Buddhism on Death & Dying Part 3: Pain Medicine

Upcoming Events

Dakini Day Chod

With Pema Khandro

January 20, 2020
Chod Meditation in Charlottesville. Practice the Laughter of the Dakinis once a month on Dakini Day. A small group that meets with Pema Khandro at the Stupa or at Khandro Ling in Charlottesville, VA. If you are interested, send us your email and phone number to info@buddhistyogis.org and we will put you on the list to get emails or texts for time, date, and location. Free.
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Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

January 22, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Ngakpa Seminary, Level 1

With Pema Khandro

January 22, 2020
The Ngakpa Training offers in-depth study of Vajrayana Buddhism. The five year curriculum focuses on a study of Vajrayana Buddhist history, philosophy and practice, focusing on the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma Tradition, also known as MahaYoga, AnuYoga and Dzogchen. These studies alternate with one on one dialogues with the Lama in phone classes, private […]
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Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

January 22, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Dakini Day Chod

With Pema Khandro

February 18, 2020
Chod Meditation in Charlottesville. Practice the Laughter of the Dakinis once a month on Dakini Day. A small group that meets with Pema Khandro at the Stupa or at Khandro Ling in Charlottesville, VA. If you are interested, send us your email and phone number to info@buddhistyogis.org and we will put you on the list to get emails or texts for time, date, and location. Free.
Register Now

Vajrakilaya Practice to Remove Obstacles

With Janak Kimmel

February 21, 2020
Doors will close at 6pm, no further admittance at that time. From 6-9pm this will be a closed retreat, to focus on powerful Vajrakilaya obstacle removing energy. By donation. All proceeds to benefit Dakini Mountain Pre-registration required, email Janak.Buddhist.Yogis@gmail.com
Register Now

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

February 26, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Dakini Day Chod

With Pema Khandro

March 18, 2020
Chod Meditation in Charlottesville. Practice the Laughter of the Dakinis once a month on Dakini Day. A small group that meets with Pema Khandro at the Stupa or at Khandro Ling in Charlottesville, VA. If you are interested, send us your email and phone number to info@buddhistyogis.org and we will put you on the list to get emails or texts for time, date, and location. Free.
Register Now

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

March 25, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Dakini Day Chod

With Pema Khandro

April 17, 2020
Chod Meditation in Charlottesville. Practice the Laughter of the Dakinis once a month on Dakini Day. A small group that meets with Pema Khandro at the Stupa or at Khandro Ling in Charlottesville, VA. If you are interested, send us your email and phone number to info@buddhistyogis.org and we will put you on the list to get emails or texts for time, date, and location. Free.
Register Now

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

April 22, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

May 27, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

June 24, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

July 22, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

August 26, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

September 23, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

October 28, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

November 25, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Open Teaching Webcast

With Pema Khandro

December 23, 2020
A 30 minute guided meditation and online teaching with Pema Khandro. Free and open to the public. Click Here to Register What is Dakini Day? The Dakini (known in Tibetan as Khandro) is the principle of spacious dynamic wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism. This is a monthly class to support your meditation practice and meet the […]

Question 2) Is there anything undesirable about taking pain medications as one approaches the time of death?

Practically speaking the essence of the Buddhist path and practice is loving compassion. This can be the measure for such decisions.

It is extremely difficult to meditate during intense pain, especially for beginners, so pain medication could actually help the person to relax and be more present. So again, it seems that the priority is a compassionate, merciful approach that allows as great a relaxation as possible. From the Buddhist point of view the state of mind at the time of death is very important. It will determine the post-death state and future rebirths.

I think your question may be in reference to esoteric concerns regarding clarity of presence before the moment of death. Some people have suggested that it may be better not to have drugs in order to have clarity of awareness during the passing. However that would be conditional on the individual’s capacity for realization, which in most cases is meager anyway. It is a classical Buddhist slogan that when death is approaching, it is too late to train. So at such a point one is considered to be stuck with what preparation they have or have not done. Therefore the concern is supporting the person to pass through the stage of dying with as little disturbance as possible. Pain and agony can be profoundly disturbing, in that case painkillers would be very supportive. Compassion and mercy should be the guide for these decisions.

There are specific practices and prayers that may be done at the time of death so if you know these, do these. The most important one is “transference of consciousness,” (Tib. འཕོ་བ་ ‘pho ba). This is way of guiding one’s consciousness through the transition out of physical life.

When faced with the time of death, if you have not trained in the practices that are done specifically at the time of death, then do the spiritual practices you have trained in especially mantras, or visualizations. This is a way of guiding the mind into its natural state of luminous presence. 

If there is a prolonged period of dying then reading spiritual texts, prayers and poems and looking at Buddhist images can be a helpful practice. In addition one can make offerings. These are donations to save the lives of others, or giving away ones possessions to help others or making other gifts and offerings for the benefit of others.

If it is difficult to do practices because faculties are impaired or because the time of death is nearing, ones ability to concentrate is impaired, the most simple version of all Dzogchen practices is to visualize luminosity, to see oneself as luminous and focus on seeing everything as composed of intrinsic luminosity. 

Buddhist teachings also posit the notion that help from others at such a time can make a significant positive impact. So the loving presence of others, prayers and mantras and practices related to bardo (transitional periods) done by the Lamas and sangha members are considered to be of great help for the person at such time. Lamas who specialize in such practices are brought in to help.

Loved ones can participate by making prayers, reading prayers aloud to you and doing mantras and other Buddhist rituals. The Kuntuzangpo Prayer can be read to the dying person. This explains how appearances arise from the mind and fundamentally everything is luminous presence. The mani mantra can be recited, as well as the Medicine Buddha mantra or Vajrasattva mantra.

Buddhism on Death & Dying Part 4: Practices for the Deceased

Buddhism on Death & Dying Part 5: Organ Donation

Buddhism on Death & Dying Part 3: Pain Medicine

Buddhism on Death & Dying Part 2: Life Support

 

Buddhism on Death & Dying Part 1

Solstice, Equinox & Eclipses – A Prayer for All Goodness

Pema Khandro
Pema Khandro is a Tibetan Buddhist scholar, humanitarian, and teacher in the rare lineage of Tibet’s Buddhist Yogis. Raised in the west, ordained in the Nyingma lineage, enthroned as a tulku and trained as an academic, Pema Khandro presents both a traditional perspective and a modern voice. Read more at: https://www.pemakhandro.org/pema-khandro-extended-biography/

  1. awesome series of articles. thank you.

    would you say something to the issues of the efficacy and wisdom of pursuing a lama’s support or offering what meager practices or prayers we can, if the dying or deceased is of another religious faith (holds other beliefs). is there still benefit? would you advise for or against performing such practices without the dying or deceased’s knowledge… or that of the family? seems like it could be a sketchy grey area imo.

    thanks again!

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