Teachings From the Vajrasattva Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Soquel, CA USA 1999 (Archive #1055)

This book is an edited transcript of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings at a three-month Vajrasattva retreat held at Land of Medicine Buddha, from February 1 to April 30, 1999. The teachings cover many lam-rim topics, purification practices, mantras, pujas and more.

Chapter 13: February 12-b

Evening: Final Vajrasattva Session

Conclusion of the Thirty-five Buddhas Confession Prayer

When you have finished the prostrations to the thirty-five Buddhas, with completion of the recitation of the thirty-five Buddhas’ names and the prayer of confessing downfalls, rather than simply stopping when the prayer is finished, stay a little while in silence and think very strongly that everything—all the defilements, negative karma and downfalls—has been purified through the nectar beams emitted by the merit field and through the power of the thirty-five Buddhas’ names. After that, think of emptiness, and then dedicate by saying, “Due to the merits I have collected by doing prostrations, making offerings, confessing, rejoicing, requesting the guru to have stable life and to turn the Dharma wheel, may I achieve enlightenment in order to enlighten all sentient beings.” Right after the prayer is completed, stay a little while in silence and do these meditations, then recite the dedication prayer. It is very good to practice in this way. Reciting the names of the thirty-five Buddhas purifies many negative karmas, but the practice is more powerful if you concentrate strongly in this way at the end.

Motivation for Vajrasattva practice

Generate a strong motivation of bodhicitta. Dedicate your Vajrasattva practice to everyone—to every single hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human, asura, sura, and intermediate state being. Your bodhicitta should be based upon reflection on all your defilements, negative karma and degenerated samaya vows and on impermanence and death, that death can happen at any moment. The best solution is to immediately do the Vajrasattva practice, which can purify all these negative karmas.

Dedication

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings,Jang-chub sem-chog.... “Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may I be able to bring benefit like the sky to all sentient beings as Lama Tsongkhapa did, by having the same qualities within me that Lama Tsongkhapa had, from now on in all my future lifetimes.

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, in whatever universe, world, country, area or place I am, simply by my being there, may the sentient beings in that universe, world, country, area or place never ever be reborn in the lower realms. May they be liberated from all disease, spirit harm, negative karma and defilements and be able to actualize the whole path to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta, as quickly as possible.

“Simply by my being in that universe, world, country, area or place, may the blind be able to see, the deaf be able to hear, the lame be able to walk. May those with sicknesses and those possessed by spirits that make them crazy and out of control immediately recover. May those with incurable diseases such as cancer, AIDS and so forth recover immediately.

May those who are experiencing poverty or having difficulties finding the means of living find wealth. May those who are jobless be able to find jobs. May those who are looking for a guru be able to find a perfectly qualified guru and be able to receive teachings. May those who want to practice Dharma, to do retreat, be able to receive all the necessary conditions. May those who live in vows, the sangha, be able to receive all the necessary conditions, the means of living and so forth, to support the continuation of their practice. May the places where there are fighting and war immediately have peace, happiness and harmony. Simply by my being there in that universe, world, country, area or place, may everyone have perfect peace and happiness. Just like Ksitigarbha, may I be able to bring infinite benefit to sentient beings.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may those who have passed away whose name was given to me or for whom I promised to pray, those who rely upon me, immediately be liberated from the unimaginable suffering of the lower realms and be reborn in a pure land where they can become enlightened. Or may they receive only a perfect human body now and in all their future lifetimes and achieve enlightenment quickly by meeting a perfectly qualified Mahayana guru and the Mahayana teachings.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may I, the members of my family, all the students and benefactors of this organization, especially those who bear much hardship and sacrifice their lives to serve others and the teaching of Buddha through this organization, and also those who rely upon me, whose name was given to me and those for whom I promised to pray, have long lives and be healthy. May all our wishes that accord with the Dharma succeed immediately.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may all the meditation centers and the public service projects, such as the hospices, leprosy project and Dharma publications, become wish-fulfilling for all sentient beings. May they immediately pacify all the sufferings of body and mind of sentient beings and bring perfect happiness to others. Through receiving all their needs, may all the meditation centers be able to spread the complete teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa in the minds of all sentient beings.

Through receiving all their needs, may all the projects of this organization succeed immediately. And through receiving everything needed, may the 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue be completed as quickly as possible. May all these projects and statues cause all sentient beings to generate loving kindness, compassion and bodhicitta in their minds. Due to this, may no sentient being experience famine, war, disease or any other undesirable thing; may no sentient being experience danger from the elements through earthquakes, floods, fires and so forth. May all these centers, projects, statues and so forth be able to cause all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.

“May all the virtuous friends, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Ösel Rinpoche, have stable lives. May all their holy wishes be accomplished immediately. Like Lama Tsongkhapa, may Lama Ösel bring benefit like the sky to all sentient beings by showing the same qualities as Lama Tsongkhapa.”

Multiplying Mantras

Recite the mantras to increase each merit we collected today one hundred thousand times.

The last mantra (...NGOWADANG MÖNLAM...) not only increases each merit 100,000 times but also actualizes all the prayers that we have made. “Due to the blessings of the eminent buddhas and bodhisattvas, due to infallible dependent arising, and due to my special attitude, may all my pure prayers be accomplished immediately.”

Continuing Vajrasattva retreat at home

Those who cannot stay to finish the Vajrasattva retreat but wish to continue to do the practice at home are most welcome to do so. Generally, the preliminary retreat instructions in the texts advise that one should finish a retreat in one place. Even when you are doing the preliminary practice of prostrations, when you are counting 100,000, 200,000, 300,000, 400,000 or whatever, the texts say that you should finish at one place.

Generally, this might be a skillful means to ensure that you complete the practice, because there will be fewer obstacles if you do it in the one place. I think the reason might be that there are fewer obstacles, which means that you can continue the practice every day and complete it.

However, practices can be done in a loose way or a strict way. When doing retreat in a strict way and when visualizing yourself as a deity, the commentaries normally mention that you have to finish the retreat where you begin it; you have to finish the retreat on the same seat. Recently Lillian Too from Malaysia was carrying a cushion with her, and she said, “I am carrying my cushion back home, so this way I can do the retreat on the same seat.” This thought never entered my mind. It’s a completely new idea.

In Vajrasattva practice, however, you visualize Vajrasattva on your crown; you don’t visualize yourself as Vajrasattva. And if you are not visualizing yourself as a deity, you can do the practice on different seats. There is no question of loose or strict retreat here; this is the normal instruction. Since in the case of Vajrasattva you are not visualizing yourself as Vajrasattva, those who cannot finish the retreat here can complete the 100,000 mantras by doing the practice every day at home, if they wish. I think it is extremely worthwhile to do this, because the Vajrasattva practice then gets done, and as we have been thinking in the motivations, you never know when death will happen. I think it is very good if those who have to leave before the end want to continue the practice at home every day and finish their 100,000 mantras.

There are different versions of the Vajrasattva practice, including the very short sadhana that we have been using for one or two sessions each day. At home you can use whichever length Vajrasattva sadhana you like. I heard that some people who have to leave because they have to return to work were asking whether it is possible to continue the retreat at home. I think that continuing the retreat is extremely wise and extremely good, and I thank you very much.