Powa Ceremony: The Profound Practice of Transference of Consciousness
Usually scheduled one Wednesday per month at 5pm or upon request.
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.
We perform this powa practice on behalf of those who have recently died, traditionally within forty-nine days of their death. 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.
When we engage in this practice in a group, it can begin with a senior Dharma teacher giving some practical teachings about how to develop compassion for all living beings. When we engage in this practice individually, we should generate compassion for all living beings by remembering how they experience immense suffering. Then, with compassion for all the deceased throughout the world, we perform the following stages of the ceremony:
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.