HELPING AFTER DEATH 305 you love very much has died, and you pray for them with true love and sincerity, your prayer will be exceptionally powerful. The best and most effective time to do the phowa is before the body is touched or moved in any way. If this is not possible, then try to do the phowa in the place where the person died, or at least picture that place very strongly in your mind. There is a powerful connection between the dead person, the place of death, and also the time of death, especially in the case of a person who died in a traumatic way. In the bardo of becoming, as I have said, the dead person's consciousness goes through the experience of death every week, on exactly the same day. So you should perform the phowa, or whatever other spiritual practice you have chosen to do, on any day of the forty-nine-day period, but especially on the same day of the week that the person died. Whenever your dead relative or friend comes into your mind, whenever you hear his or her name being mentioned, send the person your love, then focus on doing the phowa, and do it for as long and as often as you wish. Another thing you can do, whenever you think of someone who has died, is to say immediately a mantra such as OM MANI PADME HUM (pronounced by Tibetans: Om Mani Pémé Hung), the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion, which purifies each of the negative emotions that are the cause of rebirth; 1 or OM AMI DEWA HRIH, the mantra of Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light. You can then follow that again with the practice of phowa. But whether you do any of these practices or not to help your loved one who has died, don't ever forget that the consciousness in the bardo is acutely clairvoyant; simply directing good thoughts toward them will be most beneficial. When you pray for someone who was close to you, you can, if you wish, extend the embrace of your compassion to include other dead people in your prayers: the victims of atrocities, wars, disasters, and famines, or those who died and are now dying in concentration camps, such as those in China and Tibet. You can even pray for people who died years ago, like your grandparents, long-dead members of your family, or victims of wars, such as those in the World Wars. Imagine your prayers going especially to those who lost their lives in extreme anguish, passion, or anger.
306 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING Those who have suffered violent or sudden death have a particularly urgent need for help. Victims of murder, suicide, accident, or war can easily be trapped by their suffering, anguish, and fear, or may be imprisoned in the actual experience of death and so be unable to move on through the process of rebirth. When you practice the phowa for them, do it more strongly and with more fervor than you have ever done it before: Imagine tremendous rays of light emanating from the buddhas or divine beings, pouring down all their compassion and blessing. Imagine this light streaming down onto the dead person, totally purifying and freeing them from the confusion and pain of their death, granting them profound, lasting peace. Imagine then, with all your heart and mind, that the dead person dissolves into light and his or her consciousness, healed now and free of all suffering, soars up to merge indissolubly, and forever, with the wisdom mind of the buddhas. Some Western people who recently visited Tibet told me about the following incident they had witnessed. One day a Tibetan walking by the side of the road was knocked over and killed instantly by a Chinese truck. A monk, who happened to be passing, quickly went over and sat next to the dead man lying on the ground. They saw the monk lean over him and recite some practice or other close to his ear; suddenly, to their astonishment, the dead man revived. The monk then performed a practice they recognized as the transference of consciousness, and guided him back calmly into death. What had happened? Clearly the monk had recognized that the violent shock of the man's death had left him terribly disturbed, and so the monk had acted swiftly: first to free the dead man's mind from its distress, and then, by means of the phowa, to transfer it to a buddha realm or toward a good rebirth. To the Westerners who were watching, this monk seemed to be just an ordinary person, but this remarkable story shows that he was in fact a practitioner of considerable power. Meditation practices and prayers are not the only kind of help we can give to the dead. We can offer charity in their name to help the sick and needy. We can give their possessions to the poor. We can contribute, on their behalf, to humanitarian or spiritual ventures such as hospitals, aid projects, hospices, or monasteries. We could also sponsor retreats by good spiritual practitioners, or prayer meetings led by great masters in sacred places, like Bodhgaya. We could offer lights for the dead person, or