The first 10 days of my 40 day vow (today is day 3) I’ll be practicing as Vajrasattva and so I’d thought I’d give a very brief introduction to him as taught to me by my teacher, Hokai Sobol. In describing the qualities that Vajrasattva embodies and represents, what is important to me is not some objective, detached understanding, but to see those qualities in myself, as myself, embodied through my practice and integrated into my daily life. So, I will speak more from that perspective and I hope that you read this with that feeling in mind and heart.
Vajrasattva is commonly included in the various Vajrayana lineages as a fundamental and foundational deity, often as a part of preliminary practices. He is the ultimate practitioner, the perfect esoteric practitioner, and represents divine, non-self confidence. In my practice as Vajrasattva, I tap into my confidence that there is nothing wrong with my practice, my motive, my ability to practice, or my natural inclination to integrate my insight into daily life. I will learn to tap into this non-self confidence and divine dignity by strengthening it through the practice, and thus be able to use it as the basis of other activities. It is through this practice as Vajrasattva that I develop these qualities as part of my own identity, dissolving into, mixing with and as my own being.
Vajrasattva is often associated with purification practice and the practitioner recites the mantra of Vajrasattva, visualizing body, speech, and mind being purified of negative karma and obstacles. Here, as instructed by Hokai, I am seeing Vajrasattva, and hence myself, and all phenomena as already being already purified, without obstacles as the starting point. I take my seat as Vajrasattva and practice with this awareness. In a sense, I feel that this approach is similarly purifying, but done with a different approach, qualities, and understanding. Furthermore, instead of reciting a mantra while being Vajrasattva, I am practicing shamatha, which is also held to be both grounding and stabilizing, but is also a purifying and pacifying practice in itself (which I’ll be sharing more about as well).
I have done practice with Vajrasattva in the past, but in many ways I feel this practice to be very fresh and new given the nuanced instructions of Hokai, and undertaking this practice at this particular time and point in my path. I hope that I will realize more subtle insights into Vajrasattva beyond the main qualities described here, or perhaps said better, a deeper and, most importantly, an embodied, direct understanding. Which brings me to a final point that I have so appreciated in my practice over this last year, one that the Shingon tradition holds great value in – embodiment. Enlightenment, realization, compassion, love embodied, in this physical, emotional, spiritual body I call “me”. I find this to be so important that this body is taken as a primary focus and means of realization.
Vajrasattva is the recognition of our already wakeful state, buddhahood as this body-itself. -Hokai Sobol
Great intro, Ryan. Being helpful for someone else in this practice always feels like rediscovering it myself. The flavor of genuine esoteric sadhana is unique, a depth of which other Buddhist teachings are expressions. An important aspect is using our true nature as the path. So, when noticing impermanence, we find continuity; with suffering, we find open responsiveness; with nonself, we find the indestructible vajra-body. Amazing! And so we enter the genuine path of mantra. Looking forward to going through these 40 days with you. Hum hum hum
Thanks for chiming in, Hokai. I’m really curious about these qualities found deeper: continuity, responsiveness, and the indestructible vajra-body. It seems to point to qualities about being embodied and in the world, that realizing the nature of impermanence, suffering, and non-self is only the beginning.