In a lighter moment in an otherwise very sober guide to the bardos of life, death and after, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche suggests that through the right practices, we can earn an upgrade on our ride to the afterlife. He writes in Mind Beyond Death that “the way we make any journey depends on the type of ticket we have…We may even have collected mileage points. We may be eligible for an upgrade to first class."
He allows that advanced dreamers may have earned sky priority, and direct access to the "pure lands", including the realm created by the buddha Amitabha. If you have traveled this way before, and your heart wants to go there again, you may be able to project your consciousness there at the moment of death by "pure realm phowa." Another reason to deepen the practice of conscious dreaming. Here's the key passage:
“Pure realm phowa is connected to the practice of dream yoga. It involves directly transferring out consciousness at the time of death to one of the Buddha realms, such as the pure land of Amitabha or Akshobya, or to any of the sacred realms of the dakas, dakinis or bodhisattvas. The capacity to effect such a transference is developed through training in dream yoga. In that practice, not only do we learn to recognize the dream state, but also we develop the skill to transform our dream appearances. When we have developed that degree of control over our minds, then we can travel in our dreams to any Buddha field we wish.
"According to these teachings, if we can exercise that kind of power in our dreams, then we will be able to exercise the same power in this bardo [the Bardo of Dying]. We can use our understanding and experience of dream yoga to spontaneously transport ourselves to any sacred realm with which we have a heart connection. For example, you do not have to be a realized being in order to take birth in Amitabha’s pure land. Ordinary beings with a strong aspiration and good accumulation of merit can also take birth there. If we can achieve such a positive situation then we will have the optimum conditions to continue our spiritual training. Our practice will be supported by the blessings of buddhas and boidhisattvas."
Phowa (literally "transference" or "ejection") is the art of projection of consciousness from the body to another state at the moment of death. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche offers a brief introduction to five modalities, including deity phowa in which the practitioner seeks to merge with a yidam or god-form.
"Pure lands" or "buddha-fields" (Sanskrit buddhakṣetra) are especially important in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism. When we study the accounts of how such realms are created through the will, merit and imagination of superior beings, we may have an Eastern model for reality creation in the imaginal realm.
In my Active Dreaming approach, we do not use the symbols, postures, mantras or guru devotion of dream yoga as practiced in Tibetan Buddhist lineages and others, though we respect these. However, Active Dreaming, like dream yoga is a discipline that requires practice, practice, practice. Like yoga, Active Dreaming is a science of consciousness. It trains you to raise your awareness, play witness to yourself, go beyond consensual hallucinations, and enter the limitless field of nonlocal mind. It will certainly earn you frequent flyer miles, and maybe even premier status for the Big journey.
Art: "Night Airport" by Robert Moss