Why do holy beings stay in meditation after their breath has stopped?

Feb 5, 2024



Dear Venerable,


I hope you are well.


When Lama Zopa Rinpoche passed away in April, I read that he “stayed in meditation” for some time after he stopped breathing. Why would a higher being choose to spend a few extra days in that body?


Much love,



Dear V,


Happy to hear from you.


In order to realize emptiness and to remove the various obscurations from the mind that prevent buddhahood – the eradication of all the delusions and the development to perfection of all the goodness – the mind needs to be in a very subtle state. 


This is why we need to develop single-pointed concentration. Our mind lives at a gross level, sensory and conceptual, and it’s not possible at that level to even realize emptiness, not to mention achieve buddhahood.


The tantric methods are the most sophisticated, the most powerful, for getting the mind to the subtlest states, and these subtlest states occur just naturally at the end of the death process.


The great yogis spend their lives preparing for this. Rinpoche talks about it in his book, How to Face Death without Fear in the chapter called “Death is What the Yogis Have Been Waiting For.”


Ordinary people are not conscious of it, of course, but the high beings such as Rinpoche are totally in control. They spend as long as they need in this state of the clear light mind, then leave their body when they’re ready to either enter into a pure land or take a human rebirth, even if they don’t need one, but only for the sake of others.


Some yogis stay in meditation for days, weeks; Lama Yeshe stayed in meditation for five days. 




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