For a while, Dharma Friendship Foundation, a center in Seattle, has been renting space in a building. The owner was a former yoga teacher and used to have her yoga studio on the bottom floor. Since she’s been battling ovarian cancer for the past 5 years, at one point she closed down her studio and let the center move into the space. Unfortunately recently she passed away. The spiritual director of the center, Venerable Yangsi Rinpoche, has requested that we do practices for her, and then dedicate the merit for her fortunate rebirth and enlightenment.
I’ve found that the past few years, someone I know dies every couple 4 or 5 months and I end up doing practices for them. I think we all live in impermanence and everyone around us will eventually die. I thought I would place some of the recommended Tibetan buddhist practices for her in this post, because they’re applicable to really anyone who might need prayers done for them. These practices are the most common within the Tibetan tradition.
As Khensur Rinpoche Jampa Tegchock once explained, these practices do help the deceased, in the way that if they were in a dark room, its like someone standing behind them with a flashlight. They would be able to see better, but the best thing would be if they held the flashlight themselves. What I think he meant by this, is while we’re still alive, we should also practice and work with our mind while we still can instead of relying on someone to do practices for us when we die. So when the time comes, when we’re in a dark room, we can hold a flashlight ourselves and some of our friends and family can shine a flashlight behind us to help. But none the less, these practices do help. According to the tibetan buddhist tradition, these buddhist prayers and practices are most beneficial for someone who has passed away within the first 3 weeks after a person’s death.
Light offerings a good way to dedicate some merit for someone deceased. I think this is common to many religious traditions. They symbolize removing darkness and shining the light of wisdom
Mantra of Chenrezig or Avalokitishvara
This is a powerful mantra by Avalokitishvara, the buddha of compassion. Khensur Rinpoche Jampa Tegchock said that the 6 syllable mantra represents purification and liberation for the 6 realms of existence (according to buddhist cosmology). One can simply do the mantra with the a motivation of compassion, wanting to alleviate suffering. Or for a more elaborate recitation, one can visualize Avalokitishvara and that light rays emit from him and that they go to the 6 realms of beings, purifying their karma and liberating them. If one has the intiation to the practice, one can do the sadhana and self generation.
Prostrations to the 35 Confession Buddhas
Prostration to the 35 Buddhas is a practice used to accumulate vast stocks of merit and purify a great amount of negative karma. This is a favorite practice within the gelug tradition.
King of Prayers (The Extroadinary Bodhisattva Aspiration of Samantabahdra)
This practice is the most popular of all the tibetan buddhist practices and prayers for those diseased, and it generates incredible merit and purification. Venerable Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche gives a good commentary here on King of Prayers. The prayer is below, and the original of this prayer and some commentary and instructions can be found on Venerable Thubten Chodron’s website.
I bow down to the youthful Arya Manjushri.
You lions among humans,
Gone to freedom in the present, past and future
In the worlds of ten directions,
To all of you, with body, speech and sincere mind I bow down.
With the energy of aspiration for the bodhisattva way,
With a sense of deep respect,
And with as many bodies as atoms of the world,
To all you Buddhas visualized as real, I bow down.
On every atom are Buddhas numberless as atoms,
Each amidst a host of bodhisattvas,
And I am confident the sphere of all phenomena
Is entirely filled with Buddhas in this way.
With infinite oceans of praise for you,
And oceans of sound from the aspects of my voice,
I sing the breathtaking excellence of Buddhas,
And celebrate all of you Gone to Bliss.
Beautiful flowers and regal garlands,
Sweet music, scented oils and parasols,
Sparkling lights and sublime incense,
I offer to you Victorious Ones.
Fine dress and fragrant perfumes,
Sandalwood powder heaped high as Mount Meru,
All wondrous offerings in spectacular array,
I offer to you Victorious Ones.
With transcendent offerings peerless and vast,
With profound admiration for all the Buddhas,
With strength of conviction in the bodhisattva way,
I offer and bow down to all Victorious Ones.
Every harmful action I have done
With my body, speech and mind
Overwhelmed by attachment, anger and confusion,
All these I openly lay bare before you.
I lift up my heart and rejoice in all positive potential
Of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in ten directions,
Of solitary realizers, hearers still training and those beyond,
And of all ordinary beings.
You who are the bright lights of worlds in ten directions,
Who have attained a Buddha’s omniscience through the stages of awakening,
All you who are my guides,
Please turn the supreme wheel of Dharma.
With palms together I earnestly request:
You who may actualize parinirvana,
Please stay with us for eons numberless as atoms of the world,
For the happiness and well-being of all wanderers in samsara.
Whatever slight positive potential I may have created,
By paying homage, offering, and acknowledging my faults,
Rejoicing, and requesting that the Buddhas stay and teach,
I now dedicate all this for full awakening.
May you Buddhas now living in the worlds of ten directions,
And all you gone to freedom in the past, accept my offerings.
May those not yet arisen quickly perfect their minds,
Awakening as fully enlightened ones.
May all worlds in ten directions,
Be entirely pure and vast.
May they be filled with bodhisattvas
Surrounding Buddhas gathered beneath a bodhi tree.
May as many beings as exist in ten directions
Be always well and happy.
May all samsaric beings live in accord with the Dharma,
And may their every Dharma wish be fulfilled.
Remembering my past lives in all varieties of existence,
May I practice the bodhisattva way,
And thus, in each cycle of death, migration and birth,
May I always abandon the householder’s life.
Then, following in the footsteps of all the Buddhas,
And perfecting the practice of a bodhisattva,
May I always act without error or compromise,
With ethical discipline faultless and pure.
May I teach the Dharma in the language of gods,
In every language of spirits and nagas,
Of humans and of demons,
And in the voice of every form of being.
May I be gentle-minded, cultivating the six paramitas,
And never forget bodhicitta.
May I completely cleanse without omission
Every negativity and all that obscures this awakening mind.
May I traverse all my lives in the world,
Free of karma, afflictions and interfering forces,
Just as the lotus blossom is undisturbed by the water’s wave,
Just as the sun and moon move unhindered through the sky.
May I ease the suffering in the lower realms
And in the many directions and dimensions of the universe.
May I guide all wanderers in samsara to the pure bliss of awakening
And be of worldly benefit to them as well.
May I practice constantly for eons to come,
Perfecting the activities of awakening,
Acting in harmony with the various dispositions of beings,
Showing the ways of a bodhisattva.
May I always have the friendship
Of those whose path is like mine,
And with body, words and also mind,
May we practice together the same aspirations and activities.
May I always meet a spiritual mentor
And never displease that excellent friend,
Who deeply wishes to help me
And expertly teaches the bodhisattva way.
May I always directly see the Buddhas,
Masters encircled by bodhisattvas,
And without pause or discouragement for eons to come,
May I make extensive offerings to them.
May I hold within me the Buddha’s genuine Dharma,
Illuminate everywhere the teachings that awaken,
Embody the realizations of a bodhisattva,
And practice ardently in all future eons.
While circling through all states of existence,
May I become an endless treasure of good qualities –
Skillful means, wisdom, samadhi and liberating stabilizations-
Gathering limitless pristine wisdom and positive potential.
On one atom I shall see
Buddha fields numberless as atoms,
Inconceivable Buddhas among bodhisattvas in every field,
Practicing the activities of awakening.
Perceiving this in all directions,
I dive into an ocean of Buddha fields,
Each an ocean of three times Buddhas in the space of a wisp of hair.
So I, too, will practice for an ocean of eons.
Thus I am continually immersed in the speech of the Buddhas,
Expression that reveals an ocean of qualities in one word,
The completely pure eloquence of all the Buddhas,
Communication suited to the varied tendencies of beings.
With strength of understanding I plunge
Into the infinite enlightened speech of the Dharma
Of all Buddhas in three times gone to freedom,
Who continually turn the wheel of Dharma methods.
I shall experience in one moment
Such vast activity of all future eons,
And I will enter into all eons of the three times,
In but a fraction of a second.
In one instant I shall see all those awakened beings,
Past, present and future lions among humans,
And with the power of the illusion-like stabilization
I will constantly engage in their inconceivable activity.
I shall manifest upon one single atom
The array of pure lands present, past and future.
Likewise, I shall enter the array of pure Buddha fields
In every direction without exception.
I shall enter the very presence of all my guides,
Those lights of this world who are yet to appear,
Those sequentially turning the wheels of complete awakening,
Those who reveal nirvana – final, perfect peace.
May I achieve the power of swift, magical emanation,
The power to lead to the great vehicle through every approach,
The power of always beneficial activity,
The power of love pervading all realms,
The power of all surpassing positive potential,
The power of supreme knowledge unobstructed by discrimination,
And through the powers of wisdom, skillful means and samadhi,
May I achieve the perfect power of awakening.
Purifying the power of all contaminated actions,
Crushing the power of disturbing emotions at their root,
Defusing the power of interfering forces,
I shall perfect the power of the bodhisattva practice.
May I purify an ocean of worlds,
May I free an ocean of beings,
May I clearly see an ocean of Dharma,
May I realize an ocean of pristine wisdom.
May I purify an ocean of activities,
May I fulfill an ocean of aspirations,
May I make offerings to an ocean of Buddhas,
May I practice without discouragement for an ocean of eons.
To awaken fully through this bodhisattva way,
I shall fulfill without exception
All the diverse aspirations of the awakening practice
Of all Buddhas gone to freedom in the three times everywhere.
In order to practice exactly as the wise one
Called Samantabhadra, ‘All Embracing Good’,
The elder brother of the sons and daughters of the Buddhas,
I completely dedicate all this goodness.
Likewise may I dedicate
Just as the skillful Samantabhadra,
With pure body, speech and mind,
Pure actions and pure Buddha fields.
I shall give rise to the aspirations of Manjushri
For this bodhisattva practice of all embracing good,
To perfect these practices
Without discouragement or pause in all future eons.
May my pure activities be endless,
My good qualities boundless,
And through abiding in immeasurable activity,
May I actualize infinite emanations.
Limitless is the end of space,
Likewise, limitless are living beings,
Thus, limitless are karma and afflictions.
May my aspiration’s reach be limitless as well.
One may offer to the Buddhas
All wealth and adornments of infinite worlds in ten directions,
And one may offer during eons numberless as atoms of the world
Even the greatest happiness of gods and humans;
But whoever hears this extraordinary aspiration,
And longing for highest awakening
Gives rise to faith just once,
Creates far more precious positive potential.
Those who make this heartfelt aspiration for the bodhisattva way
Will be free of all lower rebirths,
Free of harmful companions,
And will quickly see Amitabha, Infinite Light.
And even in this very human life,
They will be nourished by happiness and have all conducive circumstances.
Without waiting long,
They will become like Samantabhadra himself.
Those who give voice to this extraordinary aspiration
Will quickly and completely purify
The five boundless harmful actions
Created under the power of ignorance.
Blessed with supreme knowledge,
Excellent body, family, attributes, and appearance,
They will be invincible to vast interfering forces and misleading teachers,
And all the three worlds will make offerings.
Going quickly to the noble bodhi tree,
And sitting there to benefit sentient beings,
Subduing all interfering forces,
They will fully awaken and turn the great wheel of Dharma
Have no doubt that complete awakening
Is the fully ripened result – comprehended only by a Buddha –
Of holding in mind by teaching, reading or reciting
This aspiration of the bodhisattva practice.
In order to train just like
The hero Manjushri who knows reality as it is
And just like Samantabhadra as well,
I completely dedicate all this goodness, just as they did.
With that dedication which is praised as greatest
By all the Buddhas gone to freedom in the three times,
I, too, dedicate all my roots of goodness
For the attainments of the bodhisattva practice.
When the moment of my death arrives,
By eliminating all obscurations
And directly perceiving Amitabha,
May I go immediately to Sukhavati, Pure Land of Great Joy.
Having gone to Sukhavati,
May I actualize the meaning of these aspirations,
Fulfilling them all without exception,
For the benefit of beings for as long as this world endures.
Born from an extremely beautiful, superlative lotus
In this joyful land, the Buddha’s magnificent mandala,
May I receive a prediction of my awakening
Directly from the Buddha Amitabha.
Having received a prediction there,
May I create vast benefit
For beings throughout the ten directions,
With a billion emanations by the power of wisdom.
Through even the small virtue I have accumulated
By offering this prayer of the bodhisattva practice,
May all the positive aspirations of beings
Be fulfilled in an instant.
Through creating limitless positive potential
By dedicating this prayer of Samantabhadra’s deeds,
May all beings drowning in this torrent of suffering,
Enter the presence of Amitabha.
Through this king of aspirations, which is the greatest of the sublime,
Helping infinite wanderers in samsara,
Through the accomplishment of this scripture dazzling with Samantabhadra’s practice,
May suffering realms be utterly emptied of all beings.
At the conclusion of the practices
With the conclusion of buddhist practice, its always very good to dedicate the merit to the deceased for their fortunate rebirth and enlightenment. Also its very good to dedicate it for the enlightenment of all beings. Even though we do these practices for others, we’re actually generating vast stores of merit for ourselves, so its very important that we remember to dedicate the merits to enlightenment.