc. To enable us to help someone achieve such a positive state of mind, we need to work on our own state of mind ie work on reducing our own fear. If we ourselves have disturbing emotions regarding death, it would be difficult to help another person overcome this.
- In the case of loved ones, it is best to learn to let them go. Clinging to them will cause both our mind and the mind of the dying to be disturbed. So it is advisable to be calm and peaceful, willing to listen to whatever they have to say. Be kind, sensitive and supportive but try to avoid strong emotional reactions.
- The dying person should be encouraged to accept death as a natural and inevitable phenomena, and that all of us come according to our kamma and have to go according to our kamma.
- He should be encouraged to reflect on the good deeds that he has done, and be reassured that these wholesome deeds of his will lead him to a good rebirth and support him in his next life.
- Family members may reassure the dying person that he need not worry about them, that he should keep his mind calm, peaceful, and that it would be alright to go when his time comes.
- Give donations and do other meritorious deeds in his name and share the merits with him. If possible, get him personally involved in the meritorious act, else he should be informed about it and he should acknowledge it.
- If the dying person has faith in the Buddhasasana, a small image of the Buddha may be placed strategically by his bedside as an object for contemplation (a constant reminder of the noble qualities the icons represent).
- Chanting of appropriate partitas (protective verses) by either monks or laypersons could be arranged to comfort the dying person and his family members.
- He should be encouraged to take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Monks could be invited for breakfast or lunch dana and gifts in the forms of requisites could be prepared for him to offer to the Sangha.
- If the dying person has been practising meditation, remind him of the importance of mindfulness. Encourage him to constantly note the arising and falling of events via thoughts, memories, emotions, visions.
- Dhamma friends who are practitioners of meditation can be invited to radiate loving kindness (metta) to the dying person to ease his suffering. Alternatively, family members could also generate thoughts of loving kindness by thinking mentally words “May you be well and happy. May you be free from suffering. May you be at peace.” and radiate these thoughts towards the dying person.
- If the person is not a Buddhist, do not try to impose your own beliefs on him. Instead, you could try to encourage him to generate positive thoughts and have faith in their own beliefs/religion. Generally, we should help a dying person to have positive thoughts and be at peace.
(Source: extracted from the book “Dying to Live: The Role of Kamma in Dying and Rebirth” by Venerable Aggacitta, Printed May 2005, Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary, Taiping, Malaysia)
Suggested ways to conduct a Buddhist Funeral
- When a person has died, the body should be cleansed and dressed. A simple and neat attire will do. Jewellery and ornaments should not be worn. This is because the person has taken rebirth and would not be able to take anything with him.
As for the casket, it need not be expensive. There is no need to burn joss paper, paper houses, “hell” money etc. There is no need to incur unnecessary expenses. Instead, the family members should do charitable deeds (dana) in memory of the deceased and share the merits with him.
A photograph of the deceased may be placed before the casket in remembrance of him and to remind the family members of the deceased’s qualities.
Dhamma words such as the last words of the Buddha “all conditioned phenomena are subject to dissolution. Strive on with diligence for the liberation from suffering” may be put up as a form of edification and inspiration, so that we may reflect and live meaningful lives.
Family members should avoid crying and weeping as it would not bring back the dead. It does not mean that we should suppress or deny our grief. What we can do is to be mindful, to acknowledge the sorrowful feelings that arise in us. We should take this opportunity to contemplate on the Buddha’s teachings that there is no permanent self and that death comes to everyone. We are conditioned by ignorance and craving which create kamma which leads us on to rebirth.
- It would be useful to invite monks to give a Dhamma discourse during the wake, chant some of the Buddhist Suttas, and to give Three Refuges and Five Precepts. Chanting and sharing of Dhamma discourses could also be done by Buddhist friends. Family members could also be orations, recollecting the kind deeds and good nature of the deceased.
(Source: Extracted from the book “How a Theravadin Buddhist Chinese Funeral may be conducted” by Venerable Suvanno, Malaysia)
Examples of meritorious deeds
- Taking refuge in the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha)
- Puja to the Triple Gem by offering flowers, incense, light, water etc.
- Observing the Five or Eight Precepts
- Offering food and other requisites to monks
- Sponsoring Dhamma books or CDs talks
- Listening to the Dhamma
- Reciting the Dhamma from the scriptures (suttas)
- Engage in Dhamma discussion
- Teach or share Dhamma
- Practise meditation
- Donating a dwelling place to the Sangha / contribute to the upkeep of the Sangha’s dwelling place
- Donations to charitable organisations
- Blood donation
- Voluntary service
(Source: Extracted from the book “Honouring the Departed; a Buddhist Perspective” by Venerable Aggacitta, Aug 2004 Ed, Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary, Taiping, Malaysia)