Phowa

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Amitabha (from a thangka in the personal collection of Sogyal Rinpoche)

Phowa (Wyl. ‘pho ba) — the practice for directing the transference of consciousness at the time of death. It is one of the Six Yogas of Naropa.

Subdivisions

Tsele Natsok Rangdrol lists five kinds of phowa:

  1. dharmakaya transference free from focus (chos sku gtad med kyi 'pho ba)
  2. sambhogakaya transference of unity (longs sku zung 'jug gi 'pho ba)
  3. nirmanakaya transference of training (sprul sku rtsal sbyong gi 'pho ba)
  4. guru's transference of blessings (byin rlabs bla ma'i 'pho ba)
  5. unmistaken khachö transference ('chugs med mkha' spyod kyi 'pho ba)[1]

Patrul Rinpoche mentions another list of five kinds of phowa:

  1. Superior transference to the dharmakaya through the seal of the view
  2. Middling transference to the sambhogakaya through the union of the generation and completion phases
  3. Lesser transference to the nirmanakaya through immeasurable compassion
  4. Ordinary “phowa of three recognitions”: recognition of our central channel as the path; recognition of our consciousness as the traveller; and recognition of the environment of a buddha realm as the destination.
  5. Transference performed for the dead with the hook of compassion

In the Dzogchen teachings, two kinds of transference are sometimes mentioned:

  1. transference of entering the sphere of clear light ('od gsal sbubs 'jug gi 'pho ba)
  2. transference of consciousness riding the subtle energy (rnam shes rlung zhon gyi 'pho ba)

Notes

  1. Tsele notes that this is the same as 'finding relief in a natural nirmanakaya pure realm', as spoken of in the Dzogchen teachings

Empowerments and Transmissions

Further Reading