232 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING complicated. Even when he was nearing his eighties, I remember, he was sprightly and active and went shopping every day almost till his death. A-pé Dorje used to go shopping every morning around nine. He had heard that Ani Rilu was on the verge of death, and came to her room. He had a habit of speaking rather loudly, almost shouting. 'Ani Rilu," he called out. She opened her eyes. "My dear girl," he beamed at her affectionately with his enchanting smile, "now is the moment to show your true mettle. Don't falter. Don't waver. You have been so blessed to have met so many wonderful masters and received teachings from all of them. Not only that, but you have had the priceless opportunity to practice as well. What more could you ask for? Now, the only thing you need to do is to keep the essence of the teachings in your heart, and especially the instruction for the moment of death that your masters have given you. Keep that in your mind, and do not be distracted. "Don't worry about us, we'll be fine. I'm going shopping now, and perhaps when I come back, I won't see you. So, goodbye." He said this with a huge grin. Ani Rilu was still alert and the way he said it made her smile in recognition, and give a little nod. A-pé Dorje knew that it is vital, as we come near to death, to essentialize all our spiritual practice into one "heart practice" that embodies everything. What he said to Ani Rilu sums up the third line in the verse by Padmasambhava, which tells us, at the moment of death, to: "Enter, undistracted, into clear awareness of the teaching." For someone who has gained recognition of the nature of mind and stabilized it in his or her practice, this means to rest in the state of Rigpa. If you do not have that stability, remember, in your innermost heart, the essence of your master's teaching, especially the most essential instructions for the moment of death. Hold that in your mind and heart, and think of your master, and unite your mind as one with him or her as you die. THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR DYING An image that is often given to characterize the bardo of dying is that of a beautiful actress sitting in front of her mirror. Her final performance is about to begin, and she is putting on her makeup and checking her appearance for the last time before going out on stage. In just the same way, at the moment of death the master reintroduces us to the essential
THE PRACTICES FOR DYING 233 truth of the teachings—in the mirror of the nature of mind— and points us directly to the heart of our practice. If our master is not present, spiritual friends who have a good karmic connection with us should be there to help remind us. It is said that the best time for this introduction is after the outer breathing has ceased and before the end of the "inner respiration," though it is safest to began during the dissolution process, before the senses have completely failed. If you will not have the opportunity to see your master just before your death, you will need to receive and acquaint yourself with these instructions well beforehand. If the master is present at the deathbed, what he or she does then in our tradition follows this sequence. The master first declares words like: "O son/daughter of an enlightened family, listen without distraction..." and then leads us through the stages of the dissolution process, one by one. Then he or she will essentialize the heart of the introduction powerfully and explicitly, in a few pungent words, so that it creates a strong impression on our mind, and ask us to rest in the nature of mind. In case this is beyond our capacity, the master will remind us of the phowa practice, if we are familiar with it; if not, he or she will effect the phowa practice for us. Then, as a further precaution, the master might also explain the nature of the experiences of the bardos after death, and how they are all, without exception, the projections of our own mind, and inspire us with the confidence to recognize this at every moment. "O son or daughter, whatever you see, however terrifying it is, recognize it as your own projection; recognize it as the luminosity, the natural radiance of your mind." 3 Finally the master will instruct us to remember the pure realms of the buddhas, to generate devotion, and to pray to be reborn there. The master will repeat the words of the introduction three times and, remaining in the state of Rigpa, direct his or her blessing toward the dying disciple. THE PRACTICES FOR DYING There are three essential practices for dying: • At best, resting in the nature of mind, or evoking the heartessence of our practice • Next, the phowa practice, the transference of consciousness • Last, relying on the power of prayer, devotion, aspiration, and the blessings of enlightened beings.