Question: Should we burn paper offerings with Buddhist wordings on them for the deceased?
Answer: ‘Rebirth money’ (往生钱) or ‘rebirth talismans’ (往生符) refers to usually yellow paper with mantras such as the Rebirth Mantra (往生咒) printed on them. In the Buddhist perspective, the folk superstition of burning such paper offerings, especially with Buddhist mantras is not only not needed, it should be avoided too. Historically, it is unfortunate that mantras came to be printed for this misguided purpose.
The custom of burning such fake ‘money’ is useless as it cannot be used by anyone for any purpose. It is worth noting that even for ghost stories throughout the ages, whether they are true or not, there are few of spirit beings actually using such ‘money’. Also, since the mantras on paper are meant as so-called ‘talismans’ for protection, to destroy them by burning helps no one. Mantras are meant for upholding, not burning. E.g. the Rebirth Mantra (or the name of Amituofo; Amitabha Buddha) is for recitation to guide birth in Amituofo’s Pure Land.
The above custom is harmful as representations of mantras are sacred, not to be destroyed, unless for returning to the elements respectfully due to severe damage. To purposely create or get mantras for destruction is the worst way to handle them. Also, as Great Master Yinguang warned, as many of such papers are carelessly and incompletely burnt, falling to the ground and mixing with rubbish, this creates grave karmic transgressions.
Question: Should we burn other paper offerings (other forms of ‘money’, houses, cars, and everyday items) during funerals and festive days for the deceased?
Answer: Likewise, in the Buddhist perspective, the burning of all other paper offerings only wastes time, energy, paper and money, while polluting the land and air. As above, there are no indisputable accounts of any being receiving re-materialised burnt items, or of any being requiring them. The custom of burning paper offerings arose only in Chinese folk culture, while neither non-Chinese humans nor non-Chinese spirit beings have ever bothered about it.
Should We Burn Everything To Re-create Everything?
General & Pure Land Practices During Ullambana & Qingming
Great Master Yinguang’s Advice Against Burning Paper Offerings