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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
summer 2007| 30 |buddhadharma Practices for Dying During the stages of dissolution of the coarse and subtle body, we should apply whatever methods we have been practicing in this life, whether they are Mahamudra, Dzogchen, or Vajrayana. It is impor- tant to understand, however, that not everyone has exactly the same experiences. Although we all undergo these dissolutions, each of us experiences the process in a slightly different way. For exam- ple, the inner signs of death – those that manifest as alterations in our cognitive functioning – might not confuse or agitate the mind of a practitioner who has established some basis of calmness, but they may be disturbing for someone who has not developed any mental stability. If you are accustomed to Mahamudra or Dzogchen, then you can employ the various enhancement practices of those traditions, which are taught for the purpose of stabilizing insight, improving the recognition of the nature of mind, and developing love and compassion for all sentient beings. If you have trained in Vajrayana deity prac- tice, then you can rely on the Vajrayana practices of prana, nadi, and bindu at that time. You can also engage in phowa, a practice that is especially con- nected to the time of death, when our minds and bodies start to separate and begin to lose the con- nection they now have. The term phowa is often translated as the “transference” or “ejection” of consciousness. It is important, however, to under- stand more broadly what phowa is. What we are essentially doing at this time is transferring our consciousness from an impure, confused state into a pure and unconfused state. We are transform- ing consciousness and connecting with the true nature of mind and the reality of all phenomena on the spot. In general, the phowa teachings are not much different from those of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. The intention of Mahamudra and Dzogchen is to penetrate our confusion and see its ultimate nature of nonconfusion, or wisdom. The purpose of all forms of phowa is the same: to transform a confused state of mind into an unconfused state. If we broaden our understanding of phowa in this way, then we will see that it includes all those practices that have as their goal the real- ization of the true nature of mind. Mahamudra, Dzogchen, and Vajrayana practices all accomplish this purpose – that is, ultimate liberation through the transference of consciousness from a state of samsara to a state of nirvana, or from a condi- tion of ego-centered suffering to one of profound peace, openness, joy, and unceasing compassion. The teachings also say that we can use devo- tion as a path. When we connect with our heart of devotion, then, in that moment, we are connecting very powerfully, immediately, and directly with the awakened heart of the guru and the lineage, as well as our own inherently awakened state. Working with our devotion means that we are not just rely- ing on our own efforts. We are opening ourselves Dandelions Forever Triptych, 2002 Cy DeCosse CouRTesyJoHnsTevensonGalleRy,neWyoRkCiTy