The above captioned letters from Mr. Quintus
Silva in recent issues of The Sunday Times and The Island,
spotlighting the simplistic feature of the unadorned coffin used
for the funeral of His Holiness the late Pope John Paul II,
deserve thoughtful reflection and appreciation of those of us
who perused the letters under reference.
In this context I would like to reproduce a
similar letter of mine carried in the Daily News of 16th July
1997 - by way of some further elucidation in relation to certain
aspects of down to earth simple funeral rites.
"A lesson in funeral rites"
The obsequies of the late venerable —
Rerukane Chandawimala spotlighted recently in the television and
print media, should serve as an eye-opener to all of us — both
the clergy and laity — in relation to the observance of funeral
The late prelate, acclaimed as a highly
erudite scholarly monk, well versed in the Dhamma
especially in the Vinaya, (discipline) Bhavana
(meditation) and Abhidhamma (higher metaphysics) led a
simple saintly life diffusing his great knowledge devoid of pomp
or pageantry. He was the author of a number of Dhamma treatises,
shunned publicity and exhibitionist displays of his great
Ven. Chandawimala was a monk who genuinely
observed the Buddha’s exhortation to lead a saintly life, not
only by disseminating the dhamma ethics but by truly practising
them as well in an exemplary manner. He had used a rough wooden
bed to sleep on and his bodily remains was carried on an equally
rough wooden structure and cremated in a rough wood pyre, bereft
of any decoration.
The late monk who - reportedly just short of
a couple of days to complete a century of human existence - had
earned the highest respect and reverence of all concerned. It is
therefore no wonder that he had willed a simple rustic form of
funeral be performed on his demise as practised by our clergy in
Our prelates and chief incumbent monks of
temples could take a cue from this unique event to shun
ostentatious funeral practices, by advising and persuading their
colleagues and pupilary charges and lay patrons to emulate at
least on a lesser scale, the striking feature of that
simplistically great funeral event, from now onwards.
A good deal of money and time could then be
saved for better purposes, such as amelioration of poverty and
sickness amongst the down-trodden in our midst. This method of
funeral rites is not an innovation, but a neglected relegated
ancient practice. The seeming crudity of its practice could be
refined a bit and easily re-adopted in respect of both the
clergy and the laity.
In our great neighbouring country, India, too
it is this form of funeral rite that is practised among the
highest and the lowliest with the least possible ostentation.
This sensible disposal method of human
remains in the simplest and shortest possible manner and
duration is followed by our Muslim brethren who are generally
considered very sensible and pragmatic people in the observance
of some social aspects."
R. M. A. B. Dassanayake