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I, Being of Sound Mind and Body…

Question:

Brian, I’ve been practicing for eight years. I will soon be going to an attorney to do my Will. I plan to be cremated. To be buried as a Buddhist, what other arrangements should I include in my Will?

Answer:

We discussed the preference of most Buddhists to be cremated here:

http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1164

There were many great comments and additional thoughts on that posts , so be sure to look at the comments.

Now on to your question. First, I am not a lawyer; my own will doesn’t contain anything special about my funeral. I’ll be dead, I don’t really care.

As far as special arrangements put into your will are concerned, that would be up to you. Like many other Buddhist practices and rituals, funerals are heavily influenced by the local culture. If you live and die in Japan or China, you would probably want a Japanese or Chinese-style funeral. Similarly, if you are an American or European, you would probably want a funeral that is “normal” for your homeland. If, however, you want a Japanese-style funeral in America (or any other non-standard combination), you should probably make arrangements for that beforehand.

In the other article I mentioned above, some of the commenters mentioned that they wanted a simple, environmentally-friendly funeral. These are things to discuss with your attorney, but if you really want it done right, you may want to contact a funeral director and talk about pre-planning. There’s always a chance that the executor of your estate won’t know anything about Buddhism. You probably don’t want a Zen ceremony if you are Tibetan, so it’s best to be very clear.

I dont really have much in the way of advice about this, so I’ll ask for reader input here. Have you done anything in YOUR will or made any special after-death arrangements that relate to your Buddhism? Please explain in the comment section.

5 comments to I, Being of Sound Mind and Body…

  • Shelly

    I’m not Buddhist (for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with not believing in it – just say I’m mostly uneducated about it, but what I hear, I like) – so I don’t know if my opinion fits well. But I’ve recently been doing my will/final arrangements, so I do have some opinions on that.

    I’m only 35, so I really don’t forsee my death as something that’s going to happen any time soon. However, I have a husband and three children, and the idea that an accident could happen (which is probably more likely at this age) just terrifies me that I would leave my family with no direction. So I’ve been working on this stuff myself.

    I feel the same as you: I want to be cremated. I’ve been thinking of the whole “scattering the ashes” thing, because I really don’t want my ashes to be in a urn on someone’s mantle, and I don’t want them put in some vault to be stored. There’s really no point to either situation. When I’m gone, I should be gone, you know?

    But there are things of mine that I want to go to certain children – like I want my wedding dress to go to my oldest daughter. I want my engagement ring to go to my son – hopefully to give to someone he wants to spend his life with. Little things like that.

    I also have a message in my will – I don’t know why, but I wanted this legal document to express that I really did put some thought into it, and it wasn’t just some “legal form I had to have,” I wanted it clear that I did it because i love my family, and I wanted to help as much as I could. So right in the will, I put in a clause that’s pretty much a letter to them – like a final goodbye (that I’m assuming I won’t have the chance to give them). Nothing sucks more than no closure – I’ve had friends die on me, and the last time I said anything to them was in anger. I know they don’t mind, but still – as a living person, it’s just nice to *know* they don’t mind, you know?

    I also want to stress the importance of a living will. I’ve had my own done for at least 10 years now – and Terry Schaivo was basically an illustration of exactly what I do NOT want to have happen. My husband is Catholic, and even though he doesn’t lie discussing this stuff, he’s already made it abundantly clear that he will not turn off the life support on me. I don’t want that. So he knows that if it boils down to it, and the worst happens, I’ve taken him out of the picture. the decision lies with my mother, sister and brother – all who know exactly how I feel about this because they feel the same way themselves. I know they would know when to do it – and because of what I’ve done, my husband won’t be burdened with that kind of decision.

    Other than that, I think it’s basically just whatever you want to do. But people do forget living wills – and I think those are just as important as your regular “I’ve died” type of will.

  • Deborah

    I am a lawyer, but as an individual interested in and practicing Buddhist teachings, I would include disposition of material assets (this is done as a kindness for family, friends, charitable organizations, etc.), but more importantly, to provide a written philosophy of life, what is important (an ethical will of sorts) and perhaps a bibliography of sources that may be of comfort.

  • Lee

    I’ve practiced for over 20 years… I have also been in the funeral/cemetery profession in various roles for most of that time. Please make your wishes known but not necessarily in a will. Wills are read long after the funeral is completed and I’ve seen many times where families have done and spent lots of money the deceased hadn’t wanted done. I have been working over the past 5 years in the area of ‘green funerals’ … I’ve worked with Joe Sehee who is head of the non profit Green Burial Council. You can go there and find certified funeral homes who adhere to ‘natural’ burial practices. The funeral profession is changing dramatically and you owe it to yourself to know your options and then let the people around you know what should and should not be done upon your death. Embalming is not required in any state…and advise your family to shop…large corporations own many funeral homes and cemeteries and charge much more than family owned business…(I know I ran the western U.S. for one such company.)
    http://www.greenburialcouncil.org
    Lee

  • Shanti

    hello, just a comment regarding your will and the funeral, (this is all of my opinion), as far as a will yes pass on your gratitude journal and any thoughts or feelings that you wish to share with your family or friends, as far as material objects, most of those things should be minimum as we practice non-attachment, the “funeral” in my opinion is for those who grieve and maybe a suggestion would be an inexpensive plan that allows family and friends to make decisions based upon their needs to grieve, just from previous experience funerals seem to be more of a closure for those who grieve, many people have many different beliefs regarding religion and asking them to participate in your belief when you are not here may not allow them to fully greive your death, I would encourage them to celebrate your life and death as they wish in a way that is comfortable for them

  • Brian Hernandez

    Great Advice from Brian.It really does’nt matter what happens to the cocoon after the butterfly has fled.I personally am also, requesting creamation.An eco-green way to go,and requesting that my ashes be spread out a spiritually amazing location like Yosemite Falls,Grand Canyon or Moro Rock at the Seqoiua National Forrest at Sunrise and my financial reminance ad belongings to loved ones.As for the over One Thousand Books and Historical Collectables may be given to someone who will appreciate Buddhist and Dictionaries of multiple languages,as well as books on Philosophy and World Religions,Books on Peace,Martial Arts,ETC.”The Body is in the Soul,not the other way around,the Soul is not in the Body.”~Brian Hernandez