Being culturally aware means not walking into a Buddhist funeral wearing flashy outfits with bright colours. While monochrome neutrals are best preferred at Buddhist funerals, on some occasions you might see some pink being worn. Yellow is another colour that is commonly present at Buddhist funerals – this is mostly seen in flowers and tentage.
You might be curious about these colours. Sombre shades make sense for an event meant for mourning – but what about the pink and yellow? Like with other traditions and cultures, various colours have special meanings in Buddhism. Before you make any mistake with the colour of your clothes or sympathy gifts, let’s learn about these colours and what they stand for.
Generally, white is a symbol of knowledge, learning, purity and longevity. Some Buddhists believe in meditating upon the colour to clear their ignorance and gain wisdom. As such, white is often seen as a colour of rest and thinking.
In the context of funerals, white is popularly used for its representation of purity and emancipation. Sympathy flowers, garments, and tentage may all be white. According to Buddhist beliefs, death is an escape from one life and the beginning of a new life. Thus, white encompasses this hope for the departed to have been pure in heart, and to move on to their next life in peace.
In some Buddhist funerals, families and guests may choose to wear pink if the deceased was 80 years of age or older. This vibrant colour may seem strange at a funeral, but its purpose is precisely to celebrate a long life that is well-lived. You can get a clue of whether the deceased was 80 years or older if you receive an invitation in pink.
Other than for this reason, shades of pink or red are generally not appropriate at a funeral, as these are associated with happiness and celebration, not for mourning.
In many cultures, black is a sombre colour, and the colour of mourning – and in Buddhism, that is no different.
For Buddhist funerals, guests and families typically wear black or white. The exact colours depend on the Buddhist traditions the family chooses to follow.
Yellow is a significant colour in Buddhism, as you will see in the tentage of funerals, and colour of sympathy flowers. Outside the context of funerals, yellow is also prominent in shades of monk’s clothing and temple architecture. To people who practise Buddhism, the colour is associated with holiness and enlightenment.
That is why yellow is a popular colour of choice for tentage around the casket area, where an image of Buddha is also displayed. Yellow and shades of orange remind Buddhists of the flame, a symbol of truth. It is also a representation of every human’s journey towards the eventual goal of enlightenment.
Now that you know the meaning behind the colours seen at Buddhist funerals, you can have a deeper appreciation for what Buddhists hold dear. The next time you attend a Buddhist funeral, you can see the colour choices in a new light.
For those who are still not so sure about the colours to choose for a Buddhist funeral service, a seasoned Buddhist funeral company can aid you. We provide Buddhist casket services and more to help families in the traditions of a Buddhist funeral and organise a dignified send-off for their departed loved one.