In brief, the essence of the instruction is
To train in the five powers.
The five powers themselves are the Great Vehicle’s
Precept on the transference of consciousness.
Cultivate these paths of practice.
The fourth of the seven points is a method of combining all the points into a lifetime’s practice, meaning that all the above explanations can be condensed into the practice of the five powers: 24
(a) The power of determination—we must be determined to prevent our mind from falling under the control of self-grasping and self-cherishing.
(b) The power of familiarity—the ability to prevent our mind from straying from the mind training practices and to sustain them continuously rather than postponing them until problems arise. As is the case in many areas of our life, if we don’t rehearse or prepare ourselves ahead of time we find it difficult to succeed in what we do or to deal with problems when they arise. If we familiarize ourselves with the mind training practices from now on we’ll find it much easier to employ them when problems actually arise.
(c) The power of the white seed—practicing as much as we can to accumulate all the causes we need to succeed in the meditation on equalizing and exchanging self and others.
(d) The power of repudiation—thinking deeply about the faults of self-cherishing and self-grasping and rejecting and distancing ourselves from those minds.
(e) The power of prayer—dedicating and praying for our bodhicitta to never degenerate but continually increase because of the merit we have created.
There is another set of five powers connected with the practice of the transference of consciousness, as the root text mentions. While the five detailed above relate to practices we have to develop during our lifetime, the other set explains how to think and practice at the time of death. They have the same names but their order is a little different.25
With respect to the five powers at the time of death, the power of familiarity includes the position we should adopt when we die—we should lie on our right side with our face resting on our right hand, as the Buddha did when he passed away. It is said that if we do so we cannot be reborn in the lower realms and that this is a method of transferring our consciousness into the upper, or fortunate, realms of rebirth. Therefore the five powers are said to be the Mahayana practice of mind transference. It is also said that we cannot be reborn in the lower realms if we die thinking about and generating faith in the qualities of the enlightened beings.
24 Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, pp. 612–616, explains the five powers both as a lifetime’s practice and at the time of death as part of Pabongka Rinpoche’s explanation of the Seven-Point Mind Training. [Return to text]
25 See Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Death & Dying, FPMT Inc., 2003; p. 25 (where Rinpoche
actually gives both sets in the same order). See also Rinpoche’s teaching on the five powers.