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Explanation of the Vajrasattva sadhana

Explanation of the Vajrasattva sadhana

Part of a series of teachings given during the 2016-2017 New Years Vajrasattva Purification Retreat at Sravasti Abbey.

  • Thinking of our life experiences as like a dream
  • How to relate to Vajrasattva
  • Explanation of the sadhana
  • The meaning of the visualizations


Let’s cultivate our motivation. When you have a really good dream, one that just feels so good, does it make any sense to hold onto that dream afterward? And try and recreate it? Or ponder it and analyze it? Ad nauseum? Or does it make more sense just to say, “Wow, that was a nice dream. I’m glad that happened, but I’m awake now. The dream’s no longer happening. There’s nothing to hold onto now.” Which view is really more accurate? Which one will enable you to be more present in your life?

And when you have a bad dream, when you wake up, yes, there may be a bad feeling, but does it make any sense to hold onto that feeling? Or to think that the nightmare is still happening now? Or that it has some deeper meaning that you analyze again and again and again and again? Or does it make much more sense to say, “Oh, it was a nightmare, but I’m awake now. That is no longer happening.” And let it be. What’s a more realistic approach?

Let’s come back to the good dream. Not only is it transient and not happening now, but when you had the dream, did all the people and things in the dream really exist the way they appear to you? When you were dreaming they all seemed so real. There are real things. But when you wake up, you see that those things are not real. They don’t exist the way they appear. How does that change your feeling about the dream when you see that it doesn’t exist the way it appears?

Similarly, when you have a nightmare, when you wake up you realize not only was the nightmare impermanent but whatever it was that was chasing you, whatever it was that was going to harm you, it doesn’t exist. There was an appearance in the nightmare, but there was no real thing there. So the things in the bad dream don’t exist the way they appear. They are just appearances without anything substantial behind them. So when you see the things in a nightmare in that way, how does that change how you feel?

Now how about in your life when something nice happens, can you see that event as transient, as here and gone with nothing to cling to remaining? Can you see that although the things in our life appear to exist from their own side with some kind of inherent essence that actually they don’t exist that way at all? They’re dependent phenomena that appear due to many causes and conditions including our mind that conceives and designates them. If you think about the good things in your life that way, how does that change how you relate to them? Do you still have as much clinging and expectation or is your mind more accepting?

Similarly, when you have unwanted or suffering events in your life, can you realize that they also are transient? And that although all the people and objects in them including yourself appear to have some inherent or independent essence that makes them what they are, can you see in actual fact nothing has that kind of essence? Everything is composed of parts. It arises in dependence upon causes and conditions. It exists within a web of mutually dependent things. If we see the unhappy events in our life in that way, how does that change how we relate to them especially if we see that there’s no inherently existent me there that is experiencing everything?

Now, within that state of seeing things as transient and as empty of their own essence, then cultivate the loving, compassionate, altruistic intention to become a buddha.

Did that meditation have some kind of effect on your mind or did you fall asleep in it? We’ve been spending the weekend talking about our destructive actions, and sometimes in the process of doing that, we get really kind of stuck thinking about them and lose perspective of actually how they do exist. It’s important to realize that whatever negativities we’ve created, they are transient. We still exist in a continuity, in a continuum with the person who did those, so there’s going to be some result, but we’re not doing those things now. Similarly, whatever distressful situation we were in that set the stage for us to act in harmful ways, that situation is no longer happening, so it doesn’t make much sense to get stuck in it, reliving it again and again and again, ad nauseum, as we often tend to do.

And then similarly, just as things are like a dream, with a dream, yes, things happen and they will affect our mood, but the people in the dream, including ourselves, are not actually existent. They’re just appearances to the mind, and so in the same way, be it good events or disturbing events in our life, they are things that don’t have some kind of existence from their own side, but are built up due to so many causes and conditions and so many parts, and also due to our mind and the way we conceptualize things, the labels we give them, the names we call them, that’s a big factor in how we experience things.

That can give us a different kind of perspective on past negativities as well as when we do mess up and we sit down at the end of the day and look over what we’ve done, it gives us another way to look at those things. Not dismissing them and saying, “Oh they were like a dream, so they don’t exist, they were impermanent, forget it.” But recognizing that there’s a continuity between the impermanent event and who we are now, and that things, although they are simply appearances, do have effects. Then learning how to look at things in a more realistic way, so we don’t get so stuck.

That means we have to look at the conventional way things exist and function, but also realize that, ultimately, things do not exist the way they appear. They’re not non-existent. You can’t say the things in the dream were totally non-existent because they did appear to your mind, but we can say that they don’t exist the way they appear. We’re not saying that our life is a dream, we’re saying it’s like a dream in the sense that the way things appear to us is in a false way, but they still exist. Our challenge is to peel away the falsity. Something to keep in mind as you do purification so that you can have a really balanced approach to it. It’s not easy to understand this, but it’s helpful to try and think about it a bit.

Let’s look at the sadhana again. I just want to talk basically about the visualization, but we’ll just start at the beginning. I talked yesterday about visualizing Vajrasattva and how you might think and how you might feel and what kind of experience you might have in relating to Vajrasattva as your best friend. Seeing him as looking at you with complete acceptance and compassion. Within that space, then you can generate the power of regret. Regret all the non-virtues, knowing that Vajrasattva is not going to judge us. He’s just going to listen. There’s no judgment there. There’s no criticism. Vajrasattva isn’t sitting on your head going, “Tsk, boy I was trying to lead you to enlightenment for so long, and you just keep messing up kid.” Vajrasattva’s not doing that.

He just listens and, in the meantime, you try and see, “Ok, how did I get caught up in that? What can I do if a similar thing happens in the future?” Or if it’s an ongoing situation, “How can I deal with this ongoing situation now in a creative, helpful way?” You have that kind of contemplation with Vajrasattva kind of looking, I would say over your shoulder, but he’s on top of your head, encouraging you. Then we ask Vajrasattva for his help in clearing away the seeds of the destructive karma as well as all the obscurations on our mind stream, and we’re asking that for ourselves, we’re asking that for others. Although in the rest of the visualization we’re imagining Vajrasattva above our head, you can also keep in mind that you’re surrounded by all living beings and there’s a Vajrasattva on top of each of their heads.

Imagine Vajrasattva on top of Donald Trump’s head. Light and nectar pouring down. Or Ted Cruz or Steve Bannon—all of them, there’s a Vajrasattva above the crowns of their heads, purifying. Wouldn’t that be cool? Then add in there whoever it is you have trouble with, or whoever has harmed you, put that person in there too and visualize Vajrasattva on top of their heads, purifying, all sentient beings around you. The dog that bit you when you were five years old, you can put that dog in there too. Whatever it is? [laughter] Vajrasattva on top of his head won’t ruin his hairdo. Tell him that’s ok.

Then we come to the power of the remedial action. So Vajrasattva’s above your head, and there’s a flat moon disk at his heart, horizontal, on it there’s the letter HUM. The HUM radiates out light in all the directions requesting all the Buddhas to send back their inspiration and their blessings, all their good qualities to help purify you. That all absorbs into the HUM at Vajrasattva’s heart and the mantra letters.

Some people say, “Do Vajrasattva like this big (entire forearm).” Personally speaking, I find that too big. I find it easier smaller. You can see how it resonates with you, what size feels good. The light and nectar absorb back into the HUM and the mantra letters, and then it starts falling down. Through Vajrasattva’s body into you. It fills his whole body and then the light and nectar fall into you, and so while you’re reciting the mantra, then there’s four visualizations that you can do. Like I said yesterday, sometimes you can emphasize the visualizations, sometimes emphasize the sound of the mantra.

It is important when you’re visualizing Vajrasattva here (above the head) that you’re not visualizing a statue. Because if you visualize a statue, you’re going to get a headache. Because a statue is made of bronze or wood or something like that. It’s very important—Vajrasattva’s body is completely made of light. And don’t try and roll your eyeballs up and look at Vajrasattva, because that will also give you a headache. Just keep your eyes down as you usually do as you meditate. But you just have that figure there. When we say visualize, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to appear like in real life. It’s a mental image that’s appearing in your mind. But we have mental images all the time. When you’re sitting here thinking about what’s for lunch and envisioning, “Oh, I hope she makes pizza, I hope she does this.” By the way we need to really thank Ven. Yeshe and Ven. Tsultrum for cooking for so many people for this retreat. Let’s remember to do that after lunch. When we’re visualizing, we’re just having that kind of image. But when you’re thinking about lunch, you’re visualizing. When you’re thinking about what you could have been doing on New Year’s Eve, zoned out, you’re visualizing. Don’t expect to see things with your eyes. It’s an appearance to the mental consciousness.

Purification of the body

Your afflictions and negativities in general, and particularly those of the body.

So things we’ve done physically that we regret, maybe killing insects or killing other living beings, taking things that haven’t been freely given to us, using sexuality unwisely, unkindly, getting into affairs with people who aren’t your partner, having unprotected sex or just being in general reckless.

Think that all those negativities, take the form of black ink. Sickness takes the form of pus and blood [barf] and disturbances caused by [external things] appear in the form of scorpions, snakes, frogs, and crabs.

Don’t imagine all those things in your body. But when the light comes, because it’s flowing downwards, when those things come out of your body, they appear in those forms. Don’t think you’re all full of pus and blood and scorpions and things like that. But when the negativities come out there in that form, and you can think that they just leave your body through the lower openings or just through the bottom of your body altogether “like filthy liquid flowing from a drainpipe.” All that gunk is just coming out and you can imagine it just as it comes out in those forms and then it vanishes.

Or another visualization is you imagine what they call the Lord of Death. In other words, there’s no real Lord of Death, but we anthropomorphize death and make it into a monster, and you think of that monster kind of below your seat with his mouth wide open and all those negativities are falling into the mouth of the Lord of Death and he’s going, “Yum yum yum yum yum, this taste so good, really enjoying it.” He’s satisfied by eating all these negativities. Then at the end of the recitation, you imagine a double dorje, goes on top of his mouth so he doesn’t burp. It stays in him. It satisfies him, and you think that all those obstacles are eliminated.

That’s one visualization you can do. And with these four visualizations, you can spend in an entire session with one or two or three or all four. It’s really up to you. You can do the same visualization for many sessions in a row. You can alternate visualizations. You have to see what feels best to you.

Then the second visualization is

The afflictions and the latencies of again all negativities in general, but especially negativities of speech, take the form of liquid tar.

The light and nectar come into your body. They start, they go to the bottom of your body and start filling up. As it does, all this liquid tar gets pushed out, through your mouth, your ears, nose, just all these [barf] is coming out. They say it’s like when you fill a dirty glass with water and the junk rises to the top and then comes out. At the end of both of these visualizations, you really pause and feel like all the negativities are gone, and I’m filled with this light and nectar Vajrasattva.

The light and nectar, again, don’t imagine them as like something really heavy like, “Oh I’m full of all this nectar now, I can barely move.” Not like that. But you’re filled with this nectar which is the realizations of wisdom and compassion of the method side of the path and the wisdom side of the path that is manifesting as the nectar, and that’s filling you up. It’s very light, it’s very blissful. What is really unusual in this kind of purification is its very different. We talked the other day about if you’ve been brought up Christian or Jewish or whatever, and it’s been driven into you that the worse you feel, the more guilty you feel, the more you’re atoning for what you did. Which completely doesn’t make sense at all. But here, you’re purifying and after you’ve purified, you feel blissful. The bliss is helping you to purify.

It’s important, as you do the visualization, just let yourself feel light, both physically and mentally. Its light, its nectar, its nothing heavy and weighty. It’s the nature of bliss. It’s the nature of compassion, and you let all of that fill you up.

Then the third purification.

The afflictions and the latencies of all the karmas, but especially mental negativities appear as darkness at your heart.

Again, as we talked about the other day, don’t make it like you’re sitting for ten minutes with this hard dark lump at your heart because that’s going to make you feel really rotten. But just there’s like, think of it as a smog, some kind of pollution. When the light and nectar come down and hit it, it just vanishes. It’s like when you enter a dark room and you turn on the light, where does the darkness go? Does the darkness go anywhere? Actually, thinking of it as pollution isn’t even so good because then it’s something that can go somewhere. If you just think of it as darkness—where does darkness go when you turn on the light? It doesn’t hide in a corner somewhere. It can’t, it’s gone, completely gone. Similarly, feel that way about the mental negativities.

And then the simultaneous purification is you do all three at the same time. That’s for people who like to multitask, and you have all three of them going on at the same time, and that clears away the subtle obscurations that prevent you from seeing all phenomena. And at the end of all of that, you just sit and feel the mental and physical lightness. That’s important, let yourself feel light. Let yourself feel like you’re filled with light and blissful nectar.

Then there’s “the power of determination”, where we kind of apologize or we reveal our negativities saying,

Through ignorance and all of our afflictions or delusions we’ve broken and degenerated my precepts and commitments.

We’ve done all sorts of horrible things to other people. We’ve self-sabotaged ourselves, and we regret having done all of that, and we make a determination to avoid it in the future. Some things we’ve done, we can definitely say I won’t do those again. Other things like gossiping, we might say for the next three days I won’t do them. And work on it a day at a time, renewing it as we go.

Then, think that Vajrasattva’s very happy with you. Vajrasattva says, “Great, you’ve purified, I rejoice, that’s fantastic.” All of that is completely purified. Like I explained the other day, we think that it’s completely gone because that lets us, it allows us to feel differently, and that feeling differently is part of the purification process.

Then, Vajrasattva melts into light and descends through the crown of our heads and comes to rest at our heart, and we think that our body, speech, and mind has become inseparable from Vajrasattva’s body, speech, and mind. At that point you think, “What would it be like to be like Vajrasattva? What would it be like to be like a Buddha?” Contemplate that a little bit. Imagine feeling that kind of compassion equally for everybody. Imagine not hanging on to anything in your past. Or daydreaming about glorious futures. Just imagine, what could it feel like to be a Buddha? Then after that we dedicate the merit, we put the merit in the bank, so to speak, directing it how we want it to ripen.

There’s a practice of doing the Vajrasattva practice daily until you accumulate a hundred thousand recitations of the mantra. If you ever have a chance to do that as a retreat, it takes about three months, or if you want to do it as a daily practice—but you can’t miss a day reciting the mantra—until you get to 100,000 plus 11 percent. That makes up for any times you messed up. So, 111,111 then that’s good to do it like that too.

Then similarly you can imagine Vajrasattva on the crowns of the heads of all the other living beings, all those beings being completely purified. Really think like the karmic latencies or karmic seeds are being purified, but also the habitual tendencies that we have to do the negative actions again. If you’re really working on changing a bad habit, think that that’s been changed, that you’re free of that and think, “What would it be like to be free of that bad habit?” Wow! It gives you some mental space to see yourself in a different way.

Also, another way this practice is very helpful is if you have painful memories of things from the past, then instead of re-running those situations in your mind again and again and again, he said, she said, then they did this, then they did that, again and again. You bring Vajrasattva right into that situation. You put Vajrasattva on everybody’s head and for a while, all of the people in that unpleasant situation that you’re remembering are chanting Vajrasattva together and being purified together. It’s a very good way to clear out when we get stuck in imagining some negative event happening again and again and again. We just put Vajrasattva right in the middle of it, the whole thing gets transformed.

Questions and answers

Audience: In the analogy to not imagining all the scorpions and these black things inside your body, I have a question about the liquid that’s cleaning out your impurities and then it comes out from your upper orifices. I have two questions, one, what is it you imagine, the nectar kind of filling you up from the bottom, then when you get to the top do you start again?

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): Or it fills you up and then the nectar keeps filling you up so that in case other junk somehow magically emerges in there, it also is getting pushed up and out. It’s not that you imagined yourself cleaned out and then you imagine again you’re filled with all these and clean out. But it’s you remained filled with it, but any stuff that may come in, automatically gets pushed out.

Audience: That kind of answers my second question which was that we shouldn’t imagine that in the beginning we’re filled with all this dirty stuff.

VTC: You don’t necessarily imagine that you’re filled with that, but often we feel that way about ourselves naturally, don’t we? Because our body is filled with junk. So again, you don’t want to focus on, “I’m just this pot of stinking black ink and scorpions.” No, you haven’t done the scorpions in this one, but this one’s the tar. It’s not like I’m sitting there with all this black tar in me, and it’s all sticking to the insides of my body and my pancreas and my liver. No, it’s not like that. But it just like your body doesn’t feel light, it doesn’t feel pure, it feels obscured. All of that, again, as it comes out its in that form and then that stuff vanishes. Don’t think that, “OK now all that black tar came out and now it’s starting and it’s filling up the room, that’s why everybody’s coughing, it’s all due to your black tar.” No. It disappears.

Audience: My question, I mean I have this new friendship with Vajrasattva, but I’m still not totally trusting. When you say that everything’s gone, when you’ve purified something, if it comes back again, how do you know when it is purified?

VTC: Vajrasattva says it is purified, and he says that in order to help us believe that its purified and yes, some of that stuff comes back. We have a lot of bad habits or stuff we’ve been storing inside, and different layers of junk comes up. How do you know that something’s totally gone? Probably when you’ve realized emptiness directly. But before that. They say that if you dream, you’re flying in the sky or you dream of your spiritual teachers or you dream of white elephants, some kind of auspicious dream, eating delicious food, that that indicates purification. But I would like to add here, that my experience, because dreams I don’t know, I can’t always remember what I dream, but I can tell when I’m purifying when I listen to teachings and I’m hearing them in a totally different way then I heard them before. It’s like, “Oh, now this is making sense” or “Now this is really touching my heart.”

VTC: I mean a purified mind is less resistant. It doesn’t complain as much, it is open, it is resilient. As we’re purifying, these other good qualities come along with it and so it’s not that everything happens at once. We’re gradually purifying, and we’re gradually building up the good qualities. So don’t expect instantaneous, “Now I’m Vajrasattva for real, and its only January 2nd and I did it in a weekend retreat.”

Audience: You mentioned to think about the nectar as realizations and wisdom? Can you expand on that a little bit more since we’ll be spending time with that?

VTC: You mean like what realizations, what wisdom?

Audience: Right, if you could expand on the meaning of that.

VTC: We are doing all these lamrim meditations, right? At the end of all these lamrim meditations, if we have really understood a topic, well there’s a certain experience that comes with that like, “Oh I have a precious human life, wow, this is amazing.” There’s some kind of gut experience that happens. You imagine that these kinds of understandings are now in your mind at an experiential level, not just an intellectual level. Because we may have lots of intellectual knowledge, but we want to imagine that now we have experiential knowledge.

Audience: Venerable, my question is about not imagining that something, crabs or scorpions are in your body, but what if you do have something in your body, say a parasite.

VTC: Then you imagine that’s being purified too.

Audience: And that’s not uncompassionate?

VTC: No, you don’t think you’re killing the parasite. Depends what kinds of parasite it is, it may or may not be a sentient being. But that’s getting purified. You’re not killing it. You’re sending it off to live happily ever after somewhere else. If you’re sick, really put a lot of that light and nectar in the part of the body that’s ill, as well as in the whole system, your whole body. But as much as you can avoid, thinking about having a flesh and bones body, the more effective the meditation’s going to be. If you’re sick, don’t sit there, like you have some intestinal infection, let’s say. You don’t want to sit there and then visualize your gooey intestines again and again and make them solid. It’s like, “OK they’re there, the whole thing’s getting purified.” Let yourself have a feeling of a body that’s much lighter.

Audience: When I kind of peel away what’s underneath a lot of my negative actions, I noticed that a lot of it is like a fear of losing my good name. There’s like a strong protective reaction that I have. I’m curious, what kind of good antidotes around this practice or other ones that you have for that?

VTC: When you’re purifying and seeing you’re afraid of losing your reputation, afraid of what people might think of you. One thing that I find very helpful is to ask myself, “How does a good reputation benefit me? What are my goals in life?” If my goal is to become rich and famous, yes, a good reputation could help. But is that really my goal in life? Considering that one day I’m going to die, what good is it having as the goal in my life to become rich and famous because you just have to give that up when you die.” Especially as a Dharma practitioner, what’s really important in my life? Purifying negativities, creating virtues, attaining a fortunate rebirth next time so that I can continue to practice, attaining liberation, attaining awakening, purifying obstacles preventing me from encountering all the causes and conditions that would enable me to practice the Dharma in future lives. These are the things that are really important to me because this will make a difference when I die and go into the next life. Being rich and famous, being popular, having a great love life, forget it, none of that is going to go with me. So how does having a good reputation and a good name help me at the time of death?

It’s of absolutely no use, totally no use. What are you going to do? You’re dying and then you’re going to say, “Oh, but everybody thinks I’m a wonderful person.” How’s that going to help you? “I want to go to Amitabha’s pure land. Amitabha, I have a really good reputation, a ton of negative karma but a great reputation.” That’s not going to work. When you really think about it, a good name is of absolutely no benefit to a genuine Dharma practitioner. It might be helpful if you want to help sentient beings, to have a good reputation. Because if you have a bad reputation, nobody’s going to want to study with you. You’re not seeking a good reputation because you’re attached to it. There’s big difference there.

Audience: I have one clarification of a different question. With the 100,000 mantra retreat, that’s the 100-syllable mantra right, the short one? I’m just checking.

VTC: Yes.

Audience: My other question was just, any ways to use this practice in dealing with kind of like a distance to your practice like where I kind of am or have been struggling with is, I’ve been doing the same practices for a long time, and I find that in my daily life its coming up a lot where I use it and it’s really valuable and I integrate it into what I’m doing, but then I feel the weakness in my practice recently has been more around not actually connecting with the practice when I’m doing it. Like my mind’s going in some other place, it just feels kind of surface level and what not, and I find that kind of obstacles that I’m kind of grappling with, and this retreat has been helping a lot, but I’m just curious if you have other advice on that front.

VTC: When your practices are working in your daily life, but it’s feeling a little dry when you’re on the cushion. I think everybody goes through that. One thing you said, coming to retreats, where you’re sitting with a group of people and having teachings – I think that’s a very good way to jumpstart your practice. Because when we’re alone, sitting alone, I mean it’s so easy, your mind thinks of something else, you get off your cushion to go do it. When you’re sitting here with everybody, you’re not going to get up and leave because they’re all going to give you dirty looks. You have to stay here and really work with your mind. Plus, when you’re with a group, you have the whole supportive energy of the group. and that’s why doing group practice, my teacher, Lama Yeshe really emphasized that because when you’re with a group, everybody gets up and does the same thing at the same time. The energy of the group carries you along. So even “Oh my stomach hurts, my little toe hurts, a mosquito bit me.” All these things that could make us feel like we’re going to die in the next five minutes, so we have to miss the session. Those things, you know when the whole group is there, you don’t listen to that stuff so much. It’s a whole group, the energy is there, it’s carrying you. I think going to a retreat and meditating with others is very good.

Also, another thing is to look at different parts of the practice that really speak to you and stop there and meditate a little bit longer. It doesn’t even have to be a whole longer meditation, a half an hour meditation, but you stop even two or three minutes to really feel that part of the practice that speaks to you. That can really help too because I’m thinking about, if you’ve been with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, when he’s giving an initiation or leading a meditation, he’ll say, “OK for one minute we’re going to focus on this.” For one minute you stop and focus on that and one minute makes a big difference. I think rather than saying, “Oh I have to expand and meditate twice as long,” that might discourage us. Just say, “OK for one minute, I’m going to really stop at this point and just focus on it.” Then some more experience comes from that point, and then of course when you have some kind of connection with that point then it’s helpful. It might be one of the seven limbs, the seven-limb prayer that you really connect with, and you stop there for a minute and just focus on one of those. Or it might be the dissolution into emptiness or whatever it is in the practices you’re doing. Stop there. Or it could be refuge and bodhicitta, stop for a minute, really feel that. This will be the last question.

Audience: This is kind of a follow up to what you were just saying, what about parts of the practice that you don’t like or you’re hesitant and resist a little bit. Is it good to focus on those and force yourself or?

VTC: Can you give me an example?

Audience: I guess say in the meditation on the Buddha, there’s a long prayer of paying respect to a bunch of different Buddhas and its more kind of the recitations, the lineage holders.

VTC: Then you just abbreviate that. But I don’t think there’s so many extensive lists of names in the Pearl of Wisdom. I mean there’s the 35 Buddhas thing, but that’s a whole practice, that one really can’t abbreviate. Reciting the names of the lineage lamas in another kind of practice you can abbreviate. But with the 35 Buddhas, you want to really get into, “I want to purify. I want to purify. I want to purify,” again and again.

Audience: inaudible

VTC: It’s how many verses, four or five verses? If that doesn’t mean much to you, then do the first verse and the last verse. Or if making a request to His Holiness feels something then do the first verse and then the last two verses.

The thing about the lineage prayer, I used to find that too. When I first was practicing, Lama had us do the Dorje puja which has one section, page after page after page to all these lineage lamas and I’m going like, and we used to chant it really slowly in Tibetan, and I was like uh uh. It’s interesting as the years go by, and I studied the text of some of these people, then there’s been more of the feeling of connection. At the beginning it would have benefited I think to abbreviate those. For example, Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland—it’s coming out in the spring—I spent a whole lot of time editing Geshe Jampa Tegchok’s teachings on that. I have a really strong sense for that book and for Nagarjuna’s brilliance. Which I also felt a connection with him before but especially after doing this book, so then when I say the prayer that mentions Nagarjuna, it’s like, I feel like he’s a friend and he’s somebody I would like to hang out with.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.