The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

realjannaweiss

The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

HELPING AFTER DEATH 313

stay in the bardo longer than four weeks. The seventh week is

also considered a critical juncture, as forty-nine days is taught

to be generally the longest stay in the bardo. So on these occasions,

masters and practitioners will be invited to the house,

and the practices, offerings, and donations to the needy are

performed on a grander scale.

Another offering ceremony and feast is held one year after

the death, to mark the dead person's rebirth. Most Tibetan

families have annual ceremonies on the anniversaries of their

teachers, parents, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters, and

on these days they will also give donations to the poor.

HELPING THE BEREAVED

Among Tibetans, whenever someone dies it's natural for

relatives and friends to gather round, and everyone always

finds some way or another to give a helping hand. The whole

community provides strong spiritual, emotional, and practical

support, and the dead person's family is never left feeling helpless

or at a loss or wondering what they can do. Everyone in

Tibetan society knows that as much as possible is being done

for the dead person, and that knowledge empowers those

who are left behind to endure, accept, and survive the death

of their loved ones.

How different it is now in modem society, where such

community support has been almost entirely lost! I often think

how such support could save the grief of bereavement from

being prolonged and needlessly difficult, as it so often is.

My students who work as bereavement counselors in hospices

have told me that one of the severest sources of anguish

for the bereaved person is the belief that neither they nor anyone

else can do anything for their loved one who has died.

But there is, as I have been showing, a great deal that anyone

can do to help the dead.

One way of comforting the bereaved is to encourage them

to do something for their loved ones who have died: by living

even more intensely on their behalf after they have gone, by

practicing for them, and so giving their death a deeper meaning.

In Tibet relatives may even go on a pilgrimage for the

dead person, and at special moments and at holy places they

will think of their dead loved ones and practice for them. The

Tibetans never forget the dead: They will make offerings at

shrines on their behalf; at great prayer meetings they will sponsor

prayers in their name; they will keep making donations, for

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