THANGKA TALKS 02: VAJRASATTVA and his ritual implements Vajra & Bell explained by Carmen Mensink

THANGKA TALKS 02: VAJRASATTVA and his ritual implements Vajra & Bell explained by Carmen Mensink


Today I would like to talk about Vajrasattva, the Buddha who is known for his enormous power of purification. In Tibetan he is called Dorje Sempa. And the words “vajra” and “sattva” come from Sanskrit. “Vajra” has two meanings; actually thunderbolt and diamond, and if we look at the nature of these elements
we see that a thunderbolt is very fast in nature, and the nature of a diamond is that is is very steady,
very adamant. “Sattva” literally means “purification,” and in Ayurveda, the five thousand year old Indian medical system, they talk about “sattvic food,” as a term for pure food. This is food that, once completely digested in the body, leaves a subtle substance of bliss and joy. Sattvic food is for example milk and fruits, and honey and dates, and purity is also the reason why Vajrasattva is bright
white, as clear as crystal. When you translate it Vajrasattva means as much as “He whose essence is the nature of a vajra.” And vajra has also become the name of the ritual instrument that he holds in his right
hand, for his heart. And in his left hand that rests on his thigh he is holding a bell. The vajra and the bell are usually used together
when a Tibetan lama uses it with various mudras, hand gestures, in tantric rituals. And Vajrasattva also uses them in this way. They are also seen as the male and female principles in Buddhism: method and wisdom. Both must be developed when you want to make progress on the spiritual path, and the higher stages of consciousness. Let’s take a closer look at these instruments. We have already seen that the nature of vajra, called “Dorje” in Tibetan, stands for strength determination, and this is what it takes for the aspect of “method,” where the vajra stands for. With method is meant the practice with which
you practice develop compassion. In Tibetan Buddhism it is considered the male aspect, and sometimes you see a crossed vajra, a double vajra, which stands for absolute stability. The double vajra is often depicted on the throne where a lama sits, to indicate that this person has everything achieved what the vajra stands for. For example, a nice photo of this the young Dalai Lama who sits on such a throne Vajrasattva is holding the bell in his left hand, the feminine aspect that represents wisdom, and in Sanskrit it is called ‘ghanta’, and in Tibetan ‘drilbu’. In Buddhism, true wisdom means understanding the right nature of things, the true nature of reality, which is completely different from reality as we usually perceive it. In short, it means none at all object or being stands on its own. Everything depends on other elements and is therefore connected to each other. This concept is called “emptiness” in Buddhist philosophy. And although Vajrasattva sometimes is depicted with his right leg stretched out, we usually see him with his legs completely crossed, which is also called the “lotus position”, or the ‘vajra position’, which again for stability and perseverance, so you don’t let yourself be distracted from the path. Here you see a beautiful old wood block print, which also shows the clothing, scarves and jewelry that Vajrasattva wears. Vajrasattva is therefore the Buddha of Purification, and his practice can be done to purify ourselves. But what do we actually purify? Simply put, we purify our bad things and at the same time cultivate our good things. Purification is always done on three levels: body, speech and mind, and we purify the negative actions that are created through our body, speech and mind and that come forth
out of selfishness ignorance, lust and anger, for example. I explain much more about this during my thangka drawing and painting courses. By avoiding Vajrasattva we avoid incapable and destructive actions, and at the same time we clean the negative blueprints that we carry with us from the past in this life, but also those of past lives. The Vajrasattva purification is practiced in all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism; the Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Happiness. And it is part of the “preliminary exercises.” These exercises clear the way for a good progression on the spiritual path, because the path to higher stages of consciousness Not the deep results will reach as long as our current body, speech and mind are polluted by our impure actions. And although these preparatory practices can lead to great results when done daily, high lamas advise the serious practitioners to do long meditation retreats so that the
deep ones experiences of those practices can really lead to an in-depth realization. Here a nice picture of Lama Yeshe, holding the varjra and the bell here, he was a great supporter of such a practice, and he once said that he hoped that all his students would take the time
once in their life would do a “three month Vajrasattva retreat”, before they left, and over this special meditation retreat he said: ‘The Vajrasattva practice can guide us the ego, beyond greed, and beyond the dualistic mind. That is what the Vajrasattva practice is about.” And with these words I will end this short talk for today. Do you want to learn more about Vajrasattva, this beautiful Buddha of Purification? Check out my upcoming lectures and thangka art classes via the links in the description below.

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