How do Buddhists express condolences?

  • Since converting to Buddhism, I've been unsure how to express condolences when people pass away. Everything familiar that I might say comes from a Christian perspective such as "being in a better place" or "with the Lord now".



    Simply letting the family know that I'm thinking of them works. But I'm wondering what is typical or traditional in Buddhist countries (or among experienced Buddhists in the west) where teachings of impermanence and rebirth may change the mindset regarding death. What is the typical way to express condolences among Buddhists?


    Great question Robin111. I have had the same concern myself, even though I wasn't raised in a Christian family, Christian values seem to pervade my entire culture and language.

    My best friend is Buddhist and lives in Hong Kong. Her father just passed away and I want to send her something to let her know I'm there for her and I share in her loss. I would like to send something special to let her know she is loved and help her through this difficult time. Sending a simple card does not seem enough. Please let me know if you have any condolence gift ideas fitting for a Buddhist whom I love very much. Thank you

  • Here in Sri Lanka, we typically say "Anicca Vata Sankhara" or "Vaya-dhamma Sankhara" in the bereavement notices. When you meet the family members, you put your hands together and greet without smiling. You are not expected to say anything unless you are giving an eulogy. When you talk to people, you are expected to talk quietly and not to gossip. You can either inquire about funeral arrangements or engage in a Dhamma discussion.



    I suppose in the West, it's customary to say something. So you can probably say "May he/she attain Nibbana soon!"


    One concern for Westerners like myself is, if we say something like "May he/she attain Nibbana soon!" it will make us look strange, because the idea is not common in our culture.

    That would be a good entry point to introduce Buddhism to your relatives and friends. You can of course use an English word instead of 'Nibbana'. Ex: Enlightenment, Final Liberation. But using the word 'Nibbana' can also make them curious to find out what that is.

    @qweilun, I agree mentioning anything about Nibbana to a grieving family who believes their loved one is now in heaven for all eternity; probably wouldn't be appropriate. But Sankha, I really liked your answer. It's interesting to see how things are done outside this little corner of the world. Thank you! :)

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM

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