The following is graciously shared by sangha member Dylan Thomas. Enjoy these helpful tips for your month of purification! Our sangha also has Dylan to thank for the transcription of Yeshe Rabbit's discourses from the teaching videos.
Here we are, in the midst of 30 Days of Vajrasattva. Having worked with this purification practice, before, and encountering a lot of the same themes during this practice commitment, I thought I’d offer up some humble insights on the practice. Your mileage may vary!
Work with what needs purifying. This is different for all of us and, for any one of us, might change drastically day to day. Before I begin my evening mantra recitations, I explore the day for any instances, emotions, or actions that need to be met with purification. I then visualize an internal lotus, in the area between my solar plexus and sacral chakra, and mentally place the person, situation, or emotion at its center. As I recite the mantra, I visualize the mantra as a white nectar that showers over the whole scene. I find that this loosens up my perception of the experience and, if specifically focusing on a difficult interaction with a person, allows me to release the strong grasp of “I was right” or “If only they had…”
Release sin concepts. Or don’t, that is up to you. Sin, however, typically implies a predetermined set of “don’t dos” and can short circuit the deeper practice of rooting out behaviors and mental habits that aren’t beneficial in our own lives and in the way we interact with others. For instance, I can view my tendency to mentally judge others as something akin to sin. Then, my focus becomes one of frantically trying not to have judgmental thoughts and browbeating myself when I do. All of that rests on the surface. If I let go of “judgment = innately bad”, then I can begin to delve deeper into the exploration of how judgmental thoughts affect my own mind’s continuum and, too, how they affect my relationship to the external world. Too, when we let go of a contracted sense of “I shouldn’t do that”, we can be more at ease with where we really are in our practice. “I’m here and I’ve got some hangups and that is okay, because I am doing the work and meeting the hangups with my practice.” is a much healthier approach than “I shouldn’t have done that.” The former has a lot of room for movement, whereas the latter is stagnant.
You’re probably not getting “worse.” If you’re doing the practice and trying to root out non-beneficial behaviors, you might actually convince yourself that you’re engaging in more of them. In actuality, you’re probably just becoming more mindful and catching yourself in the act. Most of us have lots of habits and thoughts that repeat like a broken record. If you have ever spent quiet time in a room with a ticking clock, you might know that, after a while, the ticking goes unnoticed. If you remind yourself that the clock is ticking, however, your ears tune in and you can hear it clearly. The practice can be like this, and the things you are noticing have likely been around for some time.
Find balance. Rooting out non-beneficial behaviors can be balanced with rejoicing in beneficial ones. Even better, recall your meritorious actions and then dedicate that merit to those in need or to the greater enlightenment of all beings. Too, if you find yourself doing a lot of purifying regarding your interactions with others, you can take time to recall times that these other people acted kindly towards you (or others) and desire that their kindness is returned to them. This is also very beneficial if you’re doing the practice with a focus on someone who feels like an enemy, as it helps you to see that person’s ability to act benevolently.
Use the mantra. We do our practices and recite our mantras and that is wonderful! But, the mantra is a great way to root out non-beneficial behaviors as they manifest. For instance, tonight I was having dinner with my partner and a friend. They were engaged in conversation and, suddenly, I realized I was running a judgmental dialogue about a perfect stranger. So, I dropped the dialogue and picked up the mantra. Take advantage of the remedial nature of the mantra, in this way, and disengage the non-beneficial behavior in favor of a beneficial one. If done with some consistency, this can become a new habit.
May your practice be of ultimate benefit to all beings!