Two levels of practice, four types of phowa

          The two levels of practice, the creation stage and the perfection stage, are actually a preparation for the moment of death. If you are an accomplished practitioner, when you die, you will recognize the Clear Light state of the first bardo.  This results in the attainment of dharmakaya buddhahood. If you miss this opportunity, then due to the dissolution of the constituents of your body, the deities begin to appear in the bardo. If you are accomplished in the creation stage practice, you will recognize the deities as they arise to be the very display of your own mind. You will then attain sambhogakaya buddhahood. For a practitioner who has not completed these two levels of practice, phowa is the third opportunity to be liberated in the bardo. The practice of phowa at the moment of death is the cause for a practitioner to be reborn into a pureland where there is the opportunity to complete the dharma path. If someone has not completed the two stages of the path, then phowa can carry them to liberation.

There are four different types of phowa. The first is the perfection stage practice. In this phowa, there is no need to wait for death to be liberated since you are already enlightened. The second phowa is the realization of the inseparability of the creation and perfection states. With this realization, you can be liberated in the bardo. The third phowa is the transference of consciousness into a pureland at the moment of death. With the phowa of the transference, three reference points are used. The first is the pureland of Amitabha called Dewachen, the second is our own consciousness as the traveler, and the third is the central channel as the path. Normally when you die, you exit through any of the nine doors leading to various types of rebirth into the lower realms. The exit through the central channel is the entrance into a pureland. Phowa seals the other doors which lead to rebirth in samsara. To accomplish the phowa practice, you must complete a seven-day retreat to receive the signs. Phowa is considered the quick path since even without the experience of meditation, you can still be liberated. In the phowa section of Ngondro Practice, visualize Amitabha above your head. Amitabha, red in color, is a dharmakaya buddha of the Lotus Family. Pray that when this life is finished, you will immediately be reborn in Dewachen, Amitabha’s pure realm. The fourth phowa is “the hook of compassion” to liberate others. When you have accomplished the phowa for yourself, you can help liberate others at their moment of death. …

The Commentary on the Dudjom Tersar Ngondro
The Preliminary Practice of the New Teasure of Dudjom
by Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

Photo source: Vajrayana Foundation Archive
Photographer: unknown

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