“We want to advise you to practice Phowa intensively for about one week. It would be good to practice it repeatedly until signs appear. According to the Buddha’s teachings, signs come easily in Phowa practice. The quickness of the signs depends upon the amount of concentration and devotion. If your meditation and devotion are strong, the signs come quickly.
Please keep your Phowa practice alive and active as much as you can. This practice is something that you should continue to do periodically, even after you experience signs of being able to accomplish it. All the Longchen Nyingtik lineage teachers, such as Patrul Rinpoche, his foremost student Nyoshul Lungtok, and Nyoshul Lungtok’s foremost student, Khenpo Ngagchung, encouraged their students to continue to practice it occasionally. Perhaps you could do this once a day—right before going to bed is a particularly good time. Simply mentally repeat the visualization and meditation.
It’s also strongly recommended to do a full session of Phowa once every week or two, to keep the process fresh in your mind. Even after experiencing signs, it’s good to do Phowa periodically. At the stage of accomplishment, you could do the transfer sequence only seven or twenty-one times in all. For instance, if you had planned to do Phowa for an entire week, once you experience signs, you can lower the number of times you do the transference. However, until signs do appear, if you want to have strong accomplishment, you need to keep practicing Phowa.
Non-attachment and the Desire to Go to Dewachen
It’s also very important that we continue to train in having less grasping. Particularly when the time of death comes, we must have courage and cut attachment to our body and sense of self, as well as to our belongings and loved ones. Having less attachment is very important if we’re going to accomplish Phowa. As time goes on, we need to be less and less attached to everything—our possessions, wealth, and the people close to us.
Try to see everything as magic or a dream. Everyday it’s good to offer whatever you own and whatever you use to Buddha Amitabha. Mentally make a mandala offering of your world and give it to all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and arhats. Even if you still use those things the next day, by offering them again and again, you’ll have much less attachment and it will help you to die without hesitation or holding back.
Another general point is that we need to look forward to going to Amitabha’s pure land. In one of his prayers, the master Karma Chagme said, “When the time of death comes, may I go directly to the pure land of the Buddha Amitabha, without looking back, just like a bird freed from its cage.” When a bird is let loose, it doesn’t long to return to its cage. It’s happy to fly away, whatever its destination might be. This is a powerful message for us. When death comes, if you feel that you did what you wanted to do and fulfilled the purpose of this life, you can leave courageously and fearlessly. The Vajrayana teachings say that people who die this way are real yogis and yoginis. They demonstrate a truly heroic attitude.
Final Reminders About Phowa
In terms of benefiting yourself, when the time comes for your physical and mental aggregates to separate, you need the intention to shoot your conscious- ness like an arrow, straight to the target as you’ve planned. Without any hesitation, without looking back, take the attitude of looking forward to entering the pure land of Amitabha. As part of your motivation, look forward every day, as much as you can, to transferring your consciousness to the pure land.
Also, whenever you practice, it’s important to increase your devotion.Devotion plants us firmly on spiritual ground and makes our realization grow and develop. Without devotion, the ground of our practice is shaky. If we’re not well-rooted, we can get blown off course. As soon as we’re confronted with a disruptive situation, if we don’t have strong devotion, our practice could simply fall apart. In order to make our life meaningful and fulfilling, we need to practice, and devotion is an essential ingredient.
When you practice Phowa, cultivate devotion—particularly to Buddha Amitabha. Amitabha embodies all the buddhas of the three times and the ten directions. He is the embodiment of the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. Please feel in your heart that Buddha Amitabha is your true protector and support. While doing Phowa, meditate on yourself as Vajrayogini and feel the presence of Buddha Amitabha right above your head. Don’t see the place where you are as an ordinary place, but as a pure land. It’s the pure land of Amitabha, Guru Padmasambhava, Vajrayogini, and Yeshe Tsogyal. Bring all your outer perceptions and inner understanding back to the true nature, which is unaffected by dualistic thinking.”
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Volume 2: Using Dream Yoga and Phowa as the Path (pgs 228-230)
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