• By Nhat Quan
    Talking about the meaning of the requiem ceremony, or to say it enough, it is the meaning and prayer for the deceased in the spirit of Buddhism. First of all, you learn about the meaning of the word prayer. The word prayer is a noun that you can understand in many ways and meanings. Among human religions, there are religions that believe, worship, and pray to God, because they consider him to be:
    - A supreme, omnipotent, omniscient being created the world and is considered the founder of all living things.
    So the meaning of prayer in these religions means asking him for guidance, and protection or asking him for health, happiness, prosperity, and peace. And sometimes ask him to forgive the sins committed so that after death one can be born in heaven.
    It can be said right away that, as a Buddhist, you do not believe in gods or any authority bestowing favors or blessings. Therefore, praying for souls does not have such a meaning as above. On the other hand, Buddhists believe in karma whereby happiness or suffering is the result of the actions, words, and thoughts that each individual creates consciously. It is a natural law that operates and is not guided or arranged by anyone. Because nature operates according to a certain rule, it cannot be biased, sympathetic, or pitiful but forgive those who violate it. Also according to this law, the Law of Karma, sins cannot be forgiven by an external motivation, but can only be corrected by an antidote, which is actively cultivating good deeds. According to Buddhism, sin is not caused by violating or disobeying the laws and regulations set forth by a supreme being for humanity, but rather because of your own wrong actions through your body and mouth and intention ultimately leads to mental pollution, affliction and suffering.
    Thus, there is no praying for salvation in Buddhism in the usual sense, that is:
    - Pray for God to grant grace, or forgive sins so that the soul can be born in heaven.
    Because each of you must bear your own responsibility, no one else must bear the responsibility for the good, bad, and evil actions you create. So in the matter of requiem, it is not possible to requiem the person who has created a lot of negative karma to be liberated according to your wishes. All actions done during life are good or bad karma, after death, you will have to receive the results in the form of rebirth in good or bad high or low realms. That is, after death, you will be transcended, reborn in a peaceful state such as the Western Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha, the Eastern Pure Land of Medicine Buddha, or fall and be reborn in a miserable state like Hell, Hungry ghosts, or animals. That means it depends on the karma you have created.
    In this spirit, praying requiem means wishing the soul of the deceased to escape the suffering of hell, hungry ghosts, or animals. At the same time, one will be reborn in the human world or in other realms of Buddhahood or heaven. Therefore, true requiem must be a wish, a sincere intention, and a beneficial action to help the soul benefit in the process of rebirth. Therefore, family members must be single-minded and earnest in their prayers without entrusting themselves to monks, nuns, or anyone else. The monks and nuns only have the role of guiding the ceremony and what to do at the funeral.
    Requiem prayer only has meaning and value when the living person enlightens, warns, and helps the dead change their thoughts. Dharma words, sutras, and verses have the power to help spirits become enlightened, awake, and have a joyful mind, thanks to which they are happy and no longer suffering. The meritorious deeds that relatives do to dedicate to the spirits also bring many benefits to the spirits.
    When the dead know how to rejoice in your actions to create merit and blessings and develop reverence towards the Three Jewels, they have partly transformed their evil and unwholesome karma and increased their own blessings. Thanks to that, they were reborn in a happy state. Like the case of the mother of the Venerable Maudgalyayana, or the Queen of King Wu. When Venerable Maudgalyayana's mother was alive, she was greedy, stingy, did not believe in the Three Jewels, created much evil and unwholesome karma, so after death, she fell into the realm of hungry ghosts and had to endure suffering, hunger, and thirst. Venerable Maudgalyayana held a requiem, inviting Buddha and monks from ten directions to pray for her salvation. Thanks to the merit and blessings of Venerable Maudgalyayana's offerings to the Three Jewels and her joy at the Venerable's actions, she escaped the crime of being born as a hungry ghost.
    Liang-Wu-Ti's wife also created a lot of negative karma when she was present, so after she died she was born as a snake. Thanks to Liang-Wu-Ti, he invited the Venerable Chi Cong and the monks to open the Liang Wu Ti Repents to help her repent of her sins, thanks to which she escaped the life of a snake.
    While the Buddha was still alive, he once met a sinner whose hands and feet had been cut off and brought him a lotus flower as an offering. The Buddha told the Bhikkhus:
    - Thanks to this merit, during the next ninety-one lifetimes, the limbless person will not only avoid falling into the three evil realms of hell, hungry ghosts and animals, but will also be reborn in the heavens. After enjoying all the blessings of heaven, he will be reborn as a human being.
    In the Kutadanta Sutra of Digha Nikaya No. 5, the Buddha taught that:
    - Those who regularly make offerings to monks, build monasteries, pay homage to the Three Jewels, observe the five precepts, and practice other methods of practice are the ways of worship and prayer that truly bring the most benefits.
    Therefore, when you are still healthy, you should create good karma for yourself, because that is the only luggage you can carry with you after death, it determines your next life. This is what you need to pay attention to the most. As for the issue of requiem after death, it is only a predestined aid, only beneficial when the deceased's spirit hears the sound of verses and prayers and becomes enlightened and awake. The spirit lives with joy and reverence towards the Three Jewels, believes in the Dharma, and transforms its mind.
    Although the role of the spirit is primary, the second is the relatives of the deceased, followed by the purity of the ashram, the virtue and morality of the monks, and the sincerity and devotion of the relatives of the deceased, along with the blessings they have created and dedicated to the soul.
    Although the spirits play a decisive role, because the spirits can change their thoughts, let go of deluded ideas, let go of afflictions, greed, and attachments, and change their karma, then they will be liberated. But without the help and support of monks and relatives by enlightening, warning, and guiding the soul to direct its mind towards the Three Jewels and do good deeds to dedicate merit and blessings to the spirit, the spirit will hard to hope for escape. Therefore, relatives need to support the spirit so that it can escape suffering and receive benefits.
    Thus, requiem prayer is also considered a spiritual cultural activity, an activity of spiritual life, and has long become a practical need for those who care about spiritual values. In life, everyone wants to be safe, happy, healthy, live a long life, have many favorable conditions, few risks, few uncertainties... So everyone wants their loved ones to be with them after they pass away, they will be reborn in happy realms, return to Buddha or Heaven, or at least become human again, and not fall into the miserable realms of hell, hungry ghosts, or animals. That is a legitimate need to pray for your loved ones. At the same time, praying for all the souls who have not yet gone beyond the cycle of birth and death, including the souls of people in the family, society, nation, and humanity, is a beautiful gesture worthy of encouragement and praise, is a job imbued with human love and rich in compassion. It is a job that shows the kindness and feelings of the living towards the deceased, demonstrating the connection between people even though they live in two completely different worlds.
    Thus, requiem with the desire to help those souls who have not yet escaped to escape, and are in a state of suffering, to escape from suffering, is also an expression of compassion, and that work needs to be carefully developed. Thus, the meaning of requiem and the method of requiem are considered the most noble offerings, more precious than all offerings, which is to practice the Buddha's Dharma. So requiem is not just necessary but very necessary, because this is a way for you to do good deeds, happy moments, and opportunities to gradually distance your body, mouth, and mind from the five desires, is an opportunity for the heart to open up to receive the golden light. Therefore, when those who have recently passed away relatives come to the temple to pray for salvation, it is an opportunity for everyone to do good, avoid evil, give alms, maintain precepts, chant sutras, and meditate. Thanks to that, current relatives can benefit in both the present and future lives. Therefore, if the usual forms of requiem, worship, and offerings are supported by noble offerings, that is, supported by practicing the Buddha's Dharma, the path to a place of happiness is not far, and you must know:
    - Practicing the Tathagata's Dharma is the most noble offering to the Tathagata.
    Talk about noble offerings. One day, after eating the lunch offered by Cunda, the Buddha did not feel well, but he still tried his best to go to Kusinara, to live in the Sala forest of King Mala. When he arrived, he told Master Ananda:
    - Hey Ananda, Tathagata is tired and wants to rest. Spread out the place to lie down with Tathagata's head facing the North, between two trees.
    Venerable Ananda:
    - Yes, World-Honored One
    Master Ananda followed the Buddha's teachings, after spreading out of the bed, the Buddha lay down with his head facing north, leaning to the right, lying like a lion, his left leg resting on his right leg, his mind completely awake.
    At that time, even though it was out of season, the two Sala trees were still in bloom, filling their branches and leaves. Flowers were scattered on the Buddha's body to make offerings to him. Meanwhile, the Manjushri flower also gently fell from the air, then bounced up and scattered on the Buddha's body. Heavenly music resounds to make offerings to Him. Buddha called Ananda to teach:
    - Hey Ananda, the Sala trees bloom out of season and the flowers bloom to fill the branches and leaves. These flowers were spread everywhere and scattered on Tathagata's body as offerings. Manjush flowers fell from the sky and scattered all over Tathagata's body as offerings. Sandalwood dough fell from the sky, then tossed up and scattered on Tathagata's body, heavenly music played from space to make offerings to Tathagata.
    However, Ananda, this is not how you respect, worship, make offerings, and glorify the Tathagata. Ananda, regardless of whether a Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni, good man or woman practices the Dharma correctly, lives righteously in the Dharma, and maintains noble conduct, that person is a person who reveres, worships, makes offerings, and glorifies the Tathagata. Therefore, Ananda, you must strive to practice, practice according to the Dharma, live righteously in the Dharma, and maintain noble conduct.
    Thus, in requiem, as the Buddha taught, even making offerings with precious pearls is not a noble way of reverence. As the Buddha once taught:
    - You should not honor him by making offerings and worshiping him. Even making offerings with precious pearls is not a noble way of reverence. But you must practice according to the method that He experienced and taught in order to be soon liberated and attain the same status as Him. That is the noble way of offering.
    Currently, because of the influence of many factors in real life, there are also people who go to temples to worship to pray for Buddha's blessings, pray for prosperity in business, pray for the birth of a son or daughter, pray for good health... But anyway, such local rituals are also a good starting point for you to have the opportunity to get closer to the religion. I just hope that those respectful rituals don't go too far outside the Buddha's teachings, causing you to only cling to them, to only be slaves to those forms, causing stubbornness, distraction, or deviation from the path of pure Buddhism is okay.
    In short, you are a Buddhist who has had the process of studying and immersing yourself in the ocean of Buddha Dharma, so you know that, although the Buddha has passed away, his life and Dharma still have a great influence on us, with humanity today. That influence is a vitality so vivid and real that Buddhists feel like the Buddha is still alive. Some people want to make that feeling come true by offering food to the Buddha even though they know that he cannot eat it.
    The meaning of requiem or prayer, as well as all forms of worship and chanting by Buddhists, is not to beg the Buddha for salvation, but has the sole purpose of respecting the Buddha and voluntarily following His example to complete His mission of self-realization and enlightenment of others.
    Normally, every time Buddhists or non-Buddhists come to a temple, they often make offerings of lamps, incense, and fruits as an act of expressing respect, worship, or gratitude to the Buddha. Going beyond those practices, Buddhists have a more enlightened attitude than just an act of worship, looking up to the Buddha's shining personality and his wonderful teachings without thinking about anything else.
    Being flexible like this is very beneficial because Buddhists have more faith and diligence on the path because you always think that Buddha is always with you in all your daily activities and at the same time. Such requiem and worship add to the warmth and solemnity. It is a way to prove that the Buddha's influence on people, at all times, remains unchanged but on the contrary, can still be maintained as when the Buddha was alive.
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