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 7: February 9-c

EVENING: FINALVAJRASATTVA SESSION

 

Visualizing with Calling the Guru from Afar

On the crown of your head visualize your root virtuous friend, who is the encompassment of all the buddhas. Think, “All the buddhas manifested in this form in order to guide me. All the buddhas manifested in this ordinary form, to my ordinary mind, in this mistaken form, to my mistaken mind, to save me from the lower realms, from all of samsara and all the defilements, and to bring me to full enlightenment, which is the total cessation of all the faults of the mind and the completion of all realizations.

“May I never rise heresy even for one second in the actions of the glorious guru. With the devotion that sees every action done as pure, may I receive the blessings of the guru.

“Pal-den tsa-wa’i....”

Motivation for Vajrasattva practice

“Since my motivation is worldly concern, attachment clinging to this life, my activities today mostly became negative karma. It is the same for this week, this month, this year and since my birth—most of my actions became negative karma. And during my beginningless rebirths, I have created uncountable negative karmas, the results of which I have not finished experiencing. On top of that, during beginningless past lives, I have created heavy karma by committing the ten non-virtues; by breaking pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantric vows; and by committing negative actions in relation to my gurus.

“If I died now, I would immediately reincarnate in the lower realms. And it is uncertain when I could come back, when I could again receive a perfect human body with which to practice Dharma. Because of my negative karmas, I would have to experience eons of suffering in the hell realms.

“Practicing Vajrasattva right now is the best solution. I am unbelievably fortunate to have this opportunity to do Vajrasattva meditation-recitation. Therefore, I must purify right now, without even a second’s delay.

“For one hell being, my kind mother, who is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, to be suffering in the hell realm for one second is unbearable to me; it is as if that being is suffering for many eons. I must liberate it immediately from all its suffering and bring it to enlightenment.

“But there are numberless hell beings, and they are all the same in that they are the source of all my past, present and future happiness. They are experiencing unbelievably heavy suffering, so I must liberate them without even a second’s delay.

“For one preta being, who is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, to be experiencing the heaviest suffering of hunger and thirst for even one second is unbearable to me; it is as if it is suffering for eons. But there are numberless hungry ghosts, who are the source of all my past, present and future happiness. They are so precious in my life. Their suffering is unimaginable, so I must liberate them without even a second’s delay and bring them to enlightenment.

“For one animal being, my kind mother, who is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, to be experiencing the unimaginable suffering of the animal realm for even one second is unbearable to me; it is as if it is suffering for eons. I must liberate them without even a second’s delay and bring them to enlightenment. Now, there are numberless animals, my kind mothers, who are the source of all my past, present and future happiness. It is much more unbearable that numberless animals are suffering, so I must liberate them without even a second’s delay and bring them to enlightenment.

“Because my mind is hallucinating, I don’t see that human beings are totally hallucinating and trapped in the suffering of samsara. In reality, for one human being, the precious being who is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, to be suffering in samsara even for one second is unbearable to my mind; it is as if that person is suffering for eons. But numberless human beings, who are the source of all my past, present and future happiness, are experiencing unimaginable suffering, so this is much more unbearable. Therefore, I must liberate them and bring them to enlightenment, without even a second’s delay.

“It is the same with one asura being or with one sura being. My hallucinating mind doesn’t see their suffering, but in reality they are totally hallucinating and experience only suffering. For them to suffer even for one second is unbearable to my mind, as if they are suffering for eons. I must liberate them without even a second’s delay. It is even more unbearable that there are numberless asura and sura beings suffering in this way. Therefore, I must liberate them and bring them to enlightenment without even a second’s delay.

“It is the same with one intermediate state being. Its suffering for even one second is unbearable, as if it is suffering for eons. But there are numberless intermediate state beings. I must liberate them and bring them to enlightenment without even a second’s delay.

“Therefore, I must achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible”—or you can think, ‘without even a second’s delay.’—“To do this, I need to actualize the path to enlightenment. Therefore, because I need to purify my defilements, negative karma and downfalls, I am going to practice Vajrasattva.

“My Vajrasattva meditation-recitation is purely for each hell being, each preta being, each animal being, each human being, each asura being, each sura being, each intermediate state being. It is for each and every sentient being, including the members of my family and even my enemies.” If your parents or other members of your family have passed away, you can think that you are doing the Vajrasattva practice for them. Or if somebody has been very kind to you in the past and you want to do something for them, you can think of them.

Generating as Heruka

Since no offerings are involved in the short sadhana, you don’t need to become Heruka.

Thinking that the Negative Karmas are Purified

From the holy mouth of Vajrasattva, “Son of the race (or lineage), all your negative karmas, defilements and degenerated samaya vows collected during beginningless rebirths are completely purified.”

Think that your mind becomes totally pure, as Vajrasattva says. There is not the slightest negative karma or defilement left. There is nothing left of the ten non-virtuous actions. There is nothing left of the negative karmas from having broken the three types of vows. And there is nothing left of the heaviest negative karmas collected in relation to the guru. Everything has been completely purified. Nothing in the slightest is left on your mental continuum.

Concluding practices

Now practice the power of not committing negative actions again. Because of this practice, Guru Vajrasattva is extremely pleased with you and absorbs within you. Your own body, speech and mind become inseparable from Vajrasattva’s vajra holy body, vajra holy speech and vajra holy mind.

In emptiness, there is no I, there is no action of creating negative karma, there is no negative karma created. Everything is empty, like space. Keep your mind in the state of emptiness for a while.

With this awareness of emptiness, dedicate the merits: “Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may I achieve Guru Vajrasattva’s enlightenment and lead all sentient beings to that enlightenment by myself alone.”

Dedication

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and by all other sentient beings, may I, the members of my family, all the students and benefactors of this organization—especially those who sacrifice their lives to offer service to sentient beings and to the teachings of the Buddha through this organization—and those who rely upon me—whose names were given to me and for whom I promised to pray—have long and healthy lives and immediately accomplish all our wishes that accord with the holy Dharma.

“May we actualize the steps of the path to enlightenment, Lama Tsongkhapa’s stainless teaching, which unifies sutra and tantra, especially bodhicitta. May we completely actualize all these teachings in this very lifetime, without even a second’s delay.” This is a very important dedication. “May all the meditation centers and the centers that offer service to others, such as the hospices and the leprosy project, become wish-fulfilling for all sentient beings, immediately pacifying their sufferings of body and mind. In particular, 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.

“May all the projects of this organization receive all their needs. For example, just here at Land of Medicine Buddha there are many projects to be accomplished—the hospice, the Medicine Buddha temple, 100,000 stupas, the school and so forth. May all the rest of the projects of this organization, including Rockin’ for Freedom and the 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue, succeed immediately through receiving all their needs. May the 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue be completed in one second through receiving everything that is needed.

“May all these centers, projects and statues cause the generation of loving kindness, compassion and bodhicitta in the minds of all sentient beings. And due to that, may no sentient being ever experience anything undesirable, such as war, famine, disease, earthquake, or danger from fire, water and so forth. May these undesirable things cease to exist even in name. May all these centers, projects and statues cause all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.”

This is the ultimate goal, the ultimate purpose. We can then dedicate for the teachings of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and Lama Tsongkhapa to spread in all directions and to flourish forever.

“May all the virtuous friends, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Ösel Rinpoche, have stable lives and may all their holy wishes be accomplished.

“Like Lama Tsongkhapa, may Lama Ösel Rinpoche be able to offer benefit as extensive as the sky to all sentient beings by showing the same qualities that Lama Tsongkhapa had.

“May anybody whose name has been given to me, for whom I have promised to pray or who relies upon me, all those who have passed away, and the numberless sentient beings who are now suffering unimaginably in the lower realms be liberated immediately from all those heaviest sufferings of samsara and reincarnate in a pure land where they can immediately become enlightened; or may they receive a perfect human body in all their future lifetimes and achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible through meeting a properly 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 just my hearing that someone is sick cause that person to recover immediately. And may just my hearing that somebody has died cause that sentient being to immediately be liberated from the lower realms and reincarnate in a pure land where they can become enlightened. Or, if that person is born as a human being but with no freedom to practice Dharma, may that person receive a perfect human body and, by meeting a perfectly qualified Mahayana guru and the Mahayana teachings, achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.”

If possible, do this last dedication as above, to make it broader and unique.

The purpose of giving advice on how to do Vajrasattva retreat

One point I want to emphasize is that my purpose in telling you how to do this and that meditation or prayer is to educate you about how to guide a Vajrasattva retreat. If somebody later asks you how to do a Vajrasattva retreat, you will know what to explain to them. It’s an education in how to do Vajrasattva meditation in order to make it effective.

Doing Vajrasattva retreat is not simply about reciting the mantra and saying some prayers. It is about making the practice effective for your mind, making it the quickest, most powerful way to transform your mind. You are learning how to make the Vajrasattva meditation-recitation the most powerful purification. It’s an education in how to guide a Vajrasattva retreat, so that you, both sangha and lay people, can teach others how to do Vajrasattva retreat in the future. As well as this, you are learning how to do Lama Chöpa, or Guru Puja, in an effective way. The arrangement of the prayers helps you do the practice effectively.

Lama Ösel's Long Life Prayer

It would be very good to recite Lama Ösel’s long life prayer every day. If you want, you can recite the Mickey Mouse long-life prayer maybe once a week. You should recite Lama Ösel’s long-life prayer because Lama Ösel can bring real benefit. This “benefit” doesn’t necessarily mean a large number of people; it doesn’t necessarily mean having many billions of disciples. The disciples can be very few, perhaps only ten, but there can still be incredible benefit. With even one disciple there can be incredible benefit—but that’s another topic. People usually think of benefit in terms of a large number, like hundreds of thousands or billions, but benefit is not defined by number alone. Sometimes one person is of more benefit than hundreds of people. Benefit depends on many factors. Someone can bring great benefit through a large number of people or through even one person.

Concluding prayers

After Nagarjuna’s Praise to Mahakala, you can read a few of the dedications, recite Lama Ösel’s long-life prayer, then on alternate days recite “Der-ni ring-du...,”the final dedication prayer at the very end of Jor-chö, and Losang Gyal-ten-ma,the prayer for the spread of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching.

Reciting Losang Gyal-ten-ma is very good because it describes the special qualities of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings; so it also becomes a meditation on the path. It is a prayer to meet Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings —“to meet” means to actualize the path within you. The real meeting is having not only scriptural understanding, but realization of the path taught and actualized by Lama Tsongkhapa. Intellectual understanding of the path is a type of meeting, but it is not the real meeting.

The real meeting is when you actually experience the path, when your mind is transformed into Lama Tsongkhapa’s path. There are different prayers for the flourishing of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. Losang Gyal-ten-ma is the common one, and there is another by Pabongka Rinpoche, which defines all the special qualities of the whole lam-rim path. When you do some research and compare Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings to other teachings, you can see the difference. There is a special clarity in the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa.

Rinpoche's Bodhicitta Hat

This hat is made of cloth from the robes of the Shakyamuni Buddha statue in Lhasa, the statue that was blessed by Buddha himself. The cloth came from that statue in Tibet. Ribur Rinpoche made a hat for himself and gave me this one. Rinpoche told me to wear it all the time.