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.

Celebrating Trungpa Rinpoche

Parinirvana of great Buddhist master and meditation teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche remembered for Leeds meditation group
Trunpga Rinpoche and H.H Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Today marks the anniversary of the passing (Parinirvana) of the great Buddhist Teacher and meditation master – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987).

Trungpa Rinpoche received a classical monastic education in Tibet before the Chinese invasion. The eleventh Tulku in the Trungpa lineage of incarnations, he was trained in both the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions and was head of the Surmang group of monasteries.

Having left Tibet for the west, he studied at Oxford before founding Samye Ling monastery in Scotland with Akong Rinpoche. Later, he founded the Shambhala tradition in the USA, which later became a worldwide Buddhist organisation.

A prolific author and discoverer of secret treasure teachings (termas), Trungpa Rinpoche was widely regarded as an awakened master, translator and brilliant orator.

Lama Shenpen Hookham was advised to travel to India by Trungpa Rinpoche. It was on his advice that she met her main teachers and spent many years in meditation retreat. The two remained in correspondence.

Later, Lama Shenpen married Rigdzin Shikpo, one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s early and senior British students, further cementing the connection.

Trungpa Rinpoche’s son, and heir to the Shambhala lineage, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche regards the Awakened Heart Sangha and Shambhala International as being closely related with positive karmic bonds.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/222732668″>Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche on Trungpa Rinpoche</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/chogyamtrungpachronicles”>Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

In this short video Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, the tulku (incarnation) of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of Trungpa’s most eminent teachers, rejoices in the remarkable and groundbreaking life of the 11th Trungpa Rinpoche.

Find out more about the Kagyu / Nyingma lineage of teachings at the Leeds meditation group, every Thursday on Carlton Hill.

Celebrating Sangha

Leeds Buddhist meditation group invited to annual retreat in Wales
A weekend of fun and celebration

Members of Leeds AHS Buddhist Meditation group are warmly invited to join us for our annual celebration at the Hermitage in North Wales.

Here we celebrate our commitment to the Buddha, Dharma and specifically the Awakened Heart Sangha. A weekend of vows, feasting, teachings and entertainment. This is a joyful weekend of connection and fun!

You are invited to join us for all or part of the weekend. Children are very welcome. The weekend runs from Friday 25th May to Sunday 27th May.

Saturday morning will be to celebrate those who are taking refuge or Bodhisattva vows, the afternoon for those who are making commitments to the Sangha, with their Mahayanagana or Mentor vows.

On Sunday we receive teachings from Lama Shenpen (theme yet to be confirmed). We finish the weekend with a wonderful feast including chanting, entertainment, singing and dancing.

Please visit the Hermitage website here for more information and booking form. There is space on-site (booking fast), off-site accommodation with local sangha, local B&B and lots of space for camping.

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.

Come Celebrate Spring!

Buddhist spring celebration for the Leeds sangha
Come Celebrate Spring!

Come join us for a Celebration of Spring with at The Hermitage Buddhist retreat centre this Thursday – 29th March! An opportunity to come and play in the green valleys of Wales.

Building on the success of our children’s mindful play afternoons, Tara and her friends will lead some mindfulness games, arts and crafts, and exploring. Open to all the family – even parents!

The event will run from 9.30 until midday. Refreshments provided.

But why not make a day of it? If you still have energy after all the play, there is plenty to explore in the local area in the afternoon. Enjoy walking on the lovely Criccieth beach or explore Criccieth castle – just four miles away, or why not take a drive into the stunning Snowdonia National Park – a 20 minute drive from the Hermitage.

There is no fixed charge for this event. Donations to cover costs would be welcome. Please email hermitage@ahs.org.uk to let us know if you are coming. We’d love you to join us!

Theories of Everything

Buddhist quote on theories and suffering
Theories do not address the problem

Lama Shenpen answers a meditation student’s question about a Buddhist lecture called “Milarepa And The Shepherd Boy”, and a questions she has posed to her students: “What can take knowledge itself as an object?”

“Why is recognising the not-self of the dharmas equivalent to realising Buddha Nature?” and “What has this to do with the personal mandala and its true nature as the three Kayas?” View this week’s question and response here: https://tinyurl.com/y8sambnh

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 a good question. For more information about training in the Awakened Heart Sangha visit: 


or why not come along to one of our weekly meditation and Buddhism classes in central Leeds? All welcome!

Grasping at the Ungraspable

Lama Shenpen discusses working with desire, aversion and indifference with a meditation student
Seeing through Grasping

Lama Shenpen in conversation with a meditation student about working with their experience in relation to desire, aversion and indifference. Click here to read the full conversation between Lama Shenpen and her student.

Each week Lama Shenpen publishes a question and answer dialogue with one of her meditation students question. The students are studying her ‘Living the Awakened Heart’ Training courses. Why not become one of Lama Shenpen’s students and ask her a question? Lama loves  a good question!

For more information about meditation training in the Awakened Heart Sangha visit: www.ahs.org.uk/training

Celebrate Tibetan New Year

Leeds meditation group - come celebrate the Tibetan new year - Losar - with us at the Hermitage Buddhist retreat centre in North Wales
Celebrating Losar at the Hermitage

The Leeds AHS Buddhist Meditation Group is warmly invited to join us for our Tibetan New Year Celebrations at the Hermitage of the Awakened Heart in North Wales.

This year we will be welcoming in the Year of the Earth Dog.

The weekend will be one of celebration, feasting, chanting and meditation. Practice done at this time is said to be especially auspicious.

All welcome!

In addition to our usual Losar celebrations, this year we will have a special treat – a double celebration, greeting back our old friend Dashu as he brings to an end his one year retreat during this weekend!

You have a choice of dates to attend – coming for Losar itself on Friday 18th February or staying for part of, or the whole weekend (Friday to Sunday).

You will find more details and a booking form here. Please complete the form to reserve your place.

There is no charge for this event, optional donations are always welcome.

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.

Follow your Heart

Heart advice for Buddhist meditators in Leeds
Heart advice for meditators

Lama Shenpen talks to a meditation student about Buddhist prayer and relating to praying and recitation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Read the full question and answer here:https://tinyurl.com/ybrmv3er

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 training in the Awakened Heart Sangha visit: www.ahs.org.uk/training or visit one of our classes in Leeds.