chapter  4
14 Pages

Feasting for the dead: Theravāda Buddhist funerals

ByRITA LANGER

The countries of South and Southeast Asia that belong to the Theravāda school of Buddhism (Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos) share the reliance on the version of the Buddhist canon and its commentaries that is composed in Pāli, the sacred and ritual language of the Theravādins. Despite the fact that not all monks and indeed very few laypeople know Pāli, these texts have shaped the religious outlook of that region. They also play an important part in the liturgy of Theravāda Buddhist funerals, when monks chant canonical verses (e.g. for protection or blessing), retell Pāli stories (such as the Vessantarajātaka) in the local vernacular, and draw on topical verses to provide a theme for their sermons (e.g. on suffering or impermanence).