In the second of a new video series, Venerable Acharya Zasep Tulku Rinpoche answers a question from a student about loss of a loved one:
What advice would you give for a student who is dealing with the loss of a loved one?
Venerable Zasep Rinpoche is spiritual director of many temples, meditation centres and retreat centres in Australia, the United States and Canada. (Bio below)
Full ten minute video:
Transcript of Venerable Zasep Rinpoche’s Response
Yes, I do have advice for dealing with the loss of a loved one. We all, at some parts of our life, some stages of our life, we — all of us — have to deal with loss of a loved one.
I say that, the first time, when you lose a loved one, you go into shock. Then, at some point, you start grieving. First, when you go into shock, you need help. What you really need is help of friends, spiritual friends, and teachers or Sangha.
You could do meditation on loving kindness for the loved one who’s no longer with you. And, also, you could do some Sadhana practice, mantras — like Om Mani Padme Hum — mantra of Chenrezig, mantra of Amitabha Buddha — Om Amitabha Hrih — and do your daily practice and meditation. It will be very helpful.
When you first go into shock, you feel very lonely, as well, that’s why you need help. Then, at some point, when the shock is over, you start grieving. Grieving can come, and go, and come again, sometimes can go on for months and months, even years, several years — depends on the individual.
You feel your grief mentally and physically. You might need help or counselling. You need help from a Dharma teacher or spiritual friend. Then you need to meditate. Meditate on the suffering or loneliness, the suffering of loss of loved ones, and impermanence. It is important to “go back” to the Lamrim. Lamrim teachings are very powerful, very helpful, and profound psychology.
One needs to realize that we all lose loved ones, sooner or later, and we die ourselves. When we die, our friends feel the same way. They lost a friend. So this is impermanence. Once you understand impermanence, you feel a little better.
Sometimes when you lose a loved one, you feel not only grief, but anger. They’re upset and angry. They feel guilt. So that anger, grief and guilt is happening for some people. Not everybody, of course.
Some people feel angry. First they’re angry with themselves, because they feel guilty. They think, Oh I should have saved… maybe I could have saved… maybe I could have done this, could have done that. I didn’t do that. So now you’re disappointed with yourself, upset with yourself, and feel guilty.
Another part of grieving, you could feel angry. You feel angry with the person who is deceased, like mother or brother or uncle, or maybe wife, you feel — how could you die? How could you leave me here? You’re gone now. I’m alive and I’m suffering.
Thats very sad, because, actually from a Tibetan Buddhist point of view, one should not get angry, because that person who is deceased, he or she doesn’t have a choice. Unless that person committed suicide. And, even if they committed suicide, who wants to commit suicide? You must have so much suffering, unbearable suffering.
You have to let it go, and forgive. When a person dies, he or she has suffered a lot. They had no choice. They didn’t do it deliberately. They didn’t abandon you. Those people who feel angry, I think they’re very confused. That’s why they’re angry. Or sometimes, they’re a bit self-centred.
From my point of view it’s a bit self-centred if you are angry. Because, “I want you to be with me. Now, you’re not with me. I am abandoned.” It’s all about me and I.
Instead of feeling angry, you should feel sorry. “I lost you, you’re gone, I wish you have good rebirth. I pray for you, for the journey and rebirth, and if possible born in the Buddha Land, Pure Land.” We need to change our attitude. It’s hard for someone who is confused and angry. But we need to educate them.
For grieving, your question about how to deal with grieving — grieving is a long process. Again, as I said before, Lamrim practice, study Lamrim, meditate on impermanence, on death and dying, ongoing prayers, and meditations on loving kindness. You could dedicate the merit of your daily practice, daily meditation, dedicate for the deceased. Then, you feel better.
Other things you can do: you can make offerings to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Make beautiful offerings like butter lamp or candles, food, and water, and so forth. Make offerings. Daily, or weekly, every seven days (since the deceased passed away) for the next forty-nine days.
According to Mahayana Buddhist tradition, we make offerings every day, or, especially every seven days, until the forty-ninth day. Also, you can do the offering annually.
Also, you can do retreats, meditation retreat, mantra retreat. You could also go on a spiritual pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, the place where Buddha was Enlightened. You could go to Varanasi, the place where Buddha gave his first teaching. Do a pilgrimage trip, and dedicate for the deceased.
This is a long process. Simple answer for dealing with bereavement is to meditate on loving kindness. I think that is the best.
About Archarya Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
Rinpoche is popularly known for his approachable teaching style, strong humor and teachings based on a long lineage of great lamas. His own gurus included the most celebrated of Gelug teachers: His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Venerable Geshe Thupten Wanggyel, His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Venerable Lati Rinpoche, Venerable Tara Tulku Rinpoche and Venerable Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Rinpoche.
Rinpoche is spiritual director of many temples, meditation centres and retreat centres in Australia, the United States and Canada. He was first invited to teach in Australia by Lama Thubten Yeshe in 1976.