A wonderful guest post from Virgil, huge thanks to Virgil for sharing his knowledge with us on the blog.
This article was written for Bardonists who already have a background in Tibetan Buddhism. For this reason, I do not explain what ngöndro is, or who Vajrasattva is, or other things of that nature. I expect the reader to already know these things, and maybe also to have received the transmission that is traditionally considered necessary in order to engage in these practices. Bardonists who are unfamiliar with Tibetan Buddhism are, of course, still welcome to read this article. However, some parts of this article may not be fully understandable to them. Regarding the topic of transmission, traditionally transmission was considered necessary in order to engage in this practice. In modern times, there are people who challenge that idea. I’d rather not get into that debate. My own belief, for what it’s worth, is that transmission is very helpful, but that even people who haven’t received transmission can still benefit from Vajrasattva practice if they do their best. However, I am not an expert. In one of his essays, William Mistele writes “no matter how ritualized, systematized, institutionalized, or laid out in a step-by-step guide, magic is always exploratory.” So if you want to explore by engaging in Vajrasattva practice without transmission to see if it helps you, I won’t stop you.
The purpose of this article is to explain how Vajrasattva practice can be used to accelerate one’s advancement through IIH. Vajrasattva practice is one of the ngöndro practices. In truth, all of the ngöndro practices can be used to accelerate one’s advancement through IIH. If there is sufficient interest, I may write about some of the other ones later. The reason I am focusing on Vajrasattva practice first is that I think it is an especially versatile practice, and this makes it uniquely useful.
The Benefits of Vajrasattva Practice
Vajrasattva practice is designed to purify us of all the things that impede our advancement along the spiritual path. If the specific path we are called to walk is the path laid out in IIH, then by engaging in Vajrasattva practice, we may become purified of all the things which prevent us from making progress through the steps.
In particular, there are two major things which Vajrasattva practice can purify us of.
- Negative karma
- Inner impurities (on a physical, astral, or mental level)
Pretty much all spiritual traditions have some version of the concept of karma, and they all agree that negative karma can impede one’s ability to advance. This is why all spiritual traditions have practices for purifying practitioners of negative karma. Christians, for example, have the Sacrament of Confession, prayers for mercy like the Jesus Prayer and the Trisagion, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Hindus have a variety of practices for this purpose; chanting certain mantras and bathing in the Ganges River, for example, are said to purify practitioners of negative karma. As people walking the magical path, the karmic problems we may encounter are likely to be especially intense. The reason for this is given in the following excerpt from William Mistele’s essay “Problems in the Study of Magic, Part 1.”
What happens is that serious magical practice accelerates your karma. Maybe in your life cycle over a thirty or forty year period you will have to come to grips with conflicts involving well-being versus insecurity, vulnerability versus self-confidence, love versus hate, trust versus suspicion, compassion versus selfishness, clarity of mind (even enlightenment) versus disorientation and domination, wisdom versus obsession and folly, inspiration versus depression, commitment and dedication versus stagnation and lethargy, etc.
What the magic does is that you find yourself confronting these issues not over the next thirty or forty years but in the next two or three years. It can be a heck of a ride. Do you take to drugs or alcohol? Do you get depressed, anxious, distracted, or hyperactive? There are all sorts of programs for working with various ad-dictions and/or obsessions. Perhaps you moved a little too fast in your training but now you decide to slow down and catch up on your homework–round out your personality, gain more balance, and shore up the weak areas in your emotional life.
But some of these karmic problems you have evoked into your life through magical study have no solutions within this age of the world. This means no psychologist to turn to, no minister or priest, no mage or sage, no psychic healer or shaman is going to have the faintest clue as to how to help you. Oh, they will suggest all sorts of things and offer you remedies that give you temporary relief. But the study of serious magic (the kind that puts you in touch with creative and divine power) is not like Alice Bailey imagines in one of her images—you discover on your path that there are many oth-er fellow students beside you and with you as you cross over a spiritual lake as the fog lifts in the morning. No, magic is not quaint, warm, and reassuring.
I know I quote this passage very frequently, so if you are a long-time reader of my writings, you have undoubtedly encountered this passage many times already. Nevertheless, I can’t help but quote it again here because it is directly relevant. The journey to adepthood is often a very bumpy ride because of these karmic problems. However, through Vajrasattva practice, one’s negative karma can be washed away, and thus these problems can be greatly mitigated. In order for this to work though, it is not enough just to engage in the visualizations which I will describe later. It is also necessary to feel genuine contrition for the unwholesome behaviors one has engaged in that generated that negative karma, and to have a sincere commitment to avoiding those behaviors in the future. Without that contrition and commitment, Vajrasattva practice will not purify you of your negative karma.
Inner impurities are another thing that may impede our progress. Look at all of the negative traits on your black soul mirror. All of those negative traits are the manifestations of inner impurities. Also, are there exercises in IIH that you are having trouble with? If so, there are likely inner impurities that are preventing you from becoming proficient at those exercises. In order to become proficient at those exercises, you’ll have to remove those inner impurities from yourself. But how can you do that? Many Bardonists would not even know how to begin answering a question like that. As a Vajrayanist Bardonist, you are different because you have a number of tools at your disposal for this.
Instructions for Vajrasattva Practice
What follows is a very concise and streamlined set of basic instructions for Vajrasattva practice. More detailed instructions and explanations of the symbols visualized can be found in the various books that have been written on the ngöndro practices. As you are probably aware, Vajrasattva is traditionally visualized holding certain sacred objects in his hands, and sometimes there are other beings visualized attending to him. For our purposes it’s not necessary to get into that level of detail. I think the strength of one’s intent and the sincerity with which one practices is more important than being able to engage in detailed visualizations.
- Visualize Vajrasattva and his consort hovering over your head. Within Vajrasattva’s heart center there is the Tibetan letter hung (google this if you don’t know what it looks like).
- Chant the mantra “Om Vajrasattva hum” and visualize brilliant light radiating in all directions from the hung in Vajrasattva’s heart center. This light is an offering to all enlightened beings. See some of these rays of light traveling to Shakyamuni Buddha himself. See some of these rays traveling to Ajahn Mun, Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Maha Boowa, Ajahn Paññāvaḍḍho, and other enlightened masters from the Theravada tradition. See some of these rays traveling to Bodhidharma, Dogen Zenji, and other masters from the Mahayana tradition. See some of these rays travelling to Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and other enlightened masters from the Vajrayana tradition. See some of these rays traveling to Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Availa, Saint Gregory Palamas, Saint Silouan of Mount Athos, and other enlightened masters from the Christian tradition. See some of these rays traveling to Moses, Isaiah, the Baal Shem Tov, and other masters from the Jewish tradition. See some of these rays traveling to Ibn Arabi, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, and other enlightened masters from the Islamic tradition. See some of these rays traveling to Ramana Maharshi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, and other enlightened masters from the Hindu tradition. See some of these rays traveling to Franz Bardon and other enlightened masters who walked the path of magic. If you want, you can visualize other valuable things emanating from the hung in addition to light. For example, roses are very sacred to me. They are very valuable in meaning to me, since they are associated with my spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and also with Yuri Ha and Yor Forger. So I visualize beautiful red roses emanating from Vajrasattva’s heart center in addition to beautiful light. Sometimes, I’ll also visualize diamonds and other precious jewels emanating from his heart center as well. The light, the roses, and the jewels travel to all enlightened masters from all traditions as an offering to them.
- Continue chanting the mantra “Om Vajrasattva hum” and visualize white nectar flowing out of Vajrasattva’s heart center and filling Vajrasattva and his consort. Once Vajrasattva and his consort are filled with the nectar, visualize the nectar pouring down from their bodies, passing into you through the crown of your head, and flowing through your whole body.
- As the nectar passes through you, continue chanting the mantra and feel it cleaning you of all sorts of negative things. Feel it washing away the negative karma that is preventing you from making progress through IIH. Feel it washing away the negative traits you’ve listed on your black soul mirror, and in particular the major negative traits that impede your progress the most. Feel it washing away the inner impurities that prevent you from easily emptying your mind of thoughts, or easily visualizing, or easily pore breathing the vital force. If there are specific exercises in IIH you are struggling with, feel the nectar washing away the inner impurities that prevent you from easily mastering those exercises. This is very important.
- Once the nectar has passed through your body, see it flowing down out of you and into the ground.
- Once you feel purified of your negative karma, your negative traits, and all inner impurities, see Vajrasattva and his consort dissolving into you. This symbolizes the fact that, all along, the two of them were an emanation of your own enlightened essential being.
- At this point, you can go on to practice the exercises of IIH. If you feel you need some more preparation before beginning to practice the exercises of IIH, you can engage in some of the other ngöndro practices, such as the mandala offerings and guru yoga. There are ways of adapting these other practices for the purpose of working through IIH more quickly, but it would be too much of a tangent to cover them here.
As with any spiritual practices, you have the right to adapt these instructions as you see fit. But please exercise some common sense while doing so. If you’ve always wanted a private island and you decide to visualize private islands emanating from Vajrasattva’s heart center and travelling to all enlightened beings as an offering to them, that’s fine. But if you consider yourself a Satanist and want to know if it’s fine to visualize Satan instead of Vajrasattva above you while doing this exercise, I would strongly discourage you from doing that.
Religion and Magical Training
Some people are under the impression that it is ideal for those walking the magical path to not have a religion. Others think it is fine for a student to have a religion at the beginning of his training, but that he should strive to grow out of his religion eventually and develop a purely universal spirituality for himself. This is all very wrong. Bardon took great pains to make IIH as universal as possible. He did not do this as a way of implying that all people walking the magical path should adopt a purely universal form of spirituality. He did this to ensure that IIH would be compatible with any student’s spirituality, regardless of what that spirituality was. In other words, Bardon took great pains precisely so that students wouldn’t have to give up their religion in order to work through his system. If a student had to give up his religion in order to work through IIH, then IIH wouldn’t be a universal system. In fact, it would be the opposite of a universal system, because it would be compatible with nothing, while a truly universal system is compatible with everything.
To have a religion is a great advantage when walking the magical path. I first started interacting with the Bardon community roughly a decade ago. At the time, I remember there were individuals asking questions about the mental exercises of Steps 1 and 2. Right now, as I write this, some of those individuals are still around, and guess what? I still see them asking for help with the mental exercises of Steps 1 and 2. The only difference is that now they are asking for help on Facebook groups instead of Yahoo groups. Ten years is more than enough time to work through all of IIH. In fact, ten years is enough time for some students to work through all of IIH twice. The fact that there are people who were on the beginning steps of IIH back in 2013 and still on the beginning steps of IIH now is really amazing, and not in a good way. It is quite possible that if those people had used Vajrasattva practice to purify themselves of the inner impurities preventing them from becoming proficient at the mental exercises of Steps 1 and 2, they would be magicians now. However, they are not magicians. They are only aspiring magicians, and ones that aren’t even that far along the path.
Every religion has powerful spiritual techniques that can be applied for the purpose of accelerating one’s advancement through IIH. It’s inconceivable that a Catholic Bardonist who knows how to apply the Rosary for this purpose would be stuck on the beginnings steps of IIH after ten years. It’s inconceivable that a Jewish Bardonist who knows how to apply hitbodedut for this purpose would be stuck on the beginning steps of IIH after ten years. And, it’s inconceivable that a Vajrayanist Bardonist who knows how to apply the ngöndro practices for this purpose would be stuck on the beginning steps of IIH after ten years. The Rosary, hitbodedut, and the ngöndro practices are all very powerful. A wise person once told me that if you want to succeed in any extremely challenging endeavor, you should make use of every advantage you have. That definitely applies to IIH. If you are familiar with the ngöndro practices like Vajrasattva practice, or some of the other powerful practices from other traditions that I mentioned, you have an advantage that most Bardonists don’t have. It’s up to you to actually use that advantage.
Are you having trouble with VOM? Engage in Vajrasattva practice and visualize the white nectar cleaning away all the inner impurities that prevent you from becoming proficient at VOM. Are you having trouble with the plastic imagination exercises? Engage in Vajrasattva practice and visualize the white nectar cleaning away all the inner impurities that prevent you from becoming proficient at the plastic imagination exercises. Are you having trouble pore breathing the vital force? Engage in Vajrasattva practice and visualize the white nectar cleaning away all the inner impurities that prevent you from becoming proficient at pore breathing the vital force. Make time to do this every day. If you are sincere and persistent in your practice, you will see results and attain your goal.
Image Credit: Vajrasattva -真佛宗TBSN