Giving negativity a body blow
Many of us have that little pocket-sized booklet called Daily Purification: A Short Vajrasattva Practice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive first began printing it in 2001, and is still distributing it free [www.lamayeshe.com]. Recently the Buddhas jerked my copy out of my bookcase and literally threw it at me. Uh, oh. So there I am, reading the introduction about how Atisha would purify any negativity, no matter how small, immediately. Even in public or when riding his horse, as soon as he noticed a breach of his ethics, he would stop what he was doing, drop to one knee and then and there, purify it with the four opponent powers – the powers of dependence, regret, remedy, and restraint.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how easy it is to indulge in a little negativity on a daily basis, and leave purification till such time as we get around to the cushion or go on that long retreat. Yet the solution is with us, literally – in our minds, or tucked away on a bookshelf till the Buddhas get tired of our procrastination and throw it at us (needless to say, my copy is now with me at all times). It sent me on a search for something else that Lama Zopa Rinpoche had said about the benefits of Vajrasattva practice – and here it is:
Benefits of Vajrasattva Practice
If you want others to love you, you must first love others. If you benefit others, naturally they will benefit you. The cause and effect of karma is as simple as this. The Vajrasattva purification practice, which is more powerful than negative karma, can prevent you from experiencing the problems that negative karma would otherwise bring you. Thus, the practice of purification is one of the most important solutions to our problems and is extremely necessary, even for people who believe that we have only one life. If you don’t want relationship problems, business failures, illnesses such as cancer or AIDS, notoriety, or the criticism of others, the practice of Vajrasattva is extremely important – both for those who accept the existence of reincarnation and karma, and for those who do not.
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. Experienced meditators have advised that, in general, it is more important to put your everyday life’s effort into the practice of purification. This is the way to attain spiritual realization.
Vajrasattva recitation at night
Before you go to bed each night, recite the Vajrasattva mantra to prevent whatever negative karma you have created that day from multiplying. If you don’t purify it in this way your negative karma will keep doubling and re-doubling day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year up to the end of your life and even one day’s negative karma will become as huge and heavy as a mountain – in time, even one atom of unpurified negative karma can swell to the size of the Earth.
Even though you may not necessarily create particularly heavy negative karmas, since unpurified negative karma increases exponentially in this way, even one small negative action can cause you to be reborn in the lower realms and experience great suffering for many eons. And because in the lower realms you continually create more and more negative karma, it is extremely difficult to be reborn back into the upper realms, which makes it almost impossible for you to practice Dharma. Therefore you must purify your negative karma every day.
Since practicing the Vajrasattva recitation-meditation at the end of the day prevents negative karma from multiplying it is an unbelievably powerful method. It makes your life very light and easy and keeps you happy and peaceful inside – in your heart and in your inner life. Furthermore, it purifies not only that day’s negative karma but also that created in this life from the time you were born and in all your previous lives as well.
Purifying negative karma makes it much easier to attain liberation and actualize the path to enlightenment. It also decreases your suffering and any obstacles that might arise. Purifying negative karma means that you won’t have to experience the many eons of suffering in the lower realms that result from not purifying even one negative karma, and you won’t have to experience again and again without end the four suffering results that arise from each unpurified negative karma.
The conclusion is that even if you have completed the preliminary of reciting 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras you can’t just stop, relax, and say, “I’ve finished my Vajrasattva preliminary practice. Now I don’t have to recite that mantra any more.” You need to keep doing the long Vajrasattva mantra at least twenty-one times or the short one at least twenty-eight times a day in order to keep purifying your negative karma and prevent it from multiplying.
And furthermore, the incomparable Lama Thubten Yeshe left us with this cogent advice:
The Benefits of Purification with Heruka Vajrasattva
We often find that when we meditate on the lam-rim – the path to liberation and enlightened realizations – we encounter many hindrances. We cannot understand why it is so difficult to meditate, to control our minds, to gain realizations. “Why do I meet with so many obstacles whenever I try to do something positive? Leading a worldly life was much easier than this. Even an hour’s meditation is so difficult.” Many such thoughts and questions arise.
It is not just a lack of wisdom. It is that over countless lives the negative energy forces of our body, speech, and mind have accumulated such that now they fill us like a vast ocean. If they were to manifest in physical form, they would occupy all of space. By contrast, our small intellectual knowledge-wisdom is as weak as the light of a flickering little candle. A little candle isn’t much help on a dark and windy night.
Our tiny candle-like knowledge-wisdom cannot control or release us from the overwhelming force of our negative mind. Thus, it is the energy of our wrong conceptions, our negative mind, that makes it difficult for us to actualize the everlasting peaceful path of liberation and to receive realizations. Therefore, we need a powerful purification practice like the tantric yoga method of Heruka Vajrasattva to destroy both the energy forces of the ignorant mind and the negative actions of body and speech that arise from it.
The yoga method of Heruka Vajrasattva has the power to purify all negative energy, which is the main thing preventing you from actualizing the path. This impure energy creates both physical and mental hindrances, and also leaves certain imprints. Philosophically, we say that these are neither mind nor form. If you are interested in this, you can investigate at another time what kind of phenomenon they are. The reason I bring it up is that when I’m talking about negativity here my meaning might be different from your previous understanding of the term. Most Westerners think that negativity refers to just the gross level of the emotions. It goes much deeper than that.
Take, for example, the physical body. The first time people come to a meditation course they have great trouble in just sitting. Something in their nervous system pulls their energy down to the base of their spine. The reason we recommend the classical cross-legged meditation posture is that when you sit with your back straight, the psychic energy flows properly, and thus, it is much easier for you to control your mind. However, this change in your nervous system makes it feel as if all your energy is falling down from your crown chakra to your lower chakra. This makes some people terrified that they are losing their minds. Not only do new students have trouble sitting, they also have to concentrate their minds for long periods listening to totally new ideas, which can also be very unsettling. These physical and mental problems really make them wonder why on earth they are sitting there.
The pressure in the lower chakra is caused by negative physical energy, which comes from the negative mind. In Mahayana Buddhism we place less emphasis on such physical reactions and focus on the root of all problems, the ignorant, negative mind.
While insight meditation on the graduated path is the actual way to liberation, when you feel that you cannot meditate – there are too many interruptions, you cannot do anything, you cannot solve your problems – remember that there is something else you can do to remove obstacles to your progress: purification. In the experience of Tibetan lamas, sessions of insight meditation on the path should alternate with sessions of a powerful purification practice, such as the yoga method of Heruka Vajrasattva. This combined approach ensures that you will gain the realizations you seek without frustration.
But do not have unrealistic expectations: “Today I’m completely negative, tonight I meditate, tomorrow I’ll be completely pure.” You cannot purify yourself overnight. Not only are such expectations wrong, they themselves become obstacles. Especially when retreating you should not expect anything – just relax. All you need to feel is that in this life you will act as positively as possible. If you can do that, good results will come whether you expect them or not. You won’t have to keep asking your lama for a prediction: “If I control my body, speech, and mind, avoid all negativities, and do only good, will I experience positive results?” Many students do this. Why? Because they don’t understand karma. If you always act wisely and keep your actions positive, what need is there to ask?
Just think: “From now until I die, whether realizations come to me or not, I shall act as positively as I can, trying to make my life as beneficial as possible for myself and others.” What more can you expect? That sort of expectation is far more reasonable and logical than thinking, “If I meditate for a month I’ll become Heruka Vajrasattva.” Such expectations only disturb your mind.
Even though you might have created negative actions all your life, a positive mind at the time of death guarantees that you will not be reborn in the lower realms. You receive this internal guarantee when you purify your negativities. It is not like ordinary guarantees; you can trust it completely. In the world, things are constantly changing. You can never trust worldly, paper guarantees. But the internal guarantee of positive karma ensures that at the time of death you will be able to control your mind and not fall under the influence of negative minds such as desire and hatred.
In order to gain higher realizations, it is most important to practice the powerful methods of purification found in the Vajrayana path. Many lamas have found that purification overcomes the hindrances of both negative energy and its imprints.
While other Vajrasattva practices emphasize physical purification, the Heruka Vajrasattva yoga method is set up to emphasize mental purification. This makes it especially powerful.
Helpful books about Vajrasattva Practice
Becoming Vajrasattva, The Tantric Path of Purification by Lama Thubten Yeshe, Wisdom Publications, www.wisdompubs.org
Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, www.lamayeshe.com
Daily Purification: A Short Vajrasattva Practice, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, www.lamayeshe.com
The Preliminary Practice of Vajrasattva, FPMT Education Department, www.fpmt.org/shop
Colophon: Teachings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche excerpted from Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat and teachings dictated for advising students in life practices. Teachings by Lama Thubten Yeshe were excerpted from The Tantric Path of Purification, Wisdom Publications. Compiled by Kendall Magnussen, April 2006.
lama zopa rinpoche, purification, vajrasattva