Buddhists believe that the dead are reborn at higher or lower planes of existence, depending on merits they have built up in this life and former lives.
A Vietnamese family meets with the monks at Khuong Viet Buddhist temple in Lørenskog. The atmosphere is serious, but not depressing. Together, they will try helping the soul of a recently deceased relative to gain clarity and peace in the spirit world, so that it can find its way to an rebirth in this world.
A large photograph of the dead person is displayed at a memorial altar beside the Buddha figure near the entrance to the temples ritual area. Flowers, candles and incense are all placed at the altar, together with offerings of fruit, cookies, soup and rice.
The temples spiritual leader recites from holy texts - sutras - that can help the dead. Other monks play wood blocks, bells, gongs and drums. The relatives of the dead person pray in front of where the photograph is displayed.
Ringing of a large bell further inside of the temple helps to summon the spirit of the deceased. The spirit then receives assistance from the living through instructions on how to orient itself in the spirit world. The ritual must be done so early after death as possible to hinder that the spirit becomes confused in its new existence, and loses its ability to find its way.
Buddhists believe that the dead are reborn at higher or lower planes of existence, depending on merits they have built up in this life and former lives. To enter death in a positive state of mind in the company of monks and family members can contribute to rebirth on a higher level.
In Buddhist philosophy, the word 'samsara' refers to a state where nothing remains the same - everything is either developing or decaying. Samsara has three aspects for Buddhists: suffering, change and the lack of an eternal self. This aspect of change throughout all of ones life helps people to accept that there is no eternal 'essence' in us, and the processes of change continue also after our physical death.
When a human understands samsara completely, it is as if a flame has been extinguished. One has achieved nirvana. This is the goal of all Buddhists. By achieving nirvana, a cycle is broken, and the spirit is not reborn again after death.
Buddhism has no dogmatic rules for what kind of care the body of the dead person should be given, aside that the process should be handled in a worthy and respectful way. The deceased may be cremated or buried, depending on the wishes of the family. White clothing and white headbands are symbols of mourning during the ceremony.