3 Short Buddhist Prayers for the Dead, Dying or Sick

Updated

Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion, with over 470 million adherents. It originated in India, though it has largely been supplanted by Hinduism, and it is still widely practiced throughout Asia. 

Many people are drawn to Buddhism because of its emphasis on self-reflection. Its focus isn’t on a God or deity. Instead, followers strive to achieve a state of enlightenment. Buddhists believe that enlightenment cannot be achieved in a single lifetime. They believe in samsara, which is a cycle of death and rebirth. When someone dies, the energy within them doesn’t die with them. It just passes into another form. Only by achieving enlightenment can you escape from that cycle. 

Here, we share some prayers that you might hear at a Buddhist funeral. We also share some prayers that may bring comfort and peace to someone who is sick or dying.  

1. “Tibetan Dying Prayer”

Through your blessing, grace, and guidance, through the power of the light that streams from you:
May all my negative karma, destructive emotions, obscurations, and blockages be purified and removed,
May I know myself forgiven for all the harm I may have thought and done,
May I accomplish this profound practice of phowa, and die a good and peaceful death,
And through the triumph of my death, may I be able to benefit all other beings, living or dead.

This is perhaps one of the best known Buddhist prayers. It can be found in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. This text details the experiences the consciousness goes through during the time between death and rebirth.

There’s a common misconception that this book is read aloud to people as they are dying. In truth, Buddhists read it throughout their lives to prepare for what comes after death. It references “phowa”, which is a Buddhist meditation practice. It can be best described as the art of dying consciously and peacefully. 

This prayer also references the principle of benefiting all other beings through your death. This tenet is so longstanding, it’s part of the ancient practice of Tibetan sky burials.

Buddhism has long been the dominant religion in the remote region of Tibet. In Tibetan sky burials, the bodies of the deceased are broken down and left out for vultures and other scavengers to consume. In this way, someone’s death can serve as a boon to help other creatures survive.   

2. “A Buddhist Prayer for Peace”

May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses. 
May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. 
May the powerless find power and may people think of befriending one another. 
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses—the children, the aged, the unprotected—be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.

Though the title says this is a prayer for peace, it’s also a prayer for health—specifically, mental health. This prayer can provide comfort to people who are plagued by worry. The opening line speaks about freeing people from the suffering of both the body and mind.

One major tenet of Buddhism is that the mind and body are dependent on one another. It’s this holistic approach that makes Buddhism attractive to people who are struggling with mental or physical illness. 

3. “Traditional Buddhist Blessing and Healing Chant”

Just as the soft rains fill the streams, 
Pour into the rivers and join together in the oceans, 
So may the power of every moment of your goodness 
Flow forth to awaken and heal all beings, 
Those here now, those gone before, those yet to come. 

By the power of every moment of your goodness 
May your heart’s wishes be soon fulfilled 
As completely shining as the bright full moon, 
As magically as by a wish-fulfilling gem. 

By the power of every moment of your goodness 
May all dangers be averted and all disease be gone. 
May no obstacle come across your way. 
May you enjoy fulfillment and long life. 

For all in whose heart dwells respect, 
Who follow the wisdom and compassion, of the Way, 
May your life prosper in the four blessings 
Of old age, beauty, happiness, and strength.

This is another prayer for healing. This one has a strong emphasis on the sense of self. It also ties into the Buddhist concept of karma. Many people believe that karma is about punishment or reward, but it’s a lot more nuanced and complex than that.

Karma, in the simplest of terms, is both the actions someone performs and the result of those actions. It ties into a cycle of cause and effect, much like the cycle of death and rebirth.

Essentially, it’s about how the actions you take in life will come back to you in the future. This particular prayer focuses on the goodness in people, and how it has an effect on themselves and the world around them.  

Short Buddhist Prayers to Bring Comfort and Peace

There are several ways of practicing Buddhism. There are three main branches of Buddhism: Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana. Each branch has its own unique variations. But at their core, they share similar beliefs about death and dying.

These prayers are a great start to understanding Buddhist approaches to dealing with death. But they only begin to scratch the surface. It’s well worth taking the time to explore other prayers and facets of this religion.


Sources

  1. Vail, Lise F. “The Origins of Buddhism.” Asiasociety.org, Asia Society, 25 September 2017, asiasociety.org/education/origins-buddhism
  2. “Buddhism.” History.com, History Channel, 8 November 2019, www.history.com/topics/religion/buddhism

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.