Confession and Purification with Thirty-five Buddhas Practice

Confession and Purification with Thirty-five Buddhas Practice

Date of Advice:
January 2021
Date Posted:
April 2023

A student confessed to criticizing Rinpoche and not following Rinpoche’s advice regarding bhikshuni ordination. She had tried to purify the negative karma by doing the Thirty-five Buddhas practice, and also by handwriting sutras and auspicious texts. The student wished to please Rinpoche, to have a good rebirth and to confess all the negativity created in this and all other rebirths. 

My most dear, most precious, most kind, most wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you very much for your kind letter. So finally you realize you should confess; this is very good. This is the way to enlighten your mind; you purify because you want to purify and you had the thought to purify. Of course, you have to think of the negative karma created since beginningless rebirths. It’s very, very good that you finally recognize that you have created so much negative karma and you want to confess to me. That is the way to generate the path to enlightenment.

With your palms together, reciting the Confession to the Thirty-five Buddhas with prostrations—that is really good. Reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas is extremely good. It is most important for you to have concentration, thinking that you are prostrating to Buddha, otherwise it is just exercise.

If you can do three long prostrations, it is incredible, incredible, incredible. Do full-length prostrations if you can, because however many atoms are underneath you when you prostrate, that many times you create the cause to become a wheel-turning king for one thousand lifetimes. Even if there is one atom below you, you create the cause to become a wheel-turning king one thousand times. Also, if your feet are flat or your hair is long (but since you are a nun this is not the case), however many atoms are covered, that many times you create the cause to be a universal wheel-turning king for one thousand lifetimes. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable! The benefits of prostrations are actually more than this, as explained in the Lankavatara Sutra [Tib: lang kar sheg pä do; Wyl: lang kar gshegs pa'i mdo].

We should dedicate our merits with bodhicitta, for numberless sentient beings. We need enlightenment to do perfect works for sentient beings, so we dedicate our merits like this. Then if anger and heresy arise they do not destroy the merits, because of this bodhicitta. It’s like when trucks take stones from the mountain, they don’t take all of the mountain; it just becomes less. Also, dedicate with emptiness and then the merits don’t become weak.

You can dedicate in this way:

"Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the past, present and future merits collected by numberless sentient beings, the past, present and future merits collected by numberless buddhas, those who do not exist from their own side, that are a hallucination, not nonexistent at all, but a hallucination, may the I, which doesn’t exist from its own side—the I which is not nonexistent, but exists in mere name—may this I become a buddha, which appears like that, the way it exists, like a hallucination, in mere name. May I lead all the sentient beings, who appear real—who are not nonexistent, they exist in mere name—and bring them to buddhahood, which appears real—it is not nonexistent, but exists in mere name—by myself alone, who appears real, but is a hallucination, not there."

You should meditate like this. I am explaining like this for you. If you don’t dedicate for enlightenment, then anger and heresy arise and the merit is lost, like that. It’s so dangerous and it destroys your liberation and enlightenment. Even if you can’t prostrate, you should put the palms together and visualize, not just one body, visualize many long, tall bodies filling space. You can visualize them as Thousand-arm Chenrezig if you have the initiation. Then with a very large body that covers the whole ground, prostrate to the Lama Chöpa merit field and if you have taken teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, then all are embodied into one and one manifests as all. This is guru yoga.

Or if you are prostrating to a thangka, think the guru is all the buddhas, so you can do like that or you can use the Lama Chöpa merit field. At the very beginning is the bodhicitta motivation, you know that, and remembering impermanence and death. Think, “Even today, even in this session, I can die.” Then with bodhicitta and putting the palms together at the four places—crown, forehead, throat and heart—make prostrations. If prostrating to a statue, think it is a manifestation of the guru, then with your hands in the four places think you are prostrating to all the buddhas, Dharma, Sangha and to all the gurus.

As you go down, think that the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, numberless statues, stupas and scriptures, are all the guru. When your forehead touches the ground, think, “I prostrate to the numberless buddhas, Dharma, Sangha.” Then the numberless causes of enlightenment are created. Think you are prostrating  to all the statues, stupas, scriptures, every single holy object in China, Tibet, Nepal, India Burma, Sri Lanka, everywhere, and think they are the guru-buddha. This collects the highest merit and is the most extensive purification. Amazing! Amazing! Amazing!

You have to know how to do Dharma practice. If you do prostrations, then you purify quickly. Recite the names or you can even do it with a recording if you haven’t memorized the names, but there is much more merit by reciting the names. Many people use a recording, but they don’t get the incredible merit of reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas' names.

In Lama Tsongkhapa’s life story we don’t hear much about Vajrasattva practice, so one time in Dharamsala I asked my guru, Kyabje Denmo Locho Rinpoche, and when he answered, he answered publicly. He said just one time reciting Thirty-five Buddha names with the four powers, by doing it well, we purify the five heinous crimes (killing one’s mother, killing one’s father, killing an arhat, drawing blood from a buddha and creating disunity amongst the Sangha.) All of these get purified. Otherwise, they cause us to be reborn in the hottest hell for eons, but by doing the Thirty-five Buddhas practice our negative karma is totally purified, totally purified. That is why Lama Tsongkhapa did so many hundreds of thousands of prostrations. I thought he did less, but actually he did much more. Then realizations come like rainfall.

At night-time recite the long Vajrasattva mantra twenty-one times, or twenty-eight or more times. Or, recite the short Vajrasattva mantra, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM, twenty-eight times. Otherwise our negative karma increases, doubles, triples, like that. It’s so important to do this with the four opponent powers. Not only that, it purifies today’s, yesterday’s and past negative karma. Wow, wow, wow!

If we don’t do Vajrasattva practice, then after fifteen days the negative karma created increases by 18,184 times. That means even if there is no story of our having killed a human being, each negative karma of body, speech and mind increases to be equal to killing a human being. So many! It becomes like killing so many human beings and after eighteen days, our negative karma increases by 100,072 times, it’s so heavy. Then by increasing day-by-day, by the time we die, one atom becomes like a mountain, so heavy, then we are reborn in the hells for eons. This is just for this life, forget about past lives. So now we can see that Vajrasattva done with the four powers gives us incredible protection. That’s how we protect ourselves from the lower realms. We can’t think there is a God that protects us from [experiencing the results of our] negative karma; we have to purify it.

Also if you can, read lamrim texts, especially Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. There are so many lamrim texts, but Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand is Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo’s experience, therefore it is so powerful.

If you don’t want to fear death, the intermediate state and the lower realms, please read the Sutra of Great Liberation. At present it is only in Tibetan. If you can, read that; also presently it is being translated by one monk, so the translation will come soon. Otherwise please read the Golden Light Sutra, Arya Sanghata Sutra and Vajra Cutter Sutra, like that.

Do prostrations visualizing the merit field and the holy objects. Merit depends on the number of bodies visualized and this becomes the cause of enlightenment. Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable!

Purification depends on how much regret is felt, for the greatest purification. Then it makes the negative karma become thinner. There is also an emotional mind of regret. Similarly, with bodhicitta, when there is too much anger, attachment, self-cherishing mind, grasping, holding the real I, the negative emotional mind is there.

Thank you very much. Welcome to enlightenment through this purification.

With much love and prayers ...

P.S. Even though there is no lineage from the Buddha concerning gelongma ordination, if you are sincere and follow [the vows], then you create good karma. This is compared to taking the ordination for your reputation or in order to sit at the front or to have the name of gelongma.

An example is one nun who was an abbess of a nunnery in California in the Chinese tradition where they had 364 vows, which she sincerely followed. Then she joined the Tibetan tradition and was staying in Aptos. If a gelongma goes out alone without another nun, by doing this, they break a secondary vow. The other nuns at Aptos didn’t have the thought to help her, or maybe they didn’t know, so they didn’t go out with her when she went out. So then the nun would take the dog with her when she went out. She tried to follow her vows like that for a long time. If nuns live in a nunnery then they can follow the vows more easily, of course. Now she has big land in Washington and because she lives there alone, she has to now go out alone. So, if someone is taking gelongma ordination for protection against the delusions and with the motivation to benefit sentient beings, then this is very good.