The most powerful time to do spiritual practice for someone

who has died is during the forty-nine days of the bardo

of becoming, placing special emphasis on the first twenty-one

days. It is during these first three weeks that the dead have a

stronger link with this life, which makes them more accessible

to our help. So it is then that spiritual practice has a far greater

possibility of influencing their future, and of affecting their

chances for liberation, or at least a better rebirth. We should

employ every means possible to help them then, as after the

physical form of their next existence begins gradually to be

determined—and this is said to happen between the twentyfirst

and forty-ninth day after death—the chance for real

change is very much more limited.

Help for the dead, however, is not confined to the fortynine

days after death. It is never too late to help someone who has

died, no matter how long ago it was. The person you want to

help may have been dead a hundred years, but it will still be

of benefit to practice for them. Dudjom Rinpoche used to say

that even if someone has gained enlightenment and become a

buddha, they will still need all the assistance they can possibly

get in their work of helping others.


The best and easiest way to help a dead person is to do the

essential practice of phowa I have taught in Chapter 13, "Spiritual

Help for the Dying," as soon as we hear that someone

has died.

In Tibet we say that just as it is the nature of fire to burn

and of water to quench thirst, the nature of the buddhas is to

be present as soon as anyone invokes them, so infinite is their

compassionate desire to help all sentient beings. Don't for one

moment imagine that it would be less effective for you to

invoke the truth to help your dead friend than if a "holy man"

prays for them. Because you are close to the person who has

died, the intensity of your love and the depth of your connection

will give your invocation an added power. The masters

have assured us: Call out to them, and the buddhas will

answer you.

Khandro Tsering Chödrön, the spiritual wife of Jamyang

Khyentse, often says that if you really have a good heart,

and really mean well, and then pray for someone, that

prayer will be very effective. So be confident that if someone

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