Instant liberation can happen, even if we think that practice while dying is very difficult. How can this happen? If we take the time to build a strong habit of supplication and devotion, we will automatically remember the guru as we die. Phakchok Rinpoche explained this recently in a teaching at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde Denmark.
Rinpoche explains here that unshakeable confidence in the guru can actually liberate us at the moment of greatest need.
I would like to tell you about instant liberation—instant phowa, (transference of consciousness). Mahāguru Padmasambhava talked about this. It is about instantly remembering your guru.
Instant Liberation: Building a Habit of Guru Reliance
As an example, if we slip and start to fall, we should immediately call out to our Mahāguru. But most of us don’t do this automatically, do we? Instead, if we fall, we might call for our mother, or we might shout, “Oh my God.” And angry people might automatically swear, “Oh shit!” Habits run very deep and we can see them in moments of danger or crisis. So, each person responds differently in that instant because each of us builds different habit patterns. When habits are regularly reinforced, they become deeply rooted, and then whatever happens, we remember those habits.
So instead of reacting with meaningless speech, or shouting, the first thing we can recall is, “Mahāguru.” There are many gurus but only one Mahāguru. Similarly, at the time of death, if we can remember to think, “Oh Mahāguru. Oh Mahāguru,” Guru Rinpoche himself said this will result in instant phowa.
Additionally, when we die, if in the bardo we miss every single opportunity to see mind nature, we still have hope. When the time comes that all the scary appearances arise—whatever manifests—we can immediately call, “Oh Mahāguru!” If we build this habit in our daily life, by calling out “Mahāguru” whenever we feel frightened, we strengthen this reaction. And then, at the time of death, we will naturally do the same. And the moment we call, “Mahāguru”, Guru Rinpoche will appear and immediately take you to his pure land.