Monday, January 25, 2010

Benefitting the Living and The Dead!

If you think the topic sounds familiar, it is probably you have read chapter 7 of the Ksitigarbha Sutra. No, I will not be touching on the sutra here but the gist of the meesage I will be conveying will be consistent with the spirit as embodied in that sutra, i.e. benefitting both the living and the dead.

Impermanence is one of the central themes in Buddhist teachings. Everyone knows death occurs to everyone. And in fact, in the Lam Rim teachings, we are told to have it imprinted strongly in our minds. Even some Zen masters had advocated that if anyone wanted to seriously gain liberation, all he/she had to do was to remember two words at every single moment. The 2 words are "birth" and "death". It means the same thing, i.e. impermanence.

Because of this, there are some Buddhists who donot react to death at all and appears "cool" even when there is death in the family. And these Buddhists do not understand why there is so much big deal in trying to help the dead and dying. I remember, though, there is this Tibetan Master (forgotten who) who said that if we have true understanding, we will understand impermanence but yet will react naturally when death occurs in the family or friends. Yes, it means we still can cry. And that's appropriate for that situation.

However, we must know when to cry and when to stop crying and help the family member or friend to cross over. Most of us have forgotten how is it like to cross over, even though we have been dead and had been crossing over for infinite times. For many people, it is indeed a vey frightening process. If we have any wisdom and compassion for sentient beings, we will be able to feel this fear in people. Then we should help dying persons as much as we can to give them some confidence. I remember when my aunt was on the brink of death and as she stared blankly into space, I put my hand on top her head and whispered some words of confidence to her softly. I told her not to be afraid and to go over confidently. That's giving of fearlessness in people.

If helping dead people in the bardo state was not such an important process, the late Venerable Master Hsuan Hua would not have given me the advice to recite a certain mantra to help those people crossing over in the bardo. That was in a dream I had last year. He also said in every second, there are innumerable beings crossing over. The next day, a nun from Master's monastery said basically the same thing in her dharma teachings. Coincidence? No, it just authenticate the dream advice I had. So, basically, Masters advice is to help the dead people cross over to a better rebirth by reciting mantras, sutras and other prayers. If we know a person had committed many negative karma and not done any good deeds, then it is better that we help the person prolong his existing life as a human being. You know why? Because if he is dead, he will go to rebirth in the lower realms and suffer for aeons. This is I think how we should think. An example of this case is the man who had splashed acid on his wife and daughter and caused the wife to die and daughter go blind. Therefore, I think if there is a Buddhist lawyer, help him to get a life sentence instead of hang to death. If he gets life sentence, at least there is a small chance for him to do purification and repentance practices. Perhaps his karma will lighten a little, even if it will not exonerate completely what he did.

Hence, yes, impermanence is a fact of life and death is a common thing, but that does not mean we become passive beings. If we have strong bodhicitta, we must not let even a single sentient being go to the lower realms. It is precisely because of impermanence that we should actively help both the living and the dead! Help people when they are alive. Help them when they are dying. Help them when they have died and are in the bardo states. Continuously help sentient beings after that, wherever they are. Thats what I understand from the teachings of the Buddha. That's the message I got from the late Ven. Master Hsuan Hua who asked me to visualise the mantra lights radiating not only to all beings in the six realms but also beings "travelling" in between these realms (i.e. bardo beings). And I would urge you to consider doing that too in your daily prayers and meditations. I am merely conveying a message from the venerable master.

Sarvam mangalam!


s said...

which mantra is it, if it's not too personal to share, cos someone just asked me this morning what prayer shd he do for a pair of twins who were wrapped in newspaper and thrown away (killed) many years ago... what a coincidence that i read this blog abt this topic now.

s said...

Just to add a note about my thoughts on helping the dead. I read in a book "Delog" that it is of utmost importance to help the dead who are in very great need of help at this point and to make SPECIFIC dedications to them by mentioning their names.

I think the reason why help is so important at this pt is that it makes a very very great impact and difference to their future rebirth. Compared to the results that come from the effort of all the help you give to a person all his living life by teaching him the dharma and encouraging him to practice and so forth, the minimal effort you put in now to remind the dead of the nature of reality (see Tibetan Book of the Dead) or to dedicate merits to them will make a much greater difference and might even lead them to liberation.

Mahabodhiyana said...

Any mantra will do. Try six syllable mantra.