Heart Connections with the Deceased

A Buddhist teaching on heart connections with the deceased for meditation students in Leeds
Prayers for the Dead

Buddhist teacher Lama Shenpen answers a student’s question on the effect of the prayers on the people who have died, especially in view of the karma and it’s results.
A meditation student writes:

“When we die, as we are all compelled by our karma, as the scriptures indicate, to move from life to life according to the imprints of our previous actions of body speech and mind, how is it that the prayers and offerings of those we leave behind can have any effect on our destination?”

Lama Shenpen:

This is a big question.

What does it mean at all to pray for or dedicate punya (merit) to help others along the path?

In general we are taught that the results of actions come to those who perform them so what does it mean that we can ‘give’ the good due to us from our good deeds to others?  What does it mean to pray for them as if somehow the Buddhas wouldn’t protect them anyway just because of their spontaneous compassionate activity?  How can aspirations (pranidhanas) we make on their behalf affect their future?Surely they have to make them for themselves.

There is something dubious in all of this isn’t there?

And yet at another level it feels right that if we hold someone in our hearts that somehow they will be protected and helped by our good-will and good wishes for them.

This is such a universally held sentiment if not belief. Even people with no claim to any spiritual beliefs will feel something genuine about holding someone in their hearts.

I believe this is because it does really mean something at a deep level that we intuitively always know even if we forget it. It means something to say that you hold your dear one in your heart and always will do.  On one level you could question that and say it didn’t make sense but at another level it makes more sense than anything else in life.

So coming back to your question, I am not at all convinced that we can actually pass on our punya to others but I am convinced that when I hold another person in my heart (whatever that means) and connect them (and myself) to all the compassion and love of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and make strong wishes and aspirations for their benefit, then it helps the adhistana (blessing) of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the power of my pranidhanas (wishing prayers) to be effective on their behalf.

I believe that somehow this creates the conditions that help the person I am doing this for find good conditions in which to follow the path of Liberation and Awakening because of the connections and volitions involved from myself and all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

How quickly this will  be effective depends on all sorts of conditions but I find it convincing to think that none of this goodness will be wasted. It will all help the other person in some way or another.

I even find it convincing that because our hearts are all one what we wish and feel about others can directly affect them. So wishing others well is a powerful force in the world helping people everywhere all the time.

Because I don’t really realise Emptiness I can only believe this because it is what the Buddha taught and I find it intuitively makes sense. I believe that when I realise Emptiness completely I will know for myself that it is true –  and all that implies.

Meditation Student:

“As for the living, if  we are ordinary beings, with aspirational Bodhichitta (Heart/Mind of Awakening – ed.) but no real ability at this stage, is it purely for the development of our own mind that we perform these acts  or can we actually influence others even in our limited capacity ?”

Lama Shenpen:

It benefits ourselves and it benefits the other person and if we then open our hearts completely it benefits all beings.

I really believe that must be true, even if at the level we are at that benefit doesn’t match the power of the benefit of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Nevertheless it links into their power, connecting us all to the mandala of Awakening. It all works by the power of adhistana (spiritual influence, blessing), connection and pranidhanas (aspirations, wishing prayers – ed.).

As for punya (merit, goodness, the power of it that can be “accumulated” and dedicated, “given away” – ed.) in this context I am not sure if it is anything beyond all of that.

A note on the closeness/strength of connections:

The stronger our heart connection with someone the more we can help them directly by our good-heartedness, positive thoughts, words and actions.

Adhistana (blessing) is a power we all have because it’s the power of the Buddha Nature itself.  When we say to someone we are with them in our hearts it is more literally true than perhaps we realise.

Our hearts are influencing each other and all beings all the time – we are intimately connected not through causes and conditions, but by our very nature. Nothing can ever change that.

Yet there is meaning in saying that we have closer connections with some people than others – it is mandala principle – how we are connected within a particular mandala affects the kind of influence we can have at any particular place and time.

I hope this answer is helpful.

(“Mandala” is a subtle and profound concept that points to the structure-ness of Emptiness itself. It is explored in depth in the Awakened Heart Sangha’s courses Discovering The Heart Of Buddhism. For the purpose of this context it may suffice to give “mandala” a similar range of meaning as found in the concept of “the world”).

Every week Lama Shenpen answers a student’s question. The students are studying her ‘Living the Awakened Heart’ Training distance study courses. Find out more about the training at:www.ahs.org.uk/training or take part in one of our weekly meditation and Buddhism classes in Leeds.

Making World Solid

Buddhist quote solid world for Leeds meditation group
Making our world solid

“Because we have solidified our world … suffering and pain become very solid and real to us.” A quote from Lama Shenpen Hookham, taken from the ‘Openness’ section of Living the Awakened Heart training course. Learn more about experiential training on the Buddhist Path: –www.ahs.org.uk/training or join us at our weekly meditation and Buddhism classes in Leeds City Centre.

Meditation & Teaching Day

Meditation and Buddhist teaching day at retreat centre North Wales
Meditation and Buddhist Teachings in Wales

An invitation to members of our Leeds Buddhist meditation group to join us at the Hermitage Buddhist retreat centre in North Wales for a day or weekend in March.

The main day is Saturday 10th March and begins with meditation at 10am with guidance offered for those who would like it. Beginners and experienced meditators alike are most welcome. Saturday mornings are held in silence until after lunch. A simple vegetarian lunch will be provided.

Lama Shenpen will continue her teaching on this year’s theme of Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness (by Khenpo Tsutrim Gyamtso Rinpoche). The teaching will be given on Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm.

There may also be the opportunity to arrange a private talk with Lama Shenpen, or one of the Senior Students at some point during the day.

You are welcome to attend for some or all of the day or to make a weekend of it. Why not consider arriving after lunch on Friday so as to be fresh as a daisy for the mediation and talk on Saturday? You are welcome to join in with our community life and attend our community meditation and puja sessions on Friday and Sunday if you would like, staying through to Sunday afternoon or Monday morning.

This event is by donation. More information and the booking form can be found on the main Awakened Heart Sangha web page:


Meditation in Essence

The essence of meditation practice is the confidence to simply be. With no sense that you have to do anything or change anything
The Essence of Meditation ….

“The essence of meditation practice is the confidence to simply be. With no sense that you have to do anything or change anything”. This is how Lama Shenpen Hookham describes the radical simplicity of the approach taken with Formless Meditation.

Formless Meditation practice is rooted in the Dzogchen and Mahamudra meditation lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. The meditation requires us to have the bravery to turn directly towards our experience, good or bad, with radical acceptance.

Whether this is the first meditation practice that you learn or one that you come to after years of complex meditations, mantra recitation and visualisation practices, it is the one that cuts to the heart of the matter, the one that we always have to come back to.

To learn more about Formless Meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, join us at our weekly meditation group in Leeds.

Buddha by Nature

Buddha by nature, a teaching by Lama Shenpen to a student at a low point in their life
Buddha by Nature

At this time of year, particularly over Christmas and New Year, someone you know my be feeling low, lonely or lacking in energy.

In this article Lama Shenpen advises a student who is experiencing a very low point in their life. Click the link to read Lama’s full response: http://tinyurl.com/yansecpv

Each week Lama Shenpen answers a student’s question. The students are studying her ‘Living the Awakened Heart’ Training courses. Become one of Lama Shenpen’s students and ask her a question, Lama loves questions! For more information about the training visit: www.ahs.org.uk/training

Buddhist Practice Can Take Many Forms

dharma practice can take many forms, Buddhist quote from Lama Shenpen
Buddhist Practice can take many forms.

Buddhist teacher, Lama Shenpen Hookham talks to her student about deepening their Dharma practice and experiencing revulsion to a shallow and un-examined life (samsara). Click here to read their conversation in full.

Every week Lama Shenpen publishes a question and answer dialogue with a student. The students are studying ‘Living the Awakened Heart’, an experiential training course in Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhist meditation.

Why not become one of Lama Shenpen’s Dharma students and ask her a question? Lama loves to answer questions! You can find more information about Buddhist meditation training in the Awakened Heart Sangha by visiting: www.ahs.org.uk/training

New Audio Book



Audio book progressive stages of meditation on emptiness
A Classic Work of Tibetan Buddhism

A new audio book version of the “Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness” has just been released. This seminal work by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche (edited by Lama Shenpen), is a classic exploration of the philosophical views found within Tibetan Buddhism.

Narrated by Ken Cohen this new audio book is available on Amazon alongside the recently revised paper and e-book version.

Lama Shenpen has so far given eight talks on the Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness at The Hermitage this year and you can catch up with them on our YouTube Channel: 



Making Connections

Buddhist quote from talk on Samaya, our bonds and connections
The Power of Samaya Bonds

Lama Shenpen recently gave two excellent teachings at the London Shambhala Centre on the meaning of the Buddhist term: ‘samaya’.

Samaya is often translated as connection or bond and applies to our relationships with our teachers, our friends, family and society. To view these teachings go to our YouTube channel atwww.youtube.com/ahshermitage