Vajrasattva – the Diamond, or Adamantine, being – is the main deity employed for purification by practitioners of all levels of tantra. Depending on which type of practice is being followed, he can be visualized either alone or with consort.
Vajrasattva is white in color, signifying his immaculate purity. Like Vajradhara, of whom he is an emanation, he holds a vajra symbolizing mothod in his right hand and the bell if wisdom in his left. Although the solo Vajrasattva is sometimes depicted as sitting with his leg partially outstretched, here he is in the unshakeable full vajra posture. Again, Vajrasattva wears the beautiful silken garments and jeweled ornament of ancient Indian royalty.
The techniques of tantric transformation will not be able to produce their profound results as long as our present body, speech and mind remain contaminated by the impurities, accumulated from our past unwholesome physical, verbal and mental actions. For our destructive activities now and in the future, but we must cleanse ourselves of those negative imprints still with us from the past. Vajrasattva meditation is the chief method recommended by the various traditions of Vajrayana Buddhism to accomplish this cleansing, or purification. Furthermore, it is extremely effective for rectifying transgressions of the scared pledges made by the disciple to the tantric master at the time of empowerment and for restoring whatever tantric commitments we may have broken.
Although a full explanation of the Vahrasattva practice is beyond the scope of this book, a brief indication fo what is involves can be given as follows. Above the crown of our head we visualize our root guru in the form of Vajrasattava, having a transparent body of light. At he crown of his head is Akshobhya, the head of the Buddha family to which Vajrasattva belongs. At Vajrasattva’s heart we visualize the letters of his hundred- syllable mantra standing upright around the edge of a moon disc, in the center of which is the seed – syllable HUM.
Having stabilized this visualization, and entreating our root guru from the depth of our heart to purify all our negative karmic imprints, we recite Vajrasattva’s mantra with undistracted concentration. As we do so we visualize cleansing rays of light descending from the HUM and mantra at Vajrasattva’a heart, entering us through the crown of our head, purifying us of all defilements and transforming our body into light. At the conclusion of our meditation session we generate the strong feeling that all stains and obscuration have been completely removed. Vajrasattva then dissolves into light and descends into us, becoming indistinguishable from our own body, speech and mind, and we remain for a time in a state of clear awareness without conceptualization.
For this practice to be effective, it is not enough to generate a clear image of the deity and follow the succeeding stages of the visualization practice in their proper order. Without employing what are known as the four powerful opponents, 8 even the clearest visualization will be of little use. First we must generate an honest sense of regret for our past unwholesome actions and transgressions of our sacred word of honor, recognizing their destructive potential. Then we must vow to turn away from committing all such negativities in the future. Thirdly, we invoke the power of reliance by bringing to mind both our refuge in the Three Jewels of Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha and our altruistic bodhichitta motivation. Finally we engage in those remedial actions – in this case the recitation of Vajrasattva’s mantra and so forth – that counterbalance, uproot and purify our accumulated obscuration. Only if these four powers of regret, vow, reliance and remedy are strong is it definite that purification will take place.
There are various signs that indicate successful purification of negativities. A number of these occur while we are dreaming, such as fighting and overcoming a person dressed in black, vomiting noxious substance, drinking milk, meeting gurus, receiving visions of meditational deities and the like. If we have such dreams repeatedly, not just once or twice, this is an indication that our practices have been fruitful. But there are more definite signs of success that occur while we are awake. Our physical body may come to feel light and buoyant, we find that our need for sleep has decreased, our thinking will be clearer than before and, most importantly, we gain insight into areas of the spiritual path that had previously been obscure. In connection with this last point a contemporary Tibetan master has stated that if we had only an hour in which to study the profound teachings on the Perfection of Wisdom sutras and were to spend the first forty-five minutes engaged in such “collecting and cleansing” techniques as Vajrasattva meditation, we would not be wasting our time in the slightest. Instead, we could be ensuring that whatever study we did in the remainder of the hour would be of maximum benefit.