Creating Spiritual Advance Directives: Helping Our Families Understand Our Spiritual Care

(By Lama Kathy Wesley and Chaplain Cathy Lhamo Jackson. Last Revised 11.22.13)

INTRODUCTION

spiritual1 Death is part of life, and although we generally keep it at arm’s length so that we may continue our daily activities without a sense of impending doom, we benefit from taking a healthy, balanced approach to the inevitability of death. Keeping death in mind in a healthy, spiritual way allows us to live a fuller and more meaningful life and appreciate our lives and our loved ones in ways we might not otherwise do.

As spiritual people, we find that keeping death in mind freshens our practice and makes it continually relevant and meaningful.

And as we approach death, we see that it is a special opportunity to accomplish perfect spiritual awakening for the benefit of others.

Our families and loved ones may not share our spiritual view of death, or our concept of death as a time of spiritual transformation, but if we can make definite advance plans for our deaths, we can help both ourselves and our loved ones.

In the modern world, we have developed many types of “Advance Directives:” instructions that help our loved ones know our wishes in situations in which we cannot speak for ourselves.

Among these are the Last Will and Testament, which explains how we wish our goods and possessions to be dispersed;  the Power of Attorney document, which appoints a person to act in our place in matters of business and daily living;  the Advance Funeral Plan, in which we give instructions about the disposition of our physical remains after our death; the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, which appoints a person to make medical decisions for us if we become unable to speak for ourselves; and the Living Will, which explains what type of medical treatment we wish in cases of medical emergency–a document which can guide our Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

All of these documents are are accepted widely as instructions and instruments for explaining our wishes to others.

Now, we believe it is time to introduce a Spiritual Advance Directives document, in which we can explain our spiritual wishes, so that our families may know how to care for us spiritually at the time of illness and death.

If prepared properly, a Spiritual Advance Directives document can give confidence and peace to you and your family, as you follow the steps together and form, together, a circle of love and respect and spiritual peace at the time of illness and death.

spiritua4How to Speak to Your Family

Spiritual Advance Directives can be drawn up with the help of a Lama, or a volunteer from your Buddhist congregation.

At Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, lamas can assist the sick and dying, and help create Spiritual Advance Directives. At the Karma Thegsum Choling city center level, lamas may not always be available. Because of that, we hope someday to have a group of trained pastoral volunteers who will help KTC dharma students at the time of sickness and death.

spiritua5Among the things we hope our lamas and volunteers can do:

- Assist you with finding Instruction in practices your teacher has suggested.
- Support you, or help you find local support
- Help get specific practice materials
-Help contacting places to obtain prayers, Dharma Medicine, etc.

When you meet with your Family and Loved Ones to explain your wishes, you may ask your local Lama or sangha volunteer to be there to assist and explain your spiritual needs. They can help explain to your Loved Ones why it is very important now to ready yourself for the transitions of sickness and death. They also can help explain the role of Buddhism and practice in your life and end of life.

Here are some examples of spiritual wishes you may wish to communicate to your loved ones:

– Spiritual support from Buddhist teachers and community
– Ability to pray and practice now, in quiet setting
– That some members of the Buddhist Community will be with you during the entire death process: before, during, and immediately after your death.
– Explain how your Family can participate with this process
– Show and explain example Response Plans for Serious Illness and Death
– Discuss other Advance Directives (Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care) and how these might affect your Spiritual Care requests.

General Advice and Instructions for Loved Ones while Attending the Dying

“According to the teachings, at the time of death, the way you think and what you think is particularly powerful and significant, because it can steer the direction you move in after death. Therefore, it is very important that you be in a positive state of mind while dying. So you need to select people to accompany you during the time of your death who are positive, benevolent, tranquil, and stable in their minds. And the dying person, himself or herself, also, of course, has to avoid as much as possible thinking of things, as they die, that are going to make them extremely agitated.” (From Thrangu Rinpoche)

Therefore, Loved Ones are asked to please create a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere:

- Quiet atmosphere in the room, use soft voices

- No swearing or harsh speech

- Avoid topics that stir up mental afflictions

- Tears are perfectly natural, and fine; loud sobbing is not encouraged

- Please do not touch the dying person one below the waist

- It is advisable to meet around the person’s head

- You are encouraged to touch the crown of the head lightly

- Recitation of the following prayers  – include the sick person, if possible

- Confession Before the 35 Buddhas

- Name of Buddhas

- Mikyo Dorje Guru Yoga

- Chenrezig and Amitabha sadhanas

- If no other prayers are known, the OM MANI PAYMAY HUNG mantra is excellent.

spiritual2SAMPLE RESPONSE PLANS

I. RESPONSE PLAN: SERIOUS ILLNESS

Introduction for My Family:

As a spiritual person, I see death as an important transition in my spiritual life, and an opportunity for spiritual transformation. Below, I give instructions on how you can help support me in my spiritual practice at the time of my illness and death, so that the occasion of illness and death can become transformational for both myself and everyone around me. Please do your best to follow my instructions; I hope you are as inspired by them as I am. May all be peaceful and auspicious for us.

Contact my Teacher/Guru [Name, Phone, Email]

Get Instructions from Teacher
Get assistance in specific practice, materials (see Guides)
Lamas can be notified by telephone, Skype, Email if they do not live nearby
Contact my Buddhist Congregation [Names, Phone, Email]
Local or not – do not worry: you can use email, Skype, telephone.

Arrange a meeting with local Sangha who will be on my Spiritual Care Team. These will be the people assisting you in practicing with you, visiting you, helping you in spiritual care …

Arrange for Prayers: to be said for me at this time and for my auspicious rebirth

bardopacke3Name of Prayers
Where offerings /donation for prayers to be sent.
KTD and Karme Ling
List Prayers
Use Guides to the Pure Land or Buddhist Congregation Contact to assist
Get Dharma Medicine – see local Lama, Guide, or Buddhist Congregation Contact

Get The Bardo Package of blessed objects and substances to use at time of death

Information about Bardo Package and ordering instructions here.

II. RESPONSE PLAN – TIME OF DEATH

Introduction for My Family:

As a spiritual person, I see death as an important transition in my spiritual life, and an opportunity for spiritual transformation. Below, I give instructions on how you can help support me in my spiritual practice at the time of my illness and death, so that the occasion of illness and death can become transformational for both myself and everyone around me. Please do your best to follow my instructions; I hope you are as inspired by them as I am. May all be peaceful and auspicious for us.

Hospital Nursing staff or Family Member will contact the Lama or Sangha volunteer to help with:

Contacting my teacher
Contacting my local Buddhist Congregation
Working with me as I pass
Performing Phowa ceremony immediately after I have passed
The Lama ideally will be with me before I die. If not, they will be called to the hospital/home/hospice after my death to perform the Phowa practice in conjunction with administering The Bardo Package.

The family is invited to attend
The phowa ceremony will last approximately 30 minutes.
If no lama or sangha volunteer is available, the family may administer The Bardo Package

THE BARDO PACKAGE

The Bardo Package contains many substances that can be administered by Lama, Sangha volunteer or Family Member. These are allowed at hospitals and at hospices. The Bardo Package consists of several sacred substances and objects aimed at Liberating the mind of the person who is dying:

Liberation through Hearing: Before death, one can listen to audio recording of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche chanting liberating mantras and prayers; after death, one can listen to audio recording of Lama Karma Drodhul chanting the text Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo.

Liberation through Taste: Before death, a special relic pill can be administered to the dying person as a purifying blessing any time from three days before passing until just minutes before they pass–as long as the person is able to swallow, the relic pill can be given. If the person is unable to swallow, the pill can be crushed and placed on the crown of the person’s head after they have passed.

Liberation through Touch: After death, special liberating sand will be placed on the crown of the deceased person’s head, as a form of material Phowa

Liberation through Touch: After death, a special blessing mandala will be placed on both the deceased person’s chest and body, as a form of material Phowa.

Read more about the Bardo Package and information on ordering one here.

KTD112113bardo

RECOMMENDED READING

KTD112113bardointHere are some books to read about Tibetan Buddhist Death and Dying practices:

Bardo: Interval of Possibility – Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche

Death and the Art of Dying – Bokar Rinpoche

Journey of the Mind – Thrangu Rinpoche

Mind beyond Death – Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Primordial Essence Manifests – Tai Situ Rinpoche

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo (Shambhala Classics) – Padmasambhava; Commentary by Chogyam Trungpa; Translation by Francesca Fremantle

About these ads

10 responses

  1. Pingback: The Bardo Package: Spiritual Care for the Dying | KTD Blog

  2. Who is the best person to contact with any questions regarding these Spiritual Advance Directives? Due to serious personal illnesses, time is growing short. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s