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Tibetan Buddhism - The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – Sogyal Rinpoche

What a master does is to rest in the primordial state of Rigpa, the nature of mind, and invoke the mental body of the dead person roaming in the bardo of becoming.  When the mental body comes into the master’s presence, through the power of meditation, he or she can point out the essential nature of Rigpa.  Through the power of its clairvoyance, the bardo being then can see directly into the master’s wisdom mind and so there and then be introduced to the nature of mind and the liberated................

The qualities of the mental body during the bardo of becoming that make it so vulnerable – its clarity, mobility, sensitivity and clairvoyance – also make it particularly receptive to help from the living.  The fact that it has no physical form or basis makes it very easy to guide.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead compares the mental body to a horse, which can be readily controlled by a bridle, or to a huge tree trunk, which may be almost immovable on land, yet once floated in water can be effortlessly directed wherever you wish….

The most powerful time to do spiritual practise for someone who has died is during the 49 days of the bardo of becoming, placing special emphasis on the first twenty one days.  It is during these first three weeks that the dead have a stronger link with this life, which makes them more accessible to our help.  So it is then that spiritual practise has a far greater possibility of influencing their future….

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 the 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…………

Whether you do any of these practises 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 …. pray for …. 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…

Those who have suffered violent or sudden death have a particular 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 practise the phowa for them, do it more strongly and with more fervour 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.

The source of the experience

Tibetan Buddhism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Contemplation and detachment