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Why Buddhists Should Not Use ‘RIP’ for Bereavement

It has been noticed that Cambodian Buddhists, monks and laypeople alike absorb the usage of Cristian-value 'RIP' for bereavement on social media like Facebook. They do so because they do not really know what the exact meaning of this abbreviation of 'Rest in Peace' in Christianity but think it is a common English word they learned from social media. But it is not a simple English term which carries universal usage. It is a true Christian expression.

What does 'RIP' mean?

The phrase 'Rest in peace', RIP, from Latin Requiescat in pace (Classical Latin: [rɛkᶣɪˈeːskat ɪn ˈpaːkɛ], Ecclesiastical Latin: [rekwiˈeskat in ˈpatʃe]) is sometimes used in traditional Christian services and prayers, such as in the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist, denominations, to wish the soul of a decedent eternal rest and peace. It became ubiquitous on headstones in the 18th century and is widely used today when mentioning someone's death.

The phrase dormit in pace (English: "he sleeps in peace") was found in the catacombs of the early Christians and indicated that "they died in the peace of the Church, that is, united in Christ." The abbreviation R.I.P., meaning Requiescat in pace, "Rest in peace", continues to be engraved on the gravestones of Christians.

Some western-educated commentators suggested that as Buddhists, ones should not mind using 'RIP' for condolence as it is just an English word. But if using ‘RIP’ is okay for Buddhists, likewise, they should also use ‘Aman’ though both truly carry Christian-value connotation. But it’s not the case. While some Cambodian Buddhists who are absorbing the use of ‘RIP’ blindly from Facebook to express bereavement, it’s not the case for ‘Aman’. 

Because of the differences in theory of rebirth and life after death, each religion has its own ultimate goal, liberation. Hinduism and Christianity have Moksha and Heaven as their ultimate goal respectively, whereas, in Buddhism, Nibbana/Nirvana is the ultimate goal in life which goes beyond Heaven.

In this sense, Cambodian Buddhists should follow their own concept of rebirth. A true and mindful Buddhist won’t use ‘RIP’; the place to look for an example should be Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and so on. Buddhist monks should strictly avoid using ‘RIP’ in any sense. Common people are needed to be re-educated. 

What Alternatives?

‘May one’s soul attain Nibbana soon’ should be a formula for the creation of Buddhist expression. Normally, ‘Anicca Vata Sankhara’ or ‘Anicca Vaya-Dhamma Sangkhara’ is suitable for bereavement and already used typically in Sri Lanka and to some extent in Cambodia. Why forgot that? 

One should have understood how linguistics influences people’s thought and way of looking at things. As Buddhists, once should prefer the Buddhist way of life. 

In addition, Buddhists typically use ‘Rupam Dukkham Aniccam Anatta’ (RDAA) at least in front of coffin/casket of the deceased who was a Buddhist whereas Christians use ‘RIP’ on their headstones’ grave. But why we should copy their usage and abandon what is perfectly ours? 

So, we should strongly support the existing phrases and words in this regard i.e. 'RDAA' or any Buddhist related words for bereavement as suggested by Buddhist scholars.

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