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Transferring the Consciousness of the Deceased
by Jigme Lingpa
Before transferring the consciousness of the deceased, begin by saying their name a suitable number of times.
[Name of the deceased], having experienced impermanence you are now dead.
Repeat three times.
You are not the only person to have experienced what we call ‘death’; it is the path every one of the five kinds of sentient being must follow.
Once birth has taken place, life can only end in death—such is the nature of things. There is not a single sentient being in this world—from the rich and powerful universal monarch to the starving beggar unable even to feed himself—who can free themselves from life and death, so don’t despair.
Be aware that nothing you are attached to—your family, your friends, your house, your wealth, your possessions and so on—can go with you. Understand that your time with them is now over. As it is said:
When his time has come, even a king has to die,
And neither his friends nor his wealth can follow him.
So for us—wherever we stay, wherever we go—
Karma follows us like a shadow.
Now that you are personally experiencing the ripening of the truth of suffering described in this verse, which is the very nature of things, the danger is that your attachment to your relatives, wealth and possessions will lead you to a lower realm. This is why, in the Sūtra Requested by the Girl Called Ratna, the Buddha said:
In that moment, your father, mother, relatives,
Friends or people you are close to cannot afford you any protection.
Sons and daughters are no refuge.
Only those endowed with great qualities can grant protection,
Which no worldly protector can afford.
We should rejoice at being able to experience death and transference during this fortunate time when the teachings of the Buddha exist in this world. Why? Because simply to hear the names of the bhagavān buddhas is very powerful. This means that those who pass away while hearing these names and experiencing trust and joy will be liberated from lower rebirths and attain the level of a god or human being. As the Buddha said in The Hundred Deeds:
"Monks, did you notice a bird that flew out of the sky and landed in my presence?"
"Yes, O Blessed One, we saw it."
"O monks, as that bird departed, filled with joy at the thought of me, he was killed by a hawk, but since he died filled with joy at the thought of me, he was reborn in the family of a merchant here in Rājagṛha. When he grew up he became a follower of my teachings. After he had gone forth, though just seven years old, he cast away all afflictive emotions and became an arhat.”
Just one moment of faith in the Buddha can bring such benefits. You are fortunate enough to have been born in a world where the teachings of the Victorious One are present, to have heard the name of the Buddha, and to have appreciation for his teachings. So, sincerely arouse an even greater faith in our teacher, the Tathāgata, take refuge in the Dharma, his perfect teachings, and emulate the saṅgha of bodhisattvas.
The protector Amitābha, in particular, promised that all fear in the bardos and all the causes of lower rebirth will be completely eliminated for anyone who remembers or hears his name, and abides by the view. So rely on him and the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta, and do not forget their buddhafield, Sukhāvatī.
Since you are now free of your physical body of flesh and blood, go straight to this supreme buddhafield.
Think of and meditate on the guru for whom you have devotion. Remember your yidam and the view. Meditate on the Mahāyāna’s bodhicitta in aspiration and action.
One method for creating auspicious circumstances through these key points is the instruction on transference, which brings enlightenment without meditation and which is applied at the juncture between one lifetime and the next. Meditate, therefore, on a white syllable "a" in your heart. As I repeat the sound "a", bring into your experience all that I have just said. Consider that the "a" (in certain circumstances you can also change it to "hrīḥ") goes straight to the buddhafield of Sukhāvatī, like an arrow shot by a powerful archer.
Say this to inspire the dead person and actualize it yourself. Then, repeat "a" as many times as the years of the person's age, in a gentle tone of voice. Then pull the hair at the person’s crown of their head and repeat "a" a further twenty-one times. Through this they will be led to a higher rebirth. As the Tantra of the Union of the Sun and the Moon says:
Apply the syllable "a",
Combined with the breath, as many times as the person’s age.
If they do not die at that very moment,
Then with breath directed towards the crown,
Gather their consciousness into the middle of the body
While focusing on the syllable "a".
While performing the practice in this way,
If the dying person is still breathing,
By applying the syllable to the breath,
States will be purified—of this there is no doubt.
Thus, applying "a", the unborn syllable, to exhalation, once the process of dissolution has begun to manifest, is an extremely profound instruction.
Emphasize skilful means—guiding with great compassion—and wisdom—merging with the space-like expanse. You could also practise more elaborately at this point by applying one of the many forms of transference that accord with others’ perception. In any case, block the entrance to the lower realms with the names of the buddhas, and with the mantras, dhāraṇīs and special aspirations made by the buddhas. Bear in mind that it is difficult to guide those who are completely unfamiliar with spiritual practice through the generation phase, and to introduce them to appearance, increase and attainment, and so on, because it is very hard to communicate with those who are in the blank state of ālaya.
At Losal’s request, this was written by Rangjung Dorje.
| Translated by Gyurme Avertin, Adam Pearcey and Han Kop for the Longchen Nyingtik Project, 2023, based on an earlier version by Gyurme Avertin for the Sukhavati Foundation, published on All-Otr.org.
'Jigs med gling pa. "gshin po 'pho ba 'debs pa'i snga rol du / 'pho ba'i ngo sprod nyung ngu" In gsung ’bum/_’jigs med gling pa. Gangtok, India: Pema Thinley for Dodrupchen Rinpoche, 1985. Vol. 8: 301–304.
Lozang Jamspal and Kaia Tara Fischer, trans. The Hundred Deeds (Karmaśataka, Toh 340). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2020
Orofino, Giacomella. Sacred Tibetan Teachings: On Death and Liberation. Bridport: Prism Press, 1990.
Gods, humans, animals, pretas, and hell-beings. ↩
From The Sūtra of Advice to the King (Rājāvavādakasūtra). ↩
Ratnadārikāparipṛcchā-sūtra (bu mo rin chen gyis zhus pa’i mdo), an alternative title for the Instruction on the Mahāyāna (mahāyānopadeśa sūtra, Toh 169). ↩
The Tantra of the Union of the Sun and the Moon (nyi zla kha sbyor gyi rgyud) is one of the seventeen Great Perfection Tantras. ↩