When we lived in Japan, we learned that one aspect of a Buddhist funeral is that the priest creates a name (kaimyo) that is assigned to the dead person for use in the afterlife. There is also superstition that if the deceased isn’t given a proper send-off, he becomes a wandering spirit, who might possibly come back to commit mischief. So a poor send-off is to be avoided. Mourners take multiple precautions. The kaimyo may be written on wooden sticks at the gravesite, or on a plaque that’s put in the family altar or with the ashes.
This new name isn’t free. The better the name, the higher the price—even tens of thousands of dollars.
I couldn’t figure why a new name “for use in the afterlife” would even be needed. After all, if the Buddhist deceased has reached enlightenment and gone straight to nirvana (that is, extinction of the selfhood), there’d be no need for a new name at all, would there? I hadn’t realized that the origin of this practice probably had more to do with politics and greed than with belief. Apparently, use of the kaimyo started in the samurai days of the Tokugawa Period when people were required to register as Buddhists to show they weren’t Christian. And of course it was a good way to get money from the wealthy.
Those Japanese Buddhists who believe in reincarnation would value the kaimyo, I supposed, wanting their loved one to return (in the karmic cycle) as a high-level being rather than some lower form. Of course, if the person should live a number of lives, a different new name would have to be purchased at the end of each reincarnation.
Those details aside, the first thing that struck me about the kaimyo was that the name had to be bought. That the Buddhist temples are sure taking lots of money from nervous mourners.
Revelation 2:17 says that whoever is victorious (that is, belongs to the Lord) is given—not sold—a new name by the Lord himself. And 3:5 says that whoever lives for the Lord has his name written in the Book of Life. It will never be erased or forgotten. Done.
We hear all kinds of nonsense about Christianity being burdensome, rigid, limited, not fun… And in contrast, the sanitized version of Buddhism that’s presented to us appears to be all light and easy. It’s the other way around.