For Buddhists, death is part of life, rebirth, and the reincarnation cycle. Many view the passing of a loved one as part of the grand design of the universe. Death is not to be seen as something “bad” but rather an opportunity to reflect on the person’s life.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Short Buddhist Funeral Poems for a Eulogy
- Uplifting Buddhist Funeral Poems or Readings
- Sad Buddhist Funeral Poems or Readings
- Zen Buddhist Funeral Poems or Readings
Buddhist funerals incorporate prayers and readings such as poetry and verses into the service. These readings honor the person’s life and encourage attendees to live according to Buddhist teachings. If you need a poem to read at your loved one’s funeral, choose an option from the selection below that best represents your loved one’s life and values.
Short Buddhist Funeral Poems for a Eulogy
These short poems are perfect to read at a Buddhist funeral or memorial service. Choose one that best represents your loved one.
1. "The Eight Things to Remember” by Jetsun Milarepa
Read this for someone who didn’t seek fame and fortune but enjoyed their family and friends. Milarepa admonishes the reader to remember that fame and fortune will pass away and they should not be the focus of life.
2. "Wind in the Forest – Solitude" by Venerable Sujiva
Was your loved one at home in the peace and quiet of nature? Did they live simply and enjoy those around them? If so, read this poem at their funeral.
3. "Chasing the World" by Zen Gatha
If your loved one didn’t chase the world but lived in peace with all around him and allowed his life to adjust to life’s circumstances, read this short poem. Friends and relatives alike will recognize your relative in these lines:
“Chasing after the world
Allowing it all to come to me
4. "The World in Yourself" by Daikaku
The lines of this poem are perfect for the person who sought out the truth about life and existence. The beginning of the poem states,
“You must find out
Whether the mountains, rivers, grass, and forests
Exist in your own mind or exist outside it.”
If you recognize your loved one in these lines, consider reading the whole poem at their funeral.
5. "Strong in the Rain" by Kenji Miyazawa
Miyazawa shares what kind of person he strives to be in the lines of this poem. If your loved one tried to be like the lines of this poem, consider reading this in their honor.
“He never loses his temper
Nor the quiet smile on his lips
He does not consider himself
In whatever occurs…his understanding
Comes from observation and experience
And he never loses sight of things”
6. "Be at Peace" by Thich Nhat Hanh
Read this poem for anyone who found peace in their existence and their place in the world. The first lines can be read to represent the way someone lived or to share their message with those in attendance.
“Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds.
Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.”
Uplifting Buddhist Funeral Poems or Readings
These poems will bring an uplifting feel to any funeral or memorial service by focusing on the positive in a person’s life.
7. "Peace Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat-Hanh
This short poem highlights the beauty of living on earth and gaining peace through nature. Nhat-Hanh concludes by affirming,
“Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.”
8. "A Buddhist Reflects on Happy Living" by Vijaya Samarawickama
This poem talks about living life to the fullest and enjoying each day that comes. Read this for someone who enjoyed life and to encourage funeral attendees to do the same.
9. "Love" by Gurulugomi
Read this for someone who gave without expecting anything in return, was humble, and loved those around them. This is best for someone who fit these words:
“Helpful but not interfering,
cool and refreshing,
giving more than taking,
dignified but not proud,
soft but not weak.”
10. "Life" by Daisaku Ikeda
Read this for someone who is:
“Known for being happy and honest
A person in whom people can have absolute trust…
[A person who knows] that the power to create happiness
Derives from what we actually do today.”
11. "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Though not from a Buddhist author, this poem embodies many of the same beliefs a Buddhist holds dear. The first lines encourage the reader and listener to think of the deceased as not really gone.
“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.”
12. "The Moment I Die" by Thich Nhat Hanh
This poem encourages those left behind to think of the deceased as always present in every moment. If the deceased is thought of during the day, during sunset walks, and other moments of life, then they aren’t really gone.
Sad Buddhist Funeral Poems or Readings
Sad poems can be used to emphasize mourning and loss. These poems will do that. You might also consider reading one or more Buddhist prayers for the dead in addition to these options below.
13. "Touching on My History" by Manjusvara
The writer of this poem talks about death waiting for him. He acknowledges death’s presence even though he tries to ignore it most of the time. In the end, he knows,
“One day we will meet.
And whether I am ready or not,
it will be ready;
it will be there waiting to take me.”
14. "Caught up in the Floating World" by Ryokan
This is a poem that talks about people who are caught up in the world and seek after fame and fortune just to realize it was worth nothing. These people are caught up in a floating world made of illusions.
Read this poem as a way to warn against the life your loved one lived or to share the message that they would have wanted to tell everyone at their funeral.
15. "Rebirth" by John Tiong Chunghoo
This short haiku talks about rebirth. While the words are perfectly in line with what Buddhists believe, some attendees could find this concept sad, as the final words declare, “The last life is a forgotten dream.”
16. "The Airport" by Manjusvara
This short poem inspired by world travels focuses on the commonality all humanity shares with the lines,
“There is only one human story:
it ends in leaving.”
17. "Fate of Buddhism" by Luo Zhihai
This poem is meditative and encourages the reader to contemplate their life and live right, otherwise they are only engaging in vanity and vain living.
18. "Portal to Inner Peace" by Bernedita Rosinha Pinto
If you want a truly meditative poem, this is the best there is. In her piece, Pinto talks about wandering through forest and stream, light and dark, hill and valley all while looking for inner peace.
If your loved one struggled with this concept or was unable to achieve peace, this poem will be a sad read as the last lines of the poem suggest a never-ending search for peace.
Zen Buddhist Funeral Poems or Readings
These funeral poems will inspire a sense of acceptance of the way the universe works.
19. "Ghazal - Buddah" by Manjusvara
The words of this poem remind funeral attendees of the fleeting nature of life on earth and encourage those left behind with the words,
“A golden thread of sympathy connecting us through all darkness.
Surely this is reason enough to smile?
Trust in our goal;
let things happen as they should.”
20. "Better" by Dhammapada
This poem proclaims that conquering personal desires is better than winning a thousand battles. Read this for someone who focused on ruling their spirit instead of ruling people.
21. "Where Are You Going?" by Dogen
Both the quest to understand and the quest to accept life are captured in the lines of this poem. Consider reading this at the funeral of a loved one that always sought answers to life’s questions but was content even if the answers could not be found.
“Do not ask me where I am heading,
As I travel in this limitless world
Where every step I take is my home.”
22. "Understand Reality" by Bodhidharma
This poem is best read rather than explained.
“If you use your mind to try and understand reality.
you will understand neither your mind nor reality.
If you try and understand reality without using your mind.
you will understand both your mind and reality.”
23. "Faith of Mind" by Seng-ts’an
This is the longest poem on this list but one well worth reading. Choose to read the whole thing or just a few verses that you think best represent your loved one.
24. "Walk and Touch" by Thich Nhat Hahn
This poem describes the way a Buddhist approaches life. The reader is admonished to,
“Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.”
25. "The Twin Verses" by Buddha
In this short reading, Buddha encourages people to love, not hate. This might be the shortest selection in this article, but is perfect for someone who lived by it.
“For hate is never conquered by hate.
Hate is conquered by love.
This is an eternal law.”
Honoring a Loved One with Poetry
Poetry distills long-held beliefs, faith, and passions into just a few eloquent lines. Consider choosing a poem that best fits the life your loved one lived to read at their funeral. If discussing funeral plans ahead of time, ask them if there is a poem they’d like to share. A short poem can serve as their final words of encouragement to all in attendance.
- “Buddhism Poems.” Religion, Poem Hunter, 2021. poemhunter.com.
- “Manjusvara – Three Poems and a Funeral.” Triratna News, The Buddhist Centre, 3 August 2011. thebuddhistcentre.com.
- “Poetry.” Resources, View On Buddhism, 2021. viewonbuddhism.org.