As Hindus we have this amazing wealth of deities to ask for support. We have a heritage of spiritual stories that date back thousands of years. We have a strong and cultivated belief in reincarnation. And we have integrated death and dying into our daily existence.
Our Hindu prayers for the dying are therefore often also prayers for the living. Both aspects get easily blended into one large mosaic of Hindu life.
We often use Sanskrit words in the form of sacred mantras in our prayers. They are thus filled with the energy and longing of thousands of voices through thousands of years. When we pray we often use a "mala", a string of beads to keep us focused on our prayer. Many of our prayers are in the form of chants being sung either alone or in a group.
When we are dying, we strive to be in the highest possible state of consciousness. We concentrate on the top of the head and think clear and beautiful thoughts. Reciting mantras or Hindu prayers helps us to stay conscious.
A woman in California told the following story of her husband's dying:
"Shortly before my husband died, he held my hands and asked me to recite the Lalitha Sahasranama and to say the mantra we were initiated into. He repeated after me in a loud voice when suddenly his face began to shine with a luster, and he became overjoyed and beaming.
He started almost shouting in joy that he was seeing the temple and the Deities--Siva, Ganesha and Muruga--smiling at him. In this glowing way he passed away shortly thereafter while I recited the mantra in his ear." The source of this quote can be found
Asatho Maa Sad Gamaya.
Thamaso Maa Jyothir Gamaya.
Mrithyur Maa Amritham Gamaya.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
From untruth lead us to Truth.
From darkness lead us to Light.
From death lead us to Immortality.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
- Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, I.iii.28 -
These bodies of the embodied One,
who is eternal, indestructible and boundless,
are known as finite...
(The embodied One) is not born,
nor doth he die, nor having been,
ceaseth he any more to be;
unborn, perpetual, eternal and ancient,
he is not slain when the body is slaughtered...
As a man, casting worn-out garments,
taketh new ones, so the dweller in the body,
casting off worn-out bodies,
entereth into others that are new...
For certain is death for the born,
and certain is birth for the dead;
therefore over the inevitable
thou shouldst not grieve.
- From the Bhagavad Gita -
Jam Jam Manen Baddham
Jam Jam Vayen Bhasiyam Pavam
Jam Jam Kayen Kayam
Tass Michhami Dukkaram
Whatever wrong I have done
By thought, word, or deed
I ask for absolution.
Om Bhoor Bhuvah Swah
Tat Savitur Varenium
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yo Naha Prachodayat
- Sanskrit -
O God, The Giver of Life,
Remover of pains and sorrows,
Bestower of happiness, and
Creator of the Universe;
Thou art luminous, pure and adorable;
We meditate on Thee.
May Thou inspire and guide
Our intellect in the right direction.
- Translation 1 -
We meditate upon
the adorable radiant,
the divine sun!
May he unfold and
give direction to our intellects
to go on the right path!
- Translation 2 -
Below is a Youtube Video of Deva Premal and Miten chanting the Gayatri Mantra, one of the ancient Hindu Prayers. Deva Premal had been taught to sing this mantra by her father as child growing up in Germany. When he was dying a few years ago, she was with him. She was singing this mantra for him until he had died.
Om asato ma sadgamaya,
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya,
Om shantih shantih shantih
Oh Almighty! Lead us from the unreal (falsity)
to the real (truth) from darkness to light!
From death to immortality!
Oh Almighty! May there be Peace! Peace! Peace!
- Brihdaranyaka Upanisada 1:3:27 -
O God! You are the giver of life,
the Healer of pains and sorrows,
the giver of happiness.
O Creator of the Universe
send us your purifying light
and lead out thoughts in your ways.
You are the Primal God,
the Ancient Being,
You are the Supreme Refuge
of the universe,
You are the Knower and
the One to be known,
You are the supreme Goal,
the universe is pervaded by You.
- From the Bhagavad-Gita -
Where eternal luster glows,
the realm in which the light divine is set,
place me, Purifier, in that deathless,
Make me immortal in that realm
where movement is accordant to wish,
in the third region,
the third heaven of heavens,
where the worlds are resplendent.