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 16: February 14

Afternoon: Vajrasattva session

Thirty-five Buddha practice

Afternoon: Vajrasattva session The seven Medicine Buddhas are extremely powerful not only for healing but for success generally. By reciting the Medicine Buddha mantra and the names of the Medicine Buddhas, we can actualize the prayers that we normally do. This happens because the Medicine Buddhas made many prayers in the past to be able to actualize the wishes of sentient beings. This is why it is very important to recite the names of the seven Medicine Buddhas after those of the thirty-five Buddhas, and this is how Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen and other recent lineage lamas practiced. It makes the practice very powerful.

At the end of the recitation, visualize that nectar beams emitted by all the figures in the merit field enter within you. Everything is purified; all defilements, negative karma and downfalls are purified. Nothing in the slightest is left in your mental continuum.

In emptiness there is no creator, there is no action of creating negative karma,there is no negative karma created.

“Due to all the merits collected by having done prostrations, made offerings, confessed, rejoiced, requested the gurus to have stable life and to turn the Dharma wheel, may I achieve enlightenment in order to enlighten all sentient beings.”

The purpose of reciting the Lam-rim prayers

One purpose of the lam-rim prayer is as a motivation. Another reason is that each time we recite a lam-rim prayer, since it contains the essence of the entire path,our mind becomes closer to the realizations of the path to enlightenment, which means closer to enlightenment and closer to our being able to enlighten all sentient beings. This is the main reason that we are doing this Vajrasattva retreat. We are not doing this practice of purification just to be healthy or to live a long time. Our main reason for doing this practice is to have realizations of the path to enlightenment so that we can benefit others, so that we can liberate others from all suffering and lead them to enlightenment. This is why we should recite one of the lam-rim prayers as the motivation at the beginning of each session. It brings our mind closer to the realizations of the path to enlightenment.

Each lam-rim prayer has a different presentation, so reciting a different one each time, like eating different styles of food, has a different effect on your mind. Also, in this way you won’t become bored by reciting the same prayer all the time.

Generating As Heruka

Since we are not doing Heruka practice in the short sadhana, we can leave out the part about becoming Heruka. Recite the refuge verse then leave a short silence in which to generate a strong motivation of bodhicitta.

Bodhicitta motivation

I mentioned yesterday the importance of the motivation of bodhicitta. Even here when we listen to the teaching, we need to generate the purest motivation of bodhicitta—one that is unstained by the self-centered mind. Think, “The purpose of my life is to free the numberless other sentient beings from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to full enlightenment. To do this, I must achieve full enlightenment; therefore, I’m going to listen to the profound holy Dharma, to the lam-rim teachings.” Please listen to the teachings well by clarifying the motivation of bodhicitta and observing the proper conduct for listening to teachings.

In the past, in the early courses, I repeated the motivation all the time, but now it doesn’t happen much. I think it’s a sign that my mind has degenerated!

Even though you generate the motivation at the beginning of the Vajrasattva sadhana, after the verse of taking refuge and generating bodhicitta, it’s also good to make sure of your motivation when you actually begin the mantra recitation. Again think, “I’m going to recite this mantra for the benefit of every single one of the numberless hell beings, of the numberless hungry ghosts, of the numberless animals, of the numberless human beings, of the numberless asura beings, of the numberless sura beings, of the numberless intermediate state beings.”

Also, while you are reciting the mantra, check your motivation from time to time to see whether it has become a self-centered one. Try to keep in mind continuously that your purpose for doing Vajrasattva practice is to benefit others. Check your motivation from time to time, and if you have lost the continuity of that thought of bodhicitta, clarify it again by thinking, “I’m doing this Vajrasattva meditation-recitation for the benefit of other sentient beings.”

In this way, your practice becomes very powerful. Also, the nature of that thought of benefiting others, of doing the Vajrasattva practice for others, is very pleasant and very satisfying. As much as possible, try to do the mantra recitation with the thought of benefiting all sentient beings. You should not simply generate a bodhicitta motivation at the beginning.

If you don’t keep checking our mind, since you don’t have the stable realization of effortless bodhicitta, there is a risk that after some time, your motivation will become self-centered. The benefit of reciting the Vajrasattva mantra then becomes limited, and you will not collect skies of merit or purify many lifetimes or many eons of negative karma. As I mentioned yesterday, by reciting the Vajrasattva mantra once with the thought of bodhicitta, you gain the merit of having recited the Vajrasattva mantra 100,000 times. Without bodhicitta motivation, you will not receive all this inconceivable benefit.

It is similar with tantric practice. Even though tantra is the quick path to enlightenment, without bodhicitta, without the lam-rim, you cannot achieve enlightenment by practicing tantra. Without the lam-rim, you cannot achieve enlightenment by practicing tantra alone. There is even the risk that you will be reborn in the hell realms if you practice tantra without the lam-rim. By meditating on deities without the lam-rim, you can be born as a hungry ghost. Many of you will remember such stories from reading Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand or from hearing teachings. Practicing tantra without knowing how to practice Dharma, without even knowing what Dharma is, is dangerous. If, instead of entering the Mahayana path, you fall into the Lesser Vehicle path and achieve the lower nirvana, it is a great loss because you have missed the real meaning of life, but at least it is still some kind of positive result. It is much worse to reborn in a hell realm or as a hungry ghost. It is bodhicitta that makes tantra the quick path to enlightenment.

Arhats have the wisdom that directly perceives emptiness. If you realize the wisdom that directly perceives emptiness, the highest you can achieve is arhatship, with cessation of just the gross delusions. From the two types of obscurations, you cease only the gross one, which interferes mainly with your achievement of liberation from samsara. Even with the wisdom that directly perceives emptiness, you cannot achieve anything higher than arhatship.

Not only here during this Vajrasattva retreat but during any retreat, we should pay most attention to generating bodhicitta. We should make sure that we generate a strong motivation of bodhicitta at the beginning, and even during the recitation-meditation we should remind ourselves from time to time to keep our mind on bodhicitta. Just as we concentrate on keeping the car in the correct lane when we are driving, we should concentrate on keeping our mind continuously in the motivation of bodhicitta when we are meditating.

Reciting OM MANI PADME HUM one time with a bodhicitta motivation has the power to purify the very heavy karma of the five uninterrupted negative karmas (having killed one’s father, mother or an arhat; caused blood to flow from a buddha; and caused disunity among the sangha) and the ten non-virtuous actions. By reciting OM MANI PADME HUM one time, a fully ordained monk can purify the very heavy negative karma of having broken all four root vows, of having received all four defeats (having killed a human being, taken what has not been given, had sexual intercourse and told the big lie, which means saying that he has realizations when he knows that he does not). Again, this refers to reciting OM MANI PADME HUM with a bodhicitta motivation.

It is similar with Vajrasattva. The amount of negative karma you purify with one Vajrasattva mantra depends on how you recite that one mantra. It depends especially on whether or not you have recited the mantra with a bodhicitta motivation. This is what determines how much negative karma you purify and how much merit you collect. Not just during retreat but generally in your daily life, even if your only practice is reciting one mala of OM MANI PADME HUM, you must make sure that you pay the most attention to bodhicitta. Even if you are only going to recite a total of one mala, half a mala or just twenty-one mantras, first make sure that you generate a motivation of bodhicitta. The benefit you gain from doing this is unimaginable; you purify inconceivable negative karmas and collect skies of merit.

If the only time you spend on practice in your daily life is the time it takes you to recite one mala of OM MANI PADME HUM or one short sadhana and you don’t even do that properly, it is a very sad life. If even the small amount of practice that you do does not get done properly and does not become Dharma—not only does it not become the cause of enlightenment, but it does not even become Dharma—your whole life becomes empty. Not only do you waste your perfect human body, but you use it to create suffering, to be born in the lower realms. Instead of using your perfect human body to experience happiness, you use it to experience suffering. Not only do you make your life empty and meaningless, you actually use your perfect human body as a tool to create more suffering.

Even if you do only five minutes of practice out of the twenty-four hours in each day, even if you recite only a few mantras, you must put all your effort into doing it in the best way.

Gen Jampa Wangdu

Some of the old students here were in Dharamsala during the First Dharma Celebration, and many of them have met the great meditator, Gen Jampa Wangdu, who was Lama Yeshe’s and my best friend in Dharamsala. Each time Gen Jampa Wangdu came to see us was the best time. Gen Jampa Wangdu was an old meditator—not “old” in terms of age, but “old” in terms of meditation experience. He meditated and lived an ascetic life in Tibet, then continued in Buxa and Dalhousie when he came to India.

Even when he was at Buxa he was totally different from the other monks that I saw. I would see him from time to time walking around outside or going to the toilet. At the back of where I lived, there was a long line of toilets. It was very difficult to take care of the toilets well, and a strong “incense” smell would come from the toilets during lunch. We would have to hold our noses to eat our food. Even at that time, Gen Jampa Wangdu’s conduct and appearance was very different from that of other monks. The way Gen Jampa Wangdu wore his robes was very proper, in accordance with the vinaya, and he walked in the way an arhat walks, as described in the lam-rim teachings. You could see that his mind was totally concentrated. He did not have a monkey mind or a bird mind. A bird looks here for one second, there for one second, here for one second; it is impossible for it to concentrate. Just from Gen Jampa Wangdu’s proper manner when going to the toilet, you could see that he practiced Dharma continuously, with full awareness of his body, speech and mind.

It was the same when he was in Dalhousie. I was in Dalhousie for six months at the school set up by the British nun, Freda Bedi, who was the second Western nun and who became a very close disciple of the Karmapa. I think she might have originally been a Christian. She then lived in Sri Lanka and became a Theravadin. She was wearing some kind of yellow dress when she first started helping the monks who had escaped from Lhasa in Musamari in Assam. At that time I think her son was attending the same university as the son of prime minister Nehru. They were friends, and the Indian government gave her the job of looking after the Tibetan monks who had recently escaped from Tibet, mainly monks from Sera, Ganden and Drepung. Musamari is an unbelievably hot and very unhealthy place. I haven’t been there, as I went directly to Buxa; but other monks who came to Buxa were first sent to Musamari. So, Freda Bedi was asked to be in charge of taking care of the monks. She even had a Tibetan monk as a cook, I think. When she first came to Buxa, she was not a nun but dressed in yellow saris in the Theravadin style. However, she must have had strong karma with Tibetan Buddhism and lamas. She went to see many incarnate lamas, and because I bear the dry name “incarnate lama,” she also came to see me. She came to Buxa one or two times. She organized a school for young lamas from all four traditions, first in Delhi for six months and then she moved the school to Dalhousie, where she continued for five years. Every year after six months at the school the lamas would go back to their own monasteries to study. Because she insisted very much that I come, I went one time to Dalhousie.

Gen Jampa Wangdu was in Dalhousie, doing retreat in the ruins of an old house. The place was tiny, with just a roof and some pieces of flat stone. It seems that many people had been killed in that house during the time of the British. Geshe-la said that there were many spirits there; while he was doing his practice, the spirits would walk through and make a lot of noise. He had no fear, and sometimes he would give the spirits Dharma teachings, teachings on bodhicitta.

On Sunday we had a holiday. I think we played football two or three times. When the school was in Delhi for six months, they gave us a football and on Sundays, all of us young lamas, played football in the school compound. Then one day the Delhi representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama came while we were playing. His name was Shakabpa. When Tibet was independent, he was one of the Tibetan officials from aristocratic families who had been educated abroad, in India and in other countries. He told Freda Bedi that we should not play football, so from that time we were no longer allowed to play.

On Sundays in Dalhousie we would go around the mountain. One day I met Gen Jampa Wangdu in the road. When I asked him where he was going, he said that we was going to collect firewood. He didn’t look like someone who was collecting firewood. Everything about him was perfect, and his manner was very subdued.

In Buxa, Gen Jampa Wangdu was in a small group with a few other monks. I heard that if he was there in the morning when the other monks were discussing what to make for lunch and they decided to make momos—momos are not only Tibetan food but also Chinese, though the name in Chinese is different—he would never come for that meal. I think this is similar to the way the Kadampa geshes applied the remedies to delusions.

It is similar to the behavior of Kadampa Geshe Ben Kungyal, who was very famous in his early life as a robber in the daytime and a thief at night. In his belt and on his body he carried many weapons, such as knives, arrows and slingshots. Once, after he had begun to practice Dharma, he was in a temple where a benefactor had offered curd to all the monks. Geshe Ben Kungyal was sitting near the end of the row of monks, watching the person serving the curd to the monks at the top of the line. When he saw that a lot of curd was being dished into the bowls of these monks, he was worried that it would all be gone by the time it came to him. Then he suddenly realized what was happening in his mind. He suddenly recognized that his attitude was one of worldly concern.

To renounce the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, he then turned his bowl upside down. When the person came to serve him the delicious curd, his bowl was upside down. In this way he practiced the remedy to the attachment that clings to this life. Gen Jampa Wangdu was acting in a similar way at Buxa.

At Dalhousie Gen Jampa Wangdu accomplished shamatha, or calm abiding, which has nine levels. It is only with this realization that you achieve perfect concentration, free from attachment-scattering thought, gö-pa, and sinking thought, ching-wa. The term “scattering thought,” or tro-wa, can refer to the mind scattering from the object of meditation to an object of attachment, which is non-virtuous, or to a virtuous object, such as a buddha, which is virtuous. However, if you are trying to concentrate single-pointedly on a particular deity as your object of meditation and your mind scatters to another deity, that scattering thought is considered to be an obstacle to your meditation. The point I am making is that we add the word “attachment” to differentiate attachment-scattering (gö-pa)from scattering in general (tro-wa).

After reaching the ninth level of calm abiding, you are free from these two obstacles to perfect meditation. You then experience extremely refined rapturous ecstasy of body and mind. According to Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, after you achieve the extremely refined rapturous ecstasy of mind, it seems that you experience some small decrease in the ecstasy. However, after experiencing these two, you achieve the fully characterized, or actual, shamatha.

Gen Jampa Wangdu completed the realization of shamatha there in Dalhousie. Geshe Rabten Rinpoche was sent by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to check the meditators in Dalhousie. As well as Gen Jampa Wangdu, there were a few incarnate lamas and geshes who had completed their studies and were trying to meditate on the path. They had been selected by Trehor Kyorpen Rinpoche, a very high lama from Drepung Monastery. After he became a lharampa geshe, he went to a very high mountain near Lhasa to meditate in a cave. Trehor Kyorpen Rinpoche became a geshe at the same time as His Holiness Serkong Dorje Chang. I think this must be the Serkong Dorje Chang who lived at Swayambhunath in Nepal and passed away there. I sometimes get this great yogi mixed up with his previous incarnation. In that previous life, Serkong Dorje Chang was one of the Gelugpa lamas recognized by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as fully qualified to have a consort, a wisdom mother.

After Trehor Kyorpen Rinpoche became a geshe, he went looking for a cave on Lhumbo Tse, a very high mountain near Lhasa. Accompanied by one monk-attendant, he carried on his back just one text, Lam-rim chen-mo,and the robes that a monk is required to have.

While he was looking for a cave on this high mountain, stones kept on coming down near him as if thrown from up above him. He followed the stones, and after some time he came to a cave; the stones were dropping on that cave. When he went into the cave, he found a skeleton sitting in meditation posture. Trehor Kyorpen Rinpoche then sat down and offered a mandala. After he finished offering the mandala, the skeleton collapsed. He then decided to practice in that cave.

It seems that he lived there in that cave, and his disciples meditated in places scattered around the mountain. This lama spent his life in practice and continued to experience the path when he came to Dalhousie. Some geshes and meditators that he had selected also meditated on the path there in Dalhousie.

Gen Jampa Wangdu never talked much about his realizations to other people. He would never normally say, “I have this realization,” but to those of us who were very close to him, he would express things in such a way that we knew he had realizations. In terms of the achievement of shamatha, Gen Jampa Wangdu would fold his arms across his chest and say things such as, “Until you achieve shamatha, what you think is meditation is not meditation.” This was really an expression of his own success. I think what he said is true. Compared to the meditation of someone who has realized shamatha, what we call meditation is not meditation because it is full of obstacles, full of gross and subtle attachment-scattering thoughts and sinking thoughts. He also talked about the bliss from shamatha.

One time in Dharamsala we were receiving teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, either on Lama Tsongkhapa’s commentary on the Heruka root text, Clarifying All the Hidden Meanings, or on the four lam-rim commentaries. It was raining very heavily, and in one of the break times, Gen Jampa Wangdu showed the aspect of falling down on some steps outside His Holiness’s office. He knocked his head on the concrete and started to bleed. His Holiness saw what happened and blew on the wound. Gen Jampa Wangdu said that when he fell down and knocked his head on the ground, he experienced bliss. Normal people would feel pain, but all he felt was bliss. This is because of his realizations —not just of shamatha but of the completion path of Highest Yoga Tantra.

After he had accomplished shamatha in Dalhousie, Gen Jampa Wangdu moved to Dharamsala. He lived in a cave under a big rock down below the home of His Holiness Ling Rinpoche, Senior Tutor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I think he lived there for seven years, and it seems that he realized emptiness there. Around that time I was receiving teachings on mahamudra from Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, and Geshe Rabten Rinpoche often praised Gen Jampa Wangdu, saying that he was a very lucky person. Geshe Rabten Rinpoche said that if we had any questions on emptiness, we should ask Gen Jampa Wangdu because he had fresh experience of emptiness. So it seems that Gen Jampa Wangdu realized emptiness in that cave.

It also seems that he achieved the realization of bodhicitta in Dharamsala. A sign of this is that one night he told Lama Yeshe and me that it had been seven years since he had been to anyone’s house for his own sake. (Gen Jampa Wangdu didn’t normally eat in the evening, because the main practice of these meditators is that of the Kadampa geshes. Externally they are like arhats, with a very subdued manner; internally they are bound by love, compassion and bodhicitta; and secretly they have realization of the two stages of tantra.) Anyway, not going to anyone’s house for himself is just an example, the implication being that he had realized bodhicitta seven years previously and since then had done no action for himself. With the way Gen Jampa Wangdu thought about sentient beings, there is no doubt at all that he had the realization of bodhicitta. Even if he hadn’t said this, there would still be no doubt.

Gen Jampa Wangdu also had great success in realizing the Six Yogas of Naropa and the rest of the Highest Yoga Tantra path. Sometimes we would come back together to Tushita after His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s commentary, have some tea and then discuss the teachings. Gen Jampa Wangdu had a lot of answers from his own experiences, so these proved that he had the realizations.

After Lama Yeshe passed away, I went back to Dharamsala. His Holiness was giving oral transmission, with commentary, of the nine lam-rim teachings, and I arrived for the graduated path of the being of middle capability. Early in the morning of the last day, there was to be a long life puja for His Holiness and there were one or two pages from each text left to be finished that morning. The day before, Geshe-la had mentioned that things didn’t look good and that he might pass away, though generally he was very healthy. Early that morning, around five o’clock, I received a message from a German woman, Geshe-la’s student, that Geshe-la might be passing away or might need to go to the hospital.

Geshe-la never usually accepted students, but somehow he accepted this woman. She spoke Tibetan very well and had studied for some years at the Tibetan Medical Center. She moved into the house next to Geshe Rabten’s house, where Gen Jampa Wangdu was living, and began studying Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. She asked Gen Jampa Wangdu many questions. Every day she would go to the house with the text, and Gen Jampa Wangdu would explain to her. She hadn’t asked him to be her guru, but when she reached the guru devotion section in the text, she did prostrations and requested him to be her guru. Geshe-la normally never accepted disciples, but after having given her so many explanations and after she insisted, somehow there was some strong karma, and he had to accept her as his disciple. He then continued to give her teachings, and I think they completed the text. Gen Jampa Wangdu was not a lharampa geshe and had not done any extensive study of philosophy, but he had spent his life actually meditating on the path and had successful realization of the lam-rim, so she received teachings from his own experiences. She was fully satisfied and didn’t seem to need any other teacher. Gen Jampa Wangdu alone was sufficient, and it seems that she didn’t even need His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She was fully satisfied having just Gen Jampa Wangdu as her guru.

Anyway, I received a message from her that Gen Jampa Wangdu might be passing away or might need to be taken to the hospital. I then went to Geshe-la’s house to do prayers. Geshe-la was in the meditation state for three days, I think. Even after the meditation was over, his holy body looked magnificent and completely healthy, so it wasn’t easy to check whether or not his meditation was finished. So, with Lama Gyüpa, I checked whether any bodhicitta, any sperm, had come out. I also checked with Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, who was one of Geshe-la’s friends. Rinpoche came inside and just by looking at Geshe-la’s face, Rinpoche said the meditation was over. I don’t remember whether it was before or after that that we checked whether any sperm had come out.

Geshe-la was somebody who actually had experienced the very essence of Highest Yoga Tantra, which enables the achievement of enlightenment not only in one lifetime but in one brief lifetime of the degenerate time. He had achieved realization of clear light and the illusory body, of the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness. Realization of the illusory body enables you to complete in such a short time, in one brief lifetime, the collection of merit that takes three countless great eons to collect in the Mahayana Paramitayana path. Gen Jampa Wangdu achieved great success in even Highest Yoga Tantra realizations.

When I came to Hong Kong in 1989, we went for a picnic with all the students who came to take refuge and for the teachings. One family had a little boy who liked me very much, and a question arose in my mind. At that time the center was in Peter’s apartment, so that night I did a lot of divinations with rolled papers. I thought the boy could be the reincarnation of one of my teachers, either Geshe Rabten Rinpoche or Gen Jampa Wangdu. Just before Gen Jampa Wangdu passed away, I received from him the lineage of chu-len, “Taking the Essence.” I hadn’t received it during the First Dharma Celebration, when Geshe-la gave many of the sangha the lineage of the teaching on “Taking the Essence,” or the pill retreat. The purpose of the chu-len practice is to save time for those living on high mountains or in isolated places. They eat the pills and don’t have to waste time looking for food. They live on the pills and do their meditation; it is especially good for shamatha meditation. Many of the sangha did the pill retreat. One or two of them didn’t succeed, but most of them did the pill retreat for twenty-one days, and some had great success.

I didn’t receive the lineage at that time, but I later received the chu-len lineage in case it becomes rare in the future. I also received some instructions in response to my question, “What is the quickest way to have realizations of lam-rim?” Answering from his own experience, Gen Jampa Wangdu said to always practice the remedy to the self-cherishing thought. It’s a unique answer, but it is very true because all the obstacles come from the ego. So when you renounce the ego, when you always practice the remedy to the self-centered mind, there are no obstacles to your Dharma practice. What you believe to be an obstacle is no longer an obstacle. This one answer covers everything. It takes care of everything. If you follow this advice, anger doesn’t arise, and the emotional mind of desire doesn’t arise. Everything is taken care of when you do this practice, and obstacles don’t arise.

In my divinations that night, it came out that the boy might be the reincarnation of Gen Jampa Wangdu. That same year I went to South India to receive the commentary of Lam-rim chen-mo from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which was given at Drepung Loseling Monastery and was attended by the monks from Sera, Ganden and Drepung. At that time I mentioned this boy to His Holiness, saying that I thought he might be the incarnation of Gen Jampa Wangdu. When I mentioned this, I had the feeling that His Holiness accepted the suggestion. His Holiness then checked very quickly and the next day said that it came out that the boy was Gen Jampa Wangdu’s incarnation and that the divination was extremely good. I said that I would put him in a monastery for his education. Anyway, this is how it happened. Now, this whole story is just a preliminary to what I was going to mention. This boy [Lungtog Rinpoche], even when he was very young, had incredible answers to give people when they consulted him. His character is very like that of Gen Jampa Wangdu; he has a very compassionate nature. Almost every month the Hong Kong center liberates animals.

It has been saving the lives of animals for many years ago, as has Amitabha Buddhist Centre in Singapore and the centers in Taiwan. The merits are dedicated for the long lives of His Holiness and all other holy beings; for the members of the sangha to complete their studies and achieve realizations of the path; for the benefactors who serve the sangha and the teachings to have long lives and for their wishes to offer service to be successful; for all the people who do good things for others to have long lives; for those for whom it is more beneficial to live, to have long lives; and also for people who have AIDS, cancer and so forth to have long lives and to be free from life obstacles. This is how I would dedicate at the beginning or at the end of liberating the animals. The group I left out is that of the evil beings; so one day I asked him whether we should dedicate for the evil beings, and he replied that we should dedicate for the evil beings, that we should dedicate for them to meet Dharma and then have long lives.

So, now I’ve reached the main point of what I was going to say! His mother spends one or two hours each day reciting different mantras and meditating. One day he told his mother, “Rather than spending two hours with a scattered mind, with your mind wandering all over the place, you should meditate for five minutes without your mind wandering at all.” This is what he advised his mother. And this is also what most of us do.

Watching the mind

While you are doing the Vajrasattva meditation-recitation, from time to time watch what your mind is doing to see whether it is meditating or not. Check whether your mind is meditating on Vajrasattva or on the delusions. Check to see if your mind is trying to achieve samsara. Watch your mind from time to time. If your mind is very disturbed by anger or attachment, you can do breathing meditation, but a very important remedy is to think very strongly of death. Remember that your death could happen today, even in this moment. Perhaps it is better to decide that you are actually going to die today, and that you could even die within an hour. Your breath could stop at any moment; the vivid appearance of this life—the people around you, this center—could stop at any moment. And throughout beginningless past lives, you have created so many negative karmas because of non-virtuous actions of your body, speech and mind—the ten non-virtuous actions; breaking pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantric vows; and the heaviest negative karma, that created in relation to your gurus through anger, heresy, negative thoughts and so forth. Right after your breath stops, right after the appearance of this life stops, you will definitely be in the heaviest sufferings of the hell realms and will have to suffer there for an inconceivable length of time. What you will see then will be terrifying, the complete opposite of what you see now, and you will have to suffer there for an inconceivable period.

Think, “This is the only opportunity that I will have in my life to do Vajrasattva meditation-recitation and purify all these negative karmas. The only opportunity I have is right now. Therefore, I must put every single effort into this practice and not allow my mind to wander.” Make this very strong determination when you begin the meditation and plan from the very beginning to keep a close watch on your mind. Concentrate with most of your mind on the meditation—Vajrasattva, yourself as the deity, the main visualization of purification or whatever— but with a small part of your mind watch what is happening. While you are doing the meditation, one corner of your mind should be watching, spying. Instead of concentrating your whole mind on Vajrasattva’s holy body or the visualization of purifying, use one portion of your mind to check whether or not you are meditating. If your mind is very disturbed and uncontrolled, this can be a skillful way to help maintain your concentration. By keeping your mind away from distractions, it becomes the means to maintain your concentration.

It is mentioned in the Bodhicaryavatara that if you tie the elephant of the mind well with the rope of constant remembrance, no fear or danger will arise, and you will receive all virtue in your hand. Like its use in “liberation in the palm of your hand,” the expression “in your hand” means easily. Receiving all virtue in your hand means that you will easily achieve all success, which refers, broadly speaking, to liberation from samsara and enlightenment.

By meditating single-pointedly on the Vajrasattva purification practice, you don’t waste your life. Your life becomes meaningful, and from the meditation you receive all the virtues, all the benefits, up to enlightenment. You purify all your negative karmas, so you don’t have to experience the four suffering results of each negative karma. And you achieve a good rebirth in all your future lives. “All virtue” means all these benefits. Also, the thirty-eighth or forty-eighth chapter of the sutra called Könchog Tsegpa says, “If the arrogant mind possesses conscientiousness, all your wishes will be fulfilled.” This has the same meaning.

Visualizing during mantra recitation

Vajrasattva father-mother are complete in all qualities and powers, but to increase your faith, there is the invocation of the wisdom beings and the initiating deities. In addition to visualizing Vajrasattva, you then invoke the wisdom and initiating deities to help you to generate strong faith that a real Vajrasattva is there rather than your mere visualization. It is not that Vajrasattva needs more power or help from other buddhas or anything like that. It is done just to make your faith stronger. From your side, think that Vajrasattva is very powerful and magnificent, with the power of all the buddhas to purify.

It is also very good to think that all sentient beings are on a moon disc at your heart. Visualize that beams emitted by all the buddhas in the ten directions enter Guru Vajrasattva, who becomes very radiant. Beams then emit from Guru Vajrasattva’s heart and enter within you and within all the sentient beings in your heart. As soon as the beams touch you and all the sentient beings, all defilements are completely purified. Simply being touched by the beams immediately purifies you. Think that nectar- beams are emitted, with the nectar flowing along the beams as dew drops flow along wire. At the end, you and all sentient beings become Vajrasattva.

Another meditation is to visualize that there is a Vajrasattva father-mother on the tip of each beam emitted from the Vajrasattva at your crown. A Vajrasattva descends on the crown of each sentient being and purifies them. Vajrasattva father-mother then melt into light and absorb into each sentient being. This is part of a more elaborate Highest Yoga Tantra meditation, but there is no need to mention it in more detail. You can do these meditations in addition to the general meditations of purifying down, purifying up and instant purification. When purifying down, you visualize that the nectar beams clean downward through your body. When purifying up, you visualize that the nectar beams push all the negativities upward and out of your body through your crown, just as all the dirt in a glass is pushed up and out when you fill it with milk. All the defilements, negative karmas and downfalls are washed upward and come out from the crown. One explanation is that you feel as if a wind has suddenly blown off your hat.

In the third visualization, the purification is like a bright camera flash. You visualize all your defilements, negative karmas and downfalls —not just from this life but from beginningless lives—in the form of darkness at your heart. Extremely bright light, like a camera flash, comes from Guru Vajrasattva’s heart and the darkness at your heart suddenly becomes completely non-existent; it is instantly purified. Sometimes lamas say to visualize a big pile of garbage at your heart, with strong nectar beams coming like a flash flood, immediately flushing the garbage away, so that you are not even sure where it went. It becomes completely non-existent.

These are the usual meditations that accompany recitation of the Vajrasattva mantra.

Sometimes you can meditate on guru yoga while you are reciting the Vajrasattva mantra. Just single-pointedly focus on Vajrasattva fathermother, seeing Vajrasattva and the guru as inseparable. Remembering some quotations from the texts might help you to see the oneness of the guru and Vajrasattva.

The tantric text Dorje Kur (Vajra Tent), which might be a Hevajra text, says, “I, who am called Vajrasattva, will take the form of the vajra master in order to benefit other sentient beings. I will abide in an ordinary form in order to benefit others.” The phrase “in order to benefit others” refers to the fact that we sentient beings do not have the karma to see the aspect of Buddha Vajrasattva; we can only see ordinary aspects. The definition of an ordinary aspect is one with faults, with delusions and samsaric suffering. This is the only aspect we can see. Why? Because at the moment our mind has faults. Because our mind is impure and obscured, this is the only aspect we can see. Therefore, the only way the buddhas can benefit us is by manifesting in an ordinary aspect, one that shows the aspect of having delusions and samsaric suffering. It is only in such an aspect that the buddhas can benefit us and directly guide us. In such an aspect, they can communicate with us and help us purify all our negative karma by giving us teachings, vows and initiations. In such an aspect, they can give us the opportunity to practice Dharma, thus saving us from the unimaginable sufferings of the lower realms and leading us to higher rebirths, liberation from samsara and, with cessation of even the subtle defilements, enlightenment. This is the commentary to “I will abide in an ordinary form in order to benefit others.”

Another quotation to consider is, “At the end of the 500-age, I will manifest as the vajra master in the form of various means. At that time think of this form as me, Vajrasattva, and generate devotion,” but I would have to check the original to make this translation more precise. Also, at the time when Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was passing away, the bodhisattva Meaningful to Behold asked Buddha, “At the moment we receive teachings from Buddha, but when Buddha passes away, from whom are we going to receive teachings?” Buddha replied, “Don’t worry, Meaningful to Behold. In future times I will manifest in the bodies of abbots, I will manifest in the bodies of vajra masters. In order to benefit other sentient beings I will show birth, sickness, old age and death.” This means that in order to guide us sentient beings Buddha will manifest as an ordinary being, as a being with delusions and suffering, and with that aspect Buddha will liberate us sentient beings from suffering and guide us to enlightenment.

Remembering these quotations helps you to realize the inseparability of the guru and Vajrasattva, the oneness of the guru and Vajrasattva. With the help of these quotations, you look at the guru and Vajrasattva as one, and you then see them as one. Concentrate single-pointedly on the fact that the guru is Vajrasattva, and with this single-pointed guru devotion, recite the mantra. This is reciting the Vajrasattva mantra with the guru yoga mind.

Also, you can sometimes meditate on emptiness. The I, the action of purifying, the negative karma that is purified and Vajrasattva—none of these contains the slightest atom of inherent existence. Meditating on this emptiness, you then recite the Vajrasattva mantra.

You can also meditate on bodhicitta while you recite the Vajrasattva mantra. You can also do lam-rim meditation while reciting the mantra. You can meditate in different ways as you recite the mantra. If your mind becomes bored with always doing the purification visualizations, you can do these other meditations.


Due to all these merits may I reach Vajrasattva’s enlightenment and lead all sentient beings to Vajrasattva’s enlightenment by myself, alone.