Vajrasattva Practice with the Four Powers

Vajrasattva Practice with the Four Powers

Date of Advice:
December 2020
Date Posted:
October 2023

This advice was sent to a student who wrote to confess some negative actions at their local center.

Vajrasattva, painted by Nepali-Tibetan artists, Photo courtesy of FPMT.

My most dear one,
There’s more information that might be helpful for you. Even if you broke the tantric root vows, to purify that you can recite 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras. It is said in the teachings, in the Mahayana tantric text, that if you break the tantric root vows but then recite 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras, the negative karma is completely purified. Regarding the tantric vows, there are fourteen root downfalls and the other branches. Of course, Vajrasattva practice also purifies broken bodhisattva root vows and the pratimoksha or individual liberation vows. So it is extremely powerful.

When there are two or three piles of hay and you light a small fire with matches or a candle, the whole thing can burn up so fast and turn to ash. Like that, the mantra is so powerful; it has so much power. Of course, it should be done with the remedy of the four powers.

It is explained in Lama Tsongkhapa’s Explanation of Root Downfalls, in Tibetan tsa tung gi nam shé, that if you always abide carelessly, it is like being bitten by a snake. Even very small vices expand so quickly and degenerate the body and mind so quickly. If you recite the 100-syllable [Vajrasattva mantra] twenty-one times before going to bed at the end of the day, that purifies any negative karma collected that day with the body, speech and mind. Of course, the purification is more powerful if you do it with the remedy of the four powers, which I will explain later. This purifies the negative karma so it doesn’t increase the next day, so it doesn’t become double the next day.

Without reciting the Vajrasattva mantra, any of the day’s negative karma created with body, speech and mind becomes double the next day. Then the day after that, it’s triple. It increases more and more, like that, an unbelievable number, so after fifteen days the negative karma created has increased by 18,184. By increasing, after fifteen days even the small karma becomes very heavy. Even if you don’t have the story of killing a human being, in reality it becomes the same as having killed one human being. That’s how heavy the karmic debt becomes. After eighteen days it becomes 100,072 times greater. It increases so much; it becomes like a huge mountain. After some time, it becomes like that for every negative karma collected with the body, speech and mind.

Here you can see that people who haven’t met the Mahayana teachings, and in particular the tantric teachings, have no idea of the benefits of Vajrasattva practice. Then when they die, every small negative karma increases so much, it becomes like mountains, so heavy. Then they are born in the lower realms for eons and suffer for eons and eons and eons, numberless eons, like that.

It is said in the teachings that the wise ones’ negative karma, even though it is heavy in the beginning, it becomes very small, whereas the foolish ones’ negative karma is very small, but it becomes very big, very heavy. That means the wise ones know the Vajrasattva practice of purification, [and can purify] even though their karma is very heavy, like having killed a human being or this and that, having created some heavy negative karma, the heavy karma of killing, stealing or sexual misconduct. Also, very heavy karma includes telling lies—without having realizations, that is very heavy karma.

But if we know about Vajrasattva practice and the power and benefits of Vajrasattva, the negative karma becomes very small by purifying it. The foolish ones who don’t know Vajrasattva practice and its power and benefits, even though their negative karma is very small, it increases day by day and it becomes so heavy, like mountains. The difference is like that.

Vajrasattva practice purifies not only today’s negative karma and stops it from increasing day by day, not only that, it also purifies our past times’ negative karma and not only that, our past lives’ negative karma—not just one past life but past lives, which means an unbelievable, unbelievable number of past lives. So, it purifies our negative karmas collected from beginningless rebirths, especially if we do it with the remedy of the four powers.

People who haven’t met Dharma and especially the Mahayana teachings, let alone Mahayana tantra, wouldn’t know about Vajrasattva practice, but we can see how heavy that negative karma becomes, even though it is very small in the beginning. It multiplies day by day and by so many times just in one day. Wow, wow, wow! In this way we can develop compassion for sentient beings. Most sentient beings haven’t met Dharma, they haven’t met Mahayana teachings, they haven’t met Mahayana tantra, so that’s a huge problem. That’s how we can generate compassion toward sentient beings, so much compassion.

It becomes very important for us, as much as we know ourselves, to practice and then to explain to other sentient beings how to purify their very heavy negative karmas. Generally, we can purify our negative karma and even the heavy negativities can be purified so easily. From Milarepa’s story, in the earlier time of his life, so many people and animals were killed by black magic—more animals than people —then later on he became enlightened in a brief lifetime of degenerate times. That’s the nature of the mind. As I explained to you, the mind is not oneness with delusion, with ignorance, anger, attachment and so forth. It is temporarily obscured. That’s why the nature of the mind is not that. Its nature is pure. That’s why we can purify any negative karma we have created. We can purify it. That’s the whole reason why it is said that sentient beings will become enlightened in the future; they will meet Dharma and become enlightened.

It is said in the Guhyasamaja generation stage text, (in Tibetan ten cho nying po gyen), that if you recite the 100-syllable mantra according to the prayer twenty-one times, [the result is] what I said before. If you recite 100,000 mantras, then you become completely pure. If you can’t recite the long mantra, then recite the short one, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM, twenty-eight times per day to have all the power that I explained before. It is extremely important to do this every day at the end of the day. Just that practice helps incredibly for the life. We become free from the lower realms so many times and it makes our heart happy, as we get purified every day.

We can purify the negative karmas we collect with Buddha, Dharma, Sangha by relying on them, by taking refuge in them. And by generating bodhicitta, we purify the negative karma collected with sentient beings. That’s the power of reliance [the power of the object.]

The next one is the power of regret. To briefly explain, it is regret for the negative karmas and obscurations collected with body, speech and mind since beginningless rebirths. The heaviest negative karma is the negative karma collected with the guru. This is not the worldly guru, but the guru from whom we received Dharma teachings, and who we thought and recognized as our guru and that we are the disciple. Then this person becomes the guru. [We need to purify] the negativities created through having harmed the holy body since beginningless rebirths; having broken the advice since beginningless rebirths and disturbed the holy mind; having created heresy and broken the samaya with the holy mind. All that, collected from beginningless rebirths, we want to purify immediately.

Then comes the power of enjoying the remedy by reciting the Vajrasattva mantra and doing the meditation.

We determine to not commit that negative karma again. That is the power to not commit it again [the power of resolve]. We need to be sincere, so from the holy mouth of the guru what is to be understood is that besides the gross actions, we need to abstain from even the subtle ones, the very difficult ones, for one day or even for a few seconds. Thinking like that, it is more sincere.

At the end, we must think that Guru Vajrasattva is saying that all our negative karmas, obscurations and broken samayas since beginningless rebirths are completely purified. Then from our crown, Vajrasattva totally absorbs to our heart, becoming oneness with our body, speech and mind. [Note: The practice can be done without initiation by visualizing light coming from Vajrasattva on the crown, but the absorption is for initiates only.]

Then think, in emptiness there is no real “I,” the creator of negative karma. In emptiness there is no real action creating negative karma. In emptiness there is no real negative karma created. Meditate on that for a little while, then dedicate. “The merely labeled I collect merely labeled merits in the past, present and future. Also, merely labeled sentient beings collect merely labeled merit in the past, present and future, and merely labeled buddhas collect merely labeled merits in the past, present and future. Due to all this, the merely labeled I becomes the merely labeled Guru Vajrasattva and leads all the merely labeled sentient beings to the merely labeled buddhahood by merely labeled me.”

Dedicate, “Due to all to the past, present and future merits collected by me, collected by numberless sentient beings and numberless buddhas, may bodhicitta be generated in my heart and in the hearts of all sentient beings, and whoever generates bodhicitta, may it increase.” So do that dedication.

There’s a translation of the Vajrasattva mantra. I will explain the total meaning of Vajrasattva so that it’s easy to understand. In conclusion, the whole meaning of the Vajrasattva mantra is, “You, Vajrasattva, have generated bodhicitta, the holy mind, according to your samaya. This means you never transgress from that. You are enriched with the simultaneous holy actions of releasing transmigratory beings from samsara. Whatever happens in my life—whether I am happy or suffering or in a bad mood—with a pleased, holy mind, never give up on me and please guide me. Please make the realizations of the paths and bhumis abide in my heart and for at least the higher realms’ happiness to be stabilized and to actualize all the actions and the common and sublime realizations, the magnificence of the ultimate, the five wisdoms.”

That’s it!

With love and prayers ...