“ Action is everything,” said Lama Yeshe, in this excerpt from Becoming Vajrasattva: The Tantric Path of Purification, which includes instruction on the method, commentary on traditional texts, and insights into tantra, as well as extremely helpful advice on going into retreat.
We have to act, not just philosophize. Philosophical concepts may be able to correct wrong ideas, erroneous ways of thought, and mistaken beliefs, but intellectual correction is not enough. Along with that we need a powerful force to channel our minds into the correct, divine philosophy of the middle way.
For example, Lord Buddha taught that we should avoid extremes and follow the middle way, because going to extremes and avoiding everything would make us sick. He said that we should adjust our lives both relatively and absolutely. But these statements are still views, ideas, and opinions, aren’t they? Our lives should be more active than that. When you get your hands dirty, touch the earth, plant seeds, and water the ground, green plants manifest organically. Vajrasattva practice is a lot like that.
The Vajrasattva meditation is not complicated; it’s very simple and easy to understand. It’s not something that takes a lot of intellectual thought. You just do it, just act. That is what we need. Transformation never comes without action. No matter how much you study and learn, how much information you collect, it is action that really helps you integrate your life. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition contains a wide range of preliminary practices (ngöndro). Vajrasattva is one of these. Even though it is very simple and practical, it is one of the most powerful methods of purification we have.
At first I was very skeptical that a method that worked for Easterners would also work for Westerners, but I have now seen hundreds of Westerners retreat on Vajrasattva with great success and great improvement in their minds. This experience has both amazed and satisfied me, and there is no doubt that it is highly worthwhile.
Buddhism always emphasizes meditation, mindfulness, awareness, method, and wisdom. Every word of the teachings points you in the direction of insight. The Vajrasattva yoga method is a very simple means of showing you who you are. It reveals your shortcomings and your strengths and is especially helpful in ripping off the heavy blanket of wrong conceptions that prevents you from seeing the reality of yourself. Even if you find it difficult to meditate or have poor concentration, this practice can give you inner satisfaction and a real taste of Buddhadharma. Therefore, it is very useful.
Normally, our motivation is at a very low level, and our actions are quite mundane. Sometimes I feel as though we’re dealing with the hell realm in our human relationships. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but what I mean is that we don’t use our human intelligence enough. Vajrasattva meditation brings you up from those lower levels of mind to a higher, more human plane of consciousness. You just have to do it, that’s all.
Furthermore, the practice is structured so that while you are working with and meditating on the sadhana at a conscious level, positive energy from your subconscious mind is being activated and drawn upon to enhance your practice. This is one of the psychological features of tantra and one of the reasons that it is so powerful. Tantra liberates you by working at both the conscious and subconscious levels to lead your mind into the gradual path to enlightenment …
From Becoming Vajrasattva: The Tantric Path of Purification, edited by Nicholas Ribush,and published by Wisdom Publications www.wisdompubs.org This is a re-edited version of The Tantric Path of Purification (Wisdom 1995).