Vajrasattva, The Diamond or Adamant
Vajrasattva, like other Buddhist deities, is opposed to the idea of ego. Consequently, neither "who" nor "what" is real. One may contend that when viewed as a pure Buddha, Vajrasattva is none other than ourselves. His emanation from Samantabhadra, Vajradhara, or Akshobya has been mentioned. Vajrasattva might be the same as every other Buddha in the end. Vajrasattva, however, may be described as a kind and understanding god. None of these assertions characterizes Vajrasattva, even if each is true in its own right.
Buddhists have long regarded Vajrasattva practice as a valuable method for clearing the mind. Vajrayana Buddhism's practice of Vajrasattva is viewed as the most powerful method of healing and cleansing. Most students typically adore him as their first deity. As part of their basic training, several Tibetan Buddhist institutions demand that trainees recite 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras. Vajrasattva combines meditation with speech, body, and mind. Our intellect is activated when we visualize the god, the idealized representation of an Enlightened being.
He is mainly practiced for purification by practitioners of all levels of Vajrayana practice. Depending upon the types of practice, he is visualized either alone or in union with his consort. Vajrasattva is a manifestation of Vajradhara as well as of Samatabhadra according to the older school of Vajrayana Buddhism.
According to the Gaden Choling, the practice of Vajrasattva is the most powerful technique that heals and purifies the negative karma and removes the obstacles. It is one of the core foundation for Vajrayana practitioners.
The iconography of Vajrasattva:
- Vajrasattva is white in color which symbolizes his immaculate purity.
- He holds a vajra symbolizing method in his right hand and the bell of wisdom left. These attributes are similar to that of Vajradhara.
- Sometimes he is depicted as sitting with his leg partially outstretched. And most of the time, he seats on an unshakeable full vajra posture.
- He wears the beautiful silken garments representing the then Indian royal attire.
The manifestation of Vajradhara is called Vajrasattva. The diamond or adamantine entity is the main god employed by tantric practitioners at all levels for cleansing. In Tibetan Buddhism, his role as the "great purifier" is foremost in the mind; it is an essential first step in Buddhist practice, eliminating the obstacles and negative Karma that conceal our Buddha's Nature. It is one of the core or essential Vajrayana practices.
He has the hue of pure white. He is a member of the same family as Vajrapani, the Aksobhya Vajra. He is often shown as a young, composed man wearing all the silks and diamonds a wealthy prince would.He clutches a vajra at his heart with his right hand.
He is holding a bell in his left hand, around his waist. While the vajra represents Reality and Compassion, the bell stands for Wisdom. Like Vajradhara, an emanation, he holds the bell of Wisdom in his left hand and a vajra, which stands for a technique, in his right. On occasion, Vajrasattva is seen sitting with one leg slightly outstretched.
Vajrasattva Practice and Meditation
Vajrasattva meditation is the main method practiced in most of the traditions in Vajrayana Buddhism. This practice helps to cleanse and purify our negative actions. It is effective for rectifying transgressions of the sacred vows done by the disciple to the master.
Therefore, everyone seeking to advance their spiritual practice is strongly advised to engage in vajrasattva meditation. It is stated that our past and present Karma strongly determines how our present and future lives will turn out; therefore, purifying the same is required for better days.
The transformation is not effective as long as our present body, speech, and mind remain contaminated. These impurities are accumulated from our past actions (physical, verbal, and mental). Hence, we must prohibit ourselves from such unskillful and destructive activities. And also, cleanse ourselves of those negative impacts from the past deeds.
Tibetan masters recommend that a serious practitioner, in a prolonged meditation retreat can only cultivate a deep experience of these practices. Hence, disciples are not given the empowerment of the highest yoga tantra until they are capable of an extensive retreat.
Vajrasattva practice also includes taking refuge and developing Bodhicitta, making mandala offerings, cultivating guru-yoga, prostrations, and more.
In one such retreat, recitation of the hundred-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva is done one hundred thousand times. The highest yoga tantra teachings are not transmitted until the disciple completes these extensive practices.
These practices filter the serious practitioners, from those who pursue tantra superficially. The superficial practitioners are easily discouraged by hardship. They lack the perseverance and dedication to complete these preliminaries. These extensive practices are hence, the necessary foundation of spiritual growth.
It is also believed that the goal of enlightenment is possible even by these practices alone. After completing such purification, one experiences a profound change in their perception of the phenomenal world. The world itself has not transformed but that the practitioner's view has. It has been purified. Just like the doors of perception are now wide open.
Beings and phenomena take on a pure appearance which is a reflection of own healed purity. The gravitational field that keeps us anchored in the mundane reality is now relaxed. It provides a great incentive for pursuing higher practices. It convinces us that Enlightenment, though far away, is actually attainable through practices.
Purpose of Vajrasattva Statue
No work of art in Vajrayana Buddhism is made purely for aesthetic reasons. The main motivation of statues or thangka is beyond elegance and beauty. They serve the purpose of inspiring and instructing the practitioners. It embodies the concept of enlightened purity. The statues enhance the visualization process while meditating Vajrasattva.
Vajrasattva is understood in various forms. Like Adhi Buddha (primordial Buddha), Adhi Guru (primordial Master), or Vow Being (Samaya Sattva).
But the main motive of the practice is always that "Vajrasattva is the practitioner and the practitioner is Vajrasattva".
Images of Enlightenment, By Andy Weber and Jonathan Landaw
Circle of Bliss, by Dina Bangdel