Monday, 30 December 2013

Purifying the Past with Vajrasattva, the New Year Buddha

The night before

followed by...

...the morning after

That's what many of us say on the first of January - and it isn't just about the after effects of New Year's Eve.

Never, ever, again!

New Year is the traditional time for kicking old harmful habits, and resolving to stop causing further hurt to ourselves and others.

A fresh start


The Vajrasattva visualisation and meditation gives us a fresh start by purifying harmful, negative tendencies and states of mind.

The practice consists of visualising Buddha Vajrasattva (small - about 6 inches tall - not full-sized like a human) above the crown of our heads. He doesn't come from anywhere in particular, he just appears. We believe he is there but don't need detailed visualisations.

Vajrasattva purification relies upon the four opponent powers, which are...

1) Reliance
2) Regret
3) Opponent force
4) Promise

Vajrasattva is the Buddha of Purification.

Reliance helps pacify and weaken negative karma, it involves going for refuge and developing a mind of boddhichitta .

Any negative actions we have committed in the past were either towards objects of refuge, or towards sentient beings.

Negative actions against objects of refuge are purified by going for refuge. We go for refuge to Vajrasattva, regarding him as the synthesis of all objects of refuge.

Negative actions against sentient beings are purified by developing bodhicitta. We think of all living beings as precious and dedicate ourselves to their welfare, and to abandoning causing them suffering. We may wish to visualise that we are surrounded by all living beings and they are also purifying by relying on Vajrasattva.

Caring for all living beings

We develop a sincere regret for all the harmful actions that we have performed against sentient beings. Regret is not the same as guilt. Guilt is a negative state of mind that increases confusion and self-hatred. It leads nowhere and functions only to weaken our will.

Regret, on the other hand, is an admission of our mistakes coupled with a positive intention to learn from them by not repeating them. In other words, we are performing a tantric transmutation by transforming our negative history into our future spiritual path.

Opponent force
The mantra is the opponent force that purifies the actual negativities. We can mentally or audibly recite the long or short mantras. When we are reciting we are requesting Vajrasattva to purify us.

We visualise a moon cushion at Vajrasattva's heart on which is the white letter HUM. Standing around this are the letters of the mantra. From the mantra white light rays and white nectar pour down and purify us from top to bottom, pushing out negativities. All dirty substances leave by lower orifices.

Negative karma leaves as dirty liquid. Mental and physical sicknesses leave as pus, blood, worms and other creepy-crawlies.

Then we feel completely clean, our body is just pure white light.

If we have a particular problem, we visualise that problem being expelled.

The fourth opponent power is the power of promise to gradually abandon harmful actions. We can't purify without making a promise to refrain. Promise purifies the tendency to repeat bad habits which harm ourselves and others. Promise plants the seeds of new tendencies which destroy old tendencies.

At this point we make a realistic promise to avoid negative actions. We don't make promises we can't keep, but make a determination to overcome all negative actions eventually.

Finally, Vajrasattva dissolves into us, and our body, speech and mind become inseparable from Vajrasattva.

We then dedicate the merit we have accumulated by practising the Vajrasattva purification to the happiness of all sentient beings.

12 steps
Although we may joke about the after-effects of New Year's Parties, for some people alcohol is a year-long nightmare. The Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step program requires alcoholics to acknowledge they are helpless against their addiction until they go for refuge to a Higher Power.

For Buddhists, Vajrasattva is such a Higher Power who can help to break addicitions to alcohol, drugs, food etc

Wishing all sentient beings


Vajrasattva Mantra Song and Video

Buddhist Christmas

Buddhist Candlemas

Buddhist Halloween

Seasonal Festivals




Anonymous said...

Vajrasattra like all the Vajrayana Buddhas are frauds.

Vajrayana is the path to obtain enlightenment for _all_ beings. If any being had accomplished this path and became a Buddha there would be no suffering anywhere. This is clearly not the case.

Vajrasattva like the other Vajrayana Buddhas are only Buddhas on paper and in books.

There seems to be only Buddhas on the Theravardin path, the path to obtain enlightenment for _oneself_ but maybe they are still on the Theravardin path also.

The Tibetan lamas and Rinpoches are still sleeping in there silly miracles that exist in Vajrayana to see this obvious problem.

seanrobsville said...

@ Anonymous
"If any being had accomplished this path and became a Buddha there would be no suffering anywhere. This is clearly not the case."

To quote Wiki

"...a bodhisattva can choose any of three paths to help sentient beings in the process of achieving buddhahood. They are:

king-like bodhisattva - one who aspires to become buddha as soon as possible and then help sentient beings in full fledge;
boatman-like bodhisattva - one who aspires to achieve buddhahood along with other sentient beings and
shepherd-like bodhisattva - one who aspires to delay buddhahood until all other sentient beings achieve buddhahood. Bodhisattvas like Avalokiteśvara and Śāntideva are believed to fall in this category.

According to the doctrine of some Tibetan schools (like Theravāda but for different reasons), only the first of these is recognized. It is held that Buddhas remain in the world, able to help others, so there is no point in delay. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso notes:[12]

In reality, the second two types of bodhicitta are wishes that are impossible to fulfill because it is only possible to lead others to enlightenment once we have attained enlightenment ourself. Therefore, only king-like bodhicitta is actual bodhicitta. Je Tsongkhapa says that although the other Bodhisattvas wish for that which is impossible, their attitude is sublime and unmistaken.

The Nyingma school, however, holds that the lowest level is the way of the king, who primarily seeks his own benefit but who recognizes that his benefit depends crucially on that of his kingdom and his subjects. The middle level is the path of the boatman, who ferries his passengers across the river and simultaneously, of course, ferries himself as well. The highest level is that of the shepherd, who makes sure that all his sheep arrive safely ahead of him and places their welfare above his own.[13]

Anonymous said...

I wrote about Vajrayana Buddhas which Vajrasattva is said to be and which your blog entry is about. Your response was about Bodhisattvas not Vajrayana Buddhas. At least Bodhisattvas dont claim to of perfected that path and can be trusted and respected. We're as Vajrasattva is said to be a Vajrayana Buddha which is complete nonsense. You tried to dodge my response by trying to claim that Vajrasattva is still a Bodhisattva and hence has credibility.

seanrobsville said...

According to Geshe Kelsang's interpretation, when a king-like bodhisattva becomes a Buddha, it is only then that he is best able to help all sentient beings. So the action of becoming a Buddha and accomplishing his path doesn't in itself automatically abolish all suffering anywhere. There's still lots of work to be done.

In so far as Vajrasattva is an aspect of the enlightened mind that helps us purify negative patterns and habits, we needn't bother where he comes from or how he appears or exists. Even if his existence is as an archetype dependent upon our mind, he would still fulfill his purpose in becoming an internalized aspect of our mind.

Anonymous said...

Vajrayana Buddhas don't seem to be marketed in that way. If you look through the requirements for the Vajrayana Bhumis I think you will see what I mean.

Anyway your blog is fantastic and thanks for being a vessel for the brilliance of Buddhism that is Interdependent Origination, emptiness, impermanence and ethics. Thanks also for trying to give the physicalist movement a point to the teachings of interdependent origination and thanks for your courage in taking on the jihad movement.

You may find this article be Sam Harris of interest.

seanrobsville said...

Thanks for the compliments. The two major enemies of Buddhism are indeed Jihadism and Physicalism. I have recently blogged on both of these at Rational Buddhism, regarding anti-science and intimidation at Imperial College London and the Physicalist attempts to strip spirituality and transcendence out of Buddhism.

I read the Sam Harris article. This approach to Buddhism obviously works for him, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will work for everyone, and for him to claim that 'Buddhism’s philosophy, insight, and practices would benefit more people if they were not presented as a religion' is rather presumptious. Some people benefit greatly from the devotional aspects of Buddhism, for example devotion to Lady Tara is very popular and people obviously find the practice very helpful.

The Dharma is said to be like a crystal with 84,000 different facets, representing all the teachings of the Buddha. Depending on our viewpoint, one or a few of these facets will reflect brightly in our direction.

When we first meet the Dharma, we are attracted to the most brilliantly reflecting facets - those aspects of the teachings that are particularly relevant to us and our problems. Most of the other facets will appear dull or oblique, or not appear to us at all, being completely hidden round the other side of the crystal. But other people may be attracted to those facets of the Dharma Jewel that appear bright to them but dull or hidden to us.

Anonymous said...

Tibetan Buddhism is not perfect and has many flaws. The rampant misogyny that is clearly in Tibetan Buddhism in both Vajrayana and Mahayana.

In Mahayana the female is unable to obtain enlightenment only the male is able to the female is there to just serve the male so he can obtain enlightenment.

In Vajrayana the female is able to obtain enlightenment but the female and male are portrayed on different levels. For instance in the Vajrayana texts the historical Buddha was said to of used the 14 year old girl who gave the historical Buddha a bowl of rice before you learned about he middle way as a sex consort he was maybe 29 or 30.

Another example is the famous Guru Padmasambava had a 16 year old consort Yeshi Tsodal.

These are just a couple of examples of how the female is used as an "equal".

If the famous Guru Padamasambava who is portrayed through the Vajrayana world today as Vajradhara the all conquering Buddha was alive today I think he would be classed as a pedophile. I understand the cognition of Vajrayana is different but there dosnt seen to be any stories like these were the roles are reversed. said...

Thanks for this post Sean. It gives good detail on the 4 purifications, which you need to know in order to be able to do Varjrasattva practice effectively. Like the illustrations too !