There are many schools of Buddhism. Each school has a different version of truths and rites. All the sects seem to believe that the monks hold an essential part in the funeral rites.
China Funeral Rites
In China, there are two main traditions that are observed.
a. The funeral ceremony is quite lengthy. The expensed fall onto the daughters and the women in the family. Prayers are said by the monk every seven days for forty-nine days. The new head of the household must be present for the first prayer. The daughters are responsible for the gifts and food is given to the monks and friends and family at each prayer session. If the family can not afford this, the time and number of prayers may be adjusted. The new head of the household is required to attend the last prayer and burial or cremation as well.
b. In the second tradition, the prayer ceremony is held every ten days. After one hundred days a final prayer and ceremony may be held. The ceremony is optional.
Theravadin Buddhist burn the body. When someone is dying the monks come for comfort. They use chanting prayers as a form of solace. Here is a loosely translated chant for this time.
“Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out: and indeed this body too wears out. But the teaching of goodness does not age, and so Goodness makes that known to the good ones.”
Friends and family bring food and candles to the monks. It is believed that somehow this goodwill passes to the lingering spirits. The food is offered in the name of the dead. This is referred to as Matakabhatta.
Tibet Funeral Rites
In Tibet, the day of death is seen as the most important. It’s taught that when the body dies, the personality goes into a trance-like state. The personality doesn’t understand that they are dead and the chants and prayers can of the monks still be heard and understood. This is called the First Bardo.
The Second Bardo begins when the person realized they are dead. They then review this life and all the things they have done or thought passes before them.
Based on what they have learned in this life the Third Bardo is when they select their new parents to receive their new body.
Thailand Funeral Rites
In Thailand, part of the funeral rites includes a bathing ceremony. Family and friends pour water over one hand of the body.
They also believe the body should not leave the house in a usual manner. They may pass the coffin through a hole in the wall or the floor. They may pad the way through the door with banana leaves to make the route unusual.
No matter which sect of Buddhism you examine the monks and ceremonies of the funeral is the most elaborate and important of all rites. They begin their new cycle and need all the love that can be offered.