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Buddhist Funeral Packages in Singapore

An important part of the grieving process of losing a loved one is to send them off in the manner which would have been most suiting and respectful towards them, in order to aid them in their journey into their next life. As a predominantly Buddhist and Taoist country, it would be most suitable to send someone off in a manner reflective of kinds of funerals held by the Chinese and their philosophies. Different from the largely Malay and Indian end-of-life rituals, a Buddhist/Taoist funeral often involves quite a number of specific rituals, and it can be hard for someone unfamiliar with the religions to know what to do when a friend has lost a loved one. The following information should give you a fairly comprehensive idea of what to expect and what may be expected of you if you are attending a funeral for a Chinese person of these beliefs. This guide is tailored to the funeral package services offered in Singapore, which in many areas has its own spin on religious rituals mixed in with the preferences of modern society.

Overview of Buddhist funeral customs

The funeral service of the Buddhists is separated into a few key elements. The initial transfer of the remains to the funeral home begins the process. It is followed by the funeral service, and then the cremation. The final component is the service held at a later date for the interment of the ashes. Each of these elements serves a unique purpose in assisting the deceased on their transition to the next rebirth, clearing obstacles out of love and compassion for the deceased, and providing merit for their benefit.

Buddhist funeral customs vary greatly from one tradition to another, or even from one family to another. A commonality between all the traditions is some type of funeral service, a time to express our feelings about the deceased and wish them well on their way. It is also a time to provide the symbolic and actual merit making for the deceased. In the midst of the pain of losing a loved one, and the burden of the many decisions and details that need to be addressed at that time, our funeral home hopes to be a resource for the community. The information here is intended to explain the common denominators in Buddhist funeral package services, but each tradition and family has unique customs and our intention is to honor and respect those.

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Importance of funeral rituals in Buddhism

The rituals and rites conducted between one’s death and their next rebirth can have a profound impact on which way the deceased is inclined, and whether they can be successful in attaining Nirvana. Time of death is a critical time in determining the future karmic results for the individual who has died. The next of kin or the family are highly encouraged to immediately contact a qualified Buddhist representative who can help lead the dying person through the correct mental processes to obtain a better rebirth and also to perform the right kind of rites, which can take anywhere between 30 minutes to several hours. This is becoming increasingly difficult, with many persons of older generations knowing little or no Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism, and a person generally choosing to die alone in the hospital than to burden their family.

In Buddhism, the culture of performing funeral rites for the deceased is deep-rooted. It is believed that the last thoughts that one has, and the environment at the time of death, have a big impact on the next rebirth. These effects can be long-lasting and far-reaching, and on the family of the deceased and any inheritance. It is therefore important for a Buddhist to help a dying person have a positive frame of mind and to help the transition be peaceful and conscious. Buddhism does not see death as the end of life, rather as the end of the body we currently inhabit in this life. It is a natural process that all living creatures go through. The aim of Buddhism is to help the deceased to a better rebirth, either in the human world or in the higher worlds of the devas and gods.

Buddhist Funeral Package Options

2.1 Basic funeral package: This type of package is suitable for those who are looking at a budget and wish to hold a simple funeral for their departed. In this package, not much furniture would be rented. Only the essential items such as a simple backdrop and a Buddhist / Taoist / Christian religious icon depending on the religion of the deceased. Buddhist / Taoist prayer sessions are conducted throughout the wake. These prayer sessions last about 20 minutes each and it could be conducted a few times a day. The duration could vary depending on the family member’s request. Clients can request to have prayer sessions 3 times a day and stretch it over 4 days. There will be a total of 12 sessions with this plan. A funeral service will be held before the hearse drives off to the columbarium for the cremation / burial service. Funeral service seems to be the only part which is done in a different manner compared to the other more expensive packages. A simple service is what the religious leader will provide. The prayer sessions and funeral services are conducted by clients’ own religious leader or they may engage their service with additional charges to our pool of religious leaders. This package is only applicable to those looking to do a cremation service as there are limited funeral parlour wake venues available for burial services. This package is only limited to 20 pax. Any additional is subject to surcharge but limited to a maximum of 40 pax due to seating capacity at void deck area. Do give us a call for more information if your void deck area can cater up to 40 seating capacity.

In Singapore today, many people of the Buddhist faith still practice their traditional customs in preparing for a funeral. The package they choose comes in 4 varieties with different services provided. Below are the list of the packages available.

Basic funeral package

By engaging with the services of a funeral service company, they will be able to advise you accordingly on what are the things to avoid paying too much on and what are the most economical ways for the task to be done.

There are some who are more concerned when it comes to family and friends paying their last respect at the wake of their loved ones. Though it may seem to be an additional financial burden to engage a funeral service to take over the running of the funeral, it is more convenient for the family members and they can avoid overpaying when organizing for the funeral wake and service.

There are several levels of Buddhist funeral packages available from different funeral service companies. The basic package includes transportation of the body to the wake place, encoffin, embalming service, hearse use for the day of the funeral, tables, chairs, and full tentage set-up. The basic package is more for those who are looking into covering the basic necessities for the funeral service and wake.

Standard funeral package

There are many things that differentiate the standard package from the basic package. The changes are largely in terms of the items used, the decorations into the electric crematorium chapel, and the addition of some other interesting items which were not found in the basic package. The main item added into the standard package is a set of Taoist prayer materials consisting of a prayer notice, a prayer shirt, prayer paper, a tinfoil shoe, and gold ingots to be burned during the Taoist prayer session to ensure that the decreasing number of Taoists in Singapore will still have the means to carry out prayer sessions for their deceased relatives who may have not regularly followed the faith during their life. This package also includes a Malay/Muslimah set for Muslims and converts, a Christian set, and a mobile air-conditioner. There are also some other key points which also help differentiate this package from the basic package. Firstly, a fresh floral decoration is done to the niche base to make it stand out from the others as well as mock burn offerings of modern items like mobile phones and credit cards made with paper, for paper burning activities during prayer sessions. The next is also the dressing of the altar table with a complete table cloth, clip-on light lamp, and a two-tier table which will enhance the presentation of the prayer altar. This package also includes a silk floral decoration at the base of the photograph of the deceased, a palmist to read the fate of the deceased, and an after-funeral service of moving the photograph of the deceased to a Buddhist or Taoist Temple in Singapore. The festival package was created to address the dying interest in Buddhism and traditional cultural and religious practices by the younger generation of today. These packages may cost a bit more, but are well worth the money for peace of mind and assurance that a remarkable and memorable funeral service will be held for the deceased and their relatives.

Premium funeral package

A prayer chanting track will be recorded, and a copy will be given to the family. This can be used during the mourning period and as guided audio-meditation.

A Buddhist Sangha will be invited to conduct a prayer service on the night before the funeral. This package is aimed to ensure active participation in the chanting and dharma learning session. A Dhamma talk and guided meditation session can be arranged, and Buddhist books can be distributed upon discussion with our in-house coordinator.

Upon redemption of the package at the Mandai Crematorium office, the family will be allocated a lotus leaf-shaped collaterals which symbolize purity and nobility. A Buddhist altar will be set up at a location of choice. The use of candle and incense is to create a serene and peaceful environment. Origami lotus flower will be folded and placed onto the setting, thus symbolizing the metaphor of an awakened mind. The pink lotus is known to be greater than the historical Buddha.

Customized funeral package

Customized packages do not have a fixed price as the requirements can vary a lot and can cost below or even more than the standard package. In some instances, partner organizations from the other dialect temple and association may be involved to aid in coordination, and usually, the current temple will assign a worker from the funeral coordination team of that particular temple to work closely with these partners to ensure all traditional needs of the family are met. This worker effectively becomes the main coordinator, working with the family and the various parties and reporting to the temple. There may be a few discussions and meetings with the family members to ensure everything is in place. An agreement will be drafted out and signed for the job scope, and preparing the customized package itself can take a couple of weeks to even months.

The last option for a Buddhist funeral package is the Customized package. This package caters to the very specific traditional funeral needs of the immediate family members and can be tailored to suit the family’s requirements. Customized packages, although bearing the same name, are very different for the various dialect groups. For example, the Hokkien might need mua jin (or soul guiding) with a mini procession with a traditional band and mourners to guide the soul of the deceased from home to the wake place, a week before the actual funeral day. A Teochew mua jin is done at the wake place at night with a mini procession and the Tao Mu. The Cantonese perform three mua jin sessions: one at home, one at the wake place, and the last at the prayer hall before the actual funeral.

Additional Services and Features

During the funeral, some items would have to be provided to meet the religious needs and ceremonial procedures. Items include a photo of the deceased to be placed on an altar, a wooden name tag, rice for chanting beads, and folding chairs and tables for monks who will be chanting. Setting up a picture and banner with a photo of the deceased serves as an announcement for visiting relatives and friends, and rice for chanting beads is thrown into the fire after certain prayers to chase away bad omens.

Transportation of the deceased is usually done through a hearse as it’s the customary and official vehicle to carry the deceased to their final destination. It is important that the hearse driver knows their way around Singapore as some might not know the location of certain cemeteries or they may not be clear on the procedures of entering the niche holding for government cemeteries. We have a proper understanding of all locations and the procedures which hearse drivers must adhere to.

Floral arrangements to enhance the setting of the wake are highly recommended to be placed around the coffin area. Flowers help to create a soothing and warm environment for people who have come to pay their last respects to the deceased. However, some elderly might have the thinking that flowers are usually used during joyous events and do not prefer to have them at the wake. In this case, the option of doing simple foliage to surround the coffin area is another alternative.

Funeral venue will usually be held at void deck. However, at times, families might want to hold the funeral wake at their residence especially when the deceased is young. In such a situation, we can help to provide tentages to be set up at an open area such as a car park to accommodate the weather or to create more space if you reside in an HDB or private property. Otherwise, we can help to source for funeral parlours and provide the options available to proceed with further bookings.

Funeral venue and setup

The site of a Buddhist funeral can also be classified subtly into a category of a high or low status funeral based upon the level of offerings made to the Sangha (monks). Any type of funeral is acceptable and the type of funeral can usually be distinguished by the allocated number of chanting days. A high status funeral is distinguished by a more professional setup of a centralised funeral area with tents and awnings and the receiving family offering daily meals to the Sangha.

For a void deck funeral site there are six colour themed sets of modern funeral tents and equipment which allow clients to customise the desired setup. Package A offers a simple yet dignified funeral tent, Package B is commonly chosen by clients and has a tasteful dark wood design. Packages C-G add extra features and colour themes and Package H is a grand marquee tent. Other standard equipment includes a portable air con unit and electrical points which are useful for chanting equipment or lighting.

For a void deck or home based Buddhist funeral an area within the void deck, living room or a designated tented area can be chosen as the funeral site. Tents and awnings are commonly used to partition the funeral area from other void deck activities or to make a tent in the case of a void deck void desk area.

Choosing the right venue for a Buddhist funeral in Singapore is of critical importance. BLF provides advice on selecting the right funeral venue based upon the specific type of funeral like cremation or burial service. BLF will make all necessary arrangements for the funeral venue chosen including setup, catering, tents, awnings and any other required facilities. Some temples and void deck (mourning) places may already have facilities for the funeral so depending on the venue BLF may only be required to make partial setup arrangements.

Floral arrangements and decorations

Fresh flowers play an important part in the Buddhist funeral rites, and it is important to provide the deceased with a proper send-off using the correct types of flower arrangements. There are three different occasions where flowers play a part. They are the wake, the funeral itself, and also the cremation or burial. Each of the specific types of flower arrangements would be done on the respective day. An example would be the use of “fresh flowers easel spray” during the service at the void deck and the use of a “white Chrysanthemum casket spray” at the cremation or burial service. Buddhists believe that the departed would be able to receive the “merits” from the offerings made to the monks, and hence it is traditional to invite the monks to perform a short service on the day of the wake/funeral. The service may vary between different Buddhist sects, but the standard ones will involve chanting and prayer. Usually, prayer chanting sessions require the use of a prayer table. Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery and Puat Huat Seng would have the option of providing a traditional prayer table for the bereaved to invite the monks to perform the rites. This would depend on the availability of the table from the Monastery. More elaborate decorations such as flower stands are also available, and prices would vary depending on the size and type of flowers used. Although it is not a necessity, the correct use of floral arrangements will provide a more conducive environment for the deceased to carry on his or her journey to the next life.

Transportation arrangements

Arrangements and coordination can be agreed upon with the undertaker to ensure that the transport service runs smoothly on the day of the funeral. A properly planned transport service and reliable drivers can bring much relief to the family and ensure the comfort and convenience of all mourners. It is said in the Sigalovada Sutra that a wise man should divide his wealth into four parts: one part he shall invest in business, another he shall save up, the third he shall spend on his daily expenses, and the fourth he shall give to support virtuous ascetics. Although modernizing this statement to suit the context of laypeople in the present day, the wisdom still holds true. Spending on a funeral transport service may be viewed as an unwise waste and a needless extra cost. However, this is an occasion of tribute and last respects to the deceased, and a well-spent transport service will indeed bring comfort and relief to the family and all mourners. An unwise inadequate cost-cutting measure on transport may prove to cause inconvenience and discomfort to the mourners and add stress to the family on the day of the funeral. This defeats the purpose of the service and symbol that the funeral is supposed to bring.

Vehicles and transport arrangements are made for the deceased to their final resting place. This service includes the use of a hearse to carry the deceased and shuttle bus services for the family and other mourners. Most packages come with a standard hearse to carry the deceased through the different stages of the funeral. Families will have the option of upgrading to a finer hearse, and also the option of adding a motorcade where the hearse will be accompanied by other vehicles carrying the family and mourners to the destination. A shuttle bus service can also be arranged to ferry the family and other mourners to and from the venue of the wake, the place of the religious rites, and the cremation/burial site. This is especially beneficial for the elderly and other guests who do not drive.

Religious and ceremonial items

Religious and ceremonial items are integral to Buddhist funeral rites. The package deals we offer include a Lotus Mandala, long joss sticks, incense powders, candles, flowers, fruits, water, and a seven-day prayer service at the foot of the casket (for casket wakes). These items are standard requisites at typical Buddhist funerals. Clients too are allowed for customization. In today’s modern and cosmopolitan society, different Buddhist sects and families may have their own varying set of customs and/or rites to observe in sending off the departed. There could be a specific sutra to be chanted, or a specific prayer session to observe, or a specific dana (alms giving) session. Our dedicated event planners will be at hand to understand and advise the exact specific ceremonial requirements the family may have and ensure those items are well organized for the event.

Post-funeral services

Thirdly, floral arrangements and decorations serve to mold an appropriate Buddhist atmosphere at the wake. Tables are arranged with white tablecloths and it is an Asian culture to avoid flowers on tables as the teachings of Buddhism discourage one dwelling on the impermanence of life and the feeling elicited from a fragrance is said to leave and not last. An area will be set up to perform the incense paper ritual and 2 ripe bananas would be tied to the entrance door signifying a good path to rebirth. The common association of white flowers with death is utilized in the condolence wreath that is hung at the front of the wake. The Full package and above also include a monk chanting tape playing in the background through a hi-fi system. Floral Arrangements and Decorations.

Reinforcing the importance of correct funeral rituals, most modern Buddhists do not fully understand these rituals at times. However, the religious elders of the family or the monks are particular about the performance of these rites. Funeral Venue and Setup provided an understanding of how the site is prepared to host the wake and define an adequate space for the performance of rites. This may well be the home or at times the void deck. The void deck may require some clearance by the respective town council before setting up. Depending on the package, tentage rental can be arranged and late-night wake lighting can be provided as well. Funeral Venue and Setup.

Buddhist funeral packages in Singapore are organized at various levels based on the expectations of the family and the status of the deceased. Typically, a Buddhist funeral in Singapore lasts between 3 to 7 days, depending on the deceased’s relatives’ decision on how long they want to mourn. But should the family desire to hold 100 days of prayers, it can also be arranged. Post funeral services. Details below the various post-funeral services for different packages. Standard Package – 1 set of prayer; Full Package – 3 sets of prayers; Premium Package – 7 sets of prayers and Elite Package – 100 days of prayers. The additional services and features are explained below so you can grasp a better understanding of the services provided, inclusive in the funeral packages. Please do not hesitate to call us to find out more about the various packages.

Choosing the Right Buddhist Funeral Package

As mentioned in previous sections, various types of packages are available for a Buddhist funeral. Each package offers different services and will be suited for different families depending on a few factors. First is the budget: the most basic package with the least service is the “no frills” package for a direct cremation. Here, the family would simply engage a provider who would transfer the deceased to a simple funeral home that provides the prerequisites. The body will then be brought to the crematorium with no funeral services. There are others who would prefer to hold a more elaborate funeral. These people can choose from packages with different Buddhist prayers and rituals that are held over a few days. These packages cost more, as the service provided is for a longer duration. Then there is the type of funeral service preferred. Some people may prefer a service held at a void deck in the estate, while others may choose to hold the service at the funeral parlour. The different packages will affect the location of the service. The main way of choosing the most suitable package would be an understanding between the family members and the deceased prior to his or her death. This will help family members to stick to the wishes of the deceased. Following which, the family should consult with a funeral director for his recommendation. An experienced funeral director can offer in-depth information and guide the family to choose the most suitable package based on their wants and needs. He will then relate the cost of the package and whether the cost is within the family’s budget. At this point, taking the more expensive package may not be advisable, as it may lead to financial strain on the family.

Understanding personal preferences and budget

First of all, every family will have some sort of budget. Based on the budget, the family can then decide which package is best suitable for their current situation. More often than not, the overall cost of the funeral will depend on the type of housing estate where the wake will be held. A general rule of thumb is that the more affluent the area, the more the overall cost of the funeral will be. There are cases where the deceased has already left instructions on what kind of Buddhist funeral they would prefer (directly or indirectly). In such situations, the family merely has to follow the instructions given or provide the closest match to that desired funeral. In cases where no specific instructions were left, the family will have to sit down and discuss what they believe would be most suitable for the deceased. This includes the chanting and prayer services, the cremation process, and what to do with the remains after cremation. By discussing this, the family should be able to arrive at some sort of conclusion as to what the deceased would have preferred.

Consulting with a funeral director

He added that Buddhist families should not feel pressured into elaborate funeral services by directors who may see it as a business opportunity. A simpler service may be more in line with the deceased’s wishes and prudent financial planning. This is particularly the case for metta or non-ritual services in various countries. In order to provide families with a more informed view of their options, IC hopes to continue developing a comprehensive information guide on Buddhist funeral planning.

IC believes that when choosing a funeral director, families should ensure that the company and its representatives are sensitive and respectful of their beliefs and traditions. This is particularly important in multi-racial societies like Singapore where unfamiliarity can give rise to misunderstandings, although there are many funeral directors experienced with Buddhist funerals in Singapore due to the large Buddhist population. In addition, Buddhist families may encounter competition from other faith communities for funeral services resources. This can pose difficulties in situations where funeral services are either heavily subsidized or conducted in government-owned facilities and create tensions between communities. It is hoped that a better understanding of each other’s needs will help foster greater cooperation and goodwill between different faith communities. Although resources for planning end-of-life services may already be easily accessible, it is necessary to take the time to meet with various funeral directors and discuss the options for Buddhist funeral services available in different facilities and at different price ranges. This can assist families in making more informed decisions and hopefully prevent any misunderstandings regarding the type of services provided, said Rusli.

In order to help families make better-informed decisions about the type of funeral that will be the most meaningful to them, IC wishes to encourage the Buddhist community to explore their options by consulting a funeral director. Funeral directors are familiar with the customs related to death and funerals; they also understand the needs of the bereaved and will be able to provide valuable advice and support. Some funeral companies offer packages that allow the bereaved or their next of kin to pre-plan or pre-purchase their funerals. Business owners should ask funeral companies whether repatriation is required following a death in the family. If the answer is yes, then it is recommended that they engage a funeral company that has a repatriation service and has familiarity dealing with Buddhist groups in the selected country.

Considering cultural and religious traditions

The first thing to be decided is the type of funeral. Regardless of tradition or religion, the two general types of funeral are a cremation or a burial. Buddhist funerals also have this distinction, but can differ quite sharply depending on the tradition. Theravada traditions may have funerals that are quite similar to the pre-existing local culture where the funeral is taking place. This may mean that the funeral appears to be quite secular, but a Buddhist monk may still be willing to provide some blessings. Other Theravada traditions will have a full Buddhist funeral with chanting and eulogies at the temple with the body present, followed by a cremation/burial. This is similar to Japanese Pure Land style funerals, some of which may take place in a Jodo Shinshu temple but are also often performed at a home, with the body present. This type of funeral can still be performed in a secular venue, but the key is to have the chanting, teachings, and eulogies before the actual cremation or burial. This type of service is quite easily arranged at a funeral parlor with a chapel and is the most similar to a modern western funeral. Other Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions will likely prefer to have chanting and teachings at a temple, with the body present, followed by the cremation or burial. This can also be quite similar to a modern funeral with the key distinction being that the proceedings are led by a Buddhist monk and have a Buddhist atmosphere. In Singapore, there are mandai cremation services available for all types of Buddhist funerals.

Funeral is a critical time when the grieving family needs all the support and comfort. It is a time to remember the good deeds of the deceased, and to ensure that he goes through the death process with the minimum of fear and suffering. Often family members and executives will have to make many decisions both small and large, about the funeral and other matters. Durant Company Ltd has much experience with Buddhist funerals, having served families of various Buddhist traditions for many years.


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