A Discourse With YesheRabbit
Topic: Introducing Vajrasattva
Date: April 27, 2014
What we’re going to work on, today, is bringing Vajrasattva into this practice where we’ve previously been working with Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal. We’re going to talk a little bit about Vajrasattva, a little bit about his position in the sadhana, and the function of his mantra in the sadhana. We’re also going to be practicing mudras, as well as prostrations, today, and then we’ll conclude with the practice.
So, I’m going to just jump right in with talking about Vajrasattva. Vajrasattva is the first deity that we’re introducing into this practice who is deity only. Whereas Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal are deified humans who did the great work of bringing Buddhism into Tibet and were marvelous, accomplished practitioners, Vajrasattva is thought of as being a deity already. He was not a human previously and, as such, brings the concept of deity yoga a little bit more deeply into our practice.
What we’ve been doing, up until now, is what is known as guru yoga. In guru yoga we picture the teacher, we hold the teacher in our esteemed view, we internalize the qualities of the teacher we find admirable, we arise those qualities within ourselves and bring them forward for our own contemplation, and then we live those qualities in the world. With Vajrasattva, we’re actually arising deity nature. We’re doing deity yoga, looking at the externalized version of deity nature, conjuring the qualities of that deity nature which we have within, and then living that way.
Vajrasattva is, in this sadhana, bringing the element of fire and purification. With his consort Vajrayogini, they’re seated, in this mandala we’re creating, at the south. When we call upon Vajrasattva, we are calling upon adamantine commitment to skillful union of wisdom and method. We’re doing purification, throughout this month, with Vajrasattva. Three times a day, we do three recitations of the Vajrasattva mantra along with prostrations. Then, once that month is complete, Vajrasattva will take his station in
the south of our sadhana and just be a regular part of the sadhana. We won’t be, then, doing the daily “three times a day”. Unless you love it, in which case you’re welcome to continue.
When we perform Vajrasattva, with prostrations, we are following the method that is employed in some Ngondro practices, which are foundational practices for the study of Tibetan Buddhism. They represent a deep commitment to the path. Where we’re at philosophically, in our sangha, is:
moving from the exemplary qualities of other humans and trying to conjure those within ourselves, to moving into an awareness of ourselves as having our own indwelling deity nature,
observing the changes in the phenomena of our life when we place our regular focus on that inward deity nature,
and particularly appealing to this deity for adamantine commitment to skillful union of wisdom and method.
When we’re talking about wisdom and method, we’re talking about not only the profound self-arising, inner knowing of our own deity nature and our own magickal nature, but also the cultivation of a view in which we accept magickal phenomena and intuitive phenomena as a form of wisdom. And then we also rely upon method, such as practice. I also think of method as science. An example of the union of wisdom and method is “I have a sore throat. I drink my healing tea and place my piece of lapis or sodalite at my throat to give it healing.” And method is “I also will follow through and get lots of rest, drink fluids, and maybe see a doctor.” So, wisdom is the understanding that I have a very powerful inherent nature and that I am part of a very powerful inherent nature that is all encompassing. The method is that I still do the work, I still take the steps, I still do the practices.
So, to that end, we come to prostrations and mudras. Today, when we chant for Padmasambahva, we’re going to be utilizing the Vajra mudra. We’re introducing
Vajrasattva, today, so we’re introducing the Vajra mudra. Usually when we’ve been chanting to Padmasambhava, we’ve just been sitting with our hands in our laps. Today, we’re going to start using the Vajra mudra. So, you take your two hands and you bring the right hand on top of the left hand and link the pinky fingers. Then, use your thumb to take hold of the middle and ring fingers, leaving the pointer fingers pointing outwards. This is the Vajra mudra and this represents “adamantine commitment to the path” and it is like the lightning bolt. This is a mudra of power and empowerment. So, when we are doing the Padmasambhava chant, we will do this mudra.
Then, the second mudra that we’re introducing today, for Yeshe Tsogyal, is one that I have developed. So, whenever there is material that is from me, my own contribution, I always make sure to tell you. Otherwise, everything else that you see in our practice comes from various different traditional empowerments which I’ve received through, what might be considered, the father lineage; the Vajrayana and Dzogchen that I’ve done with trained teachers who are stationed within that religious paradigm. I, myself, am Pagan. So, on the other side of me is what is known as a mother lineage, which is all of my own work and the work of other people I know, who are not necessarily trained, verified teachers. So, a little mother lineage wisdom that is coming into this practice is this mudra. With our right hand, we make an “okay”, but we hold it out here like this. This is abeja.
In Indian Classical dance, this abeja movement represents the bee. When Yeshe Tsogyal was conceived, her mother had a vision of a bee flying from the west, landing at the fontanel of her father’s head, entering his body, and then she conceived Yeshe Tsogyal. And her mother knew that she had conceived.* So we use the abeja/bee movement and then we put the other hand on our heart. In the Tibetan worldview there is the mind – which is the discursive thought – and then the wisdom mind, which is actually centered in the heart. So, in a Tibetan understanding of the chakra system, most wisdom comes from the heart and not the head. It is sourced at the heart chakra. In homage to the self-arising
Dowman, Keith. Sky dancer: the secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. Print.
nature of wisdom, as opposed to discursive thought, that Yeshe Tsogyal brought to Padmasambhava - namely through their tantric union, in which she was able to help him unlock his treasures of mind and he was able to help her unlock her treasures of mind - we give homage to the feeling that generated that union. So, that will be our mudra for Yeshe Tsogyal.
We don’t have a mudra for Vajrasattva, but we do have prostrations. What you’re going to want to do for your prostration practice is this. We start with our hands at our sides and feet together. Then, raising our hands above our heads, we place our hands at our forehead, lips, at the heart, and then we prostrate down to the floor. Then, you place your right thumb over the left thumb and lift both hands. Then come back to standing with hands at heart. You do this three times. I’ll tell you something that I often do. I also touch my lower abdomen as an homage, as a Pagan, to the fact that we are also a fertility religion and one in which we cultivate healthy sexualities. So, I often will just touch my lower abdomen on my way into prostrations. It’s not canon, it’s just something that I find myself doing.
The other place where we’re going to do a quasi-prostration, in the practice, is when we do the refuge; when we say “Namo Guru, Namo Dharma, Namo Sangha.” Guru is the inner teacher, your higher self, your innate wisdom. Dharma is the teachings, which come forward from our communication center. Sangha are those who are closest to our hearts, our spiritual community, our families, people who we love, and the wider community of practitioners.
So, it is a little exercise of “ups and downs”. For today, since we’re going to be sitting to do the practice, we’ll just do the modified seated prostration for the video. Going forward, if you’d like to join us for the coming month - every day, three times a day - we’ll do the Vajrasattva mantra three times and do three prostrations. You’ll have a total, every day, of nine mantras and nine prostrations. I usually do the whole practice in the morning, when I get up. I then put reminders in my phone so that my phone tells me at three o’clock it is time for Vajrasattva and again at eight o’clock at night. This way I have
reminders. I don’t do the entire practice three times a day. I just do the entire practice in the morning and then the Vajrasattva mantra requirements the second and third time of the day. That is the way that I’ve been working with it. You’re free to take this material and do whatever you want. If you feel like the whole practice, three times a day, would be really purifying or clarifying for you, that’s great. If you feel like the whole practice once a week or just once a month is what you’d like to do, but that you’ll do the requirements three times a day, no problem. If you forget, you can always just double up at the next round.
It’s been my experience, so far, that by doing it three times a day I feel the benefit of doing these sets of prostrations more than if I do it all in one big lump sum. It’s almost homeopathic when it is spread out through my day. I feel it sustains me better than if I try to double it all up in one. That said, even myself this week, doubled up at the end of the day because I had forgotten my afternoon session. The other thing that I’ve noticed about this practice, and maybe some of you have noticed – Albert has noticed it – is that my mind is running the mantras at lots of other times. I’m chanting my simple few times a day but, then, I’m finding a prayer wheel of Vajrasattva going in my head at other times. Albert has experienced the same phenomena. One night, in the middle of the night, he was like “All I can do is think Padmasambhava. I can’t sleep.” Some would say that this is a sign that you’re doing it right, but when you’re asleep, of course, it’s nice to be able to get some peace. In case you have something like that phenomena developing, it is normal.
I think that is everything that I wanted to share.