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


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

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