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A Buddhist Funeral

February 9, 2021

“And whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:26a, NIV).

I had never been to a Buddhist funeral. The deceased was the father of one of my new fellows. When I arrived, my fellow greeted me and asked if I wanted to light some incense for her father. I said I would, out of respect for him and love for her. I placed the first incense before a picture of young Buddha. I did not bow to him as those before me but placed a burning stick into the small gravel bowl in respect for a great philosopher. The second incense I placed before a picture of the deceased and bowed my head asking God for blessings on his family.

How do we show respect for another’s religious faith without suggesting that their faith is true? This young fellow lost her father. Last year another fellow, who is Muslim, lost a wife and child. I care deeply for both of them.

Both funerals were different. Both included a recognition of lives well lived, of loved ones lost; and both accepted in somber tones, a resignation to the will of God, though the concept of God is more complex for those who follow the Buddhist philosophy.

I truly care for these friends who have lost so much, but my love for them does not change the truth of life: Jesus died for our sins and those who commit to him as Lord will never die.

This truth of life and my love for these fellows should somehow be linked together in action. Only God knows the proper way and moment for me to speak of Christ to those who have lost loved ones without Jesus. A funeral is probably not the right time and place.

But then, when is?

Dear Father,
Loosen my tongue, so that Your Spirit is free to shout Your name, so that those who die may live again.

Al Weir, MD

Al Weir, MD

After leaving academic medicine, Dr. Weir served in private practice at the West Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee from 1991-2005 before joining the CMDA staff as Vice President of Campus & Community Ministries where he served for three years from 2005-2008. He is presently Professor of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Program Director for the Hematology/Oncology fellowship program. He is also President of Albanian Health Fund, an educational ministry to Albania where he has been serving for 20 years. He is the author of two books: When Your Doctor Has Bad News and Practice by the Book. Dr. Weir’s work has also been published in many medical journals and other publications. Al and his wife Becky live in Memphis, Tennessee, and they have three children and three grandchildren. Dr. Weir is currently serving on CMDA's Board of Trustees.


  1. Avatar Mark on February 9, 2021 at 9:52 am

    I’ve lived in SE Asia for over a decade, where Buddhism is rampant, and been to lots of Buddhist temples, but never felt the slightest inclination to burn incense to Buddha with the lost souls there, nor have I ever heard of any Christian do that or advocate for that; rather, we would look at it as participating in false worship of a person/false god. I never thought I’d read a CMDA devotion praising Buddha, who is worshiped instead of Jesus by millions around the world, as “a great philosopher,” when his atheistic, self-absorbed, misdirected, hopelessly error-ridden plague-of-a-philosophy has increased the spiritual lostness of innumerable people and stolen much glory from the One True God.

    • Avatar Kris on August 15, 2022 at 10:05 pm

      I didn’t see anything in that very short article about Buddha being described as a great philosopher.

    • Avatar Kris on August 15, 2022 at 10:10 pm

      Whoops, nevermind, found it. Even so, early Christian martyrs referred to Plato as a noble man, and Platonism has been a building block for many heresies. Is the author really at fault for making a similar assessment? Even if it can be deemed misguided.

  2. Avatar Mark on February 14, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Especially over this Chinese New Year season, sadly, temples are packed with lost people burning incense to Buddha and other false gods. Many Bible passages show how much God abhors the burning of incense to false gods, mentioned 10 times in Jeremiah 44 alone. Yet, this article calls Buddha “a great philosopher” in the process of offering up incense to a person who is now a false god to millions.

  3. Avatar Mrs Koh Min Kei on August 7, 2022 at 1:08 am

    As a christian in a multi-religious nation, I have attended many Taoist and Buddhist funerals. We are there to support the living but any rituals to pay respects to the dead, ie bowing to the dead, offering incense, going round the coffin in a procession, means we have crossed the line, partaking in the devil’s schemes. Hence, we pray that we can make a stand for our Lord Jesus Christ. Do we choose our Lord or do we choose to partake in abominations ? I can walk up to the coffin to take a last look at the body, serve drinks to guests, clear rubbish, clean up tables, give some money to the family to help with funeral expenses. anything to help the living but anything that compromises my faith, I will not do it. Hope this clears the air what a Christian should do at a Buddhist funeral.

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