Buddhist Resources for Memorial Services
For an overview, you might read the Wikipedia article on Buddhist Funerals.
“When Blossoms Fall: A Zen Guide for Death & Dying” a resource from the San Francisco Zen Center
“Funeral Information: Guide to Planning a Buddhist Funeral” a resource from the Fresno Bestuin Buddhist Temple
“Guide to a Proper Buddhist Funeral:” a resource from the Malaysian Buddhist Cooperative.
At Home Memorial Service: A Personal 49 Day Dedication a resource from Clouds in Water Zen Center
In the Soto Zen tradition traditional texts include the Dai hi Shin Dharani, the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, and the Heart Sutra. In the West the Loving Kindness Sutra is often chanted. (The Boundless Way Liturgy includes all these including two alternative versions of the Heart Sutra)
A selection of readings
“My disciples, my end is approaching, our parting is near, but do not lament. Life is ever changing; none can escape the dissolution of the body. This I am now to show by my own death, my body falling apart like a dilapidated cart.”
“Do not vainly lament, but realize that nothing is permanent and learn from it the emptiness of human life. Do not cherish the unworthy desire that the changeable might become unchanging.”
“The demon of worldly desires is always seeking chances to deceive the mind. If a viper lives in your room and you wish to have a peaceful sleep, you must first chase it out.”
“You must break the bonds of worldly passions and drive them away as you would a viper. You must positively protect your own mind.”
“My disciples, my last moment has come, but do not forget that death is only the end of the physical body. The body was born from parents and was nourished by food; just as inevitable are sickness and death.”
“But the true Buddha is not a human body: – it is Enlightenment. A human body must die, but the Wisdom of Enlightenment will exist forever in the truth of the Dharma and in the practice of the Dharma. He who sees merely my body does not truly see me.
Only he who accepts my teaching truly sees me.”
“After my death, the Dharma shall be your teacher. Follow the Dharma and you will be true to me.”
“During the last forty-five years of my life, I have withheld nothing from my teachings. There is no secret teaching, no hidden meaning; everything has been taught openly and clearly. My dear disciples, this is the end. In a moment, I shall be passing into Nirvana, This is my instruction.”
Last words of the Buddha, from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra
The Great Way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose.
When preferences are cast aside the Way stands clear and undisguised.
But even slight distinctions made set earth and heaven far apart.
If you would clearly see the truth, discard opinions pro and con.
To founder in dislike and like is nothing but the mind’s disease.
And not to see the Way’s deep truth disturbs the mind’s essential peace.
The Way is perfect like vast space, where there’s no lack and no excess.
Our choice to choose and to reject prevents our seeing this simple truth.
Both striving for the outer world as well as for the inner void condemn us to entangled lives.
Just calmly see that all is one, and by themselves false views will go.
From Affirming Faith in Mind (A Traditional Zen Text)
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature of change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My deeds are my closest companions. I am the beneficiary of my deeds. My deeds are the ground on which I stand.
Traditional Buddhist Chant from the Upajjhatthana Sutta
To what shall I liken the world?
Moonlight reflected in dewdrops,
Shaken from a crane’s bill.
Zen Master Dogen (translated by Steven Heine)
Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp – a phantom – and a dream.
Diamond Sutra Gatha
The world of dew is, yes,
a world of dew,
but even so. Even so.
Zen poet Issa (on the death of his daughter)
This body is not me; I am not caught in this body,
I am life without boundaries,
I have never been born and I have never died.
Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies
All manifests from the basis of consciousness.
Since beginningless time I have always been free.
Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out.
Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek.
So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye.
Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before.
We shall always be meeting again at the true source,
Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.
From the Anguttara Nikaya (translated by Thich Nhat Hanh)
Once the Zen master Hofaku called his students together and said: “This last week my energy has been draining – no cause for worry. It is just that death is near.”
One of his students asked: “You are about to die! What does it mean? We will go on living. And what does that mean?”
“They are both the way of things,” the master replied.
“But how can I understand two such different states?”
Hofaku answered: “When it rains it pours,” and then calmly died.
Traditional Japanese Zen Story