Suggestions wanted: Memorial Service

What usually goes into a funeral or memorial service in Theravada Buddhism?

Would it be inappropriate to ask bhikkhus ( Sri Lankans ) to chant in English?

A friend who led a sutta class at a vihara for many years has passed away.

The class was directly affiliated with the vihara, they just let us ( mostly Americans ) use the space.

One of the long time participants was a bhikkhu for a limited period of time( American ). He is also very involved with the vihara. The vihara for many years allowed to him lead weekend meditation sessions and dhamma talks – directly affiliated with the vihara.

We are a planning a Zoom memorial for our friend ( pandemic, cold weather ) and are trying to plan out what to do.

He said he could get the vihara bhikkhus involved. What would they do? What would they expect of us ( donations, etc )?

My friend also offered to do a dhamma talk which I think is a great idea. I am concerned about potential subjects.

Years ago when my last parent died I took it hard.

The tone around that group and the vihara was roughly “there is no comforting things to say. Suck it up and reapply yourself to the practice”.

I did not find that helpful at the time.

It seems consistent with the suttas though.

I’m completely over the mustard seed story.

I would like something from the Buddhas teachings that would be comforting, useful, and down to Earth.

I have no idea what that would be or if there is such a selection in Theravada.

Suggestions for that dhamma talk would be very welcome.

We are planning a sharing time for people to speak and pay their last respects

Thanks for any ideas or information

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I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

I wouldn’t be afraid to ask the bhikkhus what they are/aren’t used to do at funerals/memorials. Generally monks have lots of experience at this sort of thing and understand that lay people need simple questions answered.

Similar questions have been asked before, you might find something helpful in these threads:


Shouldn’t be!

They probably have standard Pāḷi chants that they do, but of course you should be able to discuss this with them ahead if you have any special requests.

:laughing: Understandably!

I find gratitude and metta to be helpful themes myself at such times.

Metta to you and your community!

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Of course it’s fine to ask, but I doubt very much that most Sinhala monks do any chanting in English. In Mahamevnawa it is standard in the foreign monasteries, but I haven’t heard of it otherwise. Unfortunately, many Sinhala people don’t know the meaning of most of the chants since (outside of Mahamevnawa) they are not chanted in Sinhala either.

I think Sri Lankan Buddhist are more accustomed to rather direct statements around death, and it’s helpful for them. But it’s understandable that this wasn’t helpful to you at the time. Sri Lankans will probably find much more comfort in the practices around death, especially dana and merit sharing, so that is where they will get support for their grief.

In the end, that’s kind of what you are asking for when you are doing a religious funeral. Otherwise a memorial service is more focused on the person and not the religious significance.

But I think it’s also pretty normal to not find comfort in what religious leaders say at funerals.

Asking for a particular kind of Dhamma talk is going to be kind of risky. Ideally you would be asking someone you trusted to do the kind of talk you wanted. But in the end, we kind of get what we get.

If this person was known to the monks and they were involved in doing good work at the vihara, it might be workable to ask for a talk on the results of doing the kind of work that that person did as an inspiration to others.

Sorry for your loss of a kalyanamitta. May they attain Nibbana!