Should Others Smile Or Cry At Your Wake?

a crying woman with her eyes closed
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— 净土宗十三祖印光大师

At this moment, of the greatest attainable benefits, nothing is more beneficial than to wholeheartedly recite the name of Buddha [Āmítuófó]. Of the greatest harms, nothing is more harmful than to rashly [touch or] move the body, and to cry.

— Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death)

In ‘Sebastian Maniscalco: Is It Me?’, he humorously shared about his father’s preparation for death, ‘He recently told me what’s gonna happen when he dies. [1] Italians talk about death. It’s really out in the open. Especially old-school Italians. [2] They pay for everything while they’re alive, so the kids don’t have to do it. [3] He’s like, “When I die, you cry. That’s it. You call Mario at the Cumberland Funeral Home when I die. That’s it. Everything’s paid for, in advance.”… [4] My Dad wants the whole thing, a wake. The whole thing. [5] He don’t want no… People do this now, celebration of life, right? He’s like, “I don’t want a celebration. [6] I don’t want anybody happy when I die!”‘

Here are some Buddhist perspectives to share[1] Buddhists talk about impending death openly too. In fact, they discuss at length about rebirth, and the importance of liberating from the cycle of birth and death. [2] Expenses needed for Buddhist funerals cost little. In fact, most expenses revolve around administrative and supportive processes needed only, while sincere and personal chanting sessions to guide and deliver the deceased need not cost a cent. [3] Crying, although ‘natural’, is not encouraged before the recently deceased, as the consciousness, if around, might give rise to attachment, thus losing peace of mind and sense of direction.

[4] The essence of ‘the whole thing’ to have, for a fruitful wake, is proper and adequate guidance and support-chanting for the deceased, for the best rebirth, to where liberation is assured (since it is difficult to be liberated directly). [5] ‘Celebration of life’ with joy and laughter, speeches and parties might create attachment and aversion too, that distract the deceased from a better rebirth, to possibly become a wandering spirit. [6] Wakes might not be occasions of happiness particularly, but it is possible that the bereaved and visitors depart with smiles – if one departed peacefully, what more with clear auspicious signs of having secured rebirth in Pure Land. Is it not the best, if everyone, including the departed, are inspired and happy?


— 净土宗十三祖印光大师

If rashly [touching or] moving and crying, this can cause the rise of anger and hatred, and the mind of passionate attachment. Thus desiring to be born in the Western Pure Land, of ten thousand such persons, not even one can.

— Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death)

Related Teachings:

The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death

What To Chant When Dying, After Death, During And After Wakes

How To Know If The Deceased Has Reached Pure Land?

Should We Follow New Funeral Trends?

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