The Merit of Practice in a Cemetery


Yogi C. M. Chen

Today is the auspicious day of the full moon in the seventh month of the lunar calendar system of China and Tibet. According to the Buddha's teachings from India, in this month those in the ghost realm have a holiday and a little rest from their sufferings, and at this time can more easily get in touch with the Dharma. In old China during this month many pujas or offerings were usually given to the ghosts and to the ancestors. Today is an especially auspicious day because it is also the birthday of his Holiness Karmapa. So I would like to talk now on the subject, "What are the merits of going to a Cemetery and praying to the Dead?"

I have categorized this subject into three sections, each of which is discussed in its outward, inward, secret and most secret aspect.

I. The Merit of a Cemetery

Why does a cemetery contain so much merit and what are those merits? Outwardly, the main merit is to help one understand Impermanence. Impermanence is a principal practice of Hinayana Buddhism and Hinayana is the foundation of the other two yanas, Mahayana and Vajrayana. This means, as Milarepa said, that the first step to enter through the Dharma gate is Impermanence and no other practice. Why? Because as human beings we are all attached to worldly desires, and it is only the realization of our impermanence that can stop this clinging and lead us to practice the Buddha-Dharma. Shakyamuni Buddha himself met the truth of sickness, old-age, death and the clergy at each of the four gates of his capital. From that point on, he understood Impermanence, took the first step on the Dharma Path, and continued on the way until he achieved full enlightenment. To be a real Buddhist, one must realize the truth of Impermanence.

In our daily life in America we rarely see a coffin or dead person, unlike the East where a corpse is brought through the streets to the homes of friends and relatives to receive offerings on the way to the cemetery. Also, most people in the East are poor and one day's food is all they desire. They know that tomorrow they may die and so have constant awareness of Impermanence. Thus in the East it is easier to gain the idea of our transitory existence.

In the West, in America, the dead person is carried in a special car which immigrants as myself are not even able to recognize. It passes through the streets very quickly and arrives at the cemetery where the corpse is very swiftly cremated or buried. This is all very professionally done by trained people. It is only the close family of the deceased that has a chance to come into contact with and recognize Impermanence. Whatever an American is involved with, and wherever he finds himself, in society, on the street, in any circumstance or surroundings, there is the desire for attachment but no idea of Impermanence. So everyone passes his life very comfortably, very superficially happy, pursuing his desires. He never thinks that he himself will die and does not think he needs to follow the Dharma. Thus most people cannot accept the Hinayana Doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, concerning pain and the cessation of pain, because their everyday life is so easy and comfortable that they don't know sorrow and have no motive to renounce their pleasure-seeking life style. If you don't come to a cemetery, you can nearly forget that there is such a thing called a corpse or such a thing as Death.

No matter how happy you are in your daily life, when you come to a cemetery and see so many people buried in the ground, both rich and poor given the same treatment in death, you cannot help but be influenced by the idea of Impermanence. When we come to a cemetery to visit dead friends, they seem to tell us, "Oh, you must diligently practice the Dharma. We are too late, but you still may have some hope. Reflect in yourself--once our skin was as smooth and white as yours and now our bodies are all decomposed underneath the ground. Be aware of Impermanence." We may practise and say prayers to help them, but actually we ourselves get much more help from the dead than they do from us. They also seem to tell us, "Don't care about the amount of your salary, or a girlfriend's beauty, or for any desire of the world, for in the end everything and everyone must be left behind. Neither a rich man nor a man with many lovers can rid himself of death." What is the purpose of repenting at the moment of death? We must have time to practise before that moment comes.

When we will die is very uncertain. Buddha himself chose to be born in a human body because for man there is no set time for death, and so the idea of Impermanence can arise. Some die in the womb, some in the cradle, some as teenagers or as adults. We have come so far but how long we have left, who knows? Actually our death may come at any moment, between any inhalation and exhalation, with any breath. Death cannot be said to happen just on the day of death, for it happens every month, every day, every moment that we live; a day passes and we cannot get the same day back. You should always keep this idea of Impermanence in mind and not spend time in vain seeking worldly desires which must be left behind at death. We must come to understand what things are meaningful and valuable to us and what things are nonsense and a waste of time. So when we come to a cemetery, we must consider all these things and choose the valuable action to practise. This is the first outward merit of going to a cemetery: to help us get Impermanence. From Impermanence we can cut our desires and attachments, from Impermanence we can gain the wish to renounce and from Impermanence we can become diligent in our practice.

Suppose we want to dry a robe out in the sunshine. You have to hope that the robe will have an opportunity to be in the sunshine from morning until evening. If the sun shines at 8 a.m. but it rains at 9, and then the sun comes out at 10 and it rains at 11, and so on all day long, then the robe cannot dry even if left out one or two days. Likewise our practice must be diligent; every day and every night we must continue, even when sleeping, even in the Bardo, even in Death. Where does this diligence come from? From Impermanence ! You must always keep the idea in mind that you will die very soon, so that this very moment you must practice well. Many biographies have been written about the diligence of certain sages. As an example, a sage once lived in a cave and practiced very diligently, but sometimes he had to leave his cave to urinate. Once, when he went outside, his robe caught on a thorn, and he thought about picking it up, but then thought, "I must finish urinating quickly and return to my practice, so why should I take time to pick up my robe from a thorn?" so he tore his robe away from the thorn and returned to the cave. Even such a short time he did not wish to waste--such diligence! So many worldly things occupy our minds and waste a lot of time. We must reflect within ourselves that each moment is valuable so that not to pursue our practice for even one day may be very harmful for us. Today we waste time, tomorrow we also will waste time so that even if we live 100 years, most of our time will have been wasted. Always think of this and feel very sad for ourselves and say, "Oh, just here and now I must begin to practice." This kind of diligence is also based upon Impermanence.

The practice of Samatha has three enemies. One is a disturbed mind, one is a sleepy mind and one is a mind of nonsense. These three elements can be cut by Impermanence. If you have the idea of Impermanence you would not pursue worldly desires and then disturbed mind would not always come. If you pursue desires outside meditation time, spending time thinking about this advertisement, or that new dress, then when you do try to meditate, all these thoughts will continue to come. This is what is called disturbed mind. If you pursue desires you may also feel tired; when you are tired the second enemy sleepy mind comes. If you know desire and think, "Oh, I shall die so why do I pursue all these things. I must just meditate. These few moments are really good for me." Then you will not be so tired. As for nonsense mind, this is a reflection of your stupidity and if you really think that everything is impermanent then you are very wise and always aware. No things can lure you and no desire can attract you, so you will always keep your mind very clear and attached to the truth, nonsense will not come. This is merit for meditation.

The second merit is inward. Inward means not of our external world but somehow of our spiritual mind and spiritual state. If we practice Tantra, we use a mandala, or special kind of picture, which shows us Buddha's land. This kind of mandala relates to our spiritual state. At the outside of this mandala is the first circle of five elements (fire, earth, water, air and wind) then next to these five elements are the eight cemeteries. Such a cemetery is not an outward cemetery, but is the inward cemetery of our spiritual state. So even Buddhaland is encircled by a cemetery, called the eight famous cemeteries. Each cemetery has sages who practise there, pagodas, and dakinis and ghosts who live and serve there. This is to show that our spiritual state starts from Impermanence. You must pass through that stage before you gain inner happiness, wisdom and inner realization. It is very important to show the first step of this practice, which is why the mandala of every Buddha's Pure-Land is drawn encircled by the eight cemeteries, which symbolize Impermanence. This is the inward merit.

In its secret aspect, the most important symbol of Impermanence is the Skull. Our cemeteries here today are very modernized and scientific so everything is done very cleanly and quickly. But in the East there are four kinds of burials: under the ground which means you have a corpse which you bury and when the flesh is decayed you have bones and a skull; burial in the sky where the flesh and bones are given to the big birds, called scavengers of the sky; burial in the water where the corpse is put in the water to feed the fishes; and burial in fire, to get ashes. Originally in very ancient times, the corpses were less and land was more so burial in the ground was the practice, but as years passed and the situation changed, other methods of burial developed. All those corpses under the ground have skulls, so the skull is a very important sign of a cemetery.

The second meaning of the skull is its symbolism in the Mandala. The Pure-Land Palace is surrounded by walls and these walls are of three kinds. The skull is one of them and the first wall of the Buddha's Palace is made of accumulated skulls which are to show the Protection of the Dharmakaya. This is more profound than the inner merit. Why Dharmakaya and not Sambhogakaya or Nirmanakaya? In fact, as mentioned, there are three walls: the first, the skull wall, to show sunyata, is the Dharmakaya; the second, the Vajra (dorje) wall, to show his wisdom, is the Sambhogakaya; and the third wall, made of lotuses to show renunciation, is the Nirmanakaya.

The skull is a protector of the Dharmakaya. Why? Because the Dharmakaya is based upon the philosophy of Sunyata, that everything is empty. The first stage of recognition of Emptiness is Impermanence. With the idea of Impermanence you think, "These things are very transitory and will very easily perish", then by and by you approach the Sunyata. Surely, the Sunyata's deep philosophical meaning is not quite the same as this, but through the identity of everything as changeable, everything as empty, everything as non-self, then you come to know Impermanence and when you know Impermanence and by and by recognize detachment to the world, then you will come to realize the pure Sunyata. The Dharmakaya is based upon the Sunyata and that is why the skull is the symbol of the Dharmakaya. This is the secret merit.

The skull and bones usually make up ornaments for the Buddhas and Dakinis to put on to show that everything is based upon and made in the Sunyata. The Dakini has a crown of skulls which symbolizes the different types of psychological mind which are dead in a realized being. Man has many kinds of mind--ignorance, pride, and all the thoughts of the mind which must be penetrated and enter the Sunyata and then can be taken as ornaments. There are about 51 kinds of mind which can be transformed into a skull, which means they become sublimated with the Sunyata. This is the most secret merit.

The most sacred symbol of the cemetery is the crown of five skulls worn by Buddha himself. This is to show the five Buddha wisdoms which have been transformed from the five mental poisons. To be a real Buddha, you must have the five skulls on your head as a crown. The five wisdoms are very profound. The first wisdom is the mirror-like wisdom, the second is equalization wisdom, the third is discriminating wisdom, the fourth, the wisdom of achievement, and the fifth is the wisdom of the universe of Dharmakaya. Another symbolic use of the skull is the sceptre of our Guru Padmasambhava which has three heads on the top. The first head is a skull to show the Dharmakaya. So the symbol of a skull has a very profound meaning and all these skulls are connected with the cemetery.

I have talked about the four degrees of symbolization of the skull and its connections with the cemetery. If you make contact with a cemetery very often, it will be very easy to get the accomplishment of this symbol.

II. The Merit of Prayer to the Dead

We are here to pray to the dead but what is the merit of such prayer? On this subject there are also four aspects: outward, inward, secret and most secret.

First, the power of the Phowa prayer outwardly. We come here and we have understood the importance of the idea of Impermanence. We are very sad to view all the dead people, but we hope we can come here and purify their sins. Outwardly, I give some offering and prayers to the Earth-God and angels and ask them to help the dead people to purify their sins. No one who has died can come alive again; all the good things of the world have been left behind for the dead can take nothing with them. As the Bible says, naked they come and naked they go. Actually, what the dead man does take with him is all the sins he has committed in his life. One's sins cannot be left behind, because all have been recorded by Yama, the God of Death, and a man must pay for the evil he has committed on earth.

To repeat, the first merit is to purify the sins of the dead and to help them gain the right motive to repent. They had no chance to do so when they themselves were on earth and when the appointed time came they had no opportunity, so we have to help them repent. We must ask Buddha on their behalf to help them for they have none to aid them.

After death, the soul of the deceased remains in the Bardo until the next rebirth. This can be from a period of one week to a maximum of seven weeks or 49 days. The soul remains near the corpse during the period of the Bardo because although he knows he is dead after three days, he still has some love for his own body, so that even when the body is burnt up, the spirit still sleeps with the ashes. We are able to help these souls who have not yet been reincarnated. We cannot help those who have already been reborn as a human being, animal, deva or ghost, win a good rebirth. We are only able to help those in the ghost realm who still remain in the cemetery. Many say that Buddha did not talk about a soul, but this is a mistake which must be pointed out. Buddha only said that there was no permanent, no absolute soul without transformation. Some wish to change the term soul to consciousness, but actually they are the same thing. This consciousness can be transformed, it can be reincarnated. Whether this rebirth is good or bad is mainly according to one's Karma, that which has been done by a person before their death. In Buddhist countries, pujas are given for the dead souls during the 49 days after death to aid the dead soul gain a good rebirth.

So the first step is to outwardly offer incense, food, and flowers, and in doing so we develop our Bodhicitta and hope that the sins of the dead ones will be finished. We pray, "They have already died and have already been punished so please let their souls free, especially as today is a special date, let them free."

Inwardly, the second step is to visualize their souls or consciousness as a Nirmanakaya of Amitabha. The Nirmana Buddha Amitabha is similar to the Buddha Shakyamuni in his hair and robes, but he is usually red because he is in the West. To accomplish this transformation, think of the dead person's Buddha nature. Everybody has Buddha nature, no matter what you have done before your death. Call upon their Buddha nature and make them aware of it and that their Buddha nature is connected with Amitabha. Amitabha has the good will to save everybody who faithfully prays to him. So we ask the Buddha Amitabha to come and remind the dead person to remember his Buddha nature. This Buddha nature and the goodwill of Amitabha are connected through your Bodhicitta. This goodwill never ceases and the Buddha nature is never destroyed. If you have faith in your prayers to Amitabha, so that all the conditions are gathered, he will shed light on every corpse in the whole cemetery. This is the first secret. From this circle of light, essentialize and expand your prayers again to include the whole universe of corpses and so connect with all still in the Bardo state, in all three times, past, present and future, and in the ten directions. Visualize all as Amitabha. Even though I am not Buddha, Amitabha has already accomplished full enlightenment and has the vow to save every sentient being; even though we do not have the power of Buddhahood, we do have the Bodhicitta connected with the Buddha, so more or less his power is connected with that visualization. When visualization of Amitabha becomes complete, surely the soul becomes Amitabha. No matter what the degree of connection, it is helpful for the dead person. This is the merit inwardly for the soul can become the Nirmanakaya of Amitabha.

The merit secretly is the further transformation of this Nirmanakaya Amitabha to the Sambhogakaya stage. You see the Buddha has three kayas, or bodies; the first, Nirmanakaya, is in a human form but in Buddhahood, as Sakyamuni Buddha. The second higher transformation is into the Sambhogakaya which is a different form, not like a human body but like the Dencho who stands above the Nirmanakaya. When we say "HEE" we use our energy and breath to push the Nirmanakaya consciousness up through the head of the dead person into the Sambhogakaya. So the secret merit is that the soul enters the Sambhogakaya. The Nirmana Pure Land is like heaven but is non-transmigratory. It is not the final complete Buddha palace. Through the practice of "HEE" we push the Hsia (which is his heart bija or soul-seed as we say in "Om Amitabha Hsia") up to the HUM heart of Sambhogakaya and so it becomes the Sambhogakaya.

Most secretly is the "PET" which we say to push the Sambhogakaya heart bija into the Amitabha Dharmakaya, the final Sunyata, the "AH". If this is accomplished, one can really be said to become a complete Buddha and this alone is what can be called the most secret. The third and fourth steps (secret and most secret) are not known by the exoteric schools but only through the Tantra. All this can be done through the merit of prayer in the cemetery.

To summarize, outwardly we purify the sins of the deceased; inwardly we help him become Nirmanakaya; secretly he becomes Sambhogakaya; and most secretly the soul can become the Dharmakaya.

III. The Relationship Between Us and the Dead

What is the relationship between us and the dead person and what is the merit to be gained by contact with them? This topic is also classified in its aspects from shallow to profound.

Outwardly, both have to remember and be aware of Impermanence and repent all sins. The dead have more or less sinned and we also have more or less sinned. They have already died but fortunately we have become friends with them so that we can learn from their example. They have died and so make us remember Impermanence and we also have a debt to them for they have aroused our Bodhicitta, our merciful mind. They show by their examples, "We are lying here underneath the ground and you will also be here soon.''

We must both help the dead by praying for them and also get profit for ourselves by learning from their examples and by awakening to Impermanence a little earlier. If we were at this moment out on the street, we would never come to know about this. We must seize the chance to take the dead as our teachers. You must think, "He has died and I will follow, so how can we utilize that little time that is left to do something good, to do something valuable for myself which can be brought away after death." Nothing that is done here on earth is very valuable, there is nothing that can be taken away after death and the sins you have committed on earth are justly punished. If you gain merit during life, after death this merit will help you to ascend to heaven, to become a Buddha, Arhat, or Bodhisattva. All depends on how we utilize the time which still remains to us. We help the dead and they help us to become awakened. This is the outward merit.

Many corpses have never had the opportunity to hear Buddhist teachings. By listening to your speech in the cemetery, the ghost may reflect about his lifetime and why he became a ghost; he may hear that selfishness drove him to be lustful and thus fall into sin and into the ghostly realm, and hearing this he may repent his sins. Those in the Bardo state still have some attachment which keeps them in the Bardo. He may hear that because he had such a desire in his lifetime, so after death he still remembers and clings to his desires and thus cannot get rebirth quickly. So after you give Puja and emphasize about the teachings of no-desire, no-self, the ghost may hear it and once and for all be awakened. When he was a man, he was disturbed by his family, his surroundings, his nation. When he enters the Bardo or becomes a ghost, he is no longer disturbed by such things and may more easily accept the teachings. His body is also more spiritual than material and because his body is not flesh and his consciousness is just spirit, it may be easier for him to accept spititual teachings. In the Bardo or ghost state, there is no sexual disturbance, no lust to make him stupid, no veil to the Truth. In life it is difficult to assimilate the idea of Impermanence, but in death he is aware of his state and may follow your practice and be benefited.

Inwardly, there is also a relationship between ourselves and the dead. We have talked about our influence on those not yet reborn, but can those already reborn also get any merit from our practice and contact with them? Yes, you must know why. The Truth has no limitation of time or space. When we talk about the Truth we are really in contact with the Truth and with the Dharmakaya. Wherever one is reborn, one is in the Dharmakaya. The Dharmakaya includes the ten directions of limitless space, the three pillars of time, past, present, and future, the whole entity and the whole truth so whether we are alive or dead, whether we are Buddha, or whether we still transmigrate, everything and everyone is within that Dharmakaya.

Why does every drop in the ocean taste the same? A person who is able to see the Dharmakaya and practise the Mahamudra or the Great Perfection and can meditate upon it, has the soul of every being within his hand and within his influence. Whatever he prays for must be influenced. Nothing can escape from the Dharmakaya. That is why whether alive or dead, 45 years or 49 centuries old or even 49 world histories everyone is influenced. One small stone can be thrown in the water and you may think this stone stops at the bottom but the waves slowly influence everywhere. No matter how small the stone is, once it is thrown it affects the whole ocean. So why cannot prayers to the dead also create an influence? They can. But some can easily accept this influence and some very slowly do so and some may only after many years feel the influence, just like the waves spreading very slowly, one by one. It is also like our sunshine. When it appears in the open sky, there is sunshine everywhere and every blade of grass is penetrated by it. We must have such faith.

The gurus of the past have touched so many souls with Phowa, have given so many blessings, so they continue to transform all that exists today. By the practice of the Gurus and the Buddhas many years of merit have been gathered and the Dharma wheel has been turned. That is why when we scatter small amounts of rice and talk a little, it can help the dead. Maybe some soul may very quickly recieve our help, maybe some a little later. This is according to their own condition. When we help them we are in the Position of Consequence, we are just representatives of the Dharmakaya. If we just speak one word, one sentence, or throw one grain of rice, it touches the Dharmakaya, just like one stone thrown in the ocean influences everywhere. You must touch the surface in yourself and pray for the dead; you must create an influence. You must come to the cemetery and perform some Phowa. Just have some faith in the Dharmakaya for the dead person. If you practise in your room, it is too selfish; if we practise here, every ghost more or less can connect with it and be benefited. This inward spiritual practice is for the benefit of both the living and the dead. The deceased get blessings from our Phowa and we get the chance to review and increase our practice.

Secretly, the dead can attain the Pure Land and the practitioner can get spiritual food for his rebirth in the future. When you practise by yourself in your room, you just get the certain result of that practice; but when you practise in a cemetery, you help the dead obtain a good rebirth so that when your time comes, when you are going to die, you will also be fortunate and meet a good lama or practitioner to help you obtain a good rebirth. This kind of opportunity is very difficult to get, especially in America. Think of your friends: some come to see you for talk or for enjoyment, for drink, for dance, or for love, but what is the use of this? The real spiritual friend is very, very rare, so in order for you to meet on that special day at the very time of your death, at that very moment, you must have some merit from your cemetery practice. Otherwise, you cannot get this kind of chance, especially in the West. In Tibet there were many lamas to pray for the dead but there is nobody here to advise you to practise Impermanence and there are no lamas to come and help you obtain a good rebirth at your moment of death. Nobody in America knows how to give Phowa. For many years Buddhists have died in this country in vain as their Gurus did not do any Phowa for them. You see, one man may die but he is not alone in death for many of his enemies and many of his friends come to meet him in the ghost state. They say, "We could not get the chance when you were alive, but now is the time for you to pay up and receive retribution". And Yama, the God of Death, sends his soldiers and his workers, passes judgement, and comes to take you to the Hell realm. So at the time of death, the mind is not properly fixed. You cannot do anything with your "free" mind--no free will, no free mind. But those persons who try to help the dead might get help from their ghost friends and be rid of the bad ghosts who come to trouble them during death. This is the law of cause and effect. I have done something to help the dead so when I am going to die, I will also get someone to help me. This is the secret merit.

The most secret aspect is not only between the dead and the living but for the whole universal peace. Many think, "Oh, the state of this world is due to this man or that man, this communism or that capitalism." But actually the outer world's order is not made only by man but also by ghosts and all the dead people and demons. The dead can cause the living to fight with each other. In the Bible it says that God said, "I have caused the war, I have come to help Israel." So in the Bible it points out that many wars have been caused by God's anger, but a ghosts's anger can also make a war, not only God's. Ghost anger can cause a family war and a national war. God's anger can make a great international war. Therefore we must not only leave the living persons peaceful but also allow the ghosts to be peaceful. Then the whole universe can truly get peace. Some places have a plague of disease which kills many people. This is also caused by a ghost. If all the souls in the cemeteries are settled and fixed, then this earth can be peaceful. If the dead and the living are not at peace, the whole universe is not peaceful.

These are the four aspects of merits between the living and the dead.

IV. Conclusions

We should know that if we treat all the dead as our friends, then we must entertain them. If we treat all the ghosts as our enemy, we must overcome them. Suppose there is an enemy among the ghosts, then I must overcome him with the Dharma. Suppose there is a friend to help us, I must entertain him with the teachings. We must have good relations with the ghosts. That is why we should come often to a cemetery. We must realize that death has no certainty. Don't think, "I am only 30, he is 60 and will die before me." Sometimes the young ones die before their elders. We must always be aware of this. There is a very nice poem on this subject:

Death rides on every passing breeze
He lurks in every flower
Each season has its own disease
Each peril every hour.

Not only do I emphasize this subject now, but when I was 40 I went to Calcutta and lived in a cemetery. I got up at 11 o'clock at night and did puja until 1 a.m. We say that the real time for ghosts is between 11 and 1 a.m. After 1 a.m. the cock crows and the ghosts go away. So I rented a house within a graveyard and had all my food sent there and lived in that place for more than two months. I have a Chinese poem which I wrote in the cemetery. I would like to read and translate it for you:

Could I convert stone, nodding its head so high,
Or cut my flesh to patch up your skull so nigh.
I would like to help you wake up and teach,
Let all worldlings know your death before they die.

About ordinary death there is no need to talk, but there are many kinds of unusual cases of death. Once I heard someone speak about death in sleep as a good peaceful death, but this kind of death is not good because you cannot be a man again when you die without awareness of consciousness. He does not know he is dying. A man must die slowly, aware of death, preparing and praying for himself. Such a death in sleep may be peaceful in body, but not in consciousness. According to history, there are many cases of strange deaths, so I will mention just a few to make us aware of the uncertainty of death.

A big eagle picked a tortoise up from the sea and the tortoise fell down on top of Aeschylus' head and killed him. So wide a sky and such a little head, but the tortoise fell right on top of him and he died instantly. This is a strange case. This kind of death cannot help one ascend.

When Agathocles was 95 years old he died by chewing on a toothpick, so small a thing, and Fabius died by a goat hair in a glass of milk. Gabrielle died by eating an orange; he choked and died. Charles VII knocked his head against the door lintel and died. Some people have died by laughing. A lady friend who used to repeat Amitabha died in this way. Laughing, she just fell down and died. My friend died because he drank a lot of alcohol on New Years and then took a cigarette and this cigarette caused the brandy inside to ignite and he burnt up and died. Some people fall off a horse and die as William III did. There are also many cases of great longevity. In the Bible it says that Seth lived 920 years, Enos was 905 years old and Cainan lived 910 years.

There are many such cases, but who prevents and protects you from death? You must have faith on God, have faith on the protector, have faith on Amitabha, then you will be protected. Many say we must have good diet or good exercise, but many die by food and by physical exertion. There is no real protection except our God, our Buddha, and even our ghostly friends. If a ghost has already gotten our blessing, he will always protect us. A friend of mine who had gotten ghostly protection went to take food somewhere but the ghost knew it was poisoned and told him, "Don't take it." The ghost knows of such things quite well. Man has no supernatural powers, but the ghost has a little supernatural power and can read man's mind. The Guru Tsongkhapa has a protector who is a ghost.

Finally, I want to say something connecting everything in my talk. Let us state what we are aimed at. We want Impermanence as the starting point of practice, but we must know that there is a Yoga of Non-Death. The Non-Death Yoga is not just a practice but has been proved by Padmasambhava. He did not die nor have many other Indian sages. Padmasambhava is still alive. I have published a book on this special Yoga called Non-Death Yoga (Note: Chenian Booklet New No. 86.) But as I do not sell my books, many do not take it seriously. This yoga is not so easy to practise; you must first have many, many kinds of foundation practice. But it is not impossible to rid of death. There is the possibility of learning the Yoga of Non-Death and practising it. So I hope as you are very young that you can practise and become a Non-Death Guru.

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