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 42: April 11


[Rinpoche arrives late, just in time for tsog; people were expecting him hours earlier for teachings.]

I missed the teaching! I fell asleep and missed the teaching! But I couldn’t stand the thought of not eating the tsog!

[Vajrasattva tsog: just before the “Praise in Eight Lines”:]

The benefits of reciting the "Praise in Eight Lines”

The English translation calls this next part the “Eight-legged Praise.” Did I mention this before? [Student: No, Rinpoche.] The “Eight-legged Praise.” Does anyone have eight legs! [Student: Spiders.] So, “Praise to the Eight Legs”! I’m joking. The Tibetan is Kang-gyä tö-pa. Kang here means lines—eight lines: “The Praise of Eight Lines,” not legs, kang. I mean, kang-pa means leg, but this kang does not. I think, tsig-kang, eight lines— what it’s saying is the praise that has eight lines. Something like that. Lines. In Tibetan, kang-gyä.The praises to the father and the mother.

I don’t remember them individually, but about five benefits of doing this practice have been explained. It is regarded as very important for achieving success. The deity Heruka also stated, “I myself and the messenger yoginis will abide in the heart of the person who recites this praise and cause that person to generate the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness,” which is the special feature of highest yoga tantra that enables a practitioner to attain enlightenment within one brief lifetime of the degenerate age. Heruka and the messenger yoginis will abide in your heart and cause you to generate, experience and develop the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness.

There are three more lines explaining the benefits of doing this practice regularly, but I don’t remember them at the moment. When you do this practice, when you recite this praise, all the dakas and dakinis, numberless of whom dwell in the twenty-four holy places, enter your body and bless your drops, winds and chakras. That’s what happens when you recite it, so this is a very, very precious practice.

As Lama Tsongkhapa explained, and I often quote, what happens next is, in order to experience the profound, simultaneously-born wisdom of the completion stage within yourself, you need to concentrate on the vajra body. You need to precisely concentrate on the vajra body. For that, the chakras and drops need to be blessed by the dakas and dakinis.

The quickest way to completely cease the dualistic view—not only the gross defilements but also the subtle ones, the subtle negative imprints of the disturbing-thought obscurations, the simultaneously born ignorance, the concept of the inherently existent I and so forth— and arrest the continuity of the gross mind, the impure wind-mind— because the gross wind-mind doesn’t go to enlightenment; only the extremely subtle mind (of the gross, subtle and extremely subtle mind and the gross, subtle and extremely subtle body, it is only the extremely subtle ones that do this) goes to enlightenment, and since the continuity of the gross mind does not go to enlightenment, it has to be stopped, ceased, or, in the case of highest yoga tantra, abandoned—is to actualize the right tool, the right weapon, the right remedy. The main method for accomplishing the cessation of the dualistic view, therefore, is the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness.

Therefore, the answer to the question of how quickly you are going to achieve enlightenment is that it depends on how quickly you can actualize the experience of simultaneously-born wisdom and great bliss. That depends on concentrating on the central channel of the vajra body. That in turn depends on meditating on tum-mo and so forth in the central channel and being able to draw the winds into it; to bring the winds in from the 72,000 nadis, or psychic channels, and have them dwell and absorb, go through the twenty-five absorptions. Then, when the gross mind stops, becomes invisible, the subtle mind appears, bringing the experience of the clear light vision. The experience of this wisdom is like an atomic bomb in the way it destroys your obstacles, the defilements, ceases the hallucination and quickly carries you to enlightenment.

However, everything, all success, depends on the dakas and dakinis entering your body and blessing your winds, chakras and drops. There are many practices in which you invoke the dakas and dakinis—the body mandala practice; when you invoke them from the holy places of Heruka or Vajrayogini when you practice the Heruka father tantra or practice Vajrayogini; or here, in this tsog offering practice, where you recite this “Praise in Eight Lines.”

I remember Lama Yeshe using it for healing. In Solu Khumbu, the old mothers would meet us on the road and say, “Oh, I have back pain...,” this and that—they wanted some blessing. So holding his mala in his hand, Lama would hit them on the back while reciting this praise. That’s something that definitely helps. I didn’t realize at the time how precious this prayer was and how it brings great blessings into your heart.

Whenever you recite this “Praise in Eight Legs,” visualize your guru, in the aspect of the deity Heruka Father-Mother, in the heart of the deity that you have visualized externally, and first of all, confess any negative actions you have done. Confess all non-virtuous actions, like you do during the Vajrasattva practice. When you practice the power of regret, as I mentioned earlier in the retreat, confess in general, every non-virtuous action ever done. Then more specifically, confess from the heart the ten non-virtuous actions done since beginningless rebirths; all vows broken since beginningless rebirths—pratimoksha, bodhicitta and tantric vows; and the heavier negative karmas, or obstacles, created with the guru, such as broken samayas and so forth. Visualize your root guru in the aspect of Heruka in the heart of the deity you have visualized and confess. Then visualize that your guru happily accepts your confession. From your heart, confess all negative karma, especially that created with the guru as object—whatever samayas with the guru that you have transgressed, and degenerated samayas since beginningless rebirths—and visualize that your guru, Heruka Father-Mother, happily accepts.

After that, request, “May I be able to actualize the path to enlightenment in this very lifetime without even a second’s delay. Whenever my death comes, may I be born in the pure land of Heruka Father-Mother. If I cannot be reborn there, may all my rebirths in samsara become most beneficial for all living beings.”

At this point, you can also pray to your heart guru with any other important requests that you or others might have and for the success of the Maitreya project to fulfill all the guru’s holy wishes. Finally, visualize that your heart guru, Heruka Father-Mother, happily accepts your request.

Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo regarded this as a very powerful puja. He praised it very highly. It’s very powerful. If you do this mother tantra praise well, it’s the equivalent of one big puja.

If you cannot chant the prayer together, after saying the praise to the Father, before the praise to the Mother, make all your requests, as I mentioned, then do the praise to the mother. Heruka taught five benefits of doing this “Praise in Eight Lines,” but I don’t remember the exact quotation.

Mantra recitation during Vajrasattva Tsog

One more thing about the Vajrasattva tsog offering puja is how you recite the Vajrasattva mantra after each stanza. You can do it while you are offering music at the end of each stanza, but if possible, you should recite it after the music stops. Just ring your bell and chant the mantra, OM VAJRASATTVA.... But if you’re pressed for time, you can just recite the mantra while you are offering the music. Ideally, however, when the music stops, everybody should chant the mantra together while playing their bells. That’s very good.

Also during that time, I don’t know if Lama explained this visualization in his commentary, but visualize the Guru Puja merit field and meditate that every single atom of the holy body of each guru in the merit field is Vajrasattva. You can think like that. On every single atom of each member of the Guru Puja merit field is Vajrasattva; they are all Guru Vajrasattva. That means Vajrasattva is everything. Each atom of each holy body in the merit field is Guru Vajrasattva; all that is the merit field; that is everything.

The materials we’re offering as tsog are purified in emptiness and then generated as tsog. One meaning of the word tsog is the assembly, or gathering, of dakas and dakinis...enjoying a feast of human corpses!

Mountains of human bodies! I’m joking! Anyway, by gathering, the dakas and dakinis enjoy bliss and wisdom. Then, tsog could also mean collection, which means the combination of method and wisdom, or bliss and voidness, combined together. Method and wisdom together.

Tsog is the experience of your mind being inseparable from method and wisdom. That’s the actual meaning of tsog, and that’s also the understanding you should have regarding the external tsog. That is the essence of the external tsog, and that is the experience you should have when you take, or eat, the tsog. In actuality, it’s your mind, your wisdom, that is inseparable from method and wisdom, the transcendental wisdom mind of bliss and voidness. The real meaning of tsog in this case is, then, collection, the second meaning.

After you finish each verse, nectar beams emanate from the merit field and all the Vajrasattvas, enter your body-mind and the body-minds of all other sentient beings and purify all defilements. As the essence of the merit field is the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, and that is also the essence of the nectar, you can also think that you are experiencing this. Then you can think that all your defilements have been purified and that you have generated all realizations, in particular, those that were mentioned in the stanza just finished. That realization and all other realizations, from guru devotion up to enlightenment, are generated within your mind and the minds of all sentient beings. You can do this meditation during the Vajrasattva tsog offering.

“Song to the Spring Queen"

Finally, when you recite the “Song to the Spring Queen”—that has very secret, extremely secret meanings, as you can see from the words in the stanzas—at that time your mind is in meditation, in the experience of the essence of the highest path of tantra. Your mind is in the experience of that which allows you to achieve enlightenment in one short lifetime of the age of degeneration—the unification of method and wisdom— non-dual with emptiness and enjoying that. Then you make strong, heartfelt requests to the dakas and dakinis. Their particular function is to respond to your requests. Why do we visualize dakas and dakinis in the merit field? Well, we visualize protectors—they have their own particular function, so we ask their help. The dakas and dakinis come before the protectors, and they too all have their particular jobs to do. I don’t know where their office is! Maybe in Los Angeles! Anyway, it doesn’t matter....

Make strong requests to the dakas and dakinis. It’s their job to grant blessings.

This is the essential meditation to do during this practice. Basically, it’s to request the dakas and dakinis to grant the blessing of the realization, or experience, of clear light. This allows you to quickly cease all defilements, gross and subtle; to cease the gross mind and to achieve enlightenment, the unification of holy body with holy mind, in this very lifetime, this one short lifetime of the degenerate age. You both request that and meditate on it. Even if you don’t have the actual experience, visualization of the experience serves to prepare your mind for the actual experience.

These have been a few words about what to do while reciting these prayers so that we can make our lives more productive, more beneficial for sentient beings.

Now it’s finished. There is now no more!


“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings—which are totally empty from their own side—may the I—which is totally empty from its own side— achieve Guru Vajrasattva’s enlightenment—which is also empty from its own side—and lead all sentient beings—who are also empty from their own side—to that enlightenment—which is also empty from its own side—by myself alone, who is also empty from its own side.”

Recite the buddhas’ names to increase the merits. [Recitation of the multiplying mantras.]

These buddhas’ names increase each merit 100,000 times and also help to actualize all the prayers that you have done.

“Due to the blessings of the eminent buddhas and bodhisattvas, unbetraying dependent arising and my special attitude, may all my pure prayers succeed immediately.”

So, good night.

Next Chapter:

Chapter 43: April 16 »