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Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:36 am
by Yeshe Dorje
Dr Alex Berzin says "Gelug and Kagyu do not practice Vajrasattva as a yidam. Thus, there is no Vajrasattva empowerment, no visualization of ourselves as Vajrasattva, and no visualization of lights coming from ourselves and purifying all beings around us." I have read teachings from Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe that both talk about visualising oneself as Vajrasattva. Does anyone have any thoughts on this topic? An upcoming event with the 104th Ganden Tripa in Austria describes Vajrasattva as a 'yidam diety' https://www.tibetcenter.at/en/yamantaka-initiation/ What exactly does Dr. Berzin mean by yidam in this context?

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 2:09 pm
by kausalya
Your guess is as good as mine, ultimately.

I received Vajrasattva Yab Yum multiple times, although it sounds like it could have been classified as a jenang (subsequent permission) rather than a wang. I'm not entirely sure.

I can confirm that the practice involves visualizing him above one's crown—I haven't seen or heard any reference to self-generation as VS for us (Gelugs), but then again, you have...

Perhaps Heruka Vajrasattva, the form Lama Yeshe writes about, does allow for it. As near as I can tell, it's a special form practiced in relation to Heruka Chakrasamvara. I don't have that initiation, so I can't say. The mantra is slightly different, and it seems to be especially good for mental purification.

My lama made the comment once that VS could be a yidam for someone who had "really hard life"; I believe this could be referring to someone's "chosen deity" or primary practice for this lifetime. I believe that the Yab Yum form might be suited to this role, whereas other forms may not be.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:44 pm
by Ayu
Yeshe Dorje wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:36 am
Dr Alex Berzin says "Gelug and Kagyu do not practice Vajrasattva as a yidam. Thus, there is no Vajrasattva empowerment, no visualization of ourselves as Vajrasattva, and no visualization of lights coming from ourselves and purifying all beings around us." I have read teachings from Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe that both talk about visualising oneself as Vajrasattva. Does anyone have any thoughts on this topic? An upcoming event with the 104th Ganden Tripa in Austria describes Vajrasattva as a 'yidam diety' https://www.tibetcenter.at/en/yamantaka-initiation/ What exactly does Dr. Berzin mean by yidam in this context?
Where does Alex Berzin say this? Quote? For me that is puzzling.
I practice Gelug tradition and participated in many Vajrasattva empowerments. We were told it is necessary before practicing.

There was a Vajrasattva group meditation in our city as well in a Gelug/Kagyu based center. This was without empowerment for interested newbies. But people were not allowed to take the texts home and practice at home. The Rinpoche gave the extra permission only for group meditation. Some monks argued the text and meditation was tantra and should be performed only with empowerment. That's why te group needed permission from the Rinpoche.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:59 pm
by Ayu
I looked it up myself. He says here: https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-s ... -practices
If we practice Vajrasattva without any tantric empowerment, or if in conjunction with practice of any Buddha-figure from the first three classes of tantra, Vajrasattva is a single figure. The single form is white, with one face and two arms.

If we practice Vajrasattva in conjunction with practice of any anuttarayoga tantra figure, Vajrasattva is a couple. Both members of the couple may be white, with one face and two arms, and with the male having either a peaceful expression of the mouth, as in Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka, or with a semi-forceful semi-peaceful mouth expression with fangs, as in Heruka Vajrasattva practiced in Chakrasamvara, Vajrayogini, and Hevajra. In Kalachakra, Vajrasattva is blue, the female partner green, and both have three faces and six arms.

If we are practicing Vajrasattva without an empowerment for a Buddha-figure, we visualize ourselves in our ordinary form during the practice. We visualize all beings around us, each with a Vajrasattva on his or her head, and each also being purified. If we are practicing with having an empowerment for a Buddha-figure, we visualize ourselves as the Buddha-figure during the practice, but maintain very weak “pride of the deity” (lha’i nga-rgyal). We visualize on a moon disc at our hearts ourselves in ordinary form, surrounded by all beings, with everyone being purified. “Pride of the deity” is a feeling of actually being the Buddha-figure.
So, he doesn't say Vajrasattva needs no empowerment ever. He is talking of a special reduced form that can be practiced additionally within another practice or as a preliminary practice in ngöndro. In short: Vajrasattva exists as tantra and as yidam practice as well.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:18 pm
by Fortyeightvows
Gelug and Kagyu do not practice Vajrasattva as a yidam. Thus, there is no Vajrasattva empowerment, no visualization of ourselves as Vajrasattva, and no visualization of lights coming from ourselves and purifying all beings around us.
Gelug do both of those last two things.

For "visualization of ourselves as Vajrasattva" Geluks definitely do that- just look at the long six session.

For the "lights coming from ourselves and purifying all beings around us" I'm not sure I've seen it in vajrasattva practice, but definitely other practices.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 11:55 pm
by kausalya
Fortyeightvows wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:18 pm
For "visualization of ourselves as Vajrasattva" Geluks definitely do that- just look at the long six session.
As an aside:

Gehlek Rimpoche's six-session yoga commentary specifies that, even though it says "Vajrasattva," the actual visualization here is supposed to be of ourselves as a white-coloured Vajradhara. I've considered asking my own lama for clarification on this, but I don't know how much of a difference it makes.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:29 am
by Virgo
kausalya wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 11:55 pm
Fortyeightvows wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:18 pm
For "visualization of ourselves as Vajrasattva" Geluks definitely do that- just look at the long six session.
As an aside:

Gehlek Rimpoche's six-session yoga commentary specifies that, even though it says "Vajrasattva," the actual visualization here is supposed to be of ourselves as a white-coloured Vajradhara. I've considered asking my own lama for clarification on this, but I don't know how much of a difference it makes.
If in doubt it is better to seek clarification. :namaste:

Virgo

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:48 am
by jmlee369
Yeshe Dorje wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:36 am
Dr Alex Berzin says "Gelug and Kagyu do not practice Vajrasattva as a yidam. Thus, there is no Vajrasattva empowerment, no visualization of ourselves as Vajrasattva, and no visualization of lights coming from ourselves and purifying all beings around us." I have read teachings from Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe that both talk about visualising oneself as Vajrasattva. Does anyone have any thoughts on this topic? An upcoming event with the 104th Ganden Tripa in Austria describes Vajrasattva as a 'yidam diety' https://www.tibetcenter.at/en/yamantaka-initiation/ What exactly does Dr. Berzin mean by yidam in this context?
I think by empowerment, he means wangchen, because there are definitely jenang (subsequent permissions) related to both solitary and yab-yum Vajrasattva. This is in contrast to Nyingma practices like the Mindrolling Vajrasattva terma cycle (Minling Dorsem) where Vajrasattva is a full yidam practice with instructions for generation and completion stage, etc.

In Gelug, Varjasattva practice functions as a preliminary to your main yidam practice (whether it's Vajrabhairava, Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara, Vajrayogini, etc) in the sadhana, where Vajrasattva is on your crown, and the blessings descend from the mantra at his heart, etc. The mantra changes according to the main yidam you are practising.

The highest yoga tantra jenang of Vajrasattva yab-yum is said to be unique to the Gelug tradition (perhaps this was prior to the revelation of Minling Dorsem), and drawn from the Guhyasamaja Tantra. In the sadhana for this practice (composed by Ngulchu Dharmabhadra), there is only the self-generation as Vajrasattva yab-yum, and the mantra and activities occur within your heart. However, the oral instructions I received also mention a different visualisation for this practice, where the deity is on the crown but different from other front generation visualisations. It is also worth noting that there are differences in the visualisation of the mother across practices.
kausalya wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 11:55 pm
Fortyeightvows wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:18 pm
For "visualization of ourselves as Vajrasattva" Geluks definitely do that- just look at the long six session.
As an aside:

Gehlek Rimpoche's six-session yoga commentary specifies that, even though it says "Vajrasattva," the actual visualization here is supposed to be of ourselves as a white-coloured Vajradhara. I've considered asking my own lama for clarification on this, but I don't know how much of a difference it makes.
I think this arises from the interchangeability of Vajrasattva with Vajradhara in the Guhyasamaja system.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:50 am
by smcj
.....or as a preliminary practice in ngöndro. In short: Vajrasattva exists as tantra and as yidam practice as well.
In the Karma Kagyu ngondro the single figure Vajrasattva is a Yoga Tantra level practice. There is an empowerment for it.

However it is acceptable to do the practice for the accumulations without empowerment if one has taken Refuge and had at least on Vajrayana empowerment.

I can’t remember where I got that and give a citation. Sorry.
I think this arises from the interchangeability of Vajrasattva with Vajradhara in the Guhyasamaja system.
I find that interesting. Thanks.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 1:34 am
by zerwe
I have not received it, but I am pretty certain that LZR gave some form of a full HYT Vajrasattva (lineage uncertain) here during LOP retreat
several years ago. I think it was during the second retreat. Whichever year that was I have lost track now.
Shaun :namaste:

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 1:59 am
by Yeshe Dorje
Thank you everyone for your replies. Perhaps, as Kausalya suggests the Gelug references I have seen to generating oneself as Vajrasattva are specifically in relation to Heruka Vajrassatva. This does seem to be the form that Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche refer to most often. :thanks:

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 1:32 pm
by avatamsaka3
I know Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been distributing a Vajrasattva purification practice booklet through the FPMT. The emphasis here is on the purification side (four opponent powers) and not on the visualization side. In fact, only the hundred syllable mantra is provided for recitation. Clearly, Rinpoche wouldn't be so widely distributing this if he felt this particular practice required an empowerment. (And it says the purification practice should be implemented immediately, with no mention of one.) Not trying to argue with anything here, just adding something I observed.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 2:20 pm
by zerwe
dolphin_color wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 1:32 pm
I know Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been distributing a Vajrasattva purification practice booklet through the FPMT. The emphasis here is on the purification side (four opponent powers) and not on the visualization side. In fact, only the hundred syllable mantra is provided for recitation. Clearly, Rinpoche wouldn't be so widely distributing this if he felt this particular practice required an empowerment. (And it says the purification practice should be implemented immediately, with no mention of one.) Not trying to argue with anything here, just adding something I observed.
Yes, this is an important practice and part of Gelug Ngondro, but Front-Generation only (unless one has received initiation or permission ortherwise)

Shaun :namaste:

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 7:35 pm
by kausalya
dolphin_color wrote:
Fri Dec 20, 2019 1:32 pm
I know Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been distributing a Vajrasattva purification practice booklet through the FPMT. The emphasis here is on the purification side (four opponent powers) and not on the visualization side. In fact, only the hundred syllable mantra is provided for recitation. Clearly, Rinpoche wouldn't be so widely distributing this if he felt this particular practice required an empowerment. (And it says the purification practice should be implemented immediately, with no mention of one.) Not trying to argue with anything here, just adding something I observed.
According to my own observations, some practices are regarded as foundational enough and/or benign enough that the front-generation practice & mantra are permitted without initiation—such that the outer form is enough for someone to derive benefit from, without the risk of harmful misunderstandings. Medicine Buddha is like this; so is Green Tara, and maybe Amitabha, or some others. Another way of expressing it is that certain Buddhas took special vows in order to make their blessings accessible to sentient beings.

Initiation into the mandala & further teachings are still desirable, because it amounts to confirmation from a lineage-holder that you are practicing correctly, as well as the opportunity to receive a boost in your understanding from someone who has spent many years cultivating realizations from a practice. There are also many benefits derived from devoting oneself to a proper Guru that one doesn't get from practicing alone. For one thing, it's easier to find one's yidam with input from someone who is very knowledgeable & also knows you well, and down the line, you may find that your greatest affinity is with a more restricted practice.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 9:02 pm
by avatamsaka3
Thank you, kausalya.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:09 am
by conebeckham
Berzin is not correct. Plenty of “Kagyupas” practice DorSem as a yidam. Minling DorSem, Karling Shitro, and Chogling SangTik DorSem are all quite popular. Unless he argues that one is automatically “Nyingma” if one steps outside of Sarma transmissions.

There is also a form of Vajrasattva related to Samvara, found amongst Marpa’s transmission of Samputa, but this is a fairly uncommon practice.

Re: Vajrasattva in the Gelug tradition

Posted: Mon Dec 23, 2019 5:50 pm
by kausalya
conebeckham wrote:
Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:09 am
Berzin is not correct. Plenty of “Kagyupas” practice DorSem as a yidam. Minling DorSem, Karling Shitro, and Chogling SangTik DorSem are all quite popular. Unless he argues that one is automatically “Nyingma” if one steps outside of Sarma transmissions.
One of his goals seems to be presenting each separate tradition in a way that highlights its unique features (for people who are trying to get an idea of which one suits them best, for example). I recall an acknowledgement on his part that he was oversimplifying, but maybe he could have been more precise, all the same.