ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Attending a Buddhist Funeral and Cremation Ceremony in Rural Thailand

Updated on July 29, 2020
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul first visited Thailand in 1996 and has been retired in Siam since 2007. He has a beautiful and loving Thai wife and can speak Thai.

Coffin of deceased in front of the furnace of the Dongsakol Temple crematorium
Coffin of deceased in front of the furnace of the Dongsakol Temple crematorium | Source

Funerals and Cremation in Rural Thailand

Funerals and cremation in rural Thailand are very different from the United States.

In the United States, death, funerals, and cremation are difficult unpleasant subjects for many people to deal with. Cremations are handled by funeral homes and I am not aware of anyone who has attended one.

I found in rural Thailand, however, that death, funerals, and cremation are not as taboo as they are in the U.S. This is because 99 percent of the Thai population is Buddhist and view death as passing into a reborn future life. The Thai funeral and cremation ceremony, therefore, although sad, is also a time to celebrate the life of the deceased.

In this article, I recall the events following my mother-in-law's younger sister Jom's death on February 21, 2020, until the cremation ceremony on February 24. They include where the deceased was kept after death, the funeral procession, and ceremony at the Buddhist temple crematorium before cremation.

What Happens Following Death

My mother-in-law's younger sister Jom passed away in an Udonthani, Thailand, hospital on February 21, 2020. The 76-year-old Jom had been seriously ill in the hospital for one week before her death.

Following her death, Jom's body was released to her immediate family who brought the deceased back to the home where she had lived in my mother-in-law's village.

Before the hospital released the body, it was embalmed and placed in a refrigerated casket. The casket was then placed in the living room of the family of the deceased. It was surrounded by wreaths, candles, and sticks of incense.

From February 21 until the funeral and cremation ceremony on the 24th, the closed casket of the deceased was on display for all mourners and people paying respect. My wife and I paid our respect during the day on the 23rd. We did this by lighting a candle and stick of incense and then placing them on the floor next to the casket. Seven Buddhist monks were invited on the evenings of the 21st-23rd to offer chants for the deceased.

The deceased was a Buddhist. This religion views death as a natural part of the life cycle of a past life, present life, and future life. Death leads to reincarnation in which a person's spirit remains close by and seeks out a new body and new life. Where and how a person is reborn depends on their good and bad actions in the past life. The spirit will be with the body until it is released at the time of cremation. For this reason, the chanting of monks and offerings by mourners and people paying respect will help the spirit of the dead be reborn in a favorable body.

From left to right:  mother-in-law, daughter of deceased, and my wife
From left to right: mother-in-law, daughter of deceased, and my wife | Source
Casket of the Deceased
Casket of the Deceased | Source
Places for seven monks to sit for evening chants in the home of the deceased.
Places for seven monks to sit for evening chants in the home of the deceased. | Source

The Funeral Procession

At about 1:00 p.m. on February 24, the casket of the deceased was taken from its home and placed on the back of a pickup truck. Six men or pallbearers were on the back of the truck to ensure the casket was secure during the funeral procession.

The funeral procession went from the home of the deceased in the village of Nongyibao to the Dongsakol Temple two kilometers away. It was led by 11 monks in pickup trucks followed by the pick-up truck hearse. Behind the hearse was a vehicle with the immediate family mourners. A white string connected the monks with the hearse and the family mourners. Other mourners followed in a big truck and personal vehicles.

During the funeral procession, the lights of vehicles were not turned on as they are in the United States. It was interesting to see small white flowers scattered by the monks on the road during the procession.

After reaching the crematorium on the temple grounds, the procession of monks, hearse, and immediate family members walked and rode around the crematorium three times in a counter-clockwise direction.

Next, the simple wooden coffin of the deceased was removed from the casket and placed on a stand just outside of the crematorium furnace.

Funeral Procession Around the Village Temple Crematorium

Source
Source

Pre-Cremation Ceremonies

Following the funeral procession, monks, mourners, and people paying respect were seated in and near a pavilion not far from the crematorium.

A master of ceremony first gave a eulogy that mentioned all family survivors. They included my mother-in-law and her younger brother. The names of the head of Nongyibao Village and its school leaders were also noted.

Next, the head monk of a group of 11 led a series of chants for the deceased.

Following the chants, two traditional Thai dancers put on a small performance in front of the crematorium.

The final ceremony was paying last respect to the deceased. First, monks removed the lid of the coffin to expose the body of the deceased wrapped in a white sheet with only head showing.

Next, the monks and family members then, in turn, dipped a yellow flower in Buddhist sacral water and sprinkled it on the face of the deceased.

Following this, other mourners were invited to come up to the coffin. Everyone had a small piece of wood that they first placed in the coffin before sprinkling the face of the deceased with water.

After descending the steps of the crematorium, all mourners were presented with a small hand towel. Finally, members of the family scattered pieces of candy for all mourners to retrieve.

The ceremony ended at around 3:00 p.m. As customary, the deceased was cremated at dusk and the body burned throughout the night. The following morning, family members gathered the unburned bone fragments from the crematorium.

Gathering at the Pre-Cremation Ceremony

Traditional Thai Dancing

Ascending for a Final View of the Deceased

Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thank you very much for your condolences, maxwell. I am pleased that you found this article very informative.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I am very pleased that this article gave you an insight into Thai culture. Thanks for your comments.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thank you very much for your compliment, MG. I would be very interested in comparing Buddhism to Hinduism.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for commenting. There are so many customs and ceremonies different from the U.S. here.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Yes, Thai culture makes funerals and cremations special.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I am very happy you found this article interesting and liked my pictures.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting, Devika

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for commenting. I am very happy you learned a lot and enjoyed my article.

    • mxkamlongera profile image

      Maxwell Kamlongera 

      6 months ago

      Sorry for your family's loss, Paul. With that said, I find it quite interesting how different cultures handle funeral rites and also how religion may or may not affect the process. A very informative read.

    • raymondphilippe profile image

      Raymond Philippe 

      6 months ago from The Netherlands

      Thanks for describing this Buddhist funeral ceremony. It was interesting to gain some insight in another culture.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I am very happy you liked this article, Liz.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I am happy you liked this article, Louise.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      6 months ago from UK

      This is a well -weitten and detailed account. It is interesting to read how death is dealt with in another culture.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh emge 

      6 months ago from Singapore

      This is a very interesting description of a Buddhist funeral. Reminds me the basic principle of life after death is ingrained in Hinduism also. Hinduism also believes in the theory of transmigration of soul and rebirth.This is the essence of Hindu thought and Buddhist also. I compliment you sir on an excellent account of the Buddhist funeral

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for telling us about Buddhist funeral and cremation ceremonies where you live. As you said, while sad, it is also celebratory.

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 

      6 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

      Wow, every culture has things that make it special. The water and candy are really cool.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 months ago from Sunny Florida

      These funerals are so interesting and filled with some joy it seems. I appreciate all of this informaiton as it is new to me. Your pictures are also very good.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I have not been to one but you made me feel as I have and this is informative and interesting to know of another culture.

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 

      6 months ago

      Excellent article. I learn a lot about a Buddhist funeral and their cremation process. I enjoyed reading this and found it fascinating.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      6 months ago from Norfolk, England

      This was very interesting to read. I've never been to a Buddhist funeral before. The pictures and video helped too. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your mother-in-law's sister.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)