A Death Ritual for the Living

by M-Gillies

The "lie in coffin" ceremony takes only a minute to complete. Buddhist monks recite death rites as well as prayers for life as participants lie in the coffins and pray for bad luck to go away.

Most people dread the idea of being confined in tight spaces – for people with claustrophobia, it’s a constant search for escape routes – it’s a matter of having openings; exits; a steady stream of airflow, so the sheer thought of being enclosed in a narrow, body-sized space is enough to cause those glands to perspire and that heart to palpitate. In fact, for years people have dreaded the notion of being prematurely buried alive, however, for Buddhists in Thailand, their offering is a deeply bizarre ritual of death and rebirth.

It’s the death rite for the living; an opportunity to spin the wheel of karma – to have a second chance at life by experiencing a symbolic death, resurrection and rebirth. It is the Buddhist rebirth ceremony known as non loeng sadorcro, which can be translated to, lie in coffin, get rid of bad luck and it is with this ceremony that the Monks believe that it can solve a person’s life torments and free them of bad karma.

How the ritual works, is participants, voluntarily lie in one of a number of designated coffins, holding flowers and praying for bad luck to go away, while monks perform death rites, followed by chants of a new life. This process is said to cleanse the karma of a person and give them a new life free of karmic wrong-doings.

Though the ritual has been around for decades, it is not without its own controversy. Considered by some as an occult practice, non loeng sadorcro has been said to bring bad luck as lying in a coffin while still alive is considered a bad omen. However, for those who have participated in the ritual, there has been reports that they feel as though they were reborn – with all their bad karma buried behind them and further claimed the ritual has helped fool the spirits into thinking they’re already dead.

Even still, others have reported meeting the spirits of their deceased loved ones while lying in the coffin.

Despite contrary beliefs, Thailand’s monks are seeing a continuing trend as more and more people attend the rituals. While the ceremony is free of charge, many people leave donations to the temple as thanks for the services performed.

Drawing inspiration from the Korean superstition, filmmaker Ekachai Uekrongtham based his 2008 South Korean horror film, The Coffin on the ritual, achieving commercial success and options for an American remake.

Read more:

Buddhist ceremonies: Lying in a Coffin | Thaiworldview

Coffin ceremony in a Thai Temple | YouTube

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