A BUDDHIST petitioner who had interred the remains of three
members of his family in consecrated ground, and who then believed
that that would bring "bad karma", has been granted a faculty for
the remains to be exhumed and interred in unconsecrated ground.
The petitioner, Kiet Kham Hong, is of Chinese and Vietnamese
parentage, and he and all his family are Buddhists. In 1991, his
brother died in an accident, and his remains were cremated, but not
interred at the time. In 1993, Mr Hong's grandmother died, and her
body was buried in the consecrated section of Putney Vale
In June 2014, Mr Hong's father died, and his body was buried in
the plot in which the grandmother had been buried. Mr Hong's
brother's ashes were placed in his father's coffin. Vietnamese
Buddhist monks made the funeral arrangements.
Mr Hong was then distressed to be told by members of his family
that, according to Chinese Buddhist tradition, those arrangements
were inappropriate, that they adversely affected the spirits of the
deceased, and that, if not rectified, would bring bad karma and
misfortune. What was required to rectify the situation, according
to Chinese Buddhist tradition, was for his father's and
grandmother's bodies to be cremated, and for their ashes, together
with his brother's ashes, to be scattered in the Garden of
Remembrance in the unconsecrated part of Putney Vale Cemetery.
The Worshipful Philip Petchey, in the Consistory Court of
Southwark, said that it would be extraordinarily harsh to take the
line that Mr Hong's family's beliefs were not consistent with
Christian beliefs, and for that reason were to be disregarded.
In practice, that would involve saying that, essentially, it was
inappropriate for Buddhists to be interred in consecrated ground,
and that, against the sort of problem that had now arisen, those
who made the funeral arrangements for Mr Hong's grandmother should
have ensured that her body was buried in unconsecrated ground.
That seemed to be "unrealistic", Chancellor Petchey said, in "a
society in which many faiths are held". The faith of the Church of
England was very different from the Buddhist faith, and its views
about the appropriate treatment of the remains of those who had
died were evidently divergent, the Chancellor said; but the views
of Mr Hong and of his family were genuinely held, and were
appropriately treated with respect.