Dead for the whole forty-nine days after death. Through the

reading, the dead are shown what stage of the process of

death they are in, and given whatever inspiration and guidance

they need.

Westerners often ask me: How can a person who is dead

hear the Tibetan Book of the Dead?

The simple reply is that the consciousness of the dead person,

when it is invoked by the power of prayer, is able to read

our minds and can feel exactly whatever we may be thinking

or meditating on. That is why there is no obstacle to the dead

person's understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead or practices

done on their behalf, even though they may be recited in

Tibetan. For the dead person, language is no barrier at all, for

the essential meaning of the text can be understood fully and

directly by his or her mind.

This makes it all the more vital that the practitioner should

be as focused and attentive as possible when doing the practice,

and not merely performing it by rote. Also, as the dead

person is living the actual experiences, he or she may have a

greater capacity to understand the truth of the Tibetan Book of

the Dead than we do!

I am sometimes asked: "But what happens if the consciousness

has already fainted into an oblivious state at the moment

of death?" Since we do not know how long the dead person

will remain in that state of unconsciousness, and at what point

he or she will enter the bardo of becoming, the Tibetan Book of

the Dead is read and practiced repeatedly, to cover any eventuality.

But what about people who are not familiar with the

teachings or the Tibetan Book of the Dead: Should we read it to

them? The Dalai Lama has given us this clear guidance:

Whether you believe in religion or not it is very important to have a

peaceful mind at the time of death.... From a Buddhist point of

view, whether the person who dies believes in rebirth or not, their

rebirth exists, and so a peaceful mind, even if it is neutral, is important

at the time of death. If the person is a non-believer, reading the

Tibetan Book of the Dead could agitate their mind... it could

arouse aversion and so even harm them instead of helping them. In

the case of a person who is open to it, however, the mantras or the

names of the buddhas might help them to generate some kind of

connection, and so it could be helpful. It is important to take into

account, above all, the attitude of the dying person. 4

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