Buddhist Funeral Rites for Pets Gain Popularity in Thailand
In the Buddhist kingdom of Thailand, cremations for pets, such as cats, dogs, and even monkeys, are gaining popularity. Many pet owners believe that cremation—complete with Buddhist funeral rites presided over by a monk—increase the chances of their beloved pets reincarnating as higher beings in their next life.
According to Buddhist beliefs in Thailand, merit gained in each life from visiting temples and performing good deeds, can eventually lead one to attain the state of nirvana after numerous reincarnation cycles. According to the Jataka tales, the Buddha himself was once a rabbit who sacrificed himself to be roasted on a fire for a starving Brahmin, before being reborn as a human.
Although pets today might seem to have little opportunity to gain merit for themselves, other than being a support for their owners, Pimrachaya Worakijmanotham, owner of a recently deceased Shih Tzu named Dollar observed: “This is the last time I can be with her . . . so I want Dollar to receive good things. . . . In this life, [Dollar] couldn’t go to the temples to make merit for herself; this is the only thing we can do for her.” (Japan Times)
Buddhist rites and lavish funerals for pets are not a new phenomenon. In Japan, the practice has been popular for many years, with funeral parlors designed specifically for the cremation of pets. The lavish funerals are thought to be rooted in the respect that the Japanese have for nature and the gratitude they feel towards their pets, and is now even expanding to robot pets. And Thailand is catching up fast, with an increasing number of Thais who consider their pets to be family members deserving the best send-off they can provide for them.
At present, three temples in Thailand offer daily services for pet funerals, including cremation, a Buddhist ceremony by a monk, and scattering the ashes in a river to signify the return of the earthly remains to nature.
Theerawat Sae-Han, an entrepreneur who entered the pet-cremation business four years ago, founding Pet Funeral Thailand, said his company cremates some 200 pets each month, ranging from cats and dogs to lizards, snakes, baboons, and even “successful or famous animals like champion fighting cocks.” (Japan Times)
The growing popularity of cremation services is, in part, due to the decline public spaces in the Thai capital, as Phrakru Samu Jumpol, a monk at Krathum Suea Pla Temple, noted: “Before, we buried them [the pets] in authorized parks or backyards, but now it’s rare to find [authorized parks where we can bury our pets] in Bangkok.” (Japan Times)
Phrakru Samu Jumpol’s temple joined forces with Theerawat’s funeral company and now has a designated ceremonial compound and cremation chambers specifically for pets.
As in Japan, pet funerals are big business, with a simple funeral service costing around 3,000 baht (US$91) and more elaborate ceremonies costing up to 100,000 baht (US$3,034). The finances of Buddhist temples in Thailand have come under scrutiny in recent years as the monastic sangha has been shaken by a stream of financial scandals and corruption allegations. To date, however, there has been no critique of the involvement of Krathum Suea Pla Temple in the lucrative business of pet funerals.
According to Phrakru Samu Jumpol, money is also not what matters, as the funerals bring people closer to Buddhism: “Some people might not have a chance to come to the temple at all. [But] when their pets die, they come here.” (Japan Times)
Also of importance, the funeral ceremonies provide emotional and spiritual support to pet owners dealing with the loss of their beloved animals, and provide hope for a potential reunion in a future life. As Tipaporn Ounsiri observed at the ceremony to spread the ashes of her Siberian husky, Maprang “If the next life exists, please come back and be my daughter, don't be born as a pet anymore.” (Daily Sabah)
101 cremations: More Thais giving pets Buddhist funerals to boost their chances of a better next life (Japan Times)
Rise of Bangkok's Buddhist pet funerals (Daily Sabah)
Japanese owners hold mass Buddhist funeral for robot pet dogs (The Times)
Wider range of pet funeral services gain popularity in Japan (Asia One)
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