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Thread: Death Zen

  1. #1

    Death Zen

    With my godfather now 87 and mother in ill health, :| my thoughts have been about planning for the inescapable, impermanence, death.

    Being that I am a nominal Unitarian Universalist, I own these two books:

    1. Great Occasions
    Readings for the Celebration of Birth, Coming-of-Age, Marriage, and Death

    What are the great occasions in human life? Birth, maturity, marriage, and death: These are the four corners of human life. These are the crystallizing events, the distinguishable days, the great occasions. Carl Seaburg has brought together over 650 pieces of writing to commemorate these moments. Poetry and prose, the work of writers as diverse as Aiken, Pound, Dickinson, Seneca, Blake, Buddha, Brontė, Marcuse, Stevens, Sexton, Tagore, Lippman, Sandburg, Sarton, Pasternak, Lao Tzu, Yevtushenko, and Yeats-the rich expression of human appreciation and celebration of our own great occasions.

    2. In Memoriam

    A Guide to Modern Funeral and Memorial Services
    Second Edition

    Based on years of experience in the ministry, Searl offers sensitive, practical advice for one of life's most difficult ceremonial passages. This updated and expanded version includes new material on writing obituaries, alternative settings, the rural cemetery movement, interment of ashes, cremation and selecting monuments and memorials. In Memoriam also offers information on writing a eulogy, traditional and non-traditional memorial customs, grieving, creating unique and memorable services on a budget, and more. Features eleven sample services to be used as they are or adapted.
    Nishijima is quoted as saying that the Soto-shu is "guild of funeral directors." And there is much talk about impermanence in Soto Zen circles. But. I googled and youtubed (new verbs?), there is really not much that I found in the way of..." are Buddhist ...and you want to do your own funeral services, here is A, B, C..".

    So. What are some funeral services one could do for a loved one? :?:

  2. #2

    Re: Death Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    So. What are some funeral services one could do for a loved one? :?:
    In Japan, the portion of the funeral conducted by the monks is only one portion of a much more elaborate, and beautiful, series of events ... some of which would be quite shocking to Westerners who are usually kept removed from the deceased (such as keeping the body at home and sleeping next to it for a few days, drinking sake and telling stories like an Irish Wake, laughing and crying ... the family's joining in washing of the body before it is placed in the casket, and the family ... even little children helped by parents, in my experience at funerals in my wife's family ... each placing, one by one, the remaining bones of the cremated loved one into the urn with a special set of chopsticks. It all makes for a profound "farewell") Here is a description of some of that ...

    For two popular films that really capture the beauty and sometime crassness of funerals (and funeral business) in Japan ...

    The chanting portion of a Buddhist funeral, at least as it is typically conducted in Japan, is basically a monk's ordination ... so that everyone gets where they are going as a monk. For a very detailed account on history and content, read from page 247 here "The Structure of Japanese Buddhist Funerals" ...

    But let's put all that formal ritual aside ...

    I will be speaking mostly first from personal experience, as the few funerals I have performed have been for people close to me ... my mother just before she died asked me to lead a "Jewish/Buddhist/Whatever" (her words) funeral for her ... my friend "Danny" (the fellow for who I wrote the "747" story I posted a few days ago) ...

    Danny's family also requested a Buddhist inspired funeral, and not a formal Buddhist rite (although his wife is Japanese, the funeral took place in the United States). For my mother, I played some old music recordings she made. In both cases, I offered a heartfelt talk ... Danny's wife was a potter, so I said that we are vessels made of clay (something like that).

    In both cases, the heart of the service was when I asked people attending to stand up and offer a story about how they knew the deceased, or something that summed up his character. Suddenly, real heart felt and beautiful stories came out. At Danny's funeral, I then chanted the Heart Sutra. I do not remember if I also chanted the Shariraimon (Homage to the Buddha's Relics), as I did here for my late friend Rev. Jiho ...

    Personally, I think it most important that you make something that speaks from the heart, not just any traditional ritual.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2012 at 02:32 PM.

  3. #3

    Re: Death Zen

    I do not know anything about Buddhist funerals aside from what I have read in a few books. Regardless, I believe a funeral should be the celebration of a life as opposed to the mourning of death. Also Erik, while planning is good do not allow yourself to get so preoccupied with planning that you miss out on the moments here and now that you have with your loved ones. I do not think you will, but I have done this before in my own past and now know that the moments now are too precious to waste.

    My thoughts are with you,

  4. #4

    Re: Death Zen

    Jundo-Thanks for all the info. I was just thinking something that would incorporate something Buddhist with our individual touches.

    Jen--I hear ya. Unfortunately, you have to plan and in each moment say what you feel to the living. My aunt owns a funeral home in Mexico so I known for a while about the costs and paperwork that surrounds death. A couple of years ago, one of my co-workers died suddenly of a heart attack. The guy was with friends drinking a beer and eating a taco. Took a step forward and plop! just died. Hardworking guy, but his wife and teenage son didn't have $$$ to pay for the services, casket, and paperwork. My former boss helped them get tru this. Saw first hand that even death needs a bit of planning. Actually, my 87 godfather asked my brother and me to start looking for pricing on cremation, urn, and all that. He already saved the $$ for his funeral. There is a song by a conjunto Mexican musician, Ramon Ayala, that is one of my favorites. He sings about how one should "I Love You" to our beloved ones when they are alive. "Don't waste money on flowers at the cemetery. They can't smell them."

  5. #5

    Re: Death Zen

    nothing to add here but departures is a beautiful film worth the look.


  6. #6

    Re: Death Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by Shohei
    nothing to add here but departures is a beautiful film worth the look.

    It is. Saw it yesterday tru netflix. Thank you Jundo.

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