Our sangha had an opportunity to deepen our practices for the time of death with the passing of Anyen Rinpoche's brother. Although we knew the Tibetan Buddhist practice of praying for the dead for 49 days, we had not yet practiced this together as a sangha. To support our beloved Lama, we came together to practice Sur and recite the King of Aspiration Prayer at least once a day, while Rinpoche also practiced a special Medicine Buddha sadhana.
The sangha made a schedule for the seven weeks to ensure someone would always be at the center to do the practice. We dedicated this to Rinpoche's brother, along with others who had recently passed in our sangha's families and to all beings in the bardos.
Rinpoche led us tirelessly, as he also attended to many details for the preparations in Tibet, giving us a glimpse of true commitment and faith. Under his guidance, we began to understand the importance of this intense undertaking. Properly attending to the dying person and grieving friends and family members demands hours of time from our daily schedule and a real shift of focus from ourselves and our own preoccupations.
As a sangha, our commitment and devotion deepened, both to the path and to each other. It allowed us to
come closer to
dying confidently,knowing that, as part of a committed sangha, we too can be supported with love and prayer at the time of death.
This is Anyen Rinpoche's vision for Buddhist practitioners in the West. Sangha will come together and know what needs to be done at the time of death. This is what the Dying with Confidence training is really about: practice, practice, practice now while we are clear-minded and healthy. Have entrusted dharma friends who know specific practices for the time of death and be able to rely on the imprint of your own daily practice when you are dying. Develop your connection with a Lama. Plan ahead for a phowa master to perform phowa for you. Don't procrastinate. We do not know when death will come-but it will certainly come.
Om Mani Padme Hung Hri
Here are two stories of Buddhists we have come into contact with through the DWC training program. One had a long bout with cancer and the other died suddenly in her 40's.
The sangha member with cancer had spoken with other members about what he wanted done at the time of death, but had not prepared any written document and had not spoken with his family about having sangha members present to support him by practicing phowa. The family came to take care of him during the last month of his life and, being uninformed of his wishes, did not allow sangha members to be there as he died.
The sangha member who died suddenly had a group of practitioners immediately performing phowa for her. The family had known about her wishes and participated fully in all the prayers and practices through the cremation and the 49 days beyond.
While phowa was performed for both, closer support of practitioners during the dying process could have greatly helped the member dying of cancer. The family of our sangha member who was at teachings one day and passed away a few days later was immensely comforted by the practices of the sangha and their continued support.
Dying with Confidence training gives us the practical means to transform the experience of death in our modern culture and to apply our practice for the liberation of all beings.