The following advice was given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche after the death of Ven Tenzin Konchog, an Australian nun
As far as Jangwa, the ashes need to be blessed. In Australia, there are many
good geshes who have a good understanding of Dharma, the entire path to
enlightenment. It doesn’t matter whether the ashes are divided for each geshe
to bless or whether one of the geshes blesses them all.
Much of the ashes should be put in the ocean, because when they are blessed,
they become like relics, so by putting them in the ocean, all the animals are
purified of their negative karma for the next rebirth and future rebirths. This
is mentioned in the Jangwa text.
The text also mentioned throwing the ashes into the wind on top of a high
mountain so that all the insects and other sentient beings who touch the ashes
get liberated. I think in the ocean would be better because there are so many
more sentient beings there. You can also sprinkle some on the ground where
there are many insects.
A little bit of the ashes can be placed in the stupa base. She (Tenzin Konchog, the deceased) receives all the
merit from having the stupa dedicated to her, so putting the ashes in the stupa
doesn’t create any extra merit, but still it can be put in the base on the top,
even in the front of the base, and then covered up.
If the ashes are purified and blessed by a good meditator with good
concentration, the ashes can be put inside a stupa mixed with powders, and
Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche says this is okay, and it is also mentioned in the
text. Common people say that you can’t put such ashes inside the stupa. They
say that this is very heavy negative karma, but this is not a well-analyzed
There is a story about some Hindu practitioners whose guru died and was born in
the hell realms. He sent a message through the Arhat Angulimala that said not
to circumambulate his stupa. The story says this is related to a wrong view
that he taught to his disciples, having to do with sacrificing animals and not
abiding in the ten virtues.
In the case of people’s superstitious thought of not wanting to circumambulate
the stupa, I am saying to put the ashes in the base, not the stupa. This will
make it easier for those with superstitions to worship the stupa.
The more times the ashes are blessed, the more benefit for the person who died.
I am suggesting that a tsa tsa stupa can be made at the end of each week for
them. Assuming that the person who died is still in the intermediate stage,
pujas should also be done at the end of each week.
Here, ‘at the end of each week’ doesn’t mean the human beings’ week of Sunday,
Monday, Tuesday. Rather, start with the day that the person died, according to
the intermediate stage beings’ week, which is seven days. The general length of
life of an intermediate state being is seven days. If they cannot find rebirth,
they get reborn again in the intermediate stage. It doesn’t have to be seven
days. It is possible that they take birth in the intermediate state and then
immediately take rebirth just after that.
You can make one, two or three tsa tsa stupas, but at least one. Then they can
be filled with the four different mantras (see below) which I have copied down. They have
skies of benefit, unbelievable power. It makes the stupa or stature so powerful
for people who are worshipping or circumambulating.
There is a mantra called “The Stainless Beam Deity’s Mantra,” which if you
circumambulate a stupa or tsa tsa with this in it just one time, this has the
power to purify the heavy negative karma that causes one to be reborn in all
the eight hot hells. Here I am talking about even just one mantra, and it’s
possible to fit many inside one stupa. However many mantras are in the statue
or stupa, that makes it even more powerful.
Even individual Sangha members can recite the mantra up to the 49 days after
the day death. That is very good. But especially where there are Sangha
communities, this is very good to do.
This is a way for the Sangha community to help when an FPMT Sangha is dying or
is dead. It is the most critical journey for that person, especially one who is
going to the lower realms. It is important to receive support at least for 49
days from the time of death, and before that the individual Sangha who is dying
will feel so happy, knowing that they are receiving this support from the FPMT
Sangha community. What a joy for that Sangha member!
If it is not possible to make a stupa for a Sangha who has died, it is very
good to do Vajrasattva tsok, composed by Lama Yeshe. While reciting the mantra,
visualize nectar beams emitting from guru Vajrasattva, purifying that person
and then all sentient beings, particularly sentient beings in the lower realms.
The merit of offering the tsok can be dedicated to that person and to others.
One other common thing that is traditionally done when somebody has died is to
make light offerings: 100 lights, 1,000 lights or 10,000-light offering. One
can offer any amount of light offering, according to the person’s wealth,
possibly 100,000 or more. One can make light offering every day up to the 49
days, or at the end of every week, using the light offering practice that I
have put together. If you are doing only the light offering practice, then only
those preliminary prayers can be done. But if you are making an extensive light
offering, then you can use Lama Tsong Khapa guru yoga, or guru puja, and when
you come to the offering section in the seven-limbed prayer, you can make the
extensive light offering then, or you can do it at the beginning when you make
the preliminary offerings.
If you are doing light offerings as part of other Sadhanas, you can do so when
you come to the seven-limb prayer in the offering part. If you are doing
Chenresig practice, there is a section for extensive offering. You can do the
light offering and the meditation at that time.
Of course, one should bless the offering when one is actually lighting the
offerings. That is part of the normal practice. Even before you do the
extensive offering meditation, it is good to recite the mantra of clouds of
offerings. You can do this recitation when you do group practice or when you do
sadhanas. That mantra has that power not only to bless but also to increase the
offerings. Even if you are only offering one light, numberless Buddhas receive
numberless light offerings. The guru puja merit field receives numberless light
The light offering is very important and very often done when somebody has
Here I am saying what the minimum is that can be done. But if somebody has the
money or some people want to sponsor it, there is a Namgyalma 1,000 offering
puja or the Medicine Buddha Puja, either the middle or long version. These are
extremely good to do with many offerings. They can be done at the end of each
week, and especially at the end of the 49 days.
These pujas can be done in a Sangha community. If there is wealth, one can
sponsor these pujas to be done in monasteries where there are many monks. This
way, one makes offerings to more Sangha and collects more merit. It can be done
in the Tibetan monasteries, which one can request to do these particular pujas.
Of course, generally whether it is Theravada Sangha or Mahayana Sangha doesn’t
matter, as long as they are living in their vows. There is unbelievable merit
in making offerings to Sangha, just because they are Sangha, especially the
When a Sangha dies, even in the centers with no Sangha, if from their side,
they want to sponsor or do puja, it is welcomed.
This can apply to the death of lay students also. The centers can do these
practices of extensive light offerings, Namgyalma mantra, Medicine Buddha
meditation (at least the very short one which was translated many years ago is
very good) and Vajrasattva tsok, and on top of that whatever other practices
can be sponsored is good. One can also do Nyung Nes and dedicate the merit for
that person within those 49 days, individually or as a group.
However, the minimum to do is Namgyalma mantra. That’s extremely beneficial, it
came out in my divination, even for Tenzin Konchog. The other one is
Vajrasattva tsok and to make at least one stupa, which is very easy. I am not
talking about a 500-foot stupa or one the size of a skyscraper in New York,
Malaysia, or Taiwan, which are much higher than the Maitreya statue .
This is the basic advice. As far as mantras generally, there is the Stainless
Beam Deity’s mantra, which by reciting it 73 times, that person will get
immediately liberated from the lower realms.
In Tenzin Konchog’s case, the Namgyalma mantra came out as the most beneficial
thing to do. If possible, recite it 21 times. However, if it is too difficult
for each person to do the long mantra 21 times, then they can do the long one 6
times or 12 times, followed by one mala or a few malas of the short mantra.
This practice is explained in a book that I translated containing the
meditation of Namgyalma and a description of all the benefits and how powerful
the Namgyalma practice is, and also the story of Namgyalma. Maybe not all the
benefits are mentioned there, but the story is there and some of the benefits.
There are are unbelievable benefits from Namgyalma practice. Many years ago,
Lama Yeshe and I went to Mundgod to see our root guru, His Holiness Song
Rinpoche, and he talked to us while he was doing his meditation. In the middle
of the interview, Rinpoche mentioned that he was reciting the Namgyalma mantra.
He said that people think that it is only for long life, but it is also very
powerful purification. Rinpoche said he had received offerings from all over
the world for people who had died and therefore was reciting the Namgyalma
When I myself check to see what is the most beneficial mantra to recite for
somebody who has died, normally the Namgyalma mantra comes out best.
If the Namgyalma mantra is written on a banner and placed on top of a house,
anyone who is touched by the shadow of the banner has their negative karma
purified by that. If the mantra is placed on the top of a mountain, all the
animals and insects on that mountain get their negative karma purified, and so
do the people climbing the mountain. If you have this mantra or this text in
your house, all the people living in the house are purified of their negative
karma. Similarly if you put a prayer wheel with this mantra in the water, all
the beings are purified of their negative karma and they are liberated from the
lower realms and gain a good rebirth. This has unbelievable power and is a very
powerful and easy way to benefit others.
It’s good that all Sangha have that practice, especially where there are Sangha
In any case, recite and dedicate for Tenzin Konchog and for all sentient
beings, especially the ones who are born in the lower realms, who have
unimaginable suffering. Then dedicate the merits by reciting the King of
Prayers, the Bodhisattva’s holy deeds. One can also recite malas of om mani
padme hung, and whatever other prayer one does normally. The mala of om mani
padme hung can be done for anybody.
These are is some basic ideas about how to help a person who has died. This
also helps our own life become meaningful and also becomes purification for us
and collects extensive merit.
Traditionally what is also done is that as soon as a person’s breath has
stopped, if the person has some money, it is offered to their gurus, five
rupees, ten rupees, or whatever can be offered. Not just any guru, not Mickey
Mouse gurus, but that person’s gurus, which in the case of Tenzin, includes His
Holiness the Dalai Lama.
As far as when I get money offered to me when people have died, I keep it
separate to use for pujas, to build stupas, prayer wheels and so forth. There
are many monasteries – Sera, Ganden, Drepung, the two Tantric colleges and all
the monasteries that belong to my gurus: Trulshik Rinpoche’s monastery, Chobgye
Trichen’s monastery, Kopan, Nalanda, and so on. Offerings to these monasteries
will continue forever, as long as these monasteries exist.
If you offer by thinking of the guru, that those you are offering to are the
pores of one’s own guru, you collect extensive merit. By remembering one’s own
guru, offering to all the ten direction Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and ten
directions’ statues, stupas and scriptures, any amount that is offered collects
extensive merit forever. If the money is offered to build holy objects and
temples as is mentioned in the Mindfulness Sutra, we have the Maitreya Project
to offer to, hoping to be a 500-foot statue with many temples inside. We are
building it to last 1,000 years, in order to benefit so many sentient beings
who will use it to plant the seed of enlightenment. Whatever amount is offered
– $1, $5, $10 – one receives unbelievable merit and others do too for a great
length of time. One also makes connection with Maitreya Buddha when he shows
enlightenment. There is also the Bendigo Stupa project, which is not as big as
the Maitreya Project. There are many other smaller ones and mini ones too.
Whatever money or property a person has, it is extremely good to use it for
public service, to build monasteries, temples, centers and Holy objects, and to
support Western Sangha. That, and of course offering to His Holiness the Dalai
Lama also, can make it most beneficial.
There is a story that from making even one offering of drink to Sangha, one is
born a king in the human world. I think one couple who was very poor offered
medicinal drinks to some Sangha and were reborn as kings in the place called
Gashika with incredible amounts of power. For tens of million aeons, they were
never poor due to having offered food and drink to Sangha. That’s only talking
about their temporal happiness; it’s not even talking about the ultimate
It is stated in the Mindfulness text: “One who creates holy objects or temples,
or provides bedding for the Sangha, shelter for the Sangha and so forth, that
person will be virtuous from life to life, always able to practice Dharma and
create virtue and have happiness from life to life. Even for one thousand times
ten million aeons, that merit won’t be lost.”
Regarding any money that was offered to Anila Tenzin Konchog for making tsa
tsas, pujas, or any other purifications for her. As far as the $5,000, some can
be used for building a house at Sera Monastery for the Kopan monks, so that
they can go to study there. This means that we can have our own teachers within
the FPMT, rather than having teachers come from outside where we sometimes face
I also thought of building a stupa at Chenrezig Institute. It could be one arm
length in height, including the base, with her name on the side of the base.
Some statues can also be built of the deity she practiced.