Question: Is it compulsory to change the clothes of the deceased?
Answer: Any touching or moving of the body, including for change of clothes should be after reasonable amount of guidance followed by support-chanting, ideally between 3 to 8, or more hours. After announcing it is time to change, hair on the crown should be tugged at a little first (not pulled out), to stimulate the consciousness to depart from there, if still within.
If the deceased probably does not mind his or her present clothes, and is already in rather clean clothes, they need not be changed. However, if the deceased when alive likes to be clean and fresh, and in preferred clothes, it is better to change into them. This is in case the consciousness is still around and expects the change. Not doing so might disturb the person instead, making it harder to Nianfo well, even though the body is technically already physically disconnected from.
Q: What if the changing of clothes by loved ones evoke emotions?
A: A solution is to get a professional Buddhist undertaker to change the clothes gently. Nianfo practice (of aloud chanting of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) should continue in the midst of changing clothes, in case the consciousness is still around. Nianfo will also help keep the minds of those changing clothes calmly focused on Amituofo, instead of being emotional.