Death and Impermanence, one of the Common Preliminary Vajrayana Foundation Practices, is such a fundamental aspect to our meditations no matter what tradition or path we follow. It cuts deep, extends beyond and touches all.
This past Fall I experienced a truly life altering experience. A friend of mine and Dharma practitioner was dying of cancer. We weren’t sure how long she had to live. We all hoped it would be months. Since she had been receiving teachings from Lama Mark Webber (Lama Yongdu Gyaltsen), a very close mutual friend asked if Lama Mark would bestow the Phowa Transmission in Toronto to our dear friend. Our friend made her way from the hospital in pain with determination to 33 Marion St. Surrounded by cushions and friends we shared bittersweet tears as this blessing and transmission was bestowed.
Unfortunately, our friend was not well enough to attend the Phowa retreat the following week at the DCC with Lama Mark. A few of us did, however, have the great fortune to then travel to the DCC to continue to receive Orgyen Nuden Dorje’s “Indispensable Practice of Consciousness Transference (Phowa) Associated with the Means of Attainment of Amitabha”, entitled “The Ruby Garland”; transmitted through Lama Mark Webber as he had received and was given permission to teach from one of his beloved teachers, Drikung Master Lho Ontul Rinpoche. In the DCC Temple, we received the empowerment, received instructions and practiced Phowa daily as a group with our friend in our heart and prayers.
Only a few weeks later, we then found ourselves with our friend on her death bed. Feverishly we would practice the text with her in Princess Margaret Hospital with the loving support and respect of her dear and devoted parents, her brother and sister-in-law. Between sessions we did rounds and rounds of Vajrasattva practice. We watched our friend mouth the Vajrasattva mantra hours before her death. After she passed, in the wee morning hours, we practiced the Phowa Sadhana one last time for her. Some of us beside her bed, others in their home and Lama Mark in Europe. We watched death’s moments of confusion and wandering become a deepening calm and peaceful state of rest and surrender.
Two weeks later Lama Mark returned to Toronto. At 33 Marion we asked questions about our experience and practice with our friend as she was dying. Only a few weeks had passed from the moment Lama Mark had first arrived in Toronto.
I feel so humble and fortunate to have practiced these teachings in such a profound and meaningful way. What a great community of Dharma Practitioners we have going to the DDC week after week, year after year. These Gurus and Teachings change our life and our death.
I look forward to further explore, contemplate, train and deepen these teachings and other Amitabha Practices when Lho Ontul Rinpoche returns with Lama Mark Webber, and hopefully Ratna Rinpoche, in June (2019) at the DCC. Perhaps we’ll see you there…?
When my time comes to transfer over, my only wish, is that I too will be surrounded in prayers, love and wisdom, by teachers, practitioners and friends.
Blessings to All!
Shelane Donoghue, President