The Tantric Path of Purification
A new edition of the Tantric Path of Purification, which is a commentary on the practice of Vajrasattva which is common to all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Purification of the mind is essential for anybody who wishes to advance along the spiritual path. In this book renowned Tibetan master Lama Thubten Yeshe explains one of the most powerful purification practices in the vast array of Buddhist teachings, Vajrasattva meditation. Included is an entire section of retreat instructions - required reading for anybody who undertakes one.
"Who is Heruka Vajrasattva? We consider him to be a manifestation of the unity of fully developed male and female energy, the complete purity of the state of enlightenment. Out of their great compassion and limitless love, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas have manifested their collected purity in the archetypal image of Vajrasattva so that we can identify ourselves with him...the Vajrasattva practice can lead us beyond ego, beyond grasping, and beyond the dualistic mind. That's what the Vajrasattva practice is about." Lama Yeshe.
"The practice of purification is one of the most important solutions to life's problems." Lama Zopa.
"One of the great teachers of our time." Sogyal Rinpoche.
Read an extract of this title
The same thing applies to following the law of karma. When we take refuge, our main obligation is to keep our karma straight, to avoid defiled, negative actions. But often we cannot do so, even though we understand on an intellectual level that if we keep on creating such actions again and again, we shall continue endlessly in the cycle of suffering and conflict. This is because we do not have a deeply integrated understanding of karma. Those with such an understanding never recklessly create negative actions.
I know Westerners quite well. They are intelligent, but their minds are divided. On the one hand they desire to have perfect wisdom and to keep their karma straight. On the other they are impelled by the force of their bad habits, which prevents them from keeping their karma straight. This causes them a lot of suffering. When difficult circumstances arise, the negative energy overpowers the positive because many Westerners have never built up within themselves the force of good habits; they also lack deep, internal understanding of the nature of karma, of cause and effect.
Some people argue that karma is experienced only by those who believe in it; in other words, those who don't believe in karma don't experience its effects. This is completely incorrect. The laws of karma function whether you believe in them or not. If you act in a certain way, you are sure to experience the appropriate result, just as surely as taking poison will make you sick-even though you think it is medicine. Once you've created the karma to experience a certain result, that outcome is inevitable.
Cows, pigs, and scorpions have no ideas about karma-no beliefs one way or the other-but they must still live out their karma. All their actions are motivated by either greed, ignorance, or hatred, and each definitely brings its own result. Therefore, you must never think that karmic actions and reactions are only a Buddhist thing, a lama thing. Karma is a natural law governing all physical and nonphysical phenomena in the universe. It is extremely important for you to understand this.
When I teach about karma, I don't usually give technical explanations such as those found in Tibetan texts. I simply tell students to look at the way their minds are working at that very moment. They can easily see how up-and-down their minds are, especially during a meditation course. Once they are aware of this phenomenon, it is easy for them to understand how it has come from their previous experiences, and that karma is exactly that. Simply put, the uncontrolled body, speech, and mind are manifestations of karma.
Thus, we are all under the control of the true law of karma, whether we believe in it or not. Don't think that followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are beyond the reach of karma and do not need to be mindful of it. It's not true. For example, Jews and Arabs have accumulated karma with each other, and now there are all sorts of problems in the Middle East. Even though butchers may not believe that killing animals will have any negative repercussions, whether they believe it or not, giving such suffering to other beings will definitely come back upon them.
When you first come to Kathmandu you enjoy yourself and make yourself very comfortable. Then when you come up here to the monastery, you feel agitated. You think it's very dirty and that there are no proper toilets.~ Your agitation is the result of your previous attachment to comfort. That, too, is karma. If you weren't attached to your earlier experiences of comfort, you wouldn't care so much about your surroundings. You can get a clear understanding of karmic action and reaction simply by analyzing your everyday experiences.
I think this is a far better and more powerful way of developing mindfulness of your actions than by becoming obsessed, as so many Westerners are, with the cultivation of single-pointed concentration (samadhi) and mindfulness meditation. If that happens, you run the risk of thinking that sitting meditation is the only form of Dharma practice and that all other activities, such as eating, talking, and sleeping, are completely samsaric and negative. When you believe that these things are negative, they become negative.
There are many ways to meditate. Mindfulness is not the only kind of meditation. Insight can be gained by meditating on any phenomenon in the universe. You don't have to sit cross-legged to meditate: guarding your karma day in and day out is also meditation and can be a powerful way to develop insight. In this way your entire life can be used to bring you closer to the wisdom of egolessness.
When you understand the nature of karma, you are constantly aware of everything you do. Thus, wherever you go, you cannot escape from meditation. You know that if you do not maintain awareness of the actions of your body, speech, and mind, you will create one negativity after another and will have to experience the resultant suffering of confusion and dissatisfaction. This makes you conscious all the time: when interacting with others, eating in restaurants, shopping in a supermarket, or working at your job.
Usually our dualistic minds interpret the ordinary activities of daily life as being samsaric, dissatisfactory, full of suffering, and undesirable-impossible to use as objects for insight meditation. This is a gross misapprehension. Mahayana Buddhism teaches that if bodily sensations such as physical feelings can be used for the development of insight, then so can any other form of sensory experience, such as the taste of food on the tongue.
Some people say that visualizations cannot be used for insight meditation because they are a mental projection, implying that one's breath or feelings in the body are more real. Sensations and feelings are just as illusory as visualizations of the Buddha. Bodily sensations are not permanent. They change from moment to moment because the relative mind is constantly changing. The feelings of the body and mind, especially those caused by the negative mind, are projections of ignorance. Your dualistic mind automatically projects a dualistic view of whatever you experience.
Ordinary people who start to practice what they consider to be mindfulness meditation believe that the world of bodily sensations is real. But no matter whether they use an internal or an external object of meditation, it still exists only in their imagination and in the view of their relative mind. Fundamentally, there is no difference between inner and outer phenomena: either both are true or both are hallucinations. Until you have realized nonduality, shunyata, then whatever you experience, either physically or mentally, is a hallucinatory wrong view.
Actually, the taste of food on the tongue is also a physical sensation. To think that it is not is incorrect. The Mahayana tradition contains meditation practices for every action. Tantric yoga teaches us that when we eat, we should first offer and bless the food. While eating, we should be relaxed and aware of whatever we are doing, constantly remembering the dependent nature of ourselves and the food, and not grasping at the sensory pleasure of eating, as we usually do. Any sensory experience can be used for the development of insight.
Mantra recitation can also be a great help in insight meditation. It makes the mind focus single-pointedly, thereby counteracting mental scattering and distractions. However, the recitation does not have to be verbal. Mantra is a sound that has existed within your nervous system since before you were born; it is audible if you listen wisely. Mantra is not something that you receive, all of a sudden, from a lama. Without the natural vibration of sound within your nervous system, you would be deaf-each kind of energy has its own natural sound. This is not religious dogma, but something you can verif~r empirically. You cannot abandon the natural sound of your nervous system. You might as well try to abandon your head!
However, it is the experience of countless lamas that the unstable, transitory objects of the five senses are more of a hindrance than a help in the development of single-pointed concentration. As long as you continue to perceive things with your relative mind and to grasp at objects of the five senses, you will not be able to realize single-pointed concentration. You will be neither a samadhi meditator nor a mindfulness meditator. Check to see whether or not this is true.
You can understand then how ridiculous it is to think that sitting, trying to gain samadhi, is the only way to practice Dharma, and that anything to do with living in the world is totally negative. You should constantly take care of every aspect of your life-waking, working, eating, sleeping-with understanding wisdom. Whether you are close to your guru, to the Sangha, to your parents, or all alone, you must take care of your karma as best you can. It is quite wrong to believe that you can outsmart karma by locking yourself in your room, thinking that when you are by yourself, you can do whatever you like. There is no escape! 'Whether you are with others or not, karma-creating reactions come automatically.
If I told you that the only way to meditate was to sit and think of nothing, you would find no time to practice. Karma ensures that most Westerners have to spend their lives either working or doing other external activities. Since you couldn't find time to sit, you would think that your Dharma practice was history. But meditation is not blank navel-gazing. When you have an understanding of the fundamentals of Dharma, you will see how much there is for you to do and how much you can grow. This gives you constant resources to maintain your practice, and even though you cannot concentrate, you know that you can still practice Dharma. 'Wherever you go, whether you are with other practitioners or with more worldly people, you know how to make your life one with Dharma. This ability comes from wisdom.
Without wisdom, how can you make the unavoidable activities of eating, sleeping, and excreting one with Dharma? When you have wisdom, you don't always have to be around your guru to receive teachings. You can see the teachings in everything around you. You can learn from the movement of the planets, the weather, the growth and decay of plants, and all other phenomena. This is what happens when you have wisdom. In fact, your own wisdom that understands reality is your real guru. This is what Tibetan Buddhism teaches.
Integrate your whole life with the experience of Dharma. That is the most powerful thing you can do. That is the way to reach enlightenment in one lifetime, because you do not waste a moment. It's perfectly logical. If you believe that your one-hour daily meditation is the only chance you have to practice Dharma and that the other twenty-three hours of your day are completely dark, impure, and samsaric, you will definitely take three countless great eons to reach enlightenment! What your mind believes becomes reality for you, whether it is reality or not.
Lama Thubten Yeshe
Lama Thubten Yeshe
Lama Thubten Yeshe and Robina Courtin
Lama Thubten Yeshe
Lama Thubten Yeshe
Lama Thubten Yeshe