Before Death Essentials
1) If the person is open to listening to mantras, there are a few that are very good:
- The mantras for pain and the sutra for pain, Entering the Great City of Vaishali. This can be listened to or played softly to help with pain. [The audio for this sutra can be found on the MP3 file Recitations for Alleviating Pain. Go to the FPMT Catalogue and scroll down to Audio Materials, then click on “Sadhanas, Prayers and Practices.”]
- Any mantras may be chanted, but especially Medicine Buddha and Compassion Buddha mantras.
2) Place holy mantras and images where the dying person can see them—mantras such as the Liberation Card for Dying Person, the Namgyalma mantra, and the Ten Powerful Mantras. These can also be placed on the actual body at death time.
3) Place a stupa filled with the four dharmakaya relic mantras near the person. At the time of death, this stupa should be placed so it is touching the dying person’s head (for example, put it on the pillow).
4) If you have time, you can get the Liberation Box that has the mantras, precious pills, stupa and practices for the death time.
5) The main practice to do before, during and after death is Medicine Buddha. It is best if this practice is done near the dying person, so they can hear it being done, hear the mantras etc.
Visualize Medicine Buddha above the person’s head. As you recite the mantra, nectar flows from the Medicine Buddha and purifies the dying person. Then make dedications for the person’s future rebirth, that they may meet the Dharma, meet the perfectly qualified Mahayana teacher, practice, and become enlightened as quickly as possible. You may also dedicate that the person takes rebirth in a pure land.
It is more important to focus on dedicating for the person’s future rebirth, that they will meet the Dharma, rather than making prayers for this life or the intermediate state. Now is the time to dedicate strongly for this person’s future life to be a most precious one.
The Medicine Buddha practice (short or long) is the best activity for anyone who wants to do something to benefit the dying person. You can also sponsor Medicine Buddha pujas dedicated for that person at Kopan Monastery etc, but actually doing the practice yourself is very, very powerful.
Actual Death Time Essentials
When the death time is very close, these are the things to do:
1) It is best not to have anyone emotional around the person who is passing away, especially as the time grows very close. It is important that there is a calm and peaceful environment. Anyone who is crying or hanging on to the dying person should not be in the room at all. This cannot be stressed enough.
2) It is best if there are mantras playing or someone is reciting Medicine Buddha mantra in the dying person’s ear.
3) When it seems like the person is very close to dying:
- Place the mantras face down on the body, so they are touching the skin.
- Place the stupa so it is touching the crown.
- If you have Kalachakra sand, place it on the head. (Kalachakra sand is from a sand mandala blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama). Mix the sand with butter to make it stick, and at the time of death, place it on the dying person’s crown. You may also do this after the person passes away, but best is to do it before.
4) When the breathing stops, no one should touch the body for as long as possible (best is 72 hours, but this often is not possible), even one hour (ideally the mantras and stupa would have already been placed so they are touching his body).
5) The first time the body is touched after the person has died, touch the crown. The first thing to do is to tug the hair on the crown of the head, strongly, so that the consciousness leaves from the crown of his head.
6) The main practice to do throughout this time is the Medicine Buddha puja. After the person passes away, again do Medicine Buddha puja dedicated for the dying person’s future rebirth. It is best to do the puja every day for 49 days, and if that is not possible, then do it every seventh day for 49 days. The last puja on the 49th day should have more extensive offerings. Also, you can recite the King of Prayers every day for 49 days.
7) After the person passes away, place that person’s name on the prayer list that goes to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to Sangha communities who do prayers for 49 days. Also, stupas are made and dedicated by the Sangha at Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s house, however, this service is only available after the person has passed away. For more information, go to Support at the Time of Death.
Rinpoche has said this is the most essential advice. Just try to do what you can. Out of all the practices, the main one is always Medicine Buddha puja.
Other Resources for the Time of Death
- Death and Dying: Heart Advice and Practices
- Heart Practices for Death and Dying
- Practicing the Five Powers Near the Time of Death
See also Caring for the Dying and Dead, a booklet which contains this essential advice and mantras that are beneficial for a dying person to hear.