Buddhist Philosophy

Fear of Death: Practice for Long-Life

Fear of death often arises sneakily in the middle of the night. We may suddenly wake up early in the morning, at 1 or 2 o’clock, with the fear
of death in our hearts. Suddenly, and almost irrationally, we sense our death is coming. And this kind of fear tends to arise n the morning between 1 and 2 o’clock because this is the time of fear. When the sun rises, such fear begins to disappear.

Fear of Death In the Middle of the Night

So, if we wake with this fear, we can learn to practice a simple long life meditation visualization.  When we experience this fear,  it indicates that our life force is becoming a little bit weak. Here, we learn a simple technique to make it become stronger. Phakchok Rinpoche here introduces a visualization practice that he personally recommends when fear of death visits us in the night.

Overcoming Fear of Death by Visualizing Amitayus

We begin by visualizing Amitayus (Tibetan tshe dpag med) — The Buddha of Boundless Light. – the long-life Buddha – above the crown of our head.

Fear of DeathWhen we visualize Amitayus, we know that he is our guru and is the same as the guru in your heart. These gurus are not different – they are inseparable. Within our heart center, we visualize a moon and sun disc that are egg-shaped, not flat.  When we visualize them here, we see them as egg-shaped or cone-shaped and are open like a casket.

For the simplest practice, we visualize that inside the open casket is our life force. Then we request Amitayus to please bless us. We can practice this when we wake with fright.

Simply visualize like this and chant the Amitayus mantra 

In the Sanskrit languages, some of these syllables have specific meanings.  “A” is a negating sound, meaning something like cut, “mara” refers to obstacle makers, and “jiwan” means life.

Light Visualization

After we have chanted the mantra for a short time, we visualize nectar falling down from Amitayus. When we do this more elaborately, we visualize Amitayus sending light out and then bringing back all of our dissipated life force with the four elements. Whenever our life force is a little bit weak due to obstacles or something like that, this life force dissolves into Amitayus’ vase which overflows into our body. Then the nectar fills our body completely – from the tip of our head down to our toes.

Then we imagine that our whole body is filled with this light, and as a result, the body’s five elements become strong. Following that, our body energy becomes strong. And as a result, our life and our life force – our length of life – become revived. Think that we have recharged, just like we would charge a battery. Once we are fully charged, the nectar left overflows down into the open casket. The moon and sun discs then snap closed. This rainbow-colored light mantra then binds the
casket.

Requesting Blessings

After the binding of the sun and moon casket, we supplicate Amitayus to please bless us and to keep our life force strong.  Then, Amitayus descends from above our head onto the top of the mantra knot on the casket and remains there. We visualize this process and then rest in meditation.

In the video teaching above, Phakchok Rinpoche physically demonstrates the visualization.  It may help you to review this several times!

Summary

Remember that we visualize the sun and moon as an open container, not as flat discs. Nectar flows down from Amitayus who is inseparable from our own guru– into our body. It then overflows into the casket which then closes tightly. The rainbow-colored mantra chain itself then binds the casket. After this, Amitayus descends from above our head and he remains on the knot. His presence seals the casket, and improves our life force, making us stronger. As a result, we won’t feel afraid in the early morning hours.

It is very good to do long-life practices such as this when the fear of death awakens us.

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.