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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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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