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

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

HELPING AFTER DEATH 309Dead for the whole forty-nine days after death. Through thereading, the dead are shown what stage of the process ofdeath they are in, and given whatever inspiration and guidancethey need.Westerners often ask me: How can a person who is deadhear 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 readour minds and can feel exactly whatever we may be thinkingor meditating on. That is why there is no obstacle to the deadperson's understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead or practicesdone on their behalf, even though they may be recited inTibetan. For the dead person, language is no barrier at all, forthe essential meaning of the text can be understood fully anddirectly by his or her mind.This makes it all the more vital that the practitioner shouldbe as focused and attentive as possible when doing the practice,and not merely performing it by rote. Also, as the deadperson is living the actual experiences, he or she may have agreater capacity to understand the truth of the Tibetan Book ofthe Dead than we do!I am sometimes asked: "But what happens if the consciousnesshas already fainted into an oblivious state at the momentof death?" Since we do not know how long the dead personwill remain in that state of unconsciousness, and at what pointhe or she will enter the bardo of becoming, the Tibetan Book ofthe Dead is read and practiced repeatedly, to cover any eventuality.But what about people who are not familiar with theteachings or the Tibetan Book of the Dead: Should we read it tothem? The Dalai Lama has given us this clear guidance:Whether you believe in religion or not it is very important to have apeaceful mind at the time of death.... From a Buddhist point ofview, whether the person who dies believes in rebirth or not, theirrebirth exists, and so a peaceful mind, even if it is neutral, is importantat the time of death. If the person is a non-believer, reading theTibetan Book of the Dead could agitate their mind... it couldarouse aversion and so even harm them instead of helping them. Inthe case of a person who is open to it, however, the mantras or thenames of the buddhas might help them to generate some kind ofconnection, and so it could be helpful. It is important to take intoaccount, above all, the attitude of the dying person. 4

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