Natural Liberation of Fear through the Ritual Deception of Death
This is the companion text to the previous chapter and it describes the practices to be followed in the event that definitive signs indicating death are discerned.
The general consolidated rite described in this chapter follows the classical structure of many Vajraysna protective rituals. This consolidated rite, and similar rituals, are commonly performed in Tibetan Buddhist communities today by practitioners, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of others.* On the other hand, the specific rites, related to specific signs, are again idiosyncratic and are not commonly practised.
Herein is contained the Natural Liberation of Fear through the Ritual Deception of Death,1 [an extract] from the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities: A Profound Sacred Teaching, [entitled] Natural Liberation through [Recognition of] Enlightened Intention.2
I bow down to the glorious transcendent one, [Vajra]kumara, whose face frowns with wrath!3
The methods by which death can be averted and postponed should now be explained in order that living beings might be released from suffering, and in order that all the unremitting and extremely bitter sufferings of death, [in particular], might be dispelled by Mahakarunika.4 For, the sufferings of all such beings [who are afflicted by the discomforts associated with death] may be completely curtailed [through ritual means]. It is the case that, for some children of buddha nature, the signs of death will arise, [when looked for] as described in the previous chapter. The esoteric instructions for averting [the signs which indicate] the swiftly approaching year or month [of death] consist of both the general consolidated rite and specific rites.
GENERAL CONSOLIDATED RITE FOR AVERTING DEATH
The general rite for averting death is applicable in cases when the lifespan is threatened by obstacle-causing forces and [imbalanced] elemental forces. Now, the body of a person acts as a supporting frame for the five elements, and it naturally comprises five appendages, five sense-organs, five solid viscera, five hollow viscera, and five great energy channels. In each of these [anatomical] parts, the five elements circulate in a clockwise manner,5 and the cessation of life can occur due to [external] circumstances, or one could die through the mingling of conflicting internal elements, or life could also cease through the agency of a severe obstacle-causing force. The [time of] death may be ascertained by actually observing the respective signs associated with these [three causes of death], as and when they manifest.
Immediately following the initial experience of such [signs], one should perform the [appropriate] rites for averting [death], which include ceremonies, services, and exorcisms.
In this regard, [one should know that] of the twelve months of the year, two are ruled by each of the [five] elements, while the two [remaining] months are ruled [by all five elements] in common. Also, within each of these months [of the year] there is a five-day period ruled by each of the [five] elements, while the five [remaining] days are ruled [by all five elements] in common. [The signs of death] cannot be averted, however, when an [imbalanced] elemental or malevolent force [completely] controls the body. Just as, for example, if fire breaks out in a tall fortress, it is more easily averted while it is first confined within the lower storey, but should it reach the top [of the fortress], the fire cannot be extinguished.
A person in whom the signs [of death] have manifested should first make preliminary offerings to the spiritual teacher, and to the Three Precious Jewels, and accumulate as much merit as possible. Then, the ritual for averting [an imbalance in the elements] should be effected through the agency of the wheels and seed-syllables of the elements. This should be done as follows: [First], draw a series of wheels [representing the elements] on Indian paper or palm leaf. The representation of the [green] wheel of the wind element6 should depict four spokes and a circumference, with five yam syllables inscribed, one on each spoke and one at the centre, and with the vowels and consonants [depicted] on the outer circumference.7 The red wheel of the fire element should be similar [in design], with four spokes etc., but inscribed with five ram syllables, placed as before, and the vowels and consonants on its circumference, [all placed] as before. Similarly, the yellow wheel of the earth element should be depicted with five lam syllables, the white wheel of the water element with five kham syllables, and the azure wheel of the space element with five e syllables. [Then], on each of these inscribed wheels, one should visualise the deities who embody the nature of these elements, corresponding in colour to their respective wheels.8
Then one should make five offerings, [one] to [each of] these [deities], confess all negativity, and pray for one’s desired purpose. After this, recite the seed-syllables of the individual [deities] the appropriate number of times, corresponding to the age of the person in years, and [visualise that] the [seed-syllables] are then absorbed into the [respective] deities.9 Then [each of the depictions] of the [elemental] wheels should be placed inside containers made from two small bowls of dough, which are sealed together, and bound with threads of five colours, forming [the pattern of] a cross.
In addition, a dough effigy of the subject’s human form should be prepared, one cubit in height. The dough should be mixed with wood, water, fire, earth, and the breath of different species of sentient beings.10 [Depictions of] the [same] five seed-syllables should then be inserted into the five [corresponding] sense-organs [of this effigy].11
As for the substances to be used for the ritual deception of the malevolent forces [which cause death], create substitutes, which may be made either of red minium clay, or else from dough, which is then painted. These should all be equal finger-widths in size, black, red, yellow, white, green and multicoloured,12 corresponding in number to the age of the subject. These should be mixed with the subject’s grime, clothing, nasal mucus, saliva, tears, hair, fingernails, and so forth; as well as with ground jewels or precious substances. They should then be adorned with [five] coloured wool threads and various silks, and also decorated with many sorts of bird feathers, [which are indicative] of bad omens.13 Each [substitute] should then have a torma-offering [prepared], corresponding to it in colour, and [it should be surrounded by] a number of dough chang-bu offerings, equalling the subject’s age in years.
Then, consecrate all these with the six mantras and six gestures, and repeat the following words, ‘Take them! Take them! O mighty [malignant] ones! Your craving! Your attachment! Your clinging! Your memories! Your grasping! Your thoughts! Your contact! Let go of them! Be pacified! And be free!’
Then, together with the [bowls containing the elemental] wheels, cast [these substitutes] into the torrent of a wide river. Death will thereby be averted for up to three years. It is best, therefore, if this rite is performed once every three years, even before the indications [of death] have occurred.
SPECIFIC RITES FOR AVERTING DEATH
I bow down to the deity Mahakarunika,
Who is a sanctuary of great bliss.
The methods employed in the specific rites for averting death are now presented.
[Ritual Averting of Signs of Near Death]
For all these rites, which follow, it is best if the subject’s own spiritual teacher can be present, or alternatively a sympathetic friend. They should empower the five sense-organs [of the subject] with the seed-syllables of the elements.14
Then, in cases when the fingernails become lustreless, [as described in the previous chapter], a religious feast should be offered to seven monks. Donations should be offered, and one should receive the [Buddhist] vows, wearing yellow clothes. If one has already taken these vows, one should retake them. Thereby, [death] will be averted.
Similarly, in cases when the cornea of the eyes begins to fade, small terracotta imprints of white earth should be moulded, their number equalling the subject’s own age in years. After seven circumambulations [of the terracotta imprints], cast these into a lake or river, and then [retreat], taking a number of paces equal to the subject’s age in years, while reciting the Heart-mantra of Dependent Origination15 and not looking back.
In cases when the hair of the nape of the neck grows upwards, one should prepare a dough with black seeds and [use this to] make a substitute effigy, one cubit in height. Into its heart, one should then insert a number of crushed berries, equalling the subject’s age in years, and attach a label bearing the subject’s own name. The hair should be made from the subject’s cut hair. Blood should be drawn from the subject’s body, and smeared on its face. It should then be wrapped in the subject’s clothing and smeared with black pigment. Then, at one hundred and twenty-one paces from the subject’s own dwelling, one should dig a triangular dark pit, and recite [ram], the seed-syllable of the element fire, a number of times equalling the subject’s age in years. Then repeat the following words three times, ‘Black demon! Take this [effigy]! This is important! This is important!’ Then, throw it into the pit, defecate upon it, cover it with earth and run away. Then, one should re-examine [the above sign of death]. If it persists as before, the rite will not have been effective [and need not be repeated]. However, there is no doubt that if other [associated signs] have not been [completely] averted by a single performance [of the rite], they will be successfully averted following three such performances.
In cases when the indication of [protruding] ankle bones appears, one should face westwards towards the sun when it is close to setting, and remove one’s clothes. Then placing a dog’s tail under you and some excrement in a heap in front, one should eat a mouthful and bark like a dog. This [rite] should be repeated three times.
Also in cases when other people are afflicted by illness: if the roots of their teeth grow grimy and black, such a person should wear a goat’s skin, face the sunrise, and bleat three times like a goat. Similarly, in cases when the nostrils sag inwards, it will be beneficial if one visualises the syllable A on the tip of the subject’s nose,16 recites the syllable a twenty-one times, and bathes in various rivers.
In cases when the limbs are subject to repeated spasms, it will be beneficial if one draws a four-spoked wheel on each of the limbs with a solution of shellac, and bathes a number of times, equalling the subject’s age in years, in [consecrated] water over which many dharani mantras have been recited.
In cases when the eyes stare fixedly, one should prepare a bountiful religious feast on behalf of the monastic community; and hold a party for a number of children, equalling the subject’s age in years. One should also wear red clothing.
In cases when the right cheek sags inwards, [for the rites of the earth element], one should mould a number of small terracotta imprints, equalling the subject’s age in years. For the rites of the water element one should make a number of water libations, equalling the subject’s age in years; for the rites of the fire element one should make a number of burnt offerings, equalling the subject’s age in years; for the rites of the wind element, one should erect a number of flags, equalling the subject’s age in years; and for the rites of the space element, one should recite a number of syllables E, equalling the subject’s age in years. Thereby, there is no doubt that [death] will be ritually deceived.
In cases when the breathing becomes agitated, it will be beneficial and [death] will be averted if one makes a concentrated paste of molasses over which [yam], the seed-syllable of the wind element, has been recited.
In cases when the nose tilts to the right or left, one should visualise a white syllable hum on the tip of the nose. In cases when tears flow uncontrollably, one should visualise the syllable bhrom on the subject’s eyes.17 In cases when the left cheek sags inwards, one should visualise the syllable KSA [on the cheek].18 In cases when the teeth become locked, one should visualise the syllable MAM [on the teeth]. If a black spot appears on the tongue, one should visualise the short syllable MAM [on the tongue].19 If the ears lie flat [against the head], one should visualise the syllable MAM [on the ears].20 If the xiphoid of the chest is sagging inwards, one should visualise the syllable MAM [on the xiphoid].21 In cases when the pulse of the carotid arteries22 is missing, one should visualise the syllable MAM [on those arteries]. These visualised syllables should be recited as many times as equals the subject’s age in years; and they should also be drawn [on the appropriate point of the body], using vermilion and scented water.
[Ritual Averting of the Signs of Remote Death]
Similarly, when an examination is made of one’s reflected image optically projected onto the sky: if the symbolic hand-held implement is missing, one should perform one hundred and eight feast-offerings on behalf of one’s spiritual teacher. If the right hand is missing, one should prepare a dough effigy, one cubit in height, using seven kinds of grain. The head should be fashioned to resemble an open-jawed lion, and a number of gull feathers should be inserted into it, equalling the subject’s age in years. The effigy should then be carried down a main street towards a royal manor, which is located to the north.
In cases when the left hand is missing, one should place the fang of a black-striped tiger and the fang of a black dog inside a weasel skin. On top of that one should place a dough effigy, kneaded together with the subject’s own urine, and then ritually expel the effigy by throwing it into a river.
In cases when the right leg is missing below the knee, [death] will be averted if, at dusk as the sun is setting, one offers a number of acacia or juniper lamps, equalling the subject’s age in years.
In cases when the left leg is missing, one should make an effigy of white earth, one cubit in height, and insert into its heart a birchwood stick, four finger-widths in length, marked with notches, equalling the subject’s own age in number. It should be carried off at daybreak, and left in an empty quadrangle.
In cases when the right part of the head is missing, one should compound various kinds of inauspicious earth with the fruits of black wood trees, and [out of this mixture] make a black amulet, into which the subject’s own hair and clothing fragments should be inserted, along with a label made from mountain willow wood, [inscribed] with the names of the twelve [animal] year-signs. Then the amulet should be sealed, and a number of thorns of different species should be attached to its upper face. If one can find as many differing types of thorn as equals the subject’s age in years it would be best. Otherwise, if one cannot find [that many], one should insert as many [differing types] as one can find. Then at midnight, one should put on black clothing and carry the amulet to a cemetery.
In cases when the left part of the head is missing, one should make a dough effigy using twenty-five different types of grain, and insert [fragments of] human bones, horse bones and dog bones into its heart. Then, one should wrap the effigy in the subject’s old clothing, and at twilight on the eleventh day [of the lunar month], one should give it to another person for insertion into a pit [which has been made] eighty paces to the south. At that time, one should cry out, proclaiming one’s sorrows three times, and bury the effigy. Thereupon, [death] will be averted.
In cases when the head is missing above the neck, one should make a number of burnt offerings using thorn bushes, equalling the subject’s age in years, and burn them in succession. While each of these is burning, the heart-mantra syllable of fire [ram] should be recited, for a number of times equalling the subject’s age in years.
In cases when the head and the neck are missing, one should blacken one’s body with burnt charcoal, and bind one’s hair up on the crown of the head. Then, on a piece of paper, four finger-widths in size, one should write the subject’s age and the name of the present year, and around this in the four cardinal directions, one should inscribe the seed-syllables of the four elements. This [paper simulacrum] should then be attached to the nose, and at noon on the ninth day [of the lunar month], one should run in each of the four directions, shouting out uninterruptedly, ‘You take this! You take this!’ Then the paper should be buried in a charnel ground.
In cases when the upper trunk is missing, one should light a wood fire, and burn a label inscribed with the names of the twelve [animal] year-signs. In cases when the lower trunk is missing, it will suffice if one goes to a charnel ground, and uses the assorted bones one finds to make smoke.
In cases when the right side of the body is missing, [one should recite the dharani mantra of] Usnlsa[-vijaya], as many times as equals the subject’s age in years, and one should [mould] a number of small terracotta imprints, equalling the subject’s age in years. In cases when the left side [of the body] is missing, one should read aloud countless dharani mantras, and wear red clothing.
[Ritual Averting of Further Signs of Near Death]
In cases when the ‘severing of the bond between atmosphere and earth’ occurs, one should read aloud the extensive scriptures,23 or complete a number of virtuous acts.
In cases when the ‘fall of a rider on a white lioness’ occurs, it will be beneficial if one performs as many mandala rituals as equals the subject’s age in years.
If the ‘rupturing of the [Wish-granting] Tree’ occurs, one should know the cures for each of the [ailments affecting] the solid and hollow viscera.24
In cases when urine scum appears reddish blue,25 one should fashion a dough effigy of the twelve [animal] year-signs, with their elements,26 and for each subsequent change in the colour [of the urine scum], one should make a single terracotta imprint, a single water libation, a single ‘substitute effigy’ of the subject, and a single burnt offering of birchwood. Then, at sunrise, one should carry these off to a cemetery in the north-east.
In cases when [the urine vapour] is blackish and putrid, one’s purpose will be achieved if one mixes powdered iron and copper with various grains, and scatters this [mixture] in the four directions.
In cases when the vapour is red and spotted, one should make a number of substitutes, imbued with the subject’s own body odour, equalling the subject’s age in years, and attach a red silk flag and a porcupine quill to each. [Death] will be averted if one carries these off, together with assorted bones, to a main road in the east.
In cases when one’s excrement has no vapour, one should face the west at a time when the sun is at its peak, and inscribe the elemental seed-syllables on the skull of a horse. [Death] will then be averted if one neighs as many times as possible.
In cases when the humming sound [normally heard] when the ears [are cupped] is absent,27 one should prepare a number of torma-offerings of various foods, equalling one’s age in years, and attach a label to each of these, bearing the names of the twelve [animal year-signs]. One’s purpose will be achieved if one then conveys these [torma-offerings] to the foot of a palm tree.28
In cases when the [sign known as] ‘[one-legged Yavati] arising [as an enemy] against the leaves of the Wish-granting Tree’ occurs, one will be liberated [from the indications of death], if one perseveres in the accumulation [of merit] and engages in virtuous activities.
After the rituals have been performed according to the above instructions, one should look again [for the visual indications of death]. If the nature of their appearance has altered, the indications will undoubtedly be averted if the rites are repeated from seven to twenty-one times, or a number of times equalling the subject’s age in years.
This completes the esoteric instruction concerning the ritual aversion of death, which was composed by the master Padmasambhava, as a means of liberating sentient beings from their sufferings. May it be encountered by one of worthy past actions!
SAMAYA! rgya rgya rgya!
This is a treasure-teaching revealed by the treasure-finder Karma Lingpa.