Phowa, or “transference of consciousness at the time of death,” is the Tibetan Buddhist method for attaining a better rebirth, liberation or enlightenment at the moment of death. Practicing moving the consciousness out of the body in preparation for death is a renowned tradition within Tibetan Buddhism.
Phowa deals directly with our fear of death and our aspiration for enlightenment. It goes deeply into the heart of the matter and can appeal to those who have a natural concern about their future death. In the words of Marpa, the Translator, “If you study Phowa, then at the time when death is approaching you will know 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.”
His Eminence Choeje Ayang Rinpoche is a lineage holder in two honored Phowa lineages. After walking from eastern to western Tibet and into India with many of his followers, he escaped from Tibet in 1959 at the age of 17.
Thousands of people throughout the world have taken phowa teaching from Rinpoche. His clarity, compassion, humor, gentleness and profound depth remain as a high point for those who have met him.
Rinpoche’s vision is compassionate activity (bodhichitta) undertaken from pure motivation and supported by strong practice. These three themes — compassionate activity, pure motivation and strong practice — are woven through all of Rinpoche’s talks, activities and teachings.
When asked which of the three is most important, Rinpoche replied, “Compassionate activity is at the heart of our practice. We can’t ignore it. It is absolutely vital.”
I became Tibetan Buddhist in 1978 when a Buddhist said to me, “It’s not you who is wrong, it’s how you perceive that’s wrong.” This intrigued me. I had the house, job, dog, everything I thought I always wanted but still felt empty. The first time I saw Ayang Rinpoche it felt like I had come home. Six months later, in India, I became a Buddhist nun.
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