Funeral Rituals: Chinese Theravada Buddhists Essay

1508 words - 6 pages

Theravada Buddhism:Theravada or the "Doctrine of the Elders," is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon, which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings. The Buddha, or the "Awakened One", named the religion he founded Dhamma-vinaya which means “the doctrine and discipline.", the Buddha established the order of bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns) -the Sangha , to provide a social structure supportive of the practice of Dhamma-vinaya and to preserve these teachings for posterity, which continues to pass his teachings on to subsequent generations of laypeople and monastic’s alike to this day.The Dhamma continued to spread across India after the Buddha passed but as it did, different interpretations of the teachings of the Dhamma arose and this caused division within the Sangha and brought about the formation of as many as 18 distinct sects of Buddhism. One of these schools eventually gave rise to a reformation movement that called itself Mahayana (the "Greater Vehicle") and that referred to the other schools disparagingly as Hinayana (the "Lesser Vehicle"). What we call Theravada today is the sole survivor of those early non-Mahayana schools.Death of a Buddhist:According to Introduction to World Religions, Buddhists stress that there is continuity after death, but that the ultimate goal of religious practice is not an after-death state. The term most often used is ‘rebirth’. Most Buddhists prefer this term to ‘reincarnation’, since they do not believe that there is an unchanging soul to reincarnate, but rather an ever-changing process of cause and effect. Death is believed to lead continually to rebirth after rebirth until greed, hatred and delusion are eradicated. For the Theravada, one can be reborn into any of five realms: (1) The hells; (2) The animal world; (3) The realm of the hungry ghosts; (4) The realm of humans; and (5) The realm of the gods. Mahayana Buddhists have added another heavenly realm, (6) that of the demi- gods. Each realm is linked to a particular emotion or characteristic. They are in fact states of mind as well as states of being. The goal of the Buddhist path is to go beyond all of these realms by attaining nirvana, through eradicating greed hatred and delusion.From Anthology of World Scriptures, we learn that the Bardo Thodol, popularly known as the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” is probably the most famous Tibetan scripture. It is a book which is read when a when a Buddhist is nearing death and after the Buddhist has died. The purpose of these readings is “to guide the soul of the deceased through the intermediate (“Bardo”) state to a happy reincarnation.” It is believed that as soon as the death of the body has taken place, the personality or spirit/soul goes into a state of trance for four days. During this time, the person does not know they are dead. This...

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