I attended a
recently. It was a
lovely and moving event. But I was disappointed in the focus of the
service and content of the priest's talks. While there was certainly a
linking made to the life of the person who had died, most of the
priest's talk was about the Church and what the Church believes about
death. He told stories about Jesus and the Apostles, even the minor
disciple Cornelius, but he didn't talk abut the important things in the
life and beliefs of the man we had all gathered to honor.
I think we would have liked to hear what our friend thought about death
and afterlife and God, rather than what the Church teaches. It would
have been nice to have had a friend or partner of the deceased read a
statement of what he believed.
Maybe we ALL, therefore, need to write a Credo.
See What Toby Johnson Believes.
I propose that a funeral ought to include a reading of the deceased's
Credo, especially a statement or summary of what he believed about
death and afterlife.
And I'd like to propose two meditation practices as samples of what
be incorporated into a funeral or memorial service.
The first is a practice of positive
intention for the deceased's last moments.
The second is a practice of sharing the grief for
the death AND transforming sorrow into bliss.
1) Assisting the
deceased to have
a happy death—and preparing for our own.
The occasion for gathering is to say goodbye and
commemorate the life of the deceased. At least mythologically, we might
imagine that our participating in the psychic vibrations that surround
his passing might entrain with his vibes and so actually influence his
So let us imagine how he died.
actual conditions surrounding his death: Was he awake? Was he in bed?
Was he standing in line at the bank? Was he in a car crash? Was he
happy that day? Was he feeling healthy or feeling ill?
what his interior experience was like. Realizing the pain in his chest
was a heart attack, perhaps, or realizing that he was bleeding to death
and so would soon be passing beyond personality.
realizing he is dying and realizing that this is a great moment in life
and so one not to be afraid of or freaked out by. So that he can say
“Wow, here it comes. I've been waiting for this. I have no regrets.
Life’s been great.”
relaxing into death without any fear, and feeling like the mythical
“tunnel of light” is opening before him.
If he has
good fortune to have a loved one with him, perhaps the loved one has
had the presence of mind to guide him through the passage, saying “Go
to sleep to being [Name] and wake up to being God. Remember, go into
light. Don’t be afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. Let go of
ego, wake up to cosmic consciousness. Fall asleep to being [Name], wake
up to being God. Don’t be afraid. Go back to cosmic consciousness. It’s
OK. We love you.”
We can say
things to him now in our imagination. As we do, we assist him in his
passage AND we train ourselves for our own inevitable passing.
Huxley's wife, Laura, said these words to him as he was dying:
and free you let go, darling; forward and up. You are going
forward and up; you are going toward the
light. Willingly and
consciously you are going, willingly and
consciously, and you are doing
this beautifully -- you are going
towards the light -- you are going
toward a greater love -- you are
going forward and up. You are going
toward a greater love than you
have ever known. You are going toward
the best, the greatest love, and
it is easy, it is so easy, and
you are doing it so beautifully."
Let us imagine him rising beyond self and returning
into the Ocean of Bliss like a drop of water falling into the sea.
Remind him “You’re not a wave, you’re water.”
See Ram Dass's story
dying as it hits the shore. The
water flows on and on.
him, in our
minds, Death is only a transition back into the greater life. It’s only
ego and memory that are passing into the past. Life flows on within you
and without you.
Visualize him rising into the light and being
absorbed in the infinite brightness, dissolving into eternity, letting
go of time and sequence.
2) Sharing in the
transforming grief. (Modeled on the Tibetan practice of tonglen.)
All of us here grieve the passing of our friend.
That grief is especially intense for the deceased partner and beloved.
Let us share his grief by participating in it, spreading it through the
souls of all of us, transforming it into bliss--for ourselves, for the
beloved and for the deceased himself.
sorrow in our hearts. We will miss our friend.
Let us be
aware of how his partner must feel. What a loss!
as dark smoke, perhaps like smoke from incense, or fumes from a blown
out candle. Imagine the smoke filling the room. Breathe in the smoke.
Relax and be aware of your breath, and be aware of breathing in the
black smoke, so that the mental space inside your body becomes dark and
choked with the smoke. Keep breathing it in till the inside of the
space in your body is as dark as night.
Then visualize a lightning
flash – the
lightning bolt of enlightenment: vajra.
The vajra scepter is the stylized
of a lightning bolt. Tibetans thought when lightning struck the ground
it congealed into a diamond. So the vajra is both lightning bolt and
diamond – both images of enlightened mind.
Enlightenment is the realization that ego is
phantasm in consciousness, a ripple in the greater consciousness field
of the Earth and of the Sun. What has passed is really no more than a
Let us see
are all but momentary corruscations of brilliance, flashes of light
caused by the clashing of the streams of karma and intention and love
that create human consciousness and individual human life.
Let us see
lightning bolt as the reminder of that wisdom: “You’re not a wave,
Read Ram Dass's story
about the wave
of the lightning-- cutting through the darkness and cutting through time
to illuminate an eternal moment--let us visualize the smoke and
darkness changing to bright colorful lights, like flowers in spring or
like the flashing of sunlight off the surface of water, shimmering and
beautiful, warm and relaxing.
Let us see our grief--and especially the grief of
the deceased’s beloved being shared by us all--be transformed into joy
our having known [Name] and bliss in our own experiencing of being
alive and of being alive in the world in which [Name] was also alive
and which he changed by his loving presence.
beloved’s grief, turning the grief and mourning into a joyful
experience of the poignancy of consciousness.
Breathe in the
and darkness of human sorrow and suffering in the transitoriness of
time, let it be transformed in the lightning bolt striking into your
heart and congealing into a diamond, and let it become joy for life and
bliss in the eternity of consciousness transcending individuality.
Read about Toby Johnson's experience of "Tonglen" as a tourist in Varanasi.