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New Meetup: Meditation and prayer for the dead and the dying. Powa Ceremony.

From: Jairo M.
Sent on: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 3:15 PM
Announcing a new Meetup for The Orlando Meditation Meetup Group!

What: Meditation and prayer for the dead and the dying. Powa Ceremony.

When: Sunday, December 5,[masked]:00 PM

Where: Vajrapani Kadampa Buddhist Center
813 Montana Street
Orlando, FL 32803

I am happy to announce that Vajrapani Kadampa Buddhist Center in Montana St (near Mills and Virginia Streets) is having a beautiful service called Prayers for the Deceased, for everyone who cares about the death and dying process and wish to help the recently dead or the dying in some way.

"From the moment a person is in the throes of death, no one is allowed to leave him, in order that his soul may not depart when he is all alone, because it is bewildered when departing from the body"
. . . . . . From the Jewish Code of Laws compiled by 12th-century sage Moses Maimonides

Vajrayana [Tibetan] Buddhism teaches that
Life?s most awesome event is death
Death comes to all without regard to wealth, beauty, intelligence or fame.
Death is inevitable
How you die
terrified and confused,
with confidence and spiritual mastery
is within your control.

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Phowa (or simplified to powa) is considered the most valuable and effective practice for death and the simplest and most direct method to attain enlightenment. The word powa means the transference or ejection of consciousness into the state of truth. Its success relies on invoking the presence of a buddha (a fully enlightened being, or for those of other faiths, their particular holy being, for Christians, Jesus), combined with our receptivity and devotion, and the familiarity which comes from having done the practice repeatedly throughout our life.

There are two different powa transmissions. One originates with the Nyingma (Old school) as taught by Padmasabhava ("Guru Rinpoche" Indian master of the 8th century), and another is a Sarma Tantra (as practiced by Marpa, Atisha and so forth). Powa is also considered one of the six Yogas of Naropa, and it is taught in all Tibetan Buddhist traditions. From the Nymgma school, we have the Bardo Thodol, better known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead which includes powas.

A puja is a chanted meditation-prayer service, and the powa puja is a set of prayers that can be recited for those who have recently died, and better yet for those undergoing the death process. The benefit for the dying person lies in their hearing of the prayer.

The Bardo Thodol literally translates to The Great Liberation through Hearing During the Intermediate State. Bardo literally means Intermediate State and during the death process, Intermediate State refers to the states betweens lives. During the death process, one may have three Bardo experiences (or, if you like, hallucinations): (1) a "clear light of reality" at the moment of death (2) visions of Buddha forms (or any holy beings according to your faith), or approximations of them. (3) karmically impelled hallucinations which eventually result in rebirth.

There are three other Bardos, besides those occuring during the death process: those of "life" (or ordinary waking consciousness), of "dhyana" (meditation), and of "dream" (the dream state during normal sleep). So one could say, one is always in some Bardo, or state of consciousness.

The prayers found in a powa puja can be memorized so that when one finds oneself undergoing the death process, one can gain confidence during the death process, one's journey in the Bardo. In addition to memorizing and reciting the prayers by oneself during one's death process, one can count on one's Sangha, or Dharma Center, a community of Buddhists practitioners, to come together right at the time of one's death or up to three days following, to recite the prayers in one's behalf and possibly over one's effigy.

A powa can be of benefit anytime after a death, but is most beneficial within 49 days, and especially powerful within three days. By making arrangements in advance, a group of practitioners can be called upon to do the practice in the Dharma center on one's behalf. This is probably the most beautiful practice offered by any Buddhist Dharma center. In Tibetan Buddhism, usually only Lamas are authorized to lead a powa for their Sangha community. In Kadampa Buddhist Centers, senior teachers lead the Sangha in powa, with the aide of reading materials (a Powa Sadhana booklet), and audio CDs of the prayers in English set to melody.

What follows is an outline of the powa practice as done in Kadampa Buddhist centers throughout the world:

As preparation for this ritual practice we begin by arranging beautiful offerings such as candles and flowers. On a piece of paper we write in red ink a large letter ?R?, which symbolizes the contaminated rebirths of all the deceased. We attach the paper to a stick to resemble a flag, and place this flag in a suitable container such as a small vase. We also prepare a candle, which should be placed on a flat plate. Both the flag and candle should be arranged on a table in front of us.

In the beginning of the powa service, the senior Dharma teacher gives some practical teachings about how to develop compassion for all living beings.
1 On behalf of the deceased, we accumulate a great collection of virtue and merit. We do this by making prostrations and extensive offerings to the holy beings, so that the deceased gather the necessary conditions to take rebirth in the Pure Land of a Buddha.

2 On behalf of the deceased, by sincerely making requests to Buddha Vajrasattva with the recitation of the hundred-letter mantra, we purify the four main obstacles to their taking rebirth in the Pure Land of a Buddha. These obstacles are their non-virtues and negative actions created (1) physically, (2) verbally, (3) mentally, and (4) by their body, speech, and mind together.

3 Through the power of our compassionate intention, strong prayer, and concentration on the practice, we transfer the consciousness of the deceased to the Pure Land of the Buddha of Compassion so that they will experience pure and everlasting happiness.

4 Through the power of our concentration on the final special ritual practice, together with the mantra recitation, we create a special auspiciousness for the deceased to attain permanent liberation from samsaric rebirth.

We then conclude this powa practice with the dedication prayers.

Vajrapani Kadampa Buddhist Center schedules a monthly Powa service for all the dead or dying who have or are dying within the past 49 days. What follows is the description found on the calendar for this event:

We perform this powa practice on behalf of those who have recently died, traditionally within forty-nine days of their death.

This practice of transference of consciousness, known as ?powa?, can be done either by a group of practitioners or individually. The purpose of doing this is to lead countless deceased beings to the Pure Land of a Buddha.

We understand that throughout this world millions of humans and billions of animals die every day from so many different causes. If these living beings have the opportunity to take rebirth in a Buddha?s Pure Land they will attain permanent liberation from suffering and experience pure and everlasting happiness. Our practice of this powa offers them this precious opportunity. By engaging in this practice we ourself will create a great collection of virtue, which will also lead us into the pathway to the Pure Land of a Buddha.

So I hope some of you find this information helpful and interesting. I hope some are inspired to participate with students of Vajrapani Kadampa Buddhist Center in their monthly powa service. This month's powa is on December 5 at 12 pm.


Information on powa or phowa found in the following external links:

The powa ceremony practice sadhana booklet for Kadampa Buddhists can be found at

PS: How should children be taught about death and dying? Listen to a talk on the topic, according to a Greek Orthodox viewpoint Episode 54 of iEcclesia Season III, the picture uploaded is from that page. Also is the following picture:

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