The next section of the ngondro consists of the purification practice of Vajrasattva (Tib. Dorje Sempa).

Vajrasattva represents the mind aspect of all the buddhas, and “buddha” refers to one completely free of faults, who has fully realized the pure qualities of absolute nature.

In practice, purification and the attainment of pure qualities are interdependent, because as we eliminate the stains and obscurations of non-virtue, qualities such as compassion, love, and omniscience are uncovered and made obvious.

For countless lifetimes we have established patterns based on nonrecognition of our buddha nature.

In our ignorant holding to self and other, we have constantly responded with attachment and aversion to the fleeting appearances of relative reality.

Our attachment and aversion cause all manner of non-virtue through body, speech, and mind. These can be generally categorized as the ten non-virtues, but negative actions are endless in their variety and provide countless karmic causes for suffering.

All beings find themselves in predicaments arising from their self-created negative karma.

The bodhisattva Vajrasattva, before crossing the threshold of enlightenment, surveyed the realms of sentient beings. Compassion arose in his mind as he saw how most were mired in their own non-virtue and perceived no way out.

He then made a bodhisattva vow: “May all sentient beings, by merely hearing, remembering, or uttering my name in prayer, be purified of their karmic negativity and be liberated from the depths of cyclic existence.”

Thus, Vajrasattva is aware of whatever non-virtue takes place and can manifest as a force of purification for the benefit of beings.

We use the “four powers” as steps toward full purification.

The first power consists of invoking a wisdom being as witness—in ngondro, we specifically visualize Vajrasattva in union with his consort, Dorje Nyema.

The second power is that of acknowledging where we have gone astray and the harm we have caused, as well as feeling genuine remorse for what we have done.

Most of us cannot remember all our downfalls in this life, much less in countless past lives. If, however, we thoroughly check our minds when some negativity becomes obvious, we will probably see the tendency that led to it and can surmise what kind of harm it caused in the past.

An honest, careful person will not remain blind to his or her faults or to their source and their ramifications. All aspects are confessed with regret to Vajrasattva.

The third power of purification consists of a vow not to repeat a particular mistake. Without this commitment it is very difficult to extricate oneself from the cycles of non-virtue, the cycles of rebirth. This vow concentrates tremendous power of purification.

The fourth power of purification occurs when the deity’s nectar or light saturates us and cleanses all stains and defilements.

At first it may not be easy to experience this blessing because of our strong habit of holding the body as solid and impervious. However, as our meditation deepens and we gain transcendent knowledge of our own nature as emptiness, we can feel nectar flowing from Vajrasattva into us as though our body were a mere sheath of consciousness.

Through Vajrasattva we can purify the whole mass of our defiled samaya commitments, including broken refuge vows, downfalls in our bodhisattva training, and impairments of our Vajrayana view.

It is extremely important that Vajrayana practitioners do Vajrasattva purification every day, because their vows are so difficult to maintain.

As soon as the mind slips from the view of the inherent purity of all appearance—as soon as we judge those feces as dirty, that person as stupid or irritating, that sickness or feeling as bad—we have defiled our Vajrayana vow to adhere to the recognition of the innate purity of all phenomena.

Grosser infractions are to drop practice commitments, to fall into conflict with sangha members, or to displease our lama.

In his infinite mercy, Vajrasattva has provided us with a method to remedy all broken vows.

If we allow defilements to accumulate, this will affect our practice. Our mind may become dull and unreceptive, we may become sluggish or sick, few positive signs will arise to encourage us, and we may lose confidence, despairing of ever reaching enlightenment.

Even if this has already begun to occur, we can use the four powers of purification to stop the erosion of our spirituality and regain the clarity and momentum of our path.

Vajrasattva represents a superb practice to bring into daily life.

We can silently chant the mantra and visualize Vajrasattva and consort over our head and over the heads of others, white nectar flowing into all of our crown chakras.

If we maintain the practice as we go about our ordinary activities, we will become sensitive to any negative impulse that arises in our mind.

It is easy to refine negativity away at that point, before it flares into a full-fledged emotion or obsession, before it carries over into non-virtuous actions of body or speech.

We shouldn’t be discouraged, however, if our non-virtuous tendencies and negative karma seem denser and more intractable than before we began Vajrasattva practice. As we focus attention on patterns ingrained over many lifetimes of obliviousness, seeing them brings undeniable pain.

Yet, equally, we can rejoice that we have discovered an unsurpassed method of purification that can lift any practitioner from the very depths of samsara.

Source: Tromge, Jane. Ngondro Commentary: Instructions for the Concise Preliminary Practices of the New Treasure of Dudjom. Compiled from the teachings of H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche by Jane Tromge. Junction City, CA: Padma Publishing, 1995.