“The King desiring to end the suffering of his minister went to Ch’im-phu cave to request the help of Padmasambhava. The King Trisong Detsen offered him a golden disk (representing the sun) and a silver disk (representing the moon) as a mandala offering, requesting him to give special instruction to the Minister so that he could become enlightened before death. Padamasambhava by miraculous power went to the Pure Land to see Amitabha Buddha. He told Buddha Amitabha about the suffering of Minister Nyima and of all sentient beings and asked Amitabha to give a special teaching to free them from suffering.”
–excerpt from compiled history of the Treasure tradition Phowa
“When it comes to dying or entering the bardo of death, the instruction of Phowa becomes important for us. If we ask what is actually meant by Phowa, it is actually the transference of consciousness.”
“We should understand, for example in this worldly context, no matter how much wealth or how much abundance, or goodness we have in this world, in this human realm, we have to work very hard for it. Whereas in Dewachen, also called Sukhavati, which means a pure realm of great bliss, things are accomplished there spontaneously free of effort. Hence, it is important to familiarize ourselves and to study the benefit and qualities of this pure realm, and to read this Dewachen prayer repeatedly. Until we get a really strong feeling and notion of this quality of the pure realm of Dewachen and think: “I want to go there. If I pass away, if I die that’s the place where I want to go.”
—excerpts from 8th Garchen Rinpoche teaching on Phowa (October 2016)
Today, for the new moon, and as a break in the posts about HH 17th Karmapa’s recent teachings, I was contemplating death and impermanence and decided to write something on the Phowa practice, particularly that of the Great Drikung Phowa.
I first received Phowa transmission and teachings, in both the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions, in Bodh Gaya 2007, from HE Ayang Rinpoche (for a fascinating, short documentary about Ayang Rinpoche, see here). The teaching was given in a huge tent near the Bodhi tree and Vajra Throne, myself and hundreds of Tibetans received the Phowa transmission and practiced it together with Rinpoche. It was my first insight and taste of the inner channels, the seed of consciousness and what to do when dying and bringing the consciousness/life-force up through the central channel to the top of the opening at the head to be released into Amitabha and the pure land. it was a very joyful event, as a very young Tibetan boy in tattered monk’s robes sitting right next to me would burst out laughing hysterically every time the whole group exclaimed HIK! Causing me to also crack up in uncontrollable fits of laughter. It seemed as if the joyful bliss realm of Amitabha was very much present…..
Phowa is a profound and very helpful practice indeed and has been taught many times by Drikung Kagyu teachers, in particular HE 8th Garchen Rinpoche, see links to his video teachings in the Sources below. As Rinpoche explains, there are two main traditions, the New Translation Kama tradition, and the Older Translation tradition, which is a treasure/terma tradition. The Terma tradition is where the Great Drikung Kagyu Phowa lineage comes from, as transmitted by 8th Garchen Rinpoche, and the text called ‘The Standing Blade of Grass’ (Jag-Tsug-ma).
In this post I first compile some brief background on the Treasure tradition of Phowa as passed on by Guru Padmasambhava to a Tibetan King’s minister, Nyima who accidentally and tragically set light to a royal palace that killed thirteen people, including both his parents in it. Then I provide a full transcript (below) (and as a pdf), of a teaching Garchen Rinpoche gave in Sweden in October 2016. Translated from Tibetan into English by Dieter Schindler. The video of that teaching is here.
There is also a freely downloadable book on Death and Dying available here on the GBI website. It was written and assembled by H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, rich with instruction, images and prayers to help us through the bardo of death, and to help those in the process of dying, and deal with grief and loss. The Drikung Kagyu Phowa text, Standing (or Inserting) a Blade of Grass, can be downloaded for free here. The Garchen Buddhist Institute and Garchen Rinpoche perform pujas for the dead, on request, including Phowa here.
May all beings on dying and in the bardo attain the great liberation of Phowa and quickly be re-born in the pure lands of Amitabha!
Music? 8th Garchen Rinpoche chanting Phowa text and Wish You Heaven by Prince.
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 25th September 2022.
HISTORY/BACKGROUND TO THE TREASURE PHOWA TRADITION
In his teaching, Garchen Rinpoche explains that there are two main traditions of Phowa, the long Kama transmission and the Terma/Treasure tradition. In a text by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, called ‘The Hundred Tertons’, there is information given about how the Treasure tradition of Phowa was handed down from Amitabha to Guru Padmasambhava during the time of the Tibetan King, Trisong Detsen. Here is come information I have compiled on this, which is available online:
In the eighth century, the Dharma king of Tibet, Trisong Detsen invited the great Indian tantric master, Guru Padmasambhava, to Tibet and they built the Samye monastery. Guru Padmasambhava was residing in Ch’im-phu cave in the vicinity of Samye when an important minister of the king, Nyima, had a tragedy. Nyima, who had two palaces and was in the process of moving from one to the other, was packing some belongings by the light of a lantern when a small spark caused a fire which instantly burned down the whole palace tragically killing thirteen people including his parents. All his horses, mules, cattle and other animals also perished in the fire. Minister Nyima, thinking of the love and respect that others show their parents felt that he had committed the heaviest of sins by causing the death of his parents and others.
The King desiring to end the suffering of his minister went to Ch’im-phu cave to request the help of Padmasambhava. The King Trisong Detsen offered him a golden disk (representing the sun) and a silver disk (representing the moon) as a mandala offering, requesting him to give special instruction to the Minister so that he could become enlightened before death. Padamasambhava by miraculous power went to the Pure Land to see Amitabha Buddha. He told Buddha Amitabha about the suffering of Minister Nyima and of all sentient beings and asked Amitabha to give a special teaching to free them from suffering. Buddha Amitabha gave this Phowa teaching to Padmasambhava who gave it to Minister Nyima who then gave up all worldly activities to practice the Phowa which he eventually actualized. Through the path of Phowa, Minister Nyima’s consciousness attained the Pure Land when death came and many different signs appeared like rainbows and relics from his body.
The text was treasured and hidden in the black Mandala Lake situated at the backside of the Daglaghampo hill. Guru Padmasambhava asked naga king Tsurana Ratna to guard the text and told that after 300 years, Lonpo Nyima will be reborn as Nyida Sangye (nyi zla sangs rgyas) and the text must be given to him.
Padmasambhava then left to go to the land of the Rakshas. After more than 350 years the incarnation of Minister Nyima was born as the son of a shepherd. When Nyida Sang-gye was growing up he felt great compassion and wept tears of sorrow when the animals would die. In order to alleviate his great suffering, Buddha Amitabha appeared to him and gave him this Phowa teaching for the benefit of all sentient beings. Nyida Sang-gye then gave Phowa to all the dying animals and often many different signs appeared.
The Naga-king Tsukna Rinchen then came to Nyida Sang-gye and told him of the Hidden Text (Ter-ma) and Nyida Sang-gye took the Ter from the Black Mandala Lake and gave the teaching to the Nagas. Through this teaching many of the Nagas were reborn into a higher life. After this Nyida Sang-gye gave many teachings to human beings through which many reached liberation.
It is said that Nyida Sang-gye appeared to judgmental people to be as aimless at the wind, but in reality he went to the Glorious Copper-Colored Mountain, met Guru Rinpoche, and received extraordinary instructions on ejection from him. These instructions are known as the Whispered Lineage of Ejection; there is an essay of instruction on them by the vidyadhara Terdak Lingpa.
Nyida Sangye also revealed a self-arisen image of the eleven-faced Avalokita from the Turquoise Lake in Tsari. It is said that it is kept in Nyal nowadays. It is also said that Terton Nyida Sangye lived, helping beings for hundreds of years long.
Karma Lingpa (karma gling pa 1326-1386) was Nyida Sangye’s son, and he helped Karma Lingpa reveal his termas. In turn, Karma Lingpa transmitted it to the emanation of Nyida Sangye, his heart-sun Nyiday Choeje.
The teaching was passed on as a single lineage from one person to another person and it was never transmitted to the masses. The practice of Phowa can be done only after receiving the Pho Lung or the Oral transmission. The Great Drikung Phowa practice as it is known, came from this Treasure Tradition lineage.
There is also a short transmission of the Dharmakaya Phowa by Garchen Rinpoche here:
PHOWA TEACHING (2016) BY HE 8TH GARCHEN RINPOCHE
“So Dharma friends, beforehand I was explaining in brief the presentation of the bardo all the way up to the bardo of becoming. When it comes to dying or entering the bardo of death, the instruction of Phowa becomes important for us. If we ask what is actually meant by Phowa, it is actually the transference of consciousness.
Generally, we can talk of four different kinds of states:
1) the waking states
2) the dream state
3) deep sleep state and
4) the bardo
The special power of the central channel
So, when we are entering the bardo of the death, actually where this life comes to an end, where we start to practice the Phowa, where we apply the Phowa practice. Generally, we can say we have a body which is comprised of karma and disturbing emotions, or based on the karma and disturbing emotions we have this body and mind. We talk about the body; we have pure and impure channels nadis. Also, in the mind we have pure and impure aspects but in relation to the body it is said that the purest nadi, is the avadhuti, the central channel. Therefore, it is also said if we practice and are able to hold our prana and mind at the navel then it naturally brings forth the interdependence that we can recognize the nature of the mind. Or when disturbing emotions can be transformed into primordial wisdom. So that is this specific, this unique feature of the avadhuti, or the central channel. So, if the mind, the consciousness comes there together, paired with the motivation of a bodhicitta, then we can transfer it into a pure realm as manifestation of the three kayas. This is the special feature of this central channel.
It also says that for people who have not been very deeply habituated for practice in this life, if they manage to do this practice and bring together the mind and consciousness and prana at the time of death in the central channel, it will be of a great benefit. This is the unique feature and power of the central channel.
Different types of Phowa for those with different capacities and the three kayas
Now, if we talk about Phowa, we have to bring it together with our practice in the context of our practice. there are different levels and categories of Phowa for the individual with the highest capacity who practice according to mahamudra and Dzogchen instructions. They liberate themselves based on the Phowa of Dharmakaya like through their own power based on the view, sealed with the view. So, in a sense self-empowered and self-reliant, they do not need any other help, they liberate themselves with the Phowa of the dharmakaya.
Then the next level is the Phowa of the Sambhogakaya, which has an intimate relationship to our practice with our familiarization with the yidam practice and to remember the yidam, to constantly bring the mind together with our yidam. Then, in the bardo to remember the quality of the yidam and to bring this forth. Then, we will be able to liberate ourselves in the bardo in the pure realm of a Sambhogakaya.
Then there is the Phowa of limitless compassion, the Phowa of the Nirmanakaya. There are two categories of this Phowa, the one which we conduct for ourselves, or Phowa which we possibly conduct for somebody else. So, the main thing about the Phowa of limitless compassion as it says in the name, is the quality of great compassion motivated by bodhicitta and that is the main thing about this Phowa and also the unique feature, the necessary part. So, people ask well is it allowed to do Phowa for somebody else or not? This is not quite the right question. We have to ask the question, well is it of benefit or not if I do Phowa for somebody else? That is actually an important question. If it would harm then it would be definitely not okay. However, the benefit comes from the motivation, that is why it is called the Nirmanakaya Phowa of limitless compassion. So, if our mind is really endowed with good motivation driven through a compassionate bodhicitta, then it will be definitely for the benefit of others.
Also, we have to understand Phowa in the context of cause and effect. So, if the cause is there as bodhicitta, then the practice of Phowa will lead one to be liberated in a pure realm, in an infinite pure realm like Sukhavati, for example.
If there is not great authentic bodhicitta, but if there is at least some motivation of small compassion, then it still will be very beneficial and it will lead to at least a higher rebirth in the higher realms.
We can say that a pure realm like, for example, Dewachen Sukhavati, is the actual manifestation of bodhicitta, the dynamic of bodhicitta. Or we could say also that love and loving kindness leads to a pure realm like Dewachen. Whereas a cause like hatred, as we heard many times, will actually lead to a rebirth in lower realms, like in the hell realms. Or miserliness and greed create a rebirth in the hungry ghost realm. So, we have to understand the causal connection between cause and effect in this level of Phowa.
If we look at the Phowa transmissions of the different traditions, generally we can summarize them in two different traditions there is Phowa according to the long lineages of transmission, they are called kama which are mainly the new translation schools. Then there are also Phowa practices which belong to the Terma tradition, to the rediscovered treasures. For example, in the kama, in the long transmission, there is also Phowa in the six yogas of Naropa, which is mainly practice also based on the nadis and prana and the basis of the practice is also bodhicitta. That is the Phowa practice of the six yogas of Naropa. Here, the unique Phowa of the Drikung Kagyu is actually a Terma, a rediscovered treasure. In essence it is the same meaning and practice of Phowa.
Three aspects of visualisation
There are actually three things. We visualize Amitabha above us, while we ourselves are generated as a yidam deity, a meditative deity of primordial wisdom. The path in the centre of our body is the central channel (the avadhuti). So, there are many different traditions. There are also traditions where you visualize yourself as different yidams. Here, particularly because the Drikung Kagyu Chenmo is a very strong connection to Vajravarahi, the self-generation here in this Phowa is to generate ourselves as Vajravarahi/Dorje Phagmo.
So, these three features:
1) Amitabha and
2) self-generation as Vajravarahi/Dorje Phagmo
3) self-generation of the central channel (Avadhuti)
It does not necessarily have to be Dorje Phagmo. If you have an affinity to another yidam, which you have very strong connection it could also be that yidam. It is of the same meaning; the essence is that it is motivated by bodhicitta. In fact, when we do if we do Phowa it has to be motivated by the motivation “may I do Phowa for the benefit of all sentient beings. May I reach a pure land for the benefit of all sentient beings.” That is the most important motivation, the driving force of the motivation.
From this perspective then we conduct the Phowa. again, we transform ourselves as the yidam, Dorje Phagmo, or whatever yidam is very close to you. The important thing is that we are a body of light as the yidam, and the body is empty, that is important. It is completely translucent with light and in the centre of the body, very much like a pillar, we have a central channel (the Avadhuti, or Uma in Tibetan). The dimension of this central channel is explained and it is about as wide as one’s own ring finger. On the outside it is slightly blue, inside slightly red, it is translucent like rainbow light completely clear, very subtle and completely erect/upright. This is the quality of the central channel. At the bottom it ends in the secret place, a bit under the navel and it is closed, So the central channel is closed, just like the bottom of this prayer wheel, so it is not open and above it ends at the Brahmadanda so the opening of our crown, and there the central channel is open. Not only that, it is kind of like widened at the top and opens up like a mouth. Above that, which will be described later, is Amitabha is on top of our head which is the essence of all the buddhas of the three times, that is the appearing aspect of Amitabha, which is in essence nothing else than in our own root teacher. Outwardly and on the relative level, it is appearing as Amitabha. On the inner level, it is in fact the essence of the mind, which appears as one’s own root teacher through which we have a very strong bond and link through deep faith and devotion and also pure samayas or commitments. Also, the lama especially the root teacher basically all the lamas they comprise all the three jewels of buddha, dharma and sangha. So, every lama, but particularly the root lamas are the embodiment of all the Buddhas of the three times and that embodies the sangha. The sangha which upholds the vows and the commitments, but particularly on the path of individual liberation where we have the motivation to give up any harm for others. Not only that based on not harming any sentient beings, there is the bodhicitta, the mind to benefit others, based on the understanding of the law of cause and effect. So, the outer physical appearance is the lama.
The speech is the precious dharma. So, all the teachings which we receive about bodhicitta about the law of cause and effect, which will lead on the relative level to the higher rebirths and ultimately the Buddhahood. Then all the instructions about the two truths, which we can say comprise the Buddha dharma. Then, the enlightened heart of the Buddha is nothing else than the two levels of bodhicitta, relative and ultimate bodhicitta. So, in essence we see that the essence of the lama, which appears in the form of Amitabha comprises all three: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. So, the Sangha is his physical appearance, the dharma is his enlightened speech and the two levels of bodhicitta is his enlightened mind. Therefore, we see that the lama is the essence of all the Buddhas of the three times and with deep faith and conviction we decide on this.
Then, in the context of this practice or you could say conducted also with three kinds of perception:
1. The first is the perception of the path, the path through which we conduct the Phowa which is the central channel.
2. Then there is the guest which travels through this path, which is our consciousness.
3. Then we have the destination where we reach, which is the Sukhavati pure realm of Amitabha, which is like the place of refuge, of protection.
In this context, as this Phowa relates very strongly to Amitabha and his pure realm Sukhavati it is important also that we familiarize ourselves with the quality of the Dewachen, the pure realm of Amitabha to bring its qualities to our mind and to remember these qualities and the benefit actually. As they are described in the aspiration or wishing prayer of Dewachen, which I understand will be handed out. So, we understand, for example in this worldly context, no matter how much wealth or how much abundance or goodness we have in this world, in this human realm, we have to work very hard for it. It comes together with a lot of diligence we have to work very hard for it. So that is our worldly realm, whereas in Dewachen, also called Sukhavati which means a pure realm of great bliss, things are accomplished there completely without any effort, spontaneously free of effort. Hence, it is important to familiarize ourselves with these qualities, to study the benefit and these qualities of this pure realm, to read this prayer again and again. To really bring our mind this prayer until we get a really strong feeling and notion of this quality of the pure realm of Dewachen. That we actually have the feeling: “I want to go there. If I pass away, if I die that’s the place where I want to go.”
Here we have the place, that is one of these three perceptions: the place and the refuge. The place is the pure realm of Dewachen and the refuge is the Buddha in his pure realm, which is Amitabha. So that is the place we want to go, through which path can we go there? The path is the pure nadi of the central channel. Who is traveling there? it is our consciousness that will travel there. So, we bring this together so that we gain a real and intimate and alive feeling actually about it. Very much like, “I want to travel to a destination in this world, I want to travel that country.” Then we make ourselves ready and bring all the prerequisites. We have no doubt actually. We have to come to this certainty. Generally, it says there are countless pure buddha realms but as Buddha Shakyamuni said, the pure realm of Dewachen of Amitabha has a very unique feature. In the sense that it has a very strong karmic connection to us and that it is also considerably easier actually to reach there. It is said that for other pure realms we have to be abiding on sometimes the eighth level of the bodhisattva. So, it is very hard to reach some other pure realms but this pure realm is said to be open and accessible.
The Dewachen Prayer
If we look at the Dewachen Prayer, the opening words it starts with Emaho! Unlike many other wishing prayers that do not start with Emaho, this is an exclamation remark and it was expounded by Buddha himself actually that among all the countless pure realms, the pure realm of Amitabha, Sukhavati is considered the most supreme, or the highest of all the pure realms. That is why Buddha started to describe it by saying: Emaho! That is how wonderful his pure realm is. What makes it so amazing actually, is that we can reach the pure realm of Dewachen based simply on faith alone. I mean very strong faith to reach Dewachen, whereas for other pure realms, as mentioned before, one needs to have been abiding on the eighth level of the bodhisattva, which is an extremely high level of realization. So, through deep faith, we can reach the pure realm and they say it is very easy to reach the pure realm of Amitabha and it is of enormous benefit.
Why is it so easy and of enormous benefit? It has to do with the previous accumulations to become Buddha Amitabha, in many of his previous lives he was accumulating so much merit. In particular, he formulated a very strong wish and aspiration prayers and offerings to all the Buddhas.
So, he formulated the wish in recognition that; ” oh when beings die most of them wander in the six realms and most of them go down in the lower realms, they are reborn in the lower realms. Also, almost nobody can be born in a pure realm. So may there be a pure realm which is easier and accessible, where people through a deep leap of faith can reach it.” So, this pure realm of Dewachen is actually created out of this motivation of Buddha Amitabha, the one who was then enlightened. That is why it is also called a new pure realm, the Dewachen, like in a time dimension. In terms of the time dimension of Dewachen it is only one week old, it was only created one week ago. We have to understand that each day of the pure realm of Dewachen is like one kalpa in our counting. It is basically seven kalpas ago as we would count it, Dewachen appeared. However, according to the calculation of Dewachen time, it is only one week old. So, it is extremely new actually this pure realm. Henceforth also very accessible. Whereas, for example, if we look at time dimensions for some in the hell realms it is the opposite. Even a very short time is experienced for hell beings as extremely long.
Anyway, because it is so amazing and remarkable, he opens this Prayer with Emaho!
These are the causes or for being reborn in Dewachen in this pure realm of Amitabha and again it is good to know the qualities and to recall again and again these qualities of the pure realm of Amitabha.
Form of Amitabha
As for form of Amitabha, we have the body of Amitabha who is as big and as limitless as the sky, all pervading. In the form of a rainbow light and then from it the sun rays emerge the countless spheres or bindus, and in each of these bindus is another form of Amitabha like the sun rays, which penetrates in all dimensions. On each head of each sentient being is one Amitabha.
So, Amitabha appears in his big form, like a rainbow but then we might have the question or doubt, well how can he be active if he just abides in light, like in a sphere of rainbow? We have to understand that the Dharmakaya of the buddha Amitabha is like the sky, which pervades everything and out of the sky manifests the play or the dance of the Sambhogakaya, which is nothing else than the five primordial wisdoms which spread in all directions through the three qualities of knowing quality, as a non-partial love, and as power.
So, the knowing quality knows all the suffering and all the different states of all sentient beings in all directions. That is the knowing quality which penetrates everything and reaches all sentient beings.
The love quality is very much like our human context, the unconditional love a mother has for her only child. A love which is without any discrimination or partiality. So that is the love which spreads through these lives of Amitabha for all sentient beings, which is nothing else but love and loving kindness that spreads everywhere to all countless, sentient beings to the minutest smallest animals for example. It is all pervading, all-pervasive quality of this love. Then the third dimension is the power or the potentiality we could say, which is like we have first the knowing quality of the Buddha which knows all the state of mind, all the suffering then the love. Then the power lies in that if our faith and trust and devotion meet the love of the Buddha then through this of Amitabha in particular here, then through this our grasping to a self can melt. We will understand the true state of our mind, which is actually the non-dual absolute view. That is the absolute level.
On a relative level, it is the appearance of Amitabha as we describe him in the form of Amitabha. So, this is the form of Buddha Amitabha but then again it is this dimension of the Dharmakaya wisdom body, all pervasive very much like the sky. This means that in essence, the all-enlightened heart or mind of all the buddhas is one in essence. It is free of any duality, very much like the ocean. We take the big body of water the whole ocean which spreads through different continents and countries but it is of the same essence. Also, the sky pervades in all-directions but the sky is of one essence, we cannot divide the sky. It is beyond all these extremes. So, this is the quality of the non-dual primordial wisdom of all the Buddhas, which is the enlightened heart of all the Buddhas, which is also true. If we recognize the nature of our mind, the non-dual state of our mind, which is this nondual primordial wisdom, that is very much this sky-like nature that is the quality of the Dharmakaya.
Then, out of that the wisdom body of the dharmakaya it appears in manifest forms, in countless forms as the sambhogakaya, very much like a rainbow. Through the union of the power of emptiness and compassion, it appears in manifold forms as peaceful and wrathful deities for the benefit of beings with these three qualities which we described: the knowing quality of the buddhas, and this limitless love and this quality of potentiality or power. So, in the context of this practice, three powers have to come together. The first power is our own intention, which is actually our own faith and devotion, which is beyond any doubt. The second power is the love and the compassion of all the buddhas. Particularly in this context of the Buddha Amitabha.
Then, the third power is the power of the dharmadhatu, which is nothing else than the fundamental premise that all sentient beings are in essence Buddhas. They are only stained by temporary adventitious stains. Their true state of being is Buddhahood, it is like the Buddha Nature, like water. Only if grasping comes into play and disturbing emotions, then the water becomes a solid block of ice. Then again if this ice comes together with and meets the right circumstance, we will be free of grasping to Self. This block of ice will melt, we will recognize the true nature of our mind and eventually transverse the paths and the bhūmi levels and reach Buddhahood and become manifest as the three kayas of Dharmakaya, Samboghakāya, and Nirmanakaya.
The friend of Bodhicitta and the six paramitas
What is the friend or acquaintance on the path? It is bodhicitta. That is the thought the motivation may not only I reach the state of the pure realm of Dewachen, may all countless sentient beings enter this pure realm of devotion. So that is the motivation of the bodhicitta. The actual way of applying it is to accumulate the great wealth of merit and to purify obscurations. The accumulation of merit is done through body, speech and mind but mainly from our mind. It is motivated through love and loving kindness in our mind. Then it is brought into the context of the practice of the six paramitas. If the first paramita is motivated through love and loving kindness it is like an authentic generosity. Then ethical or moral conduct is the second paramita, giving up or refraining from any kind of harm. The third is patience and so forth so all the six parameters are in fact nothing else than an antidote to the six disturbing emotions. In this context of the practice, there is the seven-branch practice, a prayer where we do prostrations, make offerings, confession and a relative and ultimate enlightened mind to support us, and to remain, not to enter into nirvana. Then, at the end, the dedication. That seven-branch prayer is in fact geared in the same way as an antidote to the six disturbing emotions. So, in this way if we practice this loving kindness and compassion with all our body, speech and mind wholeheartedly in the context of the six paramitas, we accumulate the great wealth of merit. Then through that merit our obscurations are decreased. It is a direct antidote towards our obscurations. What are obscurations? Actually, in essence it is nothing else than holding to the self, grasping to the self. This notion of me, that is me. The method is loving kindness and the mind which is opening up and directing towards the benefit of all sentient beings. Through that, the grasping to a self is melting away, the ice is melting away, through the activities of loving kindness and compassion with our body, speech and mind. Not only disturbing emotions but also the roots of grasping are eradicated for this. In the beginning, our loving kindness and compassion it is small and then we develop it more and more until it becomes limitless, a very big quality for all countless, sentient beings.
It also becomes like what we know in the context of the four limitless meditations, where we have first loving kindness where it becomes like huge may all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. The second compassion: may all be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. Then the third is the limitless joy of rejoicing to rejoice that we actually know that all sentient beings are in their essence have this Buddha nature. If the temporary stains are eradicated, they will weaken to manifest the Buddhahood. The fourth is the equanimity, the limitless equivalent, which is to recognize that ultimately there is no difference between Buddhas and sentient beings. There is ultimately no difference between samsara and nirvana. So, for this we accumulate the great wealth of accumulation of merit and purify obscurations.
That was a short discussion describing the qualities of Amitabha. Now to go back actually a little bit to the Phowa practice. We had the self-transformation of ourselves as the yidam, but then mainly the visualization goes within the central channel, with the qualities which were described before. Then we practice with prana and visualization. So, these have to come together. We have the central channel in our body, this was described before, which we did not go into detail about.
On the level of the heart, we have four petal lotus and on top of this lotus is a red sphere or bindu which represents our consciousness. Now it is time to practice Phowa, we are not talking about at the time of death, this is about training and practicing Phowa. Then together with the prana we pull this bindu up together with the sound. When Phowa is introduced, it is normally the sound of HIK. So, we recite this ourselves when we practice it. We do it the first time seven times when we do it. this red bindu//thigle, which is our consciousness on the lotus in our heart is rising higher and higher until with the seventh HIK it touches Amitabha on top of our head. In this tradition. Amitabha is actually in a special position. He is sitting in a sitting position just like Maitreya. That is the way Amitabha sits on top of your head and his feet, particularly his right big toe is blocking the opening of your Brahmadanda, the exit of your central channel or Avadhuti at your crown of the head. It is like this in this tradition also because some people might have some doubts whether practicing Phowa might shorten their life, or it might be dangerous or something. So, this helps actually to have this visualization that the right big toe of Amitabha blocks the opening of the central channel. So, we do this seven times like the HIK goes up more and more from our heart, until it touches the point of exit at the crown of our head, where it touches the skin of the right big toe of Amitabha. Then we gain a very strong conviction and faith that our consciousness is really there and that we really touch Amitabha. After we have done this, then again, the bindu comes down again through the central channel in your heart. So, the first time we do it, we train it through seven times, then we can do it just with three times. Then we can train also that we only do it once. That with one HIK it goes all the way up from the heart to the opening at the crown. This is very much the Phowa at the time of practice, we train ourselves in this Phowa, in this pathway of the central channel. So that at the time of the death, we really have a conviction and certainty and we remember how to do it because we trained in this life very well and the path is ready, so to speak. Some people might ask or have a misconception “well I just do it when I die” but that is not enough. It is really about doing it now, in this life that we train ourselves that we become certain about this path. So that we know where is the path, how to travel the path and which path the consciousness is traveling on, and to gain certainty and conviction of that.
So, what it also important is our aspiration prayer, that no matter how much merit and virtue we have accumulated from past lives, for some positive actions, some benefit we have done to others, or kindness to others, we bring all our merit together and dedicate it towards all sentient beings that: “through this merit, by the power of his merit, may all sentient beings be reborn in the pure realm of Dewachen.” Just to recite OM MANI PADME HUM or a few MANIs, that through this prayer we have a strong aspiration and wish that all sentient beings be reborn in the pure realm of devotion. So, it is important to have a very pure aspiration and a very strong formulation of wish.
[So, this is the short instructions and Rinpoche will now conduct the lung transmission. It is good to know what we are going to do. Rinpoche will actually exclaim the syllable HIK, so we are not going to do that. We are going to practice visualization while Rinpoche is doing it. So, we generate ourselves as the yidam, as a very big form of the yidam, like translucent light, expansive. Then most importantly in the centre of our body as the yidam, is this central channel as it was described before. We visualize it very clearly with the consciousness in our heart, also the diameter and where it starts and especially where it ends. Then, the opening of our central channel and the sitting Amitabha the way it was described. Also, not only Amitabha but the whole manifestation of the pure realm of Sukhavati. Really think that is there and Amitabha is really right there on top of your head. With a strong visualization while Rinpoche will do the practice, you just visualize and have the strong conviction how the consciousness is rising and rising until it touches the big toe and then it comes down again. Just follow Rinpoche. We are not exclaiming the syllable HIK.
1:02:53 Garchen Rinpoche does the practice [1.12.20]
That is the way how to practice it and I guess tomorrow is also a practice session. At the end, when we finish the practice, when the consciousness comes the last time down, we visualize also that Amitabha is dissolving into light and comes down our central channel to our heart. Then we transform into Buddha Amitayus, the buddha of limitless light and Amitabha stays in our heart. So, he is always there in our heart. Then, at the time when we die it really brings us into the pure realm of Dewachen.
Rinpoche then recites the Amitayus mantra and the Dewachen short prayer.
Mantra of Amitabha
If we could recite this short prayer with mantra three times a day, it would be wonderful if we can do this with a very deep aspiration also together, we could do three prostrations, that will be most wonderful. It would also be most auspicious, if you could recite the name mantra of the Buddha that will be given tomorrow. It is OM AMA DEWA HRIH. OM AMITABHA as short. That really represents the enlightened form of Buddha Amitabha.
When we are given the empowerment tomorrow of the enlightened form of Buddha Amitabha then we have an image of Buddha Amitabha, if we close our eyes, we remember it and we train in this more and more. Afterwards by reciting this mantra it will create an auspicious link that in the bardo, we will be able to liberate ourselves and recognize our true nature and Buddha Amitabha and to be able to liberate ourselves in the manner, just like a child is jumping into the lap of its mother. We have to get used to that right now, we have to use that in this life and to get trained, in order to do that it is good to have a representation of Amitabha and to get habituated again. Be it a photo, thangka or statue, do not think of them as some material representation, they are nothing else than the Nirmanakaya, enlightened form of Amitabha.
Particularly if we have strong faith and devotion towards Amitabha, to train in that in that pure vision that the lama’s body is in fact the essence of all the enlightened bodies of all the buddhas and to have a pure view and a notion.
There are many descriptions that individuals when they died, noticed that the lama really appears in an enlightened form of the lamas the essence of all the buddhas. It is about the essence here, like the lama’s essence of Amitabha or Avalokiteshvara his love and compassion coming together with our faith and devotion. So that is the representation of the Nirmanakaya like the lama or the spiritual friend.
It is important to know the cause with which we can be transferred into the pure realm of Dewachen The pure realm of Sukhavati is nothing else than a manifest embodiment of compassion of bodhicitta and loving kindness. it is in fact a manifestation of loving-kindness and compassion. If we want to go there, we need to create this circumstance in ourselves that is the cause of loving kindness and compassion needs to be brought forth in our mind as this actually creates the circumstance that will be transferred into the pure realm of loving kindness compassion. It is like gold which in its quality is never really changing and it is never really changing the world from the ultimate level. It is this valuable pure gold. So also, if we generate strong loving-kindness and compassion bodhicitta, mainly it is bodhicitta here, in our mind stream this is called the unchanging Phowa. This is actually the cause for an unchanging Phowa which will not be influenced by other circumstances and if we have a strong bodhicitta, Rinpoche says that even without applying the outer Phowa, we will be naturally drawn to this manifestation of bodhicitta, which is the pure realm of Dewachen. On the other hand, if we do not have loving- kindness and bodhicitta in our mind, even if we conduct the Phowa, it is not easy to reach there, so we have to train ourselves in loving kindness and bodhicitta.
Some people say it raises the question or something to say well if I have a very deep love and affection towards my partner/spouse, my children or my parents could it be of any harm? Also, at the time when they die. Actually, pure love in its truest sense is never harmful it is always so beneficial but it is important at this moment to immediately visualize and recall Tara for example, or Amitabha. We have to see them like a great King/Queen, or great ruler who is empowered with a lot of power in the sense of bodhicitta. Our love to our loved ones is actually two sides it has a good side, there is love there but it is also stained quite often by some attachment, some grasping and this we have to be able to cut through the grasping. Yet, love is of course not bad, it is good to have a very strong affection and love. At the moment for example, when somebody dies, like one of our parents or loved ones, it is important to immediately transform everything into a pure form like Tara or Amitabha or Avalokiteshvara, to remember their qualities and enlightened qualities of Amitabha, for example, and if that is present there is never anything bad in there it is complete pure manifestation of compassion and bodhicitta. “