A friend’s mother recently passed away and I went to her funeral. I noticed that people make eulogies based on their own wisdom and clergymen tend to hijack the ceremony to do their own show. In my case, none of my family is Buddhist, and there is a non-zero chance that someone would try to say that Jesus Christ saved me in the end etc.
I thought it would be nice to have prepared a speech to be read at one’s own funeral (and certainly much of it could be used for other funerals where one may be expected to speak, like one’s own parents’ funeral). If done carefully, it could one last good action to try and inspire true spirituality even after death.
So what would you include in such a speech, keeping in mind the audience may be partially hostile to Buddhism by principle?
Funerals tend to be for the living. And when they are done in a religious context, then they really are supposed to be about the religious significance of things and not an event about the departed. Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but a memorial service tends to allow things to be more about the departed. Those may not even have clergy involved.
That being said, it’s always a good idea to inform family of your wishes for the exact nature of the event.
As to making a speech, I’m not sure what could be useful for people if they really believed something quite different from you. I wonder if it would be more useful to ask that a particular pamphlet or booklet was distributed. Sponsoring the printing of Buddhist books in memory of the departed is a thing in Buddhist countries, although maybe not in connection with the funeral.
I was in the Army when I was young. Shortly before deployment into active ops, we were asked to pen our last letter to be handed over to family in case we didn’t come back. Pretty much all that I could think of as essential was to say “I love you guys, thanks for being there for me.”
I’m interested to think about that too.
There is a guide for funerals here : http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/buddhist_funeral.pdf
It’s easier to prepare something for our own funeral but for other’s…
What were your thoughts ?
What was missing ?
What is the goal ?
For whom ? The departed one ? The family and friends ? It is hard to chant about anicca and anatta when people are not buddhists although this understanding may change their response.
Aciram vatāyam kāyo pathavim adhisessatiChuddo apetavinnāno niratt ham va kalingaramAnnicā vata sankhārā, uppādavayadhammino Uppajjitvā nirujjhanti, tesam vupassamo sukho.
Before long, alas! This body will be laid on the earth, discarded, devoid of consciousness, and useless like a log of wood. Transient, alas! are all component things, subject are they to birth and decay; having gained birth to death the life flux swings - bliss truly dawns when unrest dies away.
Na miyyamānam dhanamanveti kinci.
Even a piece of coin cannot follow its possessor.
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.
Adam Gordon from Bhikkhu Visuddhacara’s Loving & Dying
- bringing back good deeds from the decease ?
- accepting death, the inevitability of it ? and how it can give meaning to our existence ?
I think the Salla sutta provides a good content for a speech at funerals. The message in the sutta is universal except the part at the end which refers to listening to the arahant.
It might still trigger some negative emotions from the audience though, as they often weep over a romanticized image of the deceased, or in some occasions experience delight in case the image of the deceased is demonized.
I’m the only Buddhist in my family. But my wife and family are very sympathetic to Buddhism. So I know they would honor my wishes.
They are not sympathetic to Christianity. So if
I am confident that person would be shouted down.
Our tradition is to do memorials, not funerals. If it is like other memorials for people in our family they would tell fond stories about cool things about me and lots of funny stories about my idiosyncrasies. I’m good with that.
EDIT: The more I think about it, it’s less a memorial than a Roast.
When Covid hit our city and I went to isolate in the country, I sent my kids an email reminding them where significant papers and spare keys are kept. Expecting to be safe in the country, but aware that technically I’m in a high risk group, I decided this was a good moment to deliver my hopes for my funeral, so I added
However, I expect to return and to continue (doing what I do). & - while we’re dealing with the maudlin - when something really does get me, ashes into the Kent Family grave, please, at St Thomas’s (address and phone # supplied). With a bit of suitable chanting from the Buddhist monks based at (email addresses supplied).
I was grateful to Covid for allowing me to leave the last instructions without unnecessary drama. Beyond that, I think that funerals are for those who are left behind. So they can do whatever they want, with speeches or no speeches, depending on how things are that the time.
Edit: I feel that leaving a speech behind might be a bit of unnecessary I-making.
In all honestly there is a chance that there won’t be anyone at my funeral, as it’s likely I will die alone. At the very least I won’t have any close family members left to fulfil any funeral wishes regarding the ceremony. If possible at the time I’d like to donate my carcass to science.
Each of us must navigate death alone … And everything must be let go of… This is ok just part of the journey. We’ve already done it many times before
Perhaps - communicate all the important things before you die…
My 2 cents worth of advice - live without accumulating regrets, so one can die peacefully, without remorse.
Otherwise, funerals are a great opportunity to be kind. Whatever alleviates the suffering of grief and loss etc, in an enduring way, is great material. By this I mean, not by applying denial or a ‘disneyland’ or ‘magical’ spin on things, but by helping people focus on what is skillful and beneficial; kindness and non-regret in life, acknowledgment that life is temporary and not to waste it, and finally to remember all the positive things… and to happily let go