Phowa (Tibetan: འཕོ་བ, Wylie: 'pho ba, Sanskrit: saṃkrānti) is a Vajrayana Buddhist meditation practice. It may be described as "the practice of conscious dying", "transference of consciousness at the time of death", "mindstream transference", or “enlightenment without meditation” (Wylie: ma-sgom sangs-rgyas). "This controversial esoteric technique (Skt.utkrānti), by which a tantric practitioner is able to sever his connection to the physical body, goes by the Indian reference to 'yogic' or spiritual suicide
Although it is included among the so-called 'five practices of enlightenment without meditation, it does require a thorough training before it can be put into effect successfully.
- Superior transference to the dharmakaya through the seal of the view
- Middling transference to the sambhogakaya through the union of the generation and completion phases
- Lesser transference to the nirmanakaya through immeasurable compassion
- 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.
- Transference performed for the dead with the hook of compassion
- Chagdud Khadro, P’howa Commentary, Pilgrims Publishing, India, 2004
- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Ch. 13 & 14.
It may be described as "the practice of conscious dying", "transference of consciousness at the time of death", "mindstream transference", or “enlightenment without meditation” (Wylie: ma-sgom sangs-rgyas).
Application of Phowa
The method can be applied at the moment of death to transfer one's consciousness through the top of the head directly into a Buddha-field of one’s choice.
The mark of a successful Phowa practice is a small drop of blood directly from the center of the vertex.
Nāropa’s teachings describe a second method of ’pho-ba that entails the transference of one’s consciousness to another body (Wylie: ’pho-ba grong-’jug).
Milarepa’s query regarding these teachings forced Marpa to search for explanatory treatises on the subject among his Indian manuscripts, and, having found none, to return to India to obtain more scriptures.
This festival was traditionally held once in every twelve-year calendrical cycle, and its last observance took place in August 1992 in gTer-sgrom, Central Tibet, after a hiatus of 36 years due to a ban enforced by the Chinese authorities.
Choeje Ayang Rinpoche from Eastern Tibet belongs to the Drikung school and is an authority on Buddhist afterlife rituals; he gives teachings and initiations to the practice of phowa annually in Bodh Gaya, India.