During these times, many of us are slowed down and fenced in, whether alone or with family, and this can make us much more aware of our shortcomings and unhealthy habit patterns — the way our mind can go into “bad neighborhoods,” and be afraid, negative, depressed or anxious. While this can be painful, we can use our increased awareness as a base for Vajrasattva practice. This is a wonderful opportunity to shift out of old habits and old ways of being, because Vajrasattva gives us a powerful way to work with and transform our habitual patterns and reactions.
The Vajrasattva empowerment, which I will give on January 10, is an entry into the ngondro, which are the foundational practices of Vajrayana. Many people have found the ngondro practices to be very powerful for helping shift out of depression. I think all the practices together do that, but Vajrasattva plays a big role. Until we focus in this way, we may not recognize that we are holding onto a lot inside that we are actually ready to face and let go of, whether our own stuff or our responses to somebody else’s stuff. Vajrasattva practice is an easy, powerful way to clear this old stuff out of our mind streams. It also helps us begin to have a sense of how profoundly the awakened beings can help us.
A practice for your whole lifetime
Vajrasattva is one of the practices that those of us who have been in Vajrayana for a long time have engaged with from the beginning, and it’s always one of our favorites. It’s not something that you never do again once you finish ngondro. Many of the Rinpoches do a pith version of the practice every day, and all of us will do it at certain times again and again, because it’s such a powerful transformational practice for purification.
Vajrasattva gives us the opportunity to purify our karma so we don’t have to experience it later in life. This is incredibly powerful. It includes facing what we’ve done in our lives that we don’t feel good about, taking responsibility for change, then moving in a way that feels in integrity for us. Doing it, we learn not to be in shame about what we’ve done in the past. We just look at it clearly and have remorse, make a sincere pledge to not repeat the behavior, allow it to be purified, and move on.
In the practice, we receive a direct transmission from Vajrasattva as the union of all the Buddhas and our own teacher’s awakened mind. So at the same time that we are facing our stuff and praying to purify whatever we did in our life that was unskillful, harmful or not positive, making amends and letting things go, all that time we are also receiving the blessing of Vajrasattva — a transmission of love and wisdom. This is very special. It is a powerful help to move negative karma out, and helps us come into greater refinement of our own integrity. Their love and transmission heals us, teaches us to forgive ourselves, be humble, open our hearts to ourselves and all beings.
Essential for Vajrayana practitioners
I highly encourage anyone new to Vajrayana to take this empowerment. It is something you will need going forward, particularly if you are considering doing the ngondro, and it doesn’t come around that often to receive. For longer-term practitioners, it’s good to take the empowerment again, even if you’ve had it once or several times, because every time you take an empowerment, it goes in deeper and deeper. It is also very supportive to new people to have experienced practitioners in the field.
We have given empowerments by virtual means before, and we’re grateful that we have the opportunity to do so through Zoom when we are unable to meet. It allows us to keep teaching the practices — in this case, the meditation practice based on Vajrasattva. Whether on Zoom or in person, we’ve noticed that the empowerment is equally effective. The Dalai Lama was the first to do online transmissons. He started doing it a long time ago, and said that if the heart is open and sincere, you will receive the empowerment the same as you would in person. Certainly we’d like to be in person, but given that we can’t, it’s wonderful to know that you can receive the transmission in full online.
Note: Lama Palden Drolma will give the Vajrasattva empowerment online at 9am pst on January 10, 2021.