This document is for training purposes and guidance for those who would conduct a funerary service. Other articles are available on the topic of death and dying.
The Wayist Funeral or Farewell Ceremony is sometimes referred to in lay terms as the Ceremony of Sukhavati, which forms the central part of the funeral ceremony. Sukhavati is the Sanskrit name of the abode that we call Spirit Heaven, the final destination of human souls, the end of the road on the purpose of life. Sukhavati is the Kingdom of Light, where our spiritual Father in Heaven and other spiritual beings abide.
Adaptations of the ancient rite of Ceremony of Sukhavati is common in Tibetan and some other schools of Mahayana Buddhism.
For humans, the only thing that we can absolutely know for certain with our rational body-minds, is the certainty of death of organic bodies. Organic bodies are by design and by nature finite and fragile. Our souls inhabit these fragile, dying bodies sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a hundred years.
Living in the body is hard, but dying is easy. Life in the body is a struggle for souls, and we can manage it only for short periods of time. For that reason, we have to incarnate several times to learn the art of loving-kindness. The miracle of birth of the human body and its eventual demise, whether soon on later, is a natural organic process that we share with billions of other organic beings. The embodied life on earth, for us is a temporary state made for education of the soul. After that, we move on to a higher purpose.
Typically, souls depart for heaven when they are at peace that things at me are all as it should be. Therefore, they are almost always present at the funeral. Sometimes thoughwhen a soul departs after having awaited death for a while, they are ready to flow into the Lighat the moment of death. This brings on us a responsibility to help deapting souls to feel that is is time, it is right, and we will be okay —so they can go Home for now. For spiritual energy healers it is common to have to council confused and longing souls to move on, show them the path Home. The ceremony of celebrating the life and bidding the soul farewell serves purposes not only for loved ones staying behind for now, but also to set the departing soul peace.
A human soul may require several incarnations to be perfected in love. Once perfected in the art of loving-kindness, it will be enlightened and reborn as a spiritual being. Once reborn in spirit, we continue our everlasting existence in Sukhavati, never again to be born in human form on Earth.
Disembodied souls who are not yet reborn as spiritual beings, who require another human lifetime to become perfected in love, remain in bardo for a while. During this time the soul receives many graces and benefits as it reviews its past incarnation.
Departing souls are filled with relief, peace and knowledge of the true reality of the purpose of life. They are not burdened with body-mind and perceive life with the superior soul-mind. Typically, they look upon us at the funeral with more wisdom and insight than what we can muster.
The funeral has one major purpose; to gather and bid a loved one from our community farewell, and Godspeed until we meet again (German. Auf Wiedersehen) in Sukhavati.
Sometimes, a secondary purpose of funeral is required, which is to formally send the discarded body of our departed loved one away for burial, cremation, or to be put to use for scientific purposes. Oftentimes, family fulfil both funeral purposes at the same event. Local customs are easily accommodated.
Depending on local custom, it is not uncommon for Wayists to make private arrangements for disposal of the expired organic body and to organise a get-together of friends and family for funeral proceedings at a separate event.
Farewell ceremonies, or funerals as some prefer, can be done at someone’s home, a public place, a seaside or forest or mountain, a rented hall, a Wayist centre or anywhere else the family may designate.
We do not have to congregate all family and friends in one place for a single event. Wayists can anywhere get together in their own places to conduct a Farewell Ceremony of their own when it is not practical for them to meet in a single place.
Once a human body fails completely, the soul which is our essence and being is slowly drawn away into the bosom of Resplendid Light. Our beloved’s consciousness is there, in her/his soul, and not anymore with the now unused body. The soul is being freed from the body at the moment of its death and is in the hands of caring angels. For this reason, Wayists do not believe any special rites or blessings be effected upon the deceased organic body as such, but for the soul and loved ones. The one’s who need our care are the mourning relatives still present on Earth. For this reason, Wayists funerals do not require the presence of specially ordained ministers to officiate at a funeral.
However, there are good reasons why the presence of professionals can be expedient. Ministers and monks are trained in best practices to officiate funerals and are well versed in such matters. Your gathering may feel relieved to leave that aspect to trained professionals. Nevertheless, funeral rites are simple and humble affairs that can be managed by a mature Wayist.
Wayist funeral preparations vary from one culture to the next. Furthermore, the options for disposing of the expired organic body are regulated by local laws and ordinances, and in many cases are limited by service providers. Our tradition focuses on the essence of the loved one, the soul, not on the organic. Loved ones, who depart from this incarnation because their temporary physical bodies expired, continue life as always. Souls are experts at coming in and going out of incarnations, we have done this several times before. The “fear of death” is a necessary element of self-preservation rooted in the limited ‘reality’ of our organic body-minds. When the organic body expires, soul-mind is in charge and it knows a higher reality, it has intimate knowledge of the greater reality which we, in human form, cannot grasp all too clearly.
Disposal of the expired organic body previously used by the departing loved one typically does not form part of the funeral or farewell ceremony. Some families prefer to have the physical remains cremated as a matter of course, in a simple, non-formal manner with no ceremony. Some communities insist on burial, some have a casket present at the farewell ceremony. Some prefer to have their used bodies interned to be composted to give back to Earth. Notwithstanding, our focus is not on the graveyard or crematorium but the continued journey of the soul whom we know, love and remember.
“Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our transgressions, as we also forgive those who transgress against us. Lead us in temptations, and deliver us from evil. Aum/Amen”
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to both to commemorate and celebrate the life of name of departing soul, and to wish him/her Godspeed and farewell on the journey ahead until we shall meet again, and to support the family who will surely miss him/her more than we can know.”
Optionally insert brief introduction of the Wayist view of life and death of the body, the coming and going of souls. Of all things on Earth, death is the most certain.
“Please join together in a few minutes of meditation in which we recall his/her presence among us, and we open our hearts and soul-minds to his/her soul presence and endow our beloved brother/sister with all our love, good wishes and beautiful thoughts to serve him/her on the journey ahead, until we shall meet again.”
In some cultures a session of tonglen is performed.
Sukhāvatī Funerary Ceremony
The Ceremony of Sukhāvatī can be recited/read by the congregation or be spoken by one designated to do so. Audio and audio-visual aids are also available.
Before or during the ceremony, some prefer to add this option.
Some communities have a table in front, on which is placed a tray of sand. A photograph is placed, and at the point of the first ‘Namo Amithaba’, the picture is burned by moving a votive candle to set it alight. The symbolism of the rising smoke is that of the going home of the soul as it continues its journey. The symbolism of the ashes, is that of the memories we retain of the soul’s presence among us.
Some prefer for the ashes and sand to be mixed and made available to friends and family who want to individually sprinkle it in a peaceful or special place, for their own sake.
Some bring the ashes from the cremation to be added to.
Some prefer to fill a small hollow statue signifying a spiritual being with the ashes and sand. Most people prefer to one day have the statue or the urn be permanently placed in the wall of remembrance of their favourite temple.
The final prayer gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā, is repeated until the picture has completed its burning. The ceremony ends with the prayer for peace for all sentient beings, om shanti shanti om
Some communities have an external fire after the ceremony, around which they congregate to add to the fire various personal items that remind them of the departing loved one. Some add photographs, and items of clothing. At the end of the day, the ashes of memory from the fire are used in any of the ways explained above.
The Officiant Reads
“In the insightfulness and brilliance of true Reality
the compassion of Avalokitasvara arises.
In that magnificent and victorious vision
we proclaim the wisdom of Amitabha.
Lord, You are in the state of divine simplicity and You are free from restraints.
You look upon us, in Your peace and compassion
forgive us our confusion
forgive us that we get misled by the things of the world of birth and rebirth.
We give ourselves as offerings to end suffering
We ask, O Lord, for your continued presence among us
to turn the wheel of dharma”
(all) NAMO AMITABHAYA
“Our Father in Heaven, in You we sense the presence of the Inexplicable Almighty One, and in the flowers, fields, animals, dust and energies in the universes seen and unseen, we sense the presence of the Almighty One.
Father, please accept the offerings of our heart, mind and souls, which we express as offerings of light and incense on this altar.
We take sanctuary Lord, in your magnificent simplicity and compassion.
We take refuge Lord in that you care for the souls of our loved ones, that you hold them close and guard them from evil even as they go through trails and purifications.
We take courage Lord in the knowledge that we will join again in heaven those whom we love, and those who love us.
We take courage Lord, in knowing we will see heaven first in our hearts, then in everlasting life.
May the blessings of the Compassionate Saviour Avalokitesvara (some add Buddha, Lord or Jesus) speak to our hearts and transform us to know that divine humility, simplicity and compassion of heaven.
May the blessing of the Holy Spirit Great Wisdom carry us and our loved ones through this life and beyond.
May those merits transform all sentient beings, and bring about release from this cycle or birth, death, and rebirth on earth.
Heavenly Father, we hand over to your loving and most capable hands, and to you Lord Avalokitesvara (or Jesus) our beloved friend name of deceased.”
(all) NAMO AMITABHAYA
name of departing beloved, we remember you for every kind deed you did among us, for every compassionate way in which you touched our lives, and for every beauty you brought.
name of departing beloved, until we meet again, we bid you farewell as you journey ahead;
Go, go, go beyond, go beyond the beyond, there in the True Reality…so be it. gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā.”
(all) OM SHANTI SHANTI OM
This final act in the Funeral or Celebration of Life Ceremony may last anywhere from minutes to days, depending on the organizers. Most often, it involves partaking in the departing soul’s favourite foods, alcohol, music, poems, and slide shows of his/her life. People may tell tales, or hare fond memories. People address the departing beloved and say their farewells, because the beloved is there, celebrating with them. It is deeply sad and joyous at the same time.
For some communities it is a great celebration of the life and times of the departing one, which eventually gives way to a cathartic and merry event marked by frequent toasts to the departing soul. For some, it remains a solemn occasion without the party.
In older days the deceased body was present during the ceremony. Some tradions would dress the body in favorite clothes and have it present in the congregation. This is not commonly practised nowadays. We have improved in our sense of public safety and hygiene is now common sense.
We have children playing games, cousins and family not seen often gather for good times. It is a family reunion and a gathering of friends. It is a celebration of a life and the continuation of the presence of the soul in the family and community. As angels remain present with us as advisers and guides, so too do loved ones care about us when they leave the body.
People recite poems, read statements, some just need to say a final word or two, we sing songs we associate with their memory. We do’nt necessarily make statements to eulogise for the sake of good form, but we step into conversation wth a loved one. In some traditions, for example, people would apt songs like “I Bid You Goodnight”, or something dear to them: