Depression After Bereavement

Depression After Bereavement

Date of Advice:
July 2018
Date Posted:
August 2020

A student wrote that following the death of a close relative they had become very depressed and unwell. Symptoms included weight loss, lethargy and low functioning. Rinpoche offered this advice about experiencing sickness for sentient beings.

Artwork by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you very much your kind email. I am so sorry it was received a long time ago and I wasn't able to reply quickly.

Yes, for us ordinary beings, since we haven’t actualized the path directly perceiving emptiness, there is nothing to cease the delusions, which are the cause of karma. The result is birth, sickness, old age and death, and all the sufferings in samsara as well as all the samsaric pleasures. Actually, all the samsaric pleasures are in the nature of suffering. That’s why it is only Dharma happiness that can continue and be completed.

When we achieve nirvana, when the suffering of samsara is ceased, including for us, then we cease all the subtle obscurations. With the support of bodhicitta and depending on the wisdom realizing emptiness, then we are able to achieve enlightenment, buddhahood

That’s why Buddha was like us before, having all the problems, then Buddha let go of the I, where all the problems come from and where all suffering comes from, and instead he cherished others. This is opening the door for all the happiness up to enlightenment for us and for all sentient beings.

Buddha changed his mind and that’s why he achieved enlightenment. It is the same for numberless buddhas, and it is the same for us ordinary beings if we get to actualize the path.

As you know, after birth there is death, but it doesn't mean that is the end, because mind continues. Even though mind doesn't have a beginning, it is continuous. So you have met your relative in the past numberless times in different forms and that’s why you met again in this life. She died, but as long as she is in samsara you will always meet again endlessly, but in different forms. So there is nothing to be sad about.

Of course if she is born in a hell, hungry ghost or animal realm, then yes, that is a reason to be sad, because she is suffering in samsara. So then we need to pray for her to be reborn in a pure land or to have a higher rebirth, to be able to meet the Dharma, practice the Dharma and achieve the path.

Therefore it is very good to do the King of Prayers for your relative and for all sentient beings. Also the tenth chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life and the Prayer to be Reborn in the Land of Bliss. These prayers are contained in Eight Prayers to Benefit the Dead.

That is what we can do for her. Otherwise, generate compassion for her, as well as for all sentient beings.

You should not be negative but try to be positive. Any problem we have, we can think like this, as Kadampa Geshe Khamlungpa, one ancient meditator, said:

This present experience of suffering
(you can relate to whatever you are experiencing)
Finishes past negative karma.
This is the advantage and in the future there will be great happiness.
Therefore, rejoice in this suffering.

This is using the suffering on the path to enlightenment, with bodhicitta, so then it will be like the sun shining. From the sun shining, human beings enjoy, animals enjoy, insects enjoy, plants grow and so forth. Like that, there will be more and more happiness, greater and greater, then we go to enlightenment.

The great yogi Gotsangpa said:

By my experiencing this sickness,
(he said sickness but it can be any problem, so you can relate this to your depression)
May all sentient beings be free from sickness collected from beginningless rebirths,
(for you it’s relating to depression, or you can say depression, spirit possession, negative karma and all the defilements)
And may they achieve enlightenment immediately.

You can recite this verse in the same way that you recite OM MANI PADME HUM, like on a mala. You can recite this over and over, like this. That means whatever problems you are experiencing you use for the benefit of all sentient beings, for all sentient beings to cease their suffering quickly and achieve enlightenment.

Then it is fantastic. This much you can do, then you collect skies of merit each time you think this. It is unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. What I am explaining is just a seed, just the essence, there is a lot more.

Also, if you can, please read my book Transforming Problems into Happiness.

Depression usually comes from attachment, from the self-cherishing thought, from attachment that didn’t succeed. Sometimes depression comes for no reason, so you feel OK but it comes at certain times, like at nighttime or in the morning, and the mind suddenly becomes depressed. At other times you are happy but when night or morning comes, suddenly you get depressed, so that can also happen. I have seen in Dharma texts it mentions that when it comes in the morning, suddenly it happens that the person is depressed without depending on those negative things. It happens like that, so this is because of past life karma to do with sexual misconduct. It is the result of that, so then every morning they get depressed without any particular reason, it suddenly happens. Also at other times many people who get depressed at night are OK during the day. There are different causes, like this.

If you can do tonglen that would be very good. If you can do that, it would be the greatest, to transform the suffering into enlightenment. This makes it most beneficial and the cause to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings and for sentient beings to achieve enlightenment, the peerless happiness.

Also if you can do Vajrasattva practice, to purify negative karma with the remedy of the four powers. This came out very good for you. Mostly do that practice. This is very important, and begin with bodhicitta motivation.

Please try this. I am also making prayers.

With much love and prayers ...