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 49: April 30-a


Good morning, everyone.

This is for all of us

Today we’re doing a long life puja, but it’s a long life puja for every one of us. What does it mean that this is everyone’s long life puja? We do this puja together. We all begin by taking strong refuge in the Guru-Triple Gem and we also do the rest of the practice together. In this way, we purify our minds and collect extensive merit. Therefore, any life obstacles there are, which arise from non-virtuous actions, get purified. That’s how reciting the prayers contained in this puja becomes a long life puja for every one of us. Without your long life, even if I lived long, I could not benefit others!

Not only that, but this Guru Puja contains the most secret, highest tantric subjects. This practice was done by all those ancient yogis, such as Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, and Lama Tsongkhapa as well. Just like Milarepa, who became enlightened in one brief lifetime of the degenerate age, who became enlightened in the same life in which he began to practice tantra, similarly, many of Lama Tsongkhapa’s disciples achieved full enlightenment in the same way. All those great yogis who achieved enlightenment in one brief lifetime of the degenerate age were able to do so mainly through their practice of guru yoga. They meditated on, or practiced, guru yoga, which is what enabled them to reach enlightenment quickly, in one brief lifetime of the degenerate age.

Even if we don’t know the subject—the commentary, or the meaning behind the subject matter of this puja—we are still extremely fortunate even to have the opportunity of reciting the words. We are extremely fortunate even to be able to hear the words of this most precious teaching of the quickest path to enlightenment.

So, my advertisement has now finished! Thank you very much.

[Puja begins.]

[Rice is distributed to Rinpoche and the sangha.] Buddha has inconceivable qualities, Dharma has inconceivable qualities, Sangha has inconceivable qualities. The result of having devotion to those who have these inconceivable qualities is also inconceivable. Through the merit of offering this most delicious Tibetan rice, may we all be born in the pure land.

[Puja continues.]

Thank you so much

I would like to thank Venerable Marcel very, very much for taking the time to lead this Vajrasattva retreat while he was also extremely busy with the Maitreya Project. It came out in the observations that it would be very beneficial for him to lead the Vajrasattva retreat, so he kindly took the time to do this—leading every session every day, showing great patience and everything. Therefore, I would like to thank Venerable Marcel very much for leading the Vajrasattva retreat. All the various practices that I recommended were done extremely well, were of good quality.

[Rinpoche offers something to Marcel, everyone claps.] That’s a gold coin to build a 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue!

Next, I would like to thank very much, from the bottom of my heart, the director of the FPMT International Office, Sharon, for her total dedication, devotion and sincerity. Since she offered herself to the organization to benefit sentient beings and the teaching of the Buddha, I would like to thank her very much for having done the job of director and request her to remain on the board of directors.

I would also like to thank the mother of Land of Medicine Buddha, Venerable Namdag, from the bottom of my heart for being a loving mother to everyone, taking responsibility for everything at LMB, bearing many hardships and showing great tolerance through it all. In particular, I would like to thank her for taking responsibility for organizing the Vajrasattva retreat.

After we made the decision to conduct this Vajrasattva retreat, we still weren’t sure where to hold it. So the director, Venerable Namdag, and Land of Medicine Buddha took responsibility for organizing it here at Land of Medicine Buddha. So thanks are due to her for her dedication— her service to me and the organization—in general, and for running LMB in particular. And especially for taking responsibility for this retreat.

All the merit that we had the opportunity of collecting every day is due to that. For example, each time we generate the motivation of bodhicitta, we collect merit like the sky. In just one Guru Puja there are so many practices through which we collect merit. With each offering we make, we collect inconceivable merit. When we do the practice of rejoicing, when we rejoice in our own merits of the three times and in the merits collected by others, we collect merit like the sky. By doing all these practices, by planting the seed of the path to enlightenment on the basis of guru devotion, we collect inconceivable merit and bring ourselves nearer to enlightenment and nearer to enlightening all sentient beings. With each prostration, we collect inconceivable merit. With each recitation of each of the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names, we purify many thousands of eons of negative karma, negativity collected not only in this life but from beginningless rebirths.

And especially doing Vajrasattva practice. As many Vajrasattva mantras as we have recited, that much negative karma have we purified.

There’s a huge difference between how we are now, after three months or however many days of Vajrasattva retreat have been done, and how we were before we started the retreat. It has made a huge difference—much of the negative karma created in this and previous lives won’t have to be experienced at all, and much of the rest has been made much lighter.

The more Vajrasattva we have been able to do, that much lighter has our karma become—inconceivable eons of suffering in the lower realms have become shorter and lighter or totally eliminated. Also, we have greatly decreased the amount of time we will have to experience samsaric suffering, which is like a bottomless ocean. And each day, in every session, we have collected inconceivable merit.

All this is due to Venerable Marcel and especially the organizer, Venerable Namdag, and all her helpers—the cook, Karen, and the rest of the staff here, all these young dakas and dakinis who serve every day with much tolerance, love and compassion. I would like to thank you all very, very much.

Vajrasattva Retreat

This retreat has been a great learning experience for the future by showing how such retreats should be set up. Although out of laziness I didn’t manage to retreat continuously for the three months or even get to all the sessions, I can see that the quality of practice at this Vajrasattva retreat has been very good. The powerful practices we did in the mornings —prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas and the Guru Puja—were extremely important. Such practices are the root of developing the mind in the path to enlightenment. Beginning the day with guru devotion by practicing something like the Guru Puja is really unbelievable; it’s fantastic.

The quality of this Vajrasattva retreat was really very good, especially with all those additional practices. Therefore, I am extremely happy with what happened.

My wish, however, is to hold a Vajrasattva retreat like this every three years or so. I think it would be incredibly beneficial. It’s not possible to do it every year, but we could manage every three years or so, in different countries around the world. Sometimes it can be done in Taiwan; it can be done in different parts of the world. It’s extremely beneficial.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I didn’t get to write a letter to His Holiness the Dalai Lama yet. I wanted you all to hear this letter offering the merits of your practice to His Holiness. What I would like to do is to send His Holiness a letter from Land of Medicine Buddha offering him the merits of all the mantras we have recited. [See Appendix 6.]

As I mentioned in the first talk, we can tally all the mantras counted by those who completed 100,000 and the totals of the people who didn’t finish that many and offer His Holiness the merits of all these mantras together with the merits of all the other practices we’ve done during this time—Vajrasattva practice, prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas, Guru Puja and so forth. We can dedicate all this merit for His Holiness, the Buddha of Compassion, to have a stable life and for all his holy wishes to succeed immediately, particularly the cause of Tibet. We can dedicate all this merit to the quickest possible success of His Holiness’s wishes for the freedom and independence of Tibet. We can then make the request, “Due to these merits, may Your Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Buddha of Compassion, guide us unceasingly in all future lifetimes, from now until our enlightenment. May all our actions become only most pleasing to your holy mind.”

I planned to write a short letter like this. I did mention at the very beginning of the retreat that you can dedicate the merits from your heart in this way. It’s not just for the letter. Anyway, all that we have been able to do has come about solely through the kindness of the Buddha of Compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Thanks again

As I just mentioned, all the merit we have collected and all the negative karma we have purified is through the kindness of the organizers, so I would like to thank everybody again.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who did the entire three-month Vajrasattva retreat or part of it. I would like to thank you very, very much, from the bottom of my heart. Your helping each other has been very beneficial. Coming here to practice together, to inspire each other, has been very beneficial.

The benefits of this retreat

Some of the retreat people I met expressed the wish to do this retreat again and were hoping another would be organized. This is an extremely good sign. However, by doing this retreat, whether you did the whole three months or just part of it, as much as you did, you have made your future lives that much easier—you have made it much easier to achieve realizations and have decreased the obstacles you will have to overcome.

Many obstacles—negative karma created in relation to your gurus, other holy objects and sentient beings—have been purified during this retreat.

You won’t encounter these in future lives.

Therefore, rejoice and enjoy your life with the inspiration that you’ve gained during this retreat and especially with bodhicitta, the thought of benefiting others.

Before, you may not have had that much feeling for Dharma, but now, after participating in the retreat, there’s more of a Dharma feeling in your heart. Your heart has become more Dharma than before. That’s a sign of having purified obscurations. You feel more compassion for others —that’s one of the best signs of purification; more devotion to the Triple Gem, more devotion to the guru, more faith in karma than before—those are the best signs of purification. Those are in addition to the signs explained in the texts—this dream, that dream, the other dream, all those dreams. Dreams of eating ice-cream, drinking milkshakes...anyway, I’m joking!

I think that’s all. I don’t want to mumble any more!

But I must also thank the co-director here, Angela, who has been the Dzambhala of Land of Medicine Buddha! And Kendall, the Spiritual Program Coordinator, too. And the rest of the staff. [Rinpoche gives each one a blessing; much applause.]

[Puja continues.]


“Due to all the past, present and future merit collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings—which is totally non-existent (we put in all this effort to collect merit and it’s totally non-existent!), totally non-existent from its own side—may the I—which is also totally non-existent from its own side—achieve the absolute guru, Guru Vajrasattva’s enlightenment—which is also totally non-existent from its own side—and lead all sentient beings—who are also totally non-existent from their own side—to that enlightenment—which is also totally non-existent from its own side—by myself alone—who is also totally non-existent from its own side.”

Then, finally, “May Lama Tsongkhapa’s stainless teachings of unified sutra and tantra be actualized within my own mind and within the minds of everyone else here—all these Dharma friends who practice together and support each other in collecting merit—and within the minds of all the students and benefactors of this organization—especially those who sacrifice their lives serving others and the teaching of the Buddha through this organization, including the organizers and staff here at Land of Medicine Buddha. May Lama Tsongkhapa’s stainless teaching of unified sutra and tantra be completely actualized in this very lifetime within us all, spread in the minds of all sentient beings, and may this teaching flourish forever.”

I would also like to thank very much all those who participated today, who attended the long life puja, especially Venerable Tarchin from Taiwan. Many of his students came from Taiwan today especially for this long life puja and made offerings to Nalanda Monastery and to individual monks and nuns. I would like to thank you all very much. Venerable Tarchin also wants to offer Nalanda Monastery at least $3,000 a year to help the sangha. After he finishes building his large temple in Taiwan, he wants to support the Western sangha at Nalanda.

I would like today’s money offerings to be divided into three parts—one for the Sangha Fund, one for the Vajrapani prayer wheel and the other for the large prayer wheel at the Aptos house.

Thank you very much.