Phowa Teachings

The following article is from the Summer, 1991 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

The Venerable K.C. Ayang Tulku Rinpoche will return to the United States and Canada this August for his first visit since 1987, to give Phowa retreats, related teachings and empowerments.

The Phowa practice, or Transference of Consciousness at the Time of Death, is a simple, powerful means of ejecting the consciousness from the crown aperture into Dewachen, the Buddha-field of Amitabha, bypassing the bardos and avoiding rebirth in the six realms of cyclic existence. Sufficiently realized practitioners can facilitate this transfer of consciousness for others as well as themselves. Once in Dewachen one does not return to the samsaric realms and can quickly attain enlightenment.

In the Vajrayana, Phowa is known as a quick, direct path to enlightenment. It is traditionally thought in Tibet that even the greatest of sinners has a chance for enlightenment through the practice of Phowa. Tibetan lay people considered it extremely important for a lama to perform Phowa for the dying and recently deceased. Similarly, for those in the West who lack the luxury of lengthy solitary meditative practice, Phowa is particularly relevant.

Marpa the Translator said If you study Phowa, then at the time when death is approaching you will have no despair. If beforehand you have become accustomed to the path of Phowa, then at the time of death you will be full of cheerful confidence Although it is the most accessible of the Six Yogas of Naropa, it is unwise, as with many other Vajrayana practices, to undertake the Phowa without initiation, oral transmission and instruction from a Phowa lineage holder. Due to the accumulated energy of the lineage and the blessings of the teaching itself, a qualified lama is able to directly transfer the blessing of this practice to disciples, who often manifest clear and tangible signs of accomplishment very quickly. It is possible to achieve the signs of the Phowa through solitary practice, but long experience indicates that a lama's assistance greatly speeds the desired result, providing a strong foundation for the student's later practice. In Tibet and Nepal thousands attend yearly Phowa festivals, receive the transmission and begin their practice.

Though no large Phowa festivals occur in the west, Ayang Rinpoche, a renowned Phowa Master and Lama of the Drikung Kagyu tradition, will be leading three Phowa retreats in the summer and fall of this year. A Khampa, he was born into a nomadic family in eastern Tibet following the appearance of numerous auspicious signs. He was recognized to be a reincarnate Drikung Kagyu Lama (Ayang Drubchen Tenpai) by a delegation of high lamas representing the major schools.

Following his early education at Drikung Thil Changchub Ling, the main monastery of Drikung, he continued his studies at Nyingma Thang Ra, the Drikung philosophical college. He received teachings in Phowa from His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon and went on pilgrimage in Tibet to many of the holy places of Guru Rinpoche. After his departure from Tibet, he took teachings from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek and from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in Bhutan. He is a lineage-holder of both the Nyingma and Drikung Phowa, and has done extensive retreat on the practice.

Ayang Rinpoche will be offering 10-day Phowa retreats in Los Angeles, Rochester New York, and Toronto Canada. Those wishing to attend the retreats should contact the appropriate center as early as possible since Rinpoche would prefer that certain practices be undertaken prior to the beginning of the retreat.

See ad in this issue for details on retreats.t

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