It is not necessary to do Vajrasattva practice only in sitting meditation; we can also combine Vajrasattva practice with prostrations. By doing Vajrasattva practice with prostrations, we can accomplish two preliminary practices at the same time. Three months of such practice is extremely powerful and beneficial. We accumulate merit and perform powerful purification not only with the Vajrasattva practice but also with the prostrations.
It is said that for every atom covered by our body when we do one prostration, we create infinite merit; we create the karma to be born as a wheel-turning king one thousand times. Many of the wheel-turning kings are bodhisattvas who use their wealth and power to perform extensive works for sentient beings. They use all their resources to help sentient beings, and through benefiting others in this way they again accumulate unbelievable merit.
To take even one rebirth as a wheel-turning king requires inconceivable merit, and for each atom covered when we do one prostration we create the cause to take rebirth as a wheel-turning king one thousand times. Now, consider how many atoms we cover when we do prostrations. There are numberless atoms from the ground beneath us down through to the other side of the earth, so the taller and bigger we are, the more atoms we cover and the more merit we accumulate. With each prostration we do, we accumulate inconceivable merit.
It's very important when we do prostrations to stretch out the limbs as much as possible—whatever we can stretch out, how many we can stretch out, how much we can stretch out. That time even the hair, if you have long hair, it is good if that time, rather than keeping it tight, you let your hair cover the ground. When you put your head on the floor, the hair is that which makes to cover the ground. So as much as you can cover the ground, it is unbelievable merit.
Think, first of all, that there is no way to experience happiness without the good karma—first of all, have clear, strong faith in this; otherwise all these benefits don't make much sense to the mind. So, first having that development of the mind is very, very important. Then, depending on how strong our faith and understanding of karma is, then all these benefits of preliminary practices make big sense and also we can enjoy more benefits. We can hear, we can enjoy more doing the preliminary practices and we can rejoice, so each time we rejoice that increases the merit. There is so much merit, and it becomes double and triple like that. So that is very important, first.
However, somehow by doing the practice then it happens that our faith and devotion, these things, get developed. Somehow by doing the study and the meditation, somehow it happens. It's like taking the medicine—somehow some change happens in the disease, in the patient's sicknesses, so like that.
So, first of all, that. If more preliminary practice is done—if guru devotion meditation and more preliminary practice is done, then we have more faith in karma, then there is more enjoyment in our life by doing the practice, because we can see so much what we can do with the life. There's so much enjoyment, so much to enjoy by creating the unmistaken cause of temporary and ultimate happiness and enlightenment.
So, when we do prostrations, covering one atom has incredible benefit, merit. Then, each time we are born as a wheel-turning king and we can accumulate so much unbelievable merit during each life. Even this much hair or nails, whatever can cover the ground during prostration time; the long nails become very beneficial. At other times when we get angry, we scratch somebody's face and at that time our nails become implements of the anger, just as the protectors have the implements; so at that time, all the limbs, the mouth, everything becomes an implement of anger, the protector of anger.
Even the feet—stretch the toes—stretch out everything as much as possible. Also, one guru—from whom quite a number of us here received the teaching of the pill, the Taking the Essence, chu-len, the fasting, to be able to do the practice without need of food, but living on the pill—so Gen Jampa Wangdu said that when we do prostrations, if our arms go over the ground, the more we are able to cover, so he thinks there is more merit. That is very important.
The first thing is—even if we are prostrating to one statue, like Shakyamuni Buddha—then think, the very first thing, the most important thing to remember, is that this is the guru. So we can think that statue is the root guru, we can think like that. So it is the same when we make offerings at the altar—how many statues, thangkas or holy objects are at the altar—the first thing to be aware of is that these are all the embodiment of the root guru.
So, the root guru is the embodiment of all other gurus from whom we have received Dharma contact. So the first thing to remember is that. This accumulates most extensive merit, so this is the most important thing to remember. As I also explained during the refuge—when the day refuge was given, I also explained to those who are here who have taken refuge—I also explained the four ways, the four skillful means of how to accumulate the most extensive merit by motivation, by the body living in the vows, even the most number, the highest, then the power of the object, also how to make the object most powerful is to think of the guru.
Then, the object of the phenomena that we give, so what is the thing that accumulates the most merit? There are four. So the object that accumulates the most merit is the Dharma, teaching Dharma. So much merit. It is said in the teachings that there is much more merit giving one verse of Dharma to a sentient being than three galaxies filled with jewels. So by counting from one universe—I don't remember now, one hundred million universe, then ten times of that, then ten times of that; there's ways to count, I don't remember now—but three galaxies filled with jewels, seven precious jewels, including diamonds, gold, all these things. Giving sentient beings one verse, teaching one verse to sentient beings has far more greater merit than giving that much wealth to sentient beings—three galaxies filled up with seven types of jewels.
There are four skillful means; there are four different powers and by practicing these then we accumulate most extensive merit. "Most extensive merit" means the most extensive cause of happiness.
So, first is motivation, then after that we set up the position, keeping our feet together. So, motivation of bodhicitta, then we put the palms together and do prostrations—putting our hands here on the crown, then on the forehead, then the throat and the heart. Putting on the crown becomes the cause to receive the pinnacle, the holy sign. Then putting on the forehead becomes the cause for the zupu, the hair which has this much length; white hair that curls is one of the Buddha's holy signs and the pinnacle is also one of Buddha's holy signs. So the zupu, the hair between the eyebrows, we create the cause for that. Here we create the cause for the holy speech, which has infinite qualities. Then we create the cause to achieve the holy mind, which has infinite qualities. This one also creates the cause to achieve Buddha's holy body, which has infinite qualities. We also purify the negative karmas accumulated with the body—negative karmas and obscurations accumulated with the body, speech and mind.
So we can think that. We can do different meditations, so when we prostrate like this, then the holy objects, how many there are, by thinking that they are guru, theTriple Gem, we prostrate to each of them. Here we think that the essence of these holy objects is also the essence of all the ten direction holy objects. This means all the holy objects in Tibet, India, Nepal, and all the Buddhist countries, anywhere—one person's room has how many altars; how many holy objects there are, so even if we have one Buddha statue or one Buddha painting, whatever we have, how many there are—so each one, the essence of these is the essence of all the ten direction holy objects. So, that includes everything.
Here, all the ten direction actual living holy beings, the ten direction buddhas, the Sanghas, ______ the actual ten direction buddhas, Sangha, their realizations are Dharma. Then here, again prostrating to all the ten direction holy objects. Prostrating to one holy object without thinking about any guru is nothing; but just one prostration to a Buddha statue, simply respecting like this, has eight benefits. These are to be born with a perfect body, in perfect surroundings— in other words, which are harmonious—that they listen to what we wish for and they do things to help. Living in the morality and having devotion, which is the root of the path to enlightenment—without devotion, nothing happens in the mind. Having a brave attitude, so we get born as a deva or human being in the next life. Then, we become enlightened. So there are about eight benefits, simply by respecting one statue of Buddha like this.
This happens even if there's no particular motivation. The three levels of motivation are explained in the lam-rim, even if we don't have that, just simply respecting like this—even if the motivation is just imitation because somebody is doing it, so we are doing like that. Or even if we are doing it out of anger, even with negative thoughts; even if the mind is not respectful, but physically it is respectful, so even that becomes good karma in this case, because of the power of the object. So it's like an atomic bomb; it is small, but it can destroy so much. One small thing can destroy many countries so much, so like that, for example, there are many things which one small object can destroy, such as large cities or the large, whole country, many things. So like that, it's due to the power of the object.
Fire can burn things—it can burn a whole mountain. One small fire can burn a whole city, so it's the power of the object. There are many examples like that, of the power of the object, Buddha, which came from the compassion. So anyway, even physically respecting like this has eight benefits.
So, now these eight good results; when you do like this to each one that exists in the ten directions, there is inconceivable merit. The karma that we create, one small good karma that we create with the holy objects, the result doesn't fit in our mind—all the enjoyments, all the resultant good karma, doesn't fit in ordinary people's conception. It doesn't fit in our mind—karma is expandable, it’s unbelievable, but so much result from such a small good karma doesn't fit.
Therefore it’s so important, as we have the opportunity now, before death comes, before the mind separates from this precious human body, to take the opportunity as much as possible. Like the business person from every part of the world trying to make—wherever there's profit to make—trying to make profit from all the ten directions, so like that. From every single thing, trying to make profit, trying to make money, as there's opportunity. But that is nothing—even if we succeed it's just external material, but in the sense of karma, if there's no good motivation that does not become virtue; it's non-virtue and only creates the cause of suffering. But here, we are only creating the cause of happiness.
trong nectar-beams are emitted from the merit field, from the holy objects on the altar, from all the buddhas in the ten directions. If you are doing the Thirty-five Buddhas' practice, think that they are all in the aspect of the Thirty-five Buddhas. If you are doing Vajrasattva practice, think that they are all in the aspect of Vajrasattva. While you are reciting the Vajrasattva mantra, think that they are all Vajrasattva. The most skillful way to practice is to combine it with the guru and think that they are all Guru Vajrasattva. So, nectar beams are emitted from the holy objects on the altar and from all the ten direction buddhas, who are all in the aspect of Vajrasattva. Like strong beams of sunlight, these nectar-beams enter within your own mind and body, and you are completely illuminated.
Before doing the prostrations, visualize yourself as Thousand-arm Chenrezig. Think that you have the tallest, largest body imaginable. You are as huge as a mountain. At this time it is good to think of yourself as fat as possible. The whole idea is to cover as much ground as possible. Visualize numberless replicas of your own body, surrounded by all sentient beings, and with you acting as the leader, all doing prostrations together and purifying together.
As you lie down, quickly think again of the guru-Triple Gem. On top of that, think of all the holy objects and all the buddhas in the ten directions. By thinking in this way, you accumulate infinite merit with one prostration, because you have done prostration to all the holy objects and holy beings in the ten directions.
The most important point in the prostration practice is to remember the object of prostration is the guru. The second point is to visualize as many replicas of your body as you can. If you have visualized yourself as Thousand-arm Chenrezig, think that you are extremely tall and that the whole area surrounding the altar is filled with replicas of yourself. The whole ground is covered in every direction by numberless prostrating Chenrezigs. Especially when you are lying down, remember all of them—numberless Chenrezigs are covering the whole earth. This is one way to accumulate more extensive merit.
Even if your limbs are crippled with arthritis or some other disease so that you cannot prostrate, you don't need to be depressed. You can still do nyung-näs and similar practices by visualizing yourself doing prostrations. You can visualize many bodies doing prostrations and accumulate the same merit as the people who are doing prostrations. The merit accumulated by visualizing yourself doing a full-length prostration is the same as that accumulated by physically doing the prostration. Therefore, the teachings advise us that it is very important to visualize as many bodies as possible. Visualize billions of bodies that cover the whole earth.
Visualizing many bodies and remembering the guru are the two most important techniques that cause prostrations to become the means to accumulate extensive merit. With each practice, there is a key that makes the practice most beneficial for quick enlightenment, and it is very important not to neglect this point.
When you are practicing with the Thirty-five Buddhas, the Twenty-one Taras, or some other deities, the teachings generally explain that white light is emitted to purify you, then a replica of the merit field absorbs into you as you lie down. If you find it difficult to visualize a replica absorbing into each of your bodies because you have visualized so many of them, in that case you can visualize the absorption at the end when you have finished the prostrations.
Even for prostrations as a preliminary practice, it is good to do the retreat on the highest mountain, since there is no question that you will cover many more atoms that way. Just as people put their surfboard on the roof of their car and head for the beach when the weather is sunny, you should carry your prostration board to the top of Mount Everest, since this is the highest mountain, and do your prostrations there. You might not get a gold medal from the Queen of England for climbing the mountain, but at least you will get enlightenment.
There is a difference even between doing prostrations on the floor and on a bed. Since beds in the West are large and soft, it is easy and comfortable to prostrate on them.
So, you can do some of your Vajrasattva mantras by sitting and some by prostrating. There is much more merit if you can do the mantras with prostrations in this way.
In the morning it's very good if you can do Jorcho or Lama Chöpa, then if you have the commitment do the six-session yoga, then maybe do Lama Chöpa. If you cannot do Lama Chöpa then do six-session yoga—the long version six-session yoga. Those who have taken the initiation can do this or Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. Do one of these; that which also becomes six-session yoga, by integrating all the prayers into that, taking vows.
So even from the very beginning, when you recite sangye cho dang.... that time, you can also think that you have received the vows, bodhisattva vows. That's a short way to take; a very short way to take. So anyway, you can put also tantric vows and prayers—for example, in the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, where it says confessing the degenerated vows, especially degenerating vows—then you can recite the tantric prayer, taking tantric vows, bodhisattva vows, you can do there, like that, in that section.
At the beginning of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga practice, before visualizing Tushita, there is refuge, the immeasurables, then taking the bodhisattva vows, what comes at the beginning of the six-session yoga, the long version, the same thing. That part you can do, then at the beginning of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, you can do also like that. Instead of visualizing Vajradhara, visualize Lama Tsongkhapa, so you can also do like that. You can integrate like that.
After the bodhisattva vows, if you wish to recite the tantric vows, also the short tantric vow prayer, you can do also, this might be okay. So, then the guru entering the heart; that is there and then experiencing bliss...
...the samaya mudra, the unification of method and wisdom—meditating with the mind in the dharmakaya, then combined with the deity's form, meditating on the result-time rupakaya or the holy body. So, combining is also there. This practice is also there after the guru enters—that comes with the practice of the guru entering the heart.
Even with the meditation, if you are unable to do those things or if you don't have those commitments to do, however, in the morning, if it is Tara that you practice, you can do the preliminaries either with Tara or with whichever deity you do. Do refuge, the four immeasurables, then special bodhicitta, then after that do the seven-limb practice and mandala offering with three requests, reciting every time in Lama Chöpa. Purify all the wrong conceptions of yourself and other sentient beings, then generate all the right realizations in your mind and in the mind of other sentient beings, pacifying all the outer and inner obstacles.
Then after that, read one of the lam-rim prayers, and after that do lam-rim meditation, using Essence of Refined Gold or The Essential Nectar or one of the books that goes straight over the subjects. “That which goes straight” means without many elaborations. In a sense, for somebody who doesn't have much capacity of mind, it's easier to go straight, like that.
In the morning, the first thing might be to do like this. You can do prostrations during the seven- limb practice, where the second one is confession—after the prostration and offering, there is confession. So you can do prostrations there; anyway, before you recite the seven-limb prayer, do prostrations.
It's good to begin with the Thirty-five Buddhas' names, just one time, then do Vajrasattva. Another thing is when everything is finished—the lam-rim prayer, direct meditation, then a little bit of meditation on lam-rim, the elaborate meditation, beginning from guru devotion, like that. Which meditation you do is according to the level of your own mind, however, if there's no realization then you have to begin from the beginning of the path, with guru devotion and perfect human rebirth. So you can do prostrations after finishing these things— little bit of prostrations you can do. If you don't do the prostrations before; if it's more convenient to do after this lam-rim meditation, then you can also do it here.
It might be good to do some strong lam-rim meditation in the morning, and it is good to do ten or fifteen minutes of lam-rim meditation before the other sessions. Even though the main retreat is Vajrasattva, you should still do ten or fifteen minutes, or even half an hour, of lam-rim meditation.
During not only Vajrasattva but any retreat, the most important point is to remember death. With the actual realization of impermanence and death, spontaneously feel that you do not have long to live, that the appearance of this life is very brief and you could die at any time, even today. Even if you don't have this realization, it is good if you at least feel that you might die this month. Gen Jampa Wangdu used to say that nowadays it is difficult even to realize this, to have a constant feeling that you may die this month.
This realization is connected with awareness of karma and of the sufferings of the lower realms. Without awareness of these, you cannot practice Dharma even for your own happiness, let alone for the benefit of other sentient beings. Meditating on death doesn't make much sense unless is effective in controlling your mind. If your idea is just to change to another human body, you don't see any sense in it because the human realm has the nature of suffering just like the hells. You need to meditate on death with awareness of all these other subjects, because then it makes sense and becomes a powerful way to control your mind.
You also need to generate strong bodhicitta. After going over the sufferings of the lower realms, think that there are numberless sentient beings suffering in this way. First of all, you can't stand your own suffering for even a second. Besides experiencing it, you can't even stand to hear about it. But there are numberless other sentient beings who are suffering right now, and your own suffering is nothing compared to theirs. Even if you are suffering in hell, your own suffering is nothing when compared to the numberless other sentient beings who are suffering in the same way. Therefore, there is no way you can relax; there is no way you can ignore them. You have to practice Dharma; you have to do something for them.
Other sentient beings need you to pacify all their suffering and its causes and to lead them to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment. You have all the conditions necessary to practice the path and to achieve enlightenment, so you have the responsibility to do this. Achieving enlightenment is the only way you will be able to work perfectly for all sentient beings and lead them to enlightenment. Therefore, you need to purify your obstacles, because unless you do this, you will not be able to subdue your mind and grow the crops of the realizations of the path to enlightenment in the field of your mental continuum. Purifying obstacles is fertilizing the field of your mental continuum. By stopping the obstacles, you plant the crops of realizations and allow them to grow.
First meditate on how unbearable it would be if you yourself were born in the lower realms and had to experience that suffering. The more unbearable you feel this would be for you, the more unbearable you will feel that other sentient beings have to suffer in this way. And even those who are now human beings or gods will also have to be reborn in the lower realms and suffer there. Simply think of the sufferings of the lower realms in this way.
Generate a strong thought of impermanence and death. Think, "I will die today. I might even die during this session. I'm not sure that I will complete the session." Decide that you are going to die today.
On top of that, generate strong bodhicitta, which depends on strong compassion, which depends on feeling it is unbearable that others are suffering in samsara. The other point to consider is the kindness of other sentient beings. One way to do this is to think of how sentient beings have been our mother and kind in four ways. Another way is to think of their extensive kindness, of how this perfect human rebirth and its causes have been received through the kindness of other sentient beings and how the happiness of our future lives, liberation, and enlightenment are received wholly through the kindness of other sentient beings. All our happiness of the three times is received through the kindness of each sentient being. Even the comforts and enjoyments of our daily life are received through the kindness of sentient beings. Think of the kindness of sentient beings as extensively as you can. And in particular, remember the special kindness of your enemy. This helps you to feel strong loving kindness, which can then help you to generate strong bodhicitta.
Doing lam-rim meditation at the beginning of each session is very good, because it becomes your motivation for the session. It doesn't matter whether you are meditating on your own suffering or the suffering of others or on the kindness of others.
When you are meditating on perfect human rebirth, after you generate the experience of how precious it is, you can then think of the suffering of the sentient beings who do not have these freedoms and richnesses. For example, the minds of wealthy people are dark and empty if they have no idea of Dharma, of karma and reincarnation. Their minds are filled with ignorance. Even though they are physically rich, they are mentally poor. Their minds are impoverished of Dharma. They don't really know what they are doing with their life. They believe that they are pursuing the cause of happiness, but the reality is the complete opposite. They are creating only the cause of suffering. From morning until night, by following the desire that clings to the happiness of this life, they do actions that become only the cause of the lower realms. They have no idea what happens after this life; they have no idea of all the inexpressible sufferings of samsara and in particular of the lower realms. They have no idea what they are doing with their life.
Even though they are experiencing excitement by going to parties and so forth, whatever excitement they are experiencing is hallucinated. They label suffering as pleasure and it then appears to them to be pleasure. That's it. And the result in the long run is only suffering.
Reflecting in this way causes you to generate compassion. Those who have not met Dharma, who have not received the freedoms and richnesses become objects of compassion and a reason for you to achieve enlightenment. Since you are responsible for the happiness of all these sentient beings, and especially their ultimate happiness, which means enlightenment, and for freeing them from all their suffering and its causes, again you have to achieve enlightenment. Therefore, you need to do the practice of purification. You can relate each lam-rim meditation you do in this same way.
During the Vajrasattva retreat, as I mentioned before, it is very important to remember to practice the remedy of the four powers in each session.
Another point is to remember as many negative karmas as you can while you are reciting the Vajrasattva mantra. First think of the ten non-virtues you have committed and then of whichever vows you have taken and then degenerated. Remember the great shortcomings of degenerating pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and tantric vows as explained in the teachings. It results in rebirth in the lower realms, such as in the hells and so forth. Remember these things and the specific negative karmas you have committed in relation to the guru and to other sentient beings.
The last thing is to remember the definition of non-virtue: non-virtue is that which results in suffering. Also remember that actions become non-virtuous through our having a non-virtuous motivation, such as anger, ignorance, especially the desire that clings to this life. Then think that this is the way that you usually live your life. Out of the actions that you do each day, it is hard to find even one action that is virtuous; most of your actions are non-virtuous. Even if you have met the Dharma and are trying to practice it, because your mind is still very uncontrolled, your actions are mostly non-virtuous. By thinking of the definition of non-virtue, you can see very clearly that so many of your actions become non-virtuous. This causes you to feel strong repentance and to generate the wish to purify. Otherwise, if we relate non-virtue simply to killing a human being or something similar, since we haven't committed that particular negative karma in this life, we might think that we are fine, and our practice of purification will not become powerful.
While you recite the Vajrasattva mantra, think that your root guru, who is all the gurus, is purifying you. Then remember the meaning of the absolute guru, the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, the holy mind of all the buddhas. Concentrating single-pointedly on this, recite the mantra.
You can then recite the mantra while meditating that the guru is Buddha and on the kindness of the guru. On the basis of the guru devotion outlines, you can recite the mantra.
The Vajrasattva mantra takes the form of a request. Especially when you finish reciting the mantra, it is good to meditate on emptiness. Those who have received a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation can meditate that Guru Vajrasattva absorbs into their heart. Those who have not received a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation should think that Vajrasattva melts into light and absorbs through their crown or between their eyebrows. Think that your body, speech, and mind are blessed.
Before the absorption, Vajrasattva says, "O son of the race, all your negative karmas, obscurations, and degenerated samayas are completely purified." Generate strong faith that this has really happened, that they have all been purified. At this point, you then make the determination not to commit these actions again, which is the last power.
It is important to make this determination so that it does not become lying. If you say, "I won't do this again," but in your mind you know that what you are saying is not true, you are telling a lie. You are cheating the holy objects of the gurus and buddhas. With the gross actions that you can abandon completely, you make the determination to abandon them from now on. With the more subtle ones related to vows and so forth, which are extremely difficult to abandon, you promise to abandon them for a short time, even for a few seconds. This is what lamas generally advise to do. With some actions you can promise to abandon them for one day; with the ones that are more difficult, you can promise to abandon them for even a few seconds. Even a few seconds of meditating on emptiness can help a lot. If you are practicing Highest Yoga Tantra, meditating on bliss and voidness helps you to keep the other vows that are so difficult to. This is the skillful way to practice the power of making the determination not to commit the negative action again.
Vajrasattva then absorbs within you. If you have not received a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, Vajrasattva melts into light and absorbs within you through your crown or between your eyebrows. Think that you are blessed.
After that, think, "In emptiness there is no I, the creator of negative karma; no action of creating negative karma; and no negative karma." As I explained during the teaching, this refers to the absence of true existence of the I, the action and the negative karma. These are all empty. In emptiness there is no I, no action, no negative karma. Stay there a little while concentrating single-pointedly on this. This brings very powerful purification.
The Diamond Sutra mentions that memorizing one stanza of a teaching on emptiness creates far greater merit than offering the buddhas the seven types of precious jewels filling worlds equal in number to the number of atoms of water in worlds equal to the sand grains of the Ganges River ("Ganges River" might refer to the river in India or to the ocean). If memorizing one stanza has that much benefit, the merit created by actually meditating on emptiness must be unbelievable, even if you meditate for just a few minutes.
At the end, make a pure dedication, as I have mentioned many times.
If you are training your mind to have the spontaneous realization of a particular lam-rim meditation, you can do that meditation while you are reciting the Vajrasattva mantra. Whatever remains to be done of the lam-rim meditation, you can do in the second, third and fourth sessions. When you meditate on a deity there are specific tantric meditations to do, but when your mind becomes tired or bored with them, you can do lam-rim meditation. When your mind is not only tired of doing the tantric meditations but also very uncontrolled with many strong delusions such as desire, anger, jealousy and so forth arising, it is also a good thing to meditate more on lam-rim as you recite the mantra. This applies not only to Vajrasattva retreat but to any deity retreat. This is the way to control your mind so that your retreat becomes powerful and pure.
With Vajrasattva practice, there are the specific meditations of purifying downward, purifying upwards, and instantaneous purification. You can also do the four Highest Yoga Tantra initiations with Vajrasattva meditation-recitation. I explained how to do this the last time I was in Dharamsala. This is the shortest way to do self-initiation, and it can purify everything, including all degenerated tantric root vows.
Those are the uncommon four initiations, and there are also the common four initiations that you can do with Vajrasattva, which develop the potential to achieve the four kayas. You visualize that you receive the four initiations, leave the potential to achieve the four kayas, and receive permission to meditate on the four tantric paths. Each time you do this, you develop the potential of your mind to quickly achieve enlightenment.
Also, in the break-time, since you are doing purification practice, it is good to concentrate more on karma. Relate everything that happens in your break-times—the people you see and the environment—to karma. Think about how everything comes from your own mind, in the different ways that I explained.
If you can restrict your talking and other unnecessary activities in the break-times, your retreat will be more effective as your mind will be calmer during the sessions.