Buddhist Prayer for the Deceased – How to Help

Buddhist Prayer for the Deceased from the Bardo Thodol

In light of recent tragedies I would like to honor the dead of all of these tragedies worldwide and share a few things from the Buddhist tradition that could be useful to those who are grieving as well as to those who want to help from afar.

King Milinda asked: “When someone is reborn, Venerable Nagasena, is he the same as the one who just died, or is he another?”
He replied: “He is neither the same nor another.”
“Give me an illustration!”
“What do you think, Great King? When you were a tiny infant, newly born and quite soft, were you then the same as the one who is now grown up?”
“No, that infant was one, I, now grown up, am another.”
“If that is so, then, Great King, you have had no mother, no father, no reaching, no schooling! Do we then take it that there is one mother for the embryo in the first stage, another for the second stage, another for the third, another for the fourth, another for the baby, another for the grown-up man? Is the school-boy one person, and the one who has finished school another? Does one commit a crime, but the hands and feet of another are cut off?”
“Certainly not! But what would you say, Reverend Sir, to all that?”
The elder replied: “I was neither the tiny infant, newly born and quite soft, nor am I now the grown-up man; but all these are comprised in one unit depending on this very body.”
“Give me a simile!”
“If a man were to light a lamp, could it give light throughout the whole night?”
“Yes, it could.”
“Is now the flame which burns in the first watch of the night the same as the one which burns in the second?”
“It is not the same.”
“Or is the flame which burns in the second watch the same as the one which burns in the last one?”
“It is not the same.”
“Do we then take it that there is one lamp in the first watch of the night, another in the second, and another again in the third?”
“No, it is just because of the light of the lamp shines throughout the night.”
Buddhist monk from “The Questions of King Milinda

Buddhist Prayer

In light of recent tragedies both man-made and natural, I thought I would try to be helpful and maybe offer something from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition

I see so many people putting up special Facebook profiles, offering their “thoughts” and “condolences” which sound nice and is done with the best of intentions, but that doesn’t really help the person experiencing the suffering.  There are so many good people out there who feel helpless and are trying to comfort others using social media but feel like they are not really being heard and sometimes such words and phrases like “I’m sorry” become cliche and lose their meaning.

Then I remembered a lecture I listened to recently by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Robert Thurman in which he talked about the Nepal earthquakes and guides us through a reading from the Bardo Thodol (The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between) which will help to guide the deceased toward a favorable outcome in the Between.  Or you could simply view it in the terms of your faith that you already are a part of.  To sum up we can say that it helps their souls find their way to a better place.

This is something anyone can do to benefit those who have passed as a result of any tragedy or natural disaster, so I encourage you to listen by clicking below. a Buddhist prayer the Six Between “states” (or Bardo in Tibetan).

May we attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings!!!

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10 Responses to Buddhist Prayer for the Deceased – How to Help

  1. Billy Hunter says:

    Hi Ian,
    Your passion for Buddhism really speaks to me. I remember learning about the Buddha and the religion for the first time in High school. It seemed so so so different than what Americans are used to. I feel like it would be a life changing experience to practice the religion of Buddhism. and I imagine that you practice it.

    • Ian H says:

      Yes, I do practice but I don’t consider myself to be a Buddhist (as a religion). It is completely different mindset for sure, but not one limited by nationality. Essentially it is a true selfless mindset vs. the global ego-driven mindset of today, even in Far Eastern countries.

      And it is definitely life-changing, no doubt about that. 🙂

  2. jamesdanner says:

    I’ve never really had any interest in the Buddhist religion. But your site sparks a curiosity that makes one want to learn more. There’s such a variety of belief systems that it’s a good idea to have at least a basic understanding of each of them. Your site, with the online store and audio recordings provides all the material necessary to understand the religion. Very good job. Have a wonderful and productive day.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the kind words. And in each belief system there are a variety of interpretations or schools,. I’m working on an article that compares and contrasts each type of Buddhism which I’m excited about. Stay tuned for more!

  3. Heather Grace says:

    I am no stranger to tragedies in my life especially in the recent year. I think this is a fantastic article that really speak to the heart of how to handle a tragedy. I really agree that “I’m sorry” looses its meaning after the one hundredth time. The Buddist prayer was really touching. I think it’s great you chose to speak on this topic. Much need in today’s world unfortunately.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Heather,

      It hurts my heart to hear about the recent tragedies in your life. Thank you so much for the feedback. I felt that in light of current events where we have people losing their lives all over the world, I would try to add something helpful instead of just saying “I’m sorry” and not doing anything at all to help.

      Of course this is just one kind of action, and its important to actually reach out physically or financially and be a light unto the darkness.

  4. Thomas says:

    Hi Ian,

    A very informative page on a subject most people just turn the other cheek to. It is very important to flag these matters, and get it out in the sunlight for everyones attention.

    I am not religious myself, but see myself as a lover of all beings, not matter color, religion or political attitudes.

    With all the wars in the world, many created based on religion, I have always seen budism as a peaceful religion. Thank you for letting me read.


    • Ian H says:

      I think you have the right attitude in life and one that is very much in harmony with the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhism is more of a science of the mind and spirit rather than an institutionalized religion that operates on blind faith, though in some Southeast Asian countries the monks tend to be a bit stricter about everything so they fall prey to an overly dualistic mindset.

      That being said, many people in Asia do pray and make offerings but that is more a blend of Buddhism with indigenous ancestor worship.

  5. Adam says:


    I really like your page… Im following it for a several weeks.
    What you are doing is definitely some kind of mission. Not the mission of buddhism but the mission of the greater good. I mean what you post your articles about are things which every of us should practice to build a happier world with free and helpful mids.

    Keep up the good work! 🙂


    • Ian H says:

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for the comment and for following my page. Yes, I think you’re right, I believe that fundamentally all religions are tapping in to the same spiritual source. Love and compassion unites us all.

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