There are different classes of spiritual masters, endowed with varying characteristics and qualifications. We can qualify the masters according to the level of vows that they have taken. There are three such levels of vows.
The Pratimoksha vow, according to which we pledge to abstain from negative deeds. This vow is taken with a view to our own personal liberation (hinayana) Prāti means "towards" and mokṣa means "liberation" from cyclic existence (saṃsāra). It is a list of rules (contained within the vinaya). Precepts ?
The Bodhisattva vow, which entails not only abstaining from negative deeds, but also striving toward liberation for the sake of other beings (mahayana) Since Tibetan Buddhists are automatically followers of the Mahayana, they emphasize taking the pratimoksha vows with the attitude of bodhichitta.
Finally the Vajrayana or Tantric vow, which is the highest level of vow, and this is where the supreme methods are used to gain liberation for the sake of others. The master who has taken all three of these vows is the highest kind of master that one can find.
Vajrayana is the most advanced teaching of the Buddha, and can only be received through the direct transmission of an unbroken lineage that originated with Buddha Vajradhara and has been passed on from one master to another until the present. It is not only the words and their meaning that are conveyed in the teachings.
More importantly, it is the blessing that is transmitted from one person to another. Without this blessing, it is impossible to practise any of the tantric teachings or to attain any of its results; it can, in fact, be very harmful. This is why the Vajrayana teachings place so much importance on the spiritual master. The sun shines brightly in the sky every day, but if we want to channel and maximise its energy, we need certain instruments. SAMAYA ???
Similarly, the blessings of the Buddha shower on sentient beings all the time, but without proper instruments, we cannot receive these blessings. Due to our lack of merit brought about by our negative deeds, we cannot see the Buddha in person. The guru is the instrument that helps channel and maximise the Buddha’s blessings. The guru appears to us in ordinary form, and through him or her, we can hear the teachings of the Buddha and thereby receive His blessings.
Again, it is extremely important in Vajrayana to find a teacher and to thoroughly investigate his qualities.
If we try to learn Tantra on our own, or through books, this can actually cause more harm than benefit.
In actuality, we can have several root gurus. Then, among these, we can also have a very special root guru, for instance our karmic link guru. This is our most important guru, one with whom we have a karmic connection, who has been our guide through the course of many lifetimes. If we have such a guru, then it is essential that we never cease to feel intense devotion for him and that we never lose faith in him, whatever happens.
Even if our root guru is just an ordinary person and not a realised being, if we as a disciple see him as the Buddha, then we can receive the blessings of the Buddha, because both he and we are endowed with Buddha nature.
Treatment of Samaya Breakers
It is said in the Vajrayana texts that if a Vajrayana student has broken his or her samaya with a guru, the rest of the students should not associate with him or her. In fact, you are not even supposed to be in the same room.
This principle has been abused by gurus and Dharma practitioners. Some gurus have conveniently used it as a threat, intimating that if the students break samaya, it will hinder the longevity of the guru.
No Vajrayana master with any kindness would ever use this kind of blatant blackmail. Likewise, the other sangha members make the student’s life miserable. This is not at all in accordance with Buddhism, let alone Vajrayana.
As followers of the Buddha, we are supposed to embrace all beings with love and compassion, especially those who have violated the samaya.
The fact remains that if a person has consciously and deliberately broken samaya, he or she is not fit to be in the mandala. That person should not participate in feast offerings or take initiations with other students, and it’s good for the sangha to avoid doing tantric activities with him or her. But at no time should this person be looked down upon or despised. As a follower of the Buddha, they are the most worthy objects of compassion.
The practice of Vajrasattva
The view of tantra is a pure view, that’s why the practice of Vajrasattva is essential to tantra. Pure view is the opposite of impure view. Impure view is associated with negative perceptions and negative karma. Having negative karma means that in the past you did not have a pure view and you did negative things. Therefore, negative karma is an obstacle to you now as you are trying to develop pure view. You can do many different practices but only Vajrasattva meditation can clean and purify previous negative karma.
Before you start doing Vajrasattva practice, you need to receive transmission and empowerment for the practice. You also need to learn and understand what to do in Vajrasattva practice and what vows you are taking on with the practice of Vajrasattva.
The Four Powers
There are Four Powers in the practice of Vajrasattva. These are: the power of support; the power of regretting what you have done wrong; the power of resolution and the power of action as an antidote.
The power of support is the visualization of Vajrasattva; taking Refuge in Vajrasattva; thinking of Vajrasattva and practicing the Sadhana of Vajrasattva.
The second power is the power of regretting what we have done wrong. We regret having done all the negative actions in past lives as well as this life. Doing negative actions is like drinking poison by accident. We did these actions in the past because we didn’t realize they were poison. Now you recognize that ‘drinking poison’ was wrong. You think and feel strongly: “I did wrong. I am very, very sorry and I regret this.’ You clearly recognize that you did negative things in past lives and this life. This is very important. When these are purified and there is no negative karma left we reach liberation.
The third power is the power of resolution. This is the power to say, ‘I will not do negative things again, even if I face death’. You develop a strong intention and resolve not to engage in negative thoughts and actions in the future. It would not be enough to just regret our negative thoughts and actions and then keep on engaging in them again. So it is important to resolve that we want to change.
The fourth power is the power of action as an antidote. You do actions with your body, speech and mind to purify the negative karma. With your body, you try practicing Tibetan Meditation Yoga of the Body and Vajrasattva posture. With your speech, you recite the Vajrasattva mantra. With your mind, you think of emptiness and wisdom.
Also think of the union of this great mind of Vajrasattva with your mind. Then you engage in the action of Vajrasattva meditation to clean and purify yourself.
An example might be helpful here. For instance, when your hands are dirty, you want to clean your hands and so you wash them with soap. When you are engaging in the Vajrasattva practice, you are doing purification at a deeper energetic and mental level with your body, speech and mind. Doing this will purify your three kayas – enlightened pure forms of your body, speech and mind.
I will give you the Vajrasattva empowerment this afternoon. This will give you the power to purify your negativity and karma while doing Vajrasattva meditation. It is also very important not to think that only you are clean and purified., you think of all sentient beings in your practice.
In this way, you think and feel that all sentient beings have been purified and liberated through this meditation. Specifically, in this meditation you are aware that all sentient beings in all 10 directions practicing together with you are being purified and liberated as you are doing this practice. This is great Vajrasattva meditation.
The five vows
Together with the four powers and the practice of Vajrasattva, you also take on the five vows.
The first vow is that you will really respect the Tantra lineage. If you at some point change your mind or don’t show respect to the teachings, this means your vow is broken. If you really like Tantra, practice and believe in it, then you are keeping this first vow.
The second vow is that you respect your lineage Masters - you respect Vajrasattva, Samantahbadra, Garab Dorjee and your Master. You never break away from your lineage and with your Master. You do not argue with or break your connection with your Master.
The third vow says that you will do mantra and mudra every day, even if just for a short time, 10-20 minutes. When you do these every day, you don’t lose your practice.
The fourth vow is that you never fight with; do negative things toward or break away from your Vajra brothers and sisters.
The fifth and last vow is that you don’t talk about your practice in public, you keep your samaya. It is ok to talk about your practice with other Vajra brothers and sisters who are also doing the same practice. It is not good to talk with others who are not practitioners about your practice, because they may not be respectful to the practice. You keep your practices and teachings to yourself.
To review, in doing Vajrasattva practice, we begin with checking our motivation, with Refuge and Bodhicitta. Then we contemplate the Four Powers and practice Vajrasattva purification for ourselves and all sentient beings. When we are finished, we dedicate all virtue for the liberation of all sentient beings.
With this practice, our realization will gradually increase. Then we are happier; we have more joy; our mind has more freedom and we understand the nature of our mind more and more. You do this practice everyday